Having said goodbye to the Maestro van and it’s happy new owners, I now had to do that public transport thing. A browse on my phone told me I needed two changes. I bought tickets – £2.30 well spent – then went and asked at the ticket office which route I’d actually be taking! The lady told me, then said my train to Birmingham New Street was about to depart. I said thanks and ran to the platform, forgetting the route as I went.
I quite like a bit of rail travel, and I do mean a bit. There’s something very interesting about the comings and goings – all those human stories going on all around you. However, I’d committed. I wasn’t going to catch a 3-hour train home, I was going to catch 3 trains and buy a car! At New Street, a very helpful guard from London Midland told me not only where to get off the train, but also how to find the next one. It was at some Smethwick station I’d never heard of and it seemed to have several levels. There, I caught a train that looked like it had steamed straight out of the eastern bloc.
No destination board, no helpful signs on board, though the seats were fabulous. I settled back and eagerly awaited an announcement to tell me I was on the correct train to Stourbridge and not heading off to Siberia. Thankfully, it came. Some time passed, and I eventually arrived at Stourbridge Junction. Here I was collected by the owners of my new motor vehicle. After a spot of sight-seeing (they were checking out an MGF they’d spotted for sale) we arrived. A rudimentary check was carried out, paperwork signed and the Maestro van balance was handed over. Just £300 and I had a newer car with tax and test and a collection of stickers that needed removing.
It was an unusual experience. I’d not driven a Rover R8 (these 200/400 models) since my Dad owned a 414Si many moons ago. I seem to recall that after a session on a private test track, I discovered that the steering was horribly light at naughty speeds. Sorry Dad. Some things never change. I found myself on the M5 before long, and the steering was rather too light at speed. There is a shimmy at the wheel too, so I’ll get the wheel balancing checked.
It goes nicely though. It’s an engine that’s quick to rev, but not particularly punchy. Perhaps the unfashionable long stroke is to blame for that. To be honest, I’ve always felt that this engine was a waste of space given how enthusiastic the K-Series 1.4-litre engine is. That has 96bhp compared to the 108 of this model, but there’s very little real world difference. Maximum torque is produced at a rather high 4800rpm but the torque curve seems quite flat. It’s an engine happiest between 2000 and 4000rpm, which is good. I didn’t want to rev it as I’ve no idea when the timing belt was last replaced…
The clutch isn’t ideal. It has a long travel but is also very light with little feel. I remember feeling much the same about a later Rover 414 ‘bubble’ we owned a few years back. It ate up the motorway miles with little drama though, demonstrating an excellent main beam but letting the side down with a somewhat jiggly ride. Perhaps the alloy wheels and 55-profile tyres are to blame. They’re not really my cup of tea (and nor is the boot spoiler, taken from a 200 hatchback).
It wasn’t all plain sailing. The seller had admitted in his advert that the Check Engine light kept coming on – but as he’d driven to Benidorm and back without issue, he’d decided not to worry about it. I attempted to cover it up with some random black gunge that was dotted around the interior.
After a quick stop at Telford, I decided to remove some items from the boot that were rolling around. I should have left them as I accidentally dropped the heavy bootlid (because of that spoiler perhaps) and bent the latch. No chance of fixing it so I had to push on with another warning light displayed. Perhaps the spoiler actually does generate downforce (yeah, right) as the bootlid stayed pretty much closed all the way home.
The drive home gave plenty of room for reflection. I hadn’t got the car I wanted, but I had got a nice car. My 600 dreams will have to remain on hold for now, but I shall enjoy some Rover/Honda motoring in the meantime. Work has already started on stripping the stickers off. My fingers are very sore!
Here’s how she looks now.
There’s a good car starting to emerge I reckon, though I did accidentally wire brush a hole in the nearside sill! A common rot spot. Even with the wrong grille and silly stickers though, it’s a reminder that the R8 was a really good looking car.
So, naturally any new car has a To Do list. What’s to do here? Firstly, more stickers need to come off. I’m not planning to get into Hamster Racing anytime soon, though I do like the block pattern on the front doors. In mechanical terms, I need to deal with a loose catalyst shield. It rattles in a rather unsettling manner, removing the acres of streed cred that driving a sporty Rover provides. I’m going to have to have a good hard think about the timing belt too. I may be able to do the work myself, which would help. I aim to find out what’s wrong with the Check Engine light too. There are some simple on-board diagnostics.
I’ll see how I get on with it though. I suspect it’ll stick around longer than the Maestro van did, but only because it isn’t a van. It’s so nice having visibility again!