Project Car SOTU 2016: Rover 825 Si. Roverjoyed.

I’m really not sure I’m doing this project car thing right. These stories are supposed to be full of skinned knuckles, bloodshed, anguish, despair and sorrow. On Monday my Audi update offered you nothing but a whimsical tale of low-stress ownership and perfect reliability. Today I follow it up with the latest on my 1997 Rover 825si Fastback, and it’s a story of low-stress ownership and perfect reliability.
Sorry about that.

Both my cars enjoy a far quieter life than they used to. Now working from home, my morning commute now takes me downstairs for breakfast and coffee, then upstairs again to my office, while the cars slumber contentedly outside, providing a terrific habitat for spiders which seem to love my exterior mirrors. Every now and again I’ll take one of the cars for a drive into the village, just because I feel guilty, more than anything.
When they do get used, though, they get used properly. The Rover quite recently did Sterling (yep) service providing my transport and spacious accommodation for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, behaving faultlessly throughout.
On leaving the festival I had the “fun” of somebody still high on motorsport latching onto my rear bumper, so with the lanes being narrow without anywhere to safely pull over and let them pass, I figured I’d put my foot down and proceed at the pace of Cap’n Tailgate.
It was fun! I had the KV6 singing in a sector of the tacho that I rarely visit- I usually tend to shift before about 3,000 rpm, just because any more than that isn’t really necessary for smooth progress. However, when exercised like this the engine shows the Hyde side of its split personality.
Closest engine sound I can compare it to is the VW group VR6 narrow-angle unit, which has a sharp-edged, metallic howl at mid to high revs. The Rover sounds like a muted version of the same, with an exhaust tuned for refinement and efficiency rather than power. It’s a great noise, and one that people really don’t expect to come from such a sedate, mature looking car.
Truth is this engine has always seemed like it would be far more at home surrounded by rather less metal. 175bhp isn’t even average by today’s standards, but cars have grown heavier, too, and the 800 can still hustle reasonably if it needs to. Bravery is needed in the corners, though.
Wrestling the Rover through a bend you become acutely aware of way tyres have developed in recent years. The fifteen-inch wheels of the 800 wear 65-profile rubber, so there’s a lot of sidewall bending to keep the 195-section tread in contact with the road, and you seriously feel it.
There’s actually a suprising amount of grip, but the way the car leans when punted into a corner merges with the way the tyre sidewalls bend, and any messages between the steering wheel and the tyre tread itself become smeared and confused. You actually feel more through your arse than you do from the wheel, and the sonic signature of four Falkens gamely hanging on with all their might is the greatest indicator you have that you have reached The Edge.
Anyway, I managed to sustain a reasonable gap from the press-on driver of the A6 behind me, who eventually turned off allowing me to sink back into a comfortable cruise.  I put the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy cassette back in the Phillips and ambled home, marvelling at the way my air-conditioning still worked against all possible odds.
Not much later, this happened.
I love these little milestones.
There are few little peccadilloes that continue to infuriate about the Rover. The first is that the rear left passenger window button has a huge appetite for switch-cleaner. The second is that both the remote key-fobs are terminally broken, and will need replacing- this combines with another trait that makes daily operation alternately baffling and hilarious.
As a back-up to overriding the immobilizer, if the key-fobs pack in you can enter a unique code via the driver’s door lock, turning the key left, right, left, right a set number of times. This merry dance is now required at completely random intervals. After I returned from Scotland, the Rover having not been started for a fortnight, I expected to have to input the code, but no. Key in the lock, turn to the left, central locking actuates and flashing red light desists. Good to go, so I took it for a drive. Next day it wasn’t interested at all. Key in the lock, turn to the left, drivers door alone opens and horn beeps when I open the door, immobilizer LED blinking away happily.
Hey, it’s character. I’m down with that.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

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  1. mdharrell Avatar

    I can recognize a cry for help, even if it is disguised. You need to find yourself a project car ASAP. If that proves not to be enough, don’t hesitate to take on a second one, then a third, and so forth. If all else fails, I understand France is nearby, and beyond that, Italy.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Yes, and obtaining a project car in France or Italy is even easier now, thanks to blossoming Anglo-European relations…

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        And the strength of Sterling, (of course!)

      2. mdharrell Avatar

        If you’re serious about finding an entertaining* project, I’d imagine this is the perfect time to go practically anywhere on the Continent, announce that you are British, and demand to be sold an appropriate motorcar.
        *For us.

        1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

          The driveways and front gardens of England are surely sufficiently littered with defunct Scimitars and languishing Lotii before I start importing more!

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            If your plan is to inspire envy, it’s working.

  2. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    there is a dangerous phenomenon i have encountered with every car i’ve owned, which is that after a little less than a year of driving any car i own, i suddenly discover the car’s powerband and start exploring it vigorously and regularly, and it becomes hard to give that kind of thing up. perhaps you are going through something similar with your Rover? though you’ve had it a good deal longer than that.
    i also do think i’m ruined after having owned an NA Miata – in that car and my FiST, the most recent two cars i’ve purchased, i developed leadfoot habits pretty much immediately.

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      My Honda made me do that, too, out of perceived yet debatable necessity. Now I have a leady approach to most on-ramps and similar situations. We’re going into the mountains again today on a new secondary road that looks positively twisty on the map…in the 2.4 Camry. Btw, the Uniroyal RainExpert tires absolutely transformed the Camry. The wheels hardly ever spin and the car has lost its appetite for coming with directional suggestions that deviate from steering input. Still not a true driver’s car, but several degrees better than before.

    2. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      I’m more inclined to regularly exercise the powerband of the Audi, to be honest. Solely because the Rover is so damn good at fast cruising it seems crazy to do anything else.

  3. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    I’m so relieved that your 800 has developed some faults, however minor. It helps me to feel I’m not alone. My ‘new’ 825 appears to have a broken cambelt, occurring within twenty or so miles of picking it up. And they are an ‘interference’ engine. Does anyone have a spare CA25 or CA27 V6?

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Strip it down, you may be lucky. If the worst comes to the worst I’ve always wondered whether a C32A swap would work out. Nothing to lose apart from money, time and your knuckles! And sanity.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        OR the later ‘J’ Series, 3.0, 3.2, 3.5, 3.7, 24 valve all alloy V6s. I can’t junk the car, now, there are fewer 800s than P6s.

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