The Rover 800. A cracking car. I was shocked to read that there ar only jut over 500 of these cars left on British roads.
I have always had a soft spot for these cars and I am rather sad at seeing how many have succumbed to the ravages of Old father Time and other forces. I spent most of the mid-90’s in one of these, quite often travelling long haul on the motorway. Quite comfortable these cars were too. Since I have been able drive I have had trouble with getting comfortable in the seats of some cars (the BMW 3-series deserves a special mention here). The seats in a Rover 800 were the most comfortable I have ever had the pleasure of aside of a Mercedes S-Class or any Saab.
I also maintain that stuffed full of the contents of my flat that this was the fastest “removal van” ever to grace the M1. I had the pleasure of using a Rover everything, work, business, troubleshooting, flat moving, trips to sailing. It was never failure in any department. It was an excellent car for work too and actually contributing my professional image!
It handled well, it was fast and it was fun to drive.
My overriding memory though comes from 1997 and a late night (1 am call out to a very serious emergency some 80-90 miles away). I was in the car 5 minutes after my pager went off and was calling the emergency ahead on my mobile phone when I pulled out of the drive and put my foot down. Phone call finished we made our way to the A3 and the pager started bleeping again – every 3-4 minutes. joining the A3 I really put my foot down. I know we were going fast as we made the journey to the destination in well under an hour. We pretty much had the road to ourselves and were soon at a major roundabout at Longmoor. Taking this roundabout at high speed could be a risky business as in “where has the back of my car gone, risky) but slightly preoccupied onto the roundabout we went. I looked to the speedometer, we were very fast, but the car was composed even at that speed and we absolutely sailed through. Not so much of a twitch or complaint, no oversteer or understeer, everything tight on the button. We continued to site, parked and I did what I needed to do. Sorting things out and making sure that what had happened would not happen again.
Someone at the site actually thought that the car belonged to the chairman of another company involved and was bricking it when he walked into the office, his fear misaligned as I did with just cause give him a rollicking he has never forgotten.
At 3am we left to head back London bound, taking it slightly easier this time, motoring at a little over the national speed limit instead of the higher speeds we were doing on the outward run. Arriving back home. I was looking at the car as I walked to the front door in the light that was available, it looked dejected, like it wanted another run, it was saying to me “is that all you have got?” Alas we could not go for another drive. I was knackered and needed some sleep before I woke at 7 am for a full days work.
It wouldn’t be until 2013 that I had a chance for a truly similar drive. Another very serious emergency, this time very personal instead of work related. Warrington to a South London hospital in record time, during the day. Truly life or death. Let us just say I am surprised I didn’t get a speeding ticket or get a driving ban that day. I too remember the drive. I remember the reason for the drive. I remember the car (a colleague loaned me his VW Golf R32) But I don’t have the same fondness for the golf nor am I fond of the drive itself. The Golf did the job admirably but we weren’t as connected or as one as me and the Rover were that previous night in 1997. I wish it was me and Rover all over again. I know it would have aced it.
I don’t drive as much as I used to, my health precludes it, but in view of the falling numbers of available stock I feel that I should try and put my hands on a rover 820 for one last blast. Perhaps a trip to the cat and fiddle pass – a favourite drive of mine. A final hurrah before there are none left.