Join us on memory lane with where there's nothing to worry about (except rust)
By John Howell / Wednesday, March 16, 2022 / Loading comments
The Rover name and the Longbridge plant may be long gone, but isn’t that even more reason to keep the flame alive and a watchful eye on the models it once produced? I find myself checking regularly in the hope of spotting a Rover SD1 in the PH Classifieds, but, so far, I have drawn a blank. However, en route to that failure, I did spot this Rover 216 Coupé in a very fetching shade of what, I think, was the metallic take on British Racing Green. Answers on a postcard if you wish to challenge that.
I know, I know; a 216 Coupé isn’t the most sought-after model in the world – or even in Rover world, for that matter - but back in the day I always admired the 200 Coupé, or Tomcat, as it was unofficially known. Naturally, I’d have been even happier had I struck upon a Turbo, but when you’re searching for teeth among a brood of hens, beggars cannot be choosers.
The 200 Coupé was launched at the Paris Motor Show back in 1992 (there’s 30 years that have vanished in a flash). Almost every body panel on the coupé was changed over the 200 hatch and 400 saloon it was based on, in the process creating the clean silhouette you see here. I would argue it’s aged mightily well considering.
You also got a T-bar roof, which consisted of two glass panels that hinged open or could be removed entirely, along with the central support bar, creating a semi-open cockpit. That gave the car a USP to draw buyers away from rivals like the Calibra and Corrado, which just offered a sunroof. The glass panels were coated with titanium, so when the panels were in place, reputedly, this reflected 94 per cent of the sun’s heat and did away with the need for blinds.
I think it’s fair to say this 216 Coupé wears its 79,000 miles extremely well. It’s a one-owner car and the claim in the blurb that he or she looked after it ‘meticulously’ stands up in the photos. The paintwork it lustrous and those pretty, seven-spoke alloys aren’t blistered – just some minor kerb damage on the rims. Looking inside, I’ve decided that the previous owner was in fact a ghost, because it looks untouched. The leather-trimmed steering wheel is unworn, as is the gear knob. And another thing: how many massively expensive Fords from this period do you see with sagging velour seat trim? I see many, but here the part-velour and cloth upholstery looks taut and fresh – even the driver’s seat bolster appears unmarked.
Being a 216 you’re not going to be overawed by its performance but, according to my research, the D16A8 twin-cam developed 122hp. This meant 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds, which is far from sluggish. Plus, it’s a Honda lump, so it should be as reliable as the Changing of the Guard. That said, Honda’s D-Series motor is still known for head gasket failures, so if you thought avoiding the later 1.6-litre K-Series engine, which arrived in 1996, would save you that pain, that’s far from guaranteed.
That advice came direct from the Rover Coupé Owner’s Club, and the other things it says to watch for include rust (of course): check the sills, rear wings, bottom corners of doors, wheel arches, leading edge of windscreen and around the rear lights. Also, the seat bolsters commonly wear (again, that’s why this car looks like a good’un), and check that the rear number plate lights work, because the wiring loom between the body and the boot lid fails. It’s also worth checking the suspension bushes – front anti-roll bar drop links and rear trailing arm bushes particularly.
Now, I dare say a few PHers will be eyeing up an open-top car for the upcoming summer. At a snip under £5,000 for this car in this condition, don’t you reckon it’s an interesting potential purchase? Okay, it’s not fast and there are better-handling cars, but does any of that matter? After all, pretty much everything that’s 30-years old feels slow and wobbly compared with what we have now. So if you’re still sneering at the back, stop it. This is a genuinely handsome car with open-top versatility, and it really isn’t expensive. I reckon that makes it well worth a punt.
Specification | Rover 216 Coupé
Engine: 1,590cc, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 122 @ 6,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 108 @ 5,900rpm
Recorded mileage: 79,000
Year registered: 1994
Price new: £14,496
Yours for: £4,950
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