The Bucket Residence, Hyacinth speaking…
I have to confess, I’ve not really got a huge soft spot for the SD3 series Rover. It’s a bit…Honda to really excite me, and whilst I’d not be averse to a Vanden Plas EFi I would far rather own a Maestro or Montego. The SD3 has an image problem – the MG versions of the Maestro and Montego have made them acceptable in classic circles with the passage of time, and the youth element of the club scene is particularly vibrant. But the SD3 has always been associated with Richard and Hyacinth Bucket, and people of a similar ilk – elderly, with ideas above their station, typically nosy and interfering. And it’s an image that’ll prove hard to shake.
It’s a shame, because it’s quite a handsome thing, and in the right spec it could be a charming little motor car. My grandfather had one from new, which later found it’s way into my father’s hands as a second car – and of the myriad BL beasts he’s owned that 213 is the one of which my father speaks most highly. Chris Mansfield, a fellow Maestro enthusiast whose Montego 1.6 was torched earlier in the year, announced he was bringing a surprise car to BMC/BL Day this year. It certainly was a surprise given his youth and pleasant demeanour – a very tidy Rover 213SE automatic in Black (a £70 cost option) with Caramel velour. He thought it a fun little car to drive and after putting my Richard Bucket head on Chris offered me the keys.
My first impression was of how roomy the car seemed from the drivers’ seat for a man of 6’3″ – although I did note the lack of rear legroom as I dropped my hat onto the rear seat. I’m not the world’s greatest fan of the dashboard, but it is at least functional. A little choke, turn the key, and it sings it’s way into life. The little Honda 12 valve lump is a sweet and smooth engine to have in front of you, and the three speed auto box seems smooth in operation. Pull off, and if anything I find myself liking this little Jap a lot. A friend of mine had a Triumph Acclaim that he loved to bits, and if it was anything like this from behind the wheel I can understand why. The steering is pleasantly weighted; with a quick turn-in and I suspect (Though I didn’t try this out) a small turning circle.
For those who don’t care about how a car drives, the ride is smooth and comfortable, and the interior is light and airy in the warm Caramel colour scheme. The seats are soft yet supportive, upholstered in what seems like a higher quality velour than the so-equipped Maestros and Montegos, and all round visibility is rather good. Given that the car is essentially a square box on top of a square box judging where the corners are is easy, and it should be as cheap to run as it is to buy.
At the time of writing this car may be for sale – if anyone’s interested for £500 get in touch and I’ll forward the interest on to Chris. And as a daily classic it’s hard to fault – it’s perfect for bimbling about locally, and Chris reported no major mishaps save a blowing exhaust on his 150 mile or so trek down to the show. One of the few reasons I’m not interested myself is that for the younger enthusiast it’s not ideal – it may be a 1.3 litre small car but I’ve checked and for me, a Montego 2.0i is cheaper to insure. For that reason, I can’t recommend it to the young.
But what a great daily for someone with a bit of NCB.