Rovers Return For NEC Classic Motor Show

This year’s annual NEC Lancaster Classic Motor Show, with Discovery, was the biggest yet for the organisers in terms of attendance, with 71,216 enthusiasts filling the six halls packed with a record 3000 vintage and classic cars from 300 motoring clubs. The 9-11 November show used a ‘built to last’ theme which was presented in numerous interpretations, it saw unrestored ‘barn finds’ to concours gleaming examples on display.

This year’s Rover 200&400 Owners club stand, had four generations of these cars, ranging from my rare surviving Mk1 213 SE Auto, Craig Cheetham’s Mk2 216 Gsi with 183,000 miles – covered mainly for journeys to and from Greece, Simon Scott’s former ‘Dunlop 216 GTI challenge’ Mk2 race car, to Tony Baker’s example of the final variant of the 200 (and Rover’s final car launch) Rover Streetwise TD.

The highlight for me, was my first time being an exhibitor, and not just a visitor or journalist. I had been invited by the club, to display my 80,000 mile, 1988 Rover 213 SE Automatic. The Mk1 (SD3) generation was Britain’s 9th best selling car in all of 1988. Today there are believed to be only around 50 examples of the Honda engined 213s left.

I had been keen for my 200 of the ‘forgotten’ Mk1 generation to be given its chance to shine, on display in front of all 71,216 visitors. So on a wet Thursday 8th November I took it to work, and during my lunch break over to the nearby NEC. I realise not many exhibitors benefit living that close to the venue, but it was an added bonus for me which meant I didn’t have to book any time off work! I arrived at the familiar venue to then find myself getting lost trying to navigate the site to the correct entrance for the exhibitors, I hope someone has suggested to the venue, they should signpost where exhibitors to go, and perhaps have more staff directing everyone, rather than two men in reflective coats standing in the middle of a car park with a walkie talkie! It was amusing as I watched several classic owners like myself driving from all directions and entering/leaving car parks, just trying to find the entrance to the rear of the venue! For any future exhibitors – arriving at the NEC, follow the signs towards the south car parks, take a right at the mini roundabout, which you then take the first left on the service road opposite the entrance to Resorts World and you’ll go round to the back of the venue.

Membership Club Secretary, Jeremy Howson said ‘The three generations of our cars on the stand demonstrated the breath of the range now covered by the club from the original Rover 213 to one of the last Rover Streetwise models. These were supplemented by an original Rover 216 GTi Dunlop Challenge race car, demonstrating the racing heritage of our cars. Next year the Rover 200&400 OC celebrates two significant anniversaries, 35 years since the original Rover 213 & 216 (SD3) were launched and 30 years since it’s replacement, the Rover 214 & 216 (R8) were launched. These milestones will be followed by the 25th anniversary anniversaries of both the later 400 (HH/R) and 200 (R3) models in 2020. The club has seen an increase in membership, we had around 69 members three years ago, now we have around 265, and now we are helping preserve all three generations.’

Having my car on show was a proud experience and it was boosted by being an exhibitor, and interacting with all kinds of enthusiasts across the weekend. On the stand, conversations ranged from those asking how I managed to find a surviving Mk1 200 and about keeping her on the road, to the usual ‘my Dad had one of those’ conversations. The fact all three generations at the NEC Classic Motor Show were in working order, just demonstrate with the right kind of care and attention, these cars actually really were built to last!

I would like to end with a few words of thanks; to those who brought their cars along, those who volunteered to be on the stand without a car and promote the club, also to club members who came along to say hello and especially to the chairman and secretaries who gave up their time to organise and make all this happen. I think we can all agree it was a successful three days and we contributed much towards broadening knowledge and appeal of our club’s existence.

Thanks for reading,

Dave20181110_142918.jpg20181110_183536.jpg

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Irish Road Trip Day 7: Limerick, County Limerick To Dublin

17/09/18, Day 7: Limerick To Dublin

Limerick was an amazing highlight of the trip for a good few reasons, however I now had a friend joining me for the remainder of the trip and her luggage.

Testing the practicality of the 924 to the max, the luggage area took my suitcase, soft bag, walking boots, and a large suitcase and a rucksack, and an additional passenger.  I really couldn’t have seen this happening if I’d had a Boxter.  Porsche were onto a good thing with the 924, their entry level model was a proper GT car, a worthy performance model, the most affordable entry into Porsche ownership.  In many ways the Boxter fell short of how a true sports car can appeal to many, instead opting for the classic sports car layout and design, however nice that may be having the roof down, it must have appealed to a much smaller audience, leaving current owners to look elsewhere for their next GT car.  This resulted leaving the 911, and later the Cayman as the only Grand Tourers in the range, providing comfort, performance and good equipment, but with a higher price tag attached.

The two and a half journey to Dublin again, proved painless.  I was waiting for my friend to drop off her luggage at her accommodation, when a local stopped to have a chat, telling me about the guards red 924 he owned himself.  I needed to see this, I had not seen another 924 in Ireland yet, or many other classic cars.  I followed him to his house not far away, with the idea of having a photo shoot.  His own 924 had also come from the UK but was now a permanent resident, and on old Irish number plates.  Ralph was exactly the kind of enthusiast that makes classic car ownership a great hobby, so if you’re reading this, thanks again for your time, and your offer of further meets in the future!

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Irish Road Trip Day 5: Mullingar, County Westmeath To Limerick, County Limerick

15/09/18, Day 5: Mullingar To Limerick

After one brief night spent in the town of Mullingar, taking in some of the Irish Republic’s culture, it was time to hit the road once again on another two hour drive south west towards Limerick city.  I was impressed with my planning of this journey, two hour consistent journeys towards my destinations were allowing me to break up all the miles I was doing followed by a night’s rest, and more importantly to allow the car to be used more gently.   As previously said I don’t think the car had been used so consistently, at length for a good 20 years.  That said, it was coping brilliantly, it was proving a long distance mile muncher, and a fantastic B road companion.  The roads all over Ireland are great, because of lighter traffic, roads which are in good condition, and generally speaking courteous drivers, and great driving roads – if only I had more time to experience the best of them.  That will happen another time.

I spent days 5-7, enjoying Limerick, visiting family and taking my Uncle out for a drive in the 924S, which on a personal level was a huge part of my reasons for taking the 924S on this road trip.

I learned that older cars in Republic of Ireland are not that common.  Car insurance firms can apparently refuse to insure vehicles over 15 years old, road tax is absurdly expensive, even for small 1.0 motors.  I saw a scrap yard in Mullingar housing vehicles that were around 10 years old.  So as a result the average age of vehicles over there is younger than ours in the UK.  One upside of that, were all the looks and compliments I was receiving from the warm locals, which I wasn’t expecting!

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Irish Road Trip Day 4: Belfast, Northern Ireland to Mullingar, County Westmeath, Republic of Ireland.

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924S Outside Titanic Belfast & Harland & Wolff’s famous ship buidling cranes ‘Samson & Goliath’

14/09/18, Day 4: Belfast to Mullingar, County Westmeath.

My two days in Northern Ireland came to an end rather quickly, I had to experience a couple more sights, but really to do the whole of Belfast properly you need a good two or three days to see most of the sights, and that does not include a detour to the Causeway.  I made it my mission to visit the ‘Titanic Belfast’ museum – which is brilliant, I myself took five hours taking in the excellent facilities, stories, and learning about ship building and walking over the now cement filled dry docks where the world famous ill-fated ocean liner was built.

I was encouraged to visit the old DeLorean test track in the city, which although small in size, features a banked curve.  However, the track remains under private company ownership, and is not open to the public, except on rare occasions to car clubs.  Videos are online showing drivers experiencing the track.  If you’re a fan of 80s car culture, you can’t help but admire the DeLorean story, with the American company setting up in such an unlikely part of the world, at the height of ‘The Troubles’, it’s a shame the biggest reason the project failed was because of the desperate owner of the troubled company itself,  John DeLorean, being caught red-handed in a drugs deal to try and raise funds to keep the company afloat.

A flying visit to the Shankhill area of Belfast, where the ‘The Troubles’ were most significant, was a real eye-opener for fans of recent history.  I unfortunately ran out of time to explore and view the many murals and the now iconic ‘Peace Wall’, but I glimpsed enough of it to say I was there.  I will be back Belfast.  However the weather was already turning grim, and I’d have to drive through four seasons to get to Mullingar.

Behind the wheel of the 924S on another 2 hour road trip, the heavens opened, the wipers were tested to the extreme, and the paintwork, which normally never sees a drop of water, apart from when it’s being washed was certainly exposed on this particular journey.  This trip demanded a lot more than this car was ever used to, many more miles under a short period of time, consistent driving, more use of the steering, brakes and gearbox, changeable weather conditions, and night driving.  However the car coped amazingly and back in the Republic again, the weather was slowly improving and I arrived in the beautiful, quaint town of Mullingar for one night’s stay, before getting behind the wheel again to venture down for two nights in the South West.

Irish Road Trip Day 3: Exploring Northern Ireland

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Scenic view seen just off the A2 Coastal Road

13/09/18, Day 3: Belfast to Giants Causeway via Coastal Roads

I stayed in a fantastic little B&B on the Lisburn Road, about 2 miles from Belfast city centre, which from the opinion of the residents is one of the nicest areas.  The landlord recommended I take the coastal road route towards the tourist must see landmark ‘Giants Causeway’.  What I didn’t realise was that my journey to the Causeway would take far longer than I imagined, taking up most of my day, however I enjoyed the drive, through many interesting small villages Northern Ireland had to offer.

I must add, only at the point I reached the Causeway, did the 924S need filling up with fuel.   Which is another reason why these 4 cylinder 2.5 litre Porsche engines are so good, there is general consensus the bigger the engine, the bigger the consumption, however even in an old engine this is simply not always the case, you just need a dependable car with a good reputation – and Porsche has always delivered on this.   Which is why so many use all their sports cars as daily drivers, many completing huge mileages in them.

The Giants Causeway is an absolute must for fans of scenery, the coast, Geology, TV show locations (viewers of Game Of Thrones will love Northern Ireland), and run very efficiently by the charity ‘National Trust’, which own many country retreats and maintain them for future generations.

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View of the Ocean the Porsche possibly hasn’t seen since, it’s shipping to the UK when new

Back to the driving seat, I took the motorway home, taking less than half the time of the coastal road route, but this was necessary as the daytime was becoming evening, and it had been a tiring day.  Tomorrow, after visiting a couple of final touristy destinations in Belfast awaited another two hour drive back into the Republic.

Irish Road Trip Day 2: Holyhead, Wales To Belfast, Northern Ireland

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The lowest roofed car onboard!

12/09/18, Day 2: Holyhead, Wales, to Dublin Port and onwards to Belfast

The next morning, I packed my things, left my room for the night which was essentially at a pub B&B but without the breakfast (no offer of one either), and drove down to the docks and onto the ferry for 8.30 am, which were less than a mile from where I stayed.  Having planned my trip with lots of car travelling, I tried to be sensible so that I would be travelling a ridiculous hours, so far I felt positive things would be going to plan.  I arrived at Dublin port at around 11.45 am, and thought to myself, this was the first time, my Porsche had been abroad within my family ownership – so a special achievement for the car and its owner.  The drive up to Holyhead had been relatively painless.  Sure, an older car is more tiring to drive – the 924S doesn’t have power steering, air conditioning and in my case, a non-functioning radio, so you have to allow and prepare to put up without some luxuries we perceive as essential these days!

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Aboard the Ferry

On the other side, I encountered a short wait passing through immigration, where the Irish ‘guards’ (Irish Police officially are named ‘Garda Síochána’ or ‘Garda’), where they asked my nationality and let me continue on my way.  Then onwards I went towards the M1 Motorway connecting Dublin with Belfast, a 2 hour trip, and a couple of tolls in between.

Immediately you notice in Ireland the traffic flow is much lighter than the UK’s, although I wasn’t driving much at rush hour, I’m sure like all cities in the western world, they have traffic flow problems like the rest of us.  It should be said that Ireland’s road network was very slow to develop, most of the motorways here didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago.  Driving over the border into Northern Ireland was like driving into a new county, but obviously there was a hard border, and times not so long ago were very different.  The road markings change, the signs back to MPH from KPH, and other than the sign that said ‘Welcome to Northern Ireland’, (on this particular sign the Northern had been spray painted over), the landscape doesn’t seem to change substantially.

I arrived in Belfast, at my B&B where I’d stay for two nights without incident, at around 3 or 4PM.  The 924S had only used just over a half a tank in fuel since leaving home, over some 250 miles, the fact that I had never done a proper long drive in this car meant this car was still surprising and impressing me even after all these years of ownership!

Irish Road Trip Day 1: Solihull, England To Holyhead, Wales

11/09/18, Day 1: Birmingham, England To Holyhead, Wales.

I’d always planned to take my 32 year old Porsche 924S on a long journey, having not done a proper road trip in it, it was long overdue.  I needed to stretch the legs of this old friend of the family, which we’ve been loving custodians of for 23 years.  It’s always been garaged, never used in the winter, hardly ever in the rain.  But never given a proper long run before, mainly as myself and my sister grew out of the tiny rear seat space and effectively when I was older this could only be used as a 2 seater.  It even spent 4 years off the road completely.

Now completing 500 miles a year, as me as the main driver, I’ve today covered nearly 200 in one journey, which must be a shock for the old girl, but she performed faultlessly.  I’ve just worked out the route which I’m taking which involes from Dublin Port up to Belfast, and back down to Mullingar, through to Limerick, and back to Dublin – and home is a whopping 785 mile round trip.  That’s without me going off tangent, visting places.  Good thing I’ve got European breakdown cover.  Hopefully I won’t need it!

To really keep this as a travelogue diary, I should say something about my destination.  Holyhead is quite a downbeat, dead town, it’s only serving purpose is to provide ferry’s to Dublin.  Which is quite sad, I’m not sure how long it’s been down at the heel like this, but I hope it improves.  Next stop, Holyhead Port in the morning.