Sunday, 11 November 2012

Rover to the rescue in the Lake District

THE glamorous motoring missions don't usually get thrown the Rover's way.

While the MX-5 gets tasked with tackling the tricky mountain roads and the MG gets to strut its stuff at shows, my 1995 214SEi is usually doing the dowdier jobs, trundling to the shops and taking bits of unwanted furniture to the tip.

Yet on a weekend away in the wilds of Cumbria, it's more than proved its worth.

Having decided to spend a night away with a few friends in a camping pod near Ullswater (well worth a try, by the way) I pointed the Rover's square-rigged nose north up the M6 for the dash up to Cumbria. When I tried exactly the same journey in the MGB earlier this year it was genuinely hard work - not only was it slurping a gallon of premium unleaded every 25 miles, but it was noisy, heavy and, thanks to a firing problem, not all that fast either. The MX-5's motorway manners are far better but its tiny boot meant it was a no-no for the camping trip, and, still haunted my memories of a hairy moment with it on the wet Cumbrian roads this time last year, I decided its tail-happy sense of fun and country lanes covered in mud and wet leaves made no good mix.

Not that taking the £300 Rover was a bad bet, because what it lacked in excitement it made up for in comfort, its parsimonious take on drinking petrol and its sheer determination to plod on, no matter what I threw at it. I threw it at mountain roads. I forced it up steep hills. I caked it in mud. I loaded it up with clothes, clobber and camping gear. Not once did it complain.

I knew it wouldn't - this being the same Rover that refused to be beaten by snow in Grasmere, the Evo Triangle in North Wales or the enduring feat of getting to Norfolk in back in baking sunshine - but by far its finest hour was last night, when a mate's much newer, much heavier Mondeo Estate got stuck in the mud on a boggy campsite. Even though there was a Land Rover Defender parked nearby, nobody was around to drive it, so it was down to an ancient, front-drive Rover to tow the stricken Mondeo out.

Even though the Rover's clutch gave off a distinctly evil smell and the tow rope eventually snapped under the strain, the £300 hatch eventually managed to free an estate car weighing nearly twice as much and save the day. We toasted our success of a few pints of the local brew in the campsite pub later that night, but we couldn't have done it without the plucky little Rover which refuses to give up.

Great car.

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