It seems to have been *checks notes* nine months since the last update on the 800. Um. Sorry about that. It’s been, well, it’s been one hell of a year, hasn’t it? There has been the impact of a man opting to go full ‘nom nom’ on a bat for one thing. And while this hasn’t had too much impact on my day to day (I’ll get to that in a moment) it did wipe all car meets and shows off the calendar. This then served to render the 800’s need to move somewhat moot. Plus, the MOT expired in March and with nowhere to go, there was little in the way of impetus to get it sorted. And then I started taking things apart, which never helps. Largely because I am an idiot.
Then of course, there was the day job. As many of you know, I’m in charge of all things editorial over at Car & Classic. This is, of course, the best job in the world. But it is also the busiest. Not only do I have to populate an online magazine with daily content, I also have a large hand in the auction side of the business that we launched last year. We’ve sold over £14,000,000 of cars since, and that has been the result of a lot of time on the road, travelling up and down the country to take pictures and write listings for fabulous cars. I know, woe is me etc. Point is, it’s a time killer, and it has somewhat dampened my enthusiasm to get elbows deep in oil at the weekend, hence the slow progress. And then of course there are the other cars like the trusty ZX and the now departed (but living happily on) MG ZR. But, it’s not all excuses. There has been progress.
The keen-eyed amongst you may have spotted that the original 17-inch Vitesse alloys have gone. Don’t worry though, they’re not sold or anything. They’re in my unit, safe and sound. Why? Well, because I bought some trendyfullysick Image three-piece split-rim alloys. The car is a bit of fun, so a big set of wheels was always going to be welcome. These Image rims were previously on a black Sterling, so I knew they’d work. However, there were some teething problems. The tyres were a bit too stretched for me. 205 30s on an 8-inch rim. 215 35s on a 9. No, didn’t like that. So the 215s went on the front, and a new pair of 225 Nankang N2s went on the wider rears. In doing this, I discovered one rim was cracked, so forked out £100 to have that welded. Ouch. I also rolled the rear aches, but it still rubs like my thighs on a hot day. Annoying. But, doesn’t it look smashing? Just a shame its undrivable, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The engine itself has been fine. The cooling system not so much. The lower hard line was corroded, and upon looking for a new one it seemed to be about as readily available as a rocking horse’s ‘leavings’. In a happy twist, however, I did find one in Spain. New old stock no less. It was fifty Euros, but I was happy to pay it. I also found a reconditioned upper hard line. These lines are bespoke to this model, so when you see parts, you have to buy them. Plus, my upper hard line had already exploded in the past and as such was a curious mix of household copper pipe, solder, spit and hope. Fitting the new hard lines was a faff, but it’s all done now. I also chucked a new thermostat in, too. When in Rome and all that. There is still work to do, mind. I have an Audi A4 expansion tank to fit (a popular swap on this car) but I need to make some brackets up.
Then there was the beautification. The engine bay was a lot cleaner than when I bought it, but it was still pretty grubby. So, the slam panel was repainted, the strut tops, all the brackets, the brake servo and do on. I fitted a Durite capillary temp gauge, because Rover. I cleaned everything up, even taking the time to polish the ABS pump, throttle body and alternator. Yes, I have officially lost all control of my life. Please send help.
Then there is the bonnet. This got cleaned, painted and fitted with DEi gold and silver heat shield because… well… no, I have no idea. I looks spiffy though. I also painted all the bonnet catches, meshed the holes in the vents and gave everything a damn good clean. It’s no show winner, but I think that now, when the bonnet is open, there is a bit of ‘ooooh’ going on. And I like that.
It needed a new exhaust, sort of. It has a stainless Mongoose cat-back system on there, which is delicious. However, the cat was ripped open and the front flexi was blowing. This should have been a ten minute job, but it was not. In the past, the front section was bodged on with a collection of unsuitable bolts and nuts and thus, wouldn’t come off without a fight. In the end, I gave up and drafted in a friend off Twitter – Mark – to do it. And do it he did. So now it has a new front section and a new cat. I also cleaned all the oil off the underside of the engine from a long since fixed oil leak. That was a horrid, dirty, messy, thankless task. The things we do, eh?
Power is nothing without control, or some such bollocks. Boost is also nothing without a functional control system, which I didn’t have because I broke some of the lines when doing the clutch. In my defence, they had been bodged in the past. I needed to remedy this, so fitted a manual controller, which worked about as well as custard in a pint of bitter. This could have been down to the fact it was four quid off eBay. Either way, it didn’t work. Nor did my actuator, which was stuck. This meant the car would giddily hit the boost limit of 14psi, at which point anyone in the car was thrown at the windscreen like a crash test dummy. To fix this, I bought an LD Performance EBC with the correct solenoid and lines. It woks a treat, allows me to set the boost at 12psi, which doesn’t upset the ECU of the car. Plus, it looks well flash.
And finally, we have the current roadblock, namely the rear suspension. Since putting on the knobby wheels, it has rubbed like buggery. This was baffling, as I have seen these wheels fitted to another 800, so I know they work. My lowering springs were, on investigation, made from spaghetti, and had all the strength of a Pomeranian puppy. I bought new springs, and while I was at it, new shocks too. The new springs were too tall, so out came the angle grinder. It now sits perfectly, but the new Sachs shocks seem to be doing nothing. So, I have bought gas shocks and another set of legit Vitesse springs (the car was 20mm lower than the others in the range). When I find the enthusiasm, I’ll put all this stuff in and pray to god it all works. And then I’ll get it in for an MOT, and then I’ll take it to Retro Rides Gathering, which will be the furthest I have ever driven it. It can only go well.