Car Mechanics (UK)
Our Cars Peter Simpson’s Rover 827 Coupé.
Having introduced the current Simpson daily drivers in recent issues of CM, this is my fun car: a very early Rover 827 Coupé first registered in October 1992, three months after the model went on sale – and by chassis number it's one of the first 800 models made. She’s a low-miler – 44,000 from new – and having bought the car from the son of its original owner in 2012, I know its history from day one.
I’ve sort-of wanted an 800 Coupé since summer 1992. Having relocated from Kent to Peterborough the previous year to take up the editorship of Practical Classics magazine, I had a temporary lodger who was features editor of Performance Car and had a grey 827 Coupé on loan from Rover as a test car. I loved it… until Mark revealed that the list price was £30,500, compared to £27,400 (a largely theoretical figure which hardly anyone actually paid) for a five-door 827 Sterling fastback – and only £2000 less than a Jaguar XJS. We both suspected that pricing wouldn’t be sustainable and that depreciation would be rapid. I decided to wait 10 years until they were fully-depreciated, eventually buying one 20 years almost to the day after that press car was returned to Rover!
The 827 Coupé was developed with the American market in mind. However, before it could be launched, poor sales
forced Rover to withdraw from the US. Millions had been invested in the design and tooling of the 827, so it was launched in Europe in an attempt to recoup its losses. It was always a lowvolume model with a lot of handmade content – the interior, I’m told, is more or less 100% craftsman-made. There’s also surprisingly little crossover with other 800s when it comes to panels. The only saloon/hatchback panels also used on the Coupé are the bonnet and front bumper; everything else is modelspecific, even the front wings.
As an early car, my 827 has the Honda 2.7 engine, which is generally considered to be better than the Rover KV6 fitted from January 1996. It also has a few unusual features found only on early Coupés: the position of the lights on the door shells, for example, is different from the majority.
In terms of mileage, the 827 hasn’t been used much, covering just over 6000 miles in six years. Most of that has been long-distance stuff, because she’s an absolutely fabulous cruiser. Surprisingly economical for a 2.7 V6 auto, too, with 35-38mpg achievable with a little effort. I can also say that its seats are, without doubt, the most comfortable of any car I have ever owned.
My only real problem so far was while heading for the Pride of Longbridge event back in the spring. Just after taking on
fuel on the A14, the car suddenly started running roughly, before cutting out completely. Thankfully, this happened by a turnoff, so I could await the AA in safety. The initial diagnosis was that the timing belt had broken but, when the starter was operated, cam movement was visible through the oil filler.
The next suspect was a failed ignition igniter – apparently a common problem. Being 27 years old, the 827 has partelectronic ignition, which means spark generation and timing are controlled by an electronic igniter that switches power on and off to the coil at the correct time. However, spark distribution to each plug is still carried out mechanically by means of a distributor, rotor arm and old-school distributor cap. With no points or spark-timing kit, the distributor is much simplified.
Trying my ignition igniter on a friend’s 827 confirmed that it was fine, so we took off the distributor cap – not as easy as it sounds. The moment we looked inside, the problem was obvious: something had overheated, cooked the rotor arm and damaged the cap. This had been caused by the main bearing within the distributor having failed, overheated and seized.
Sorting all this did present an unexpected problem: though it’s young by classic standards, some parts for the 827 are already getting scarce, inluding stuff that you need to keep the car on the road. In my case, a rotor arm was found easily, as was a replacement bearing for the distributor, but because the cap is specific to the 2.7-engined 827, it’s not generally available in the UK. I had to source one from an American specialist in America called Sterlingfixer (Sterling was the brand name Rover used to sell the 800 range stateside). At $4.25 (about £3.50) the cap was hardly dear, although shipping costs and import duty brought it up to almost £30. On discovering that I could buy five for £60, I placed a bulk order. I kept two of them and sold the others on for £20 apiece to fellow enthusiasts, which was a good deal for all of us.