Rover introduced the ‘Tomcat’ in October 1992 in 109bhp 1.6, 136bhp 2.0 or 198bhp 2.0 turbo forms. Unsurprisingly, the latter is the most collectible – in reality, the normally aspirated cars aren’t that sought after, as they’re a bit weedy, although they’re cheaper to run. However, the Rover Coupé’s chassis struggles to rein in the power of the turbocharged 2.0-litre, which is why a decent compromise is the 1.8 VVC-engined car that arrived in March 1996. With 143bhp it’s decently quick but it doesn’t shred its tyres every time you try to overtake someone.
All cars were facelifted in November 1993, with the addition of a grille and side impact bars – at the same time all cars gained airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners.
These facelifted cars are by far the most common, simply because they represent the biggest part of Coupé production.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Corrosion and crash damage can be a problem – even cherished cars can have rust in the sills, door bottoms, wheelarches and the leading edge of the windscreen, plus the rear wings.
If the bumpers are misaligned, the car has probably been pranged. To check the bodyshell’s integrity, look at the boot floor from underneath, the rear light surrounds from inside the boot and the rearmost pillars. If any of these are out of shape, walk away.
Watch for leaks into the cabin, as all Coupés came with removable roof panels as standard. The seals around their handles aren’t always that effective, but some silicone sealant normally does the trick.
Finally, check the boot isn’t full of water. Spare wheel wells get waterlogged through rear light seals failing, boot vents leaking or water getting past the fixing holes for the rear window trim.
The Coupé featured three different four-cylinder engines; the Honda D-Series in 1.6-litre SOHC form (a DOHC version of this was offered in other European markets), the Rover K-Series in 1.6 or 1.8 VVC guises, or the Rover T-Series in 2.0-litre form, either naturally aspirated or turbocharged.
The D-Series powerplant is tough, but the head gasket can blow, so check for mayonnaise on the underside of the oil filler cap. As long as the oil is changed every 4000 miles, these engines last 150,000 miles or more, although distributor caps can crack, so listen for misfiring.
Offered in 1.6 or 1.8 VVC forms, the K-Series engine’s faults are well known, the key one being a tendency to blow head gaskets. Look for evidence of problems as a wrecked engine can render a Coupé worthless.
The K-Series engine also needs a replacement cambelt every 60,000 miles or five years. This engine’s tappets are hydraulic, so if they’re rattly after the initial start up, it may be the head needs a rebuild at £500+.
The fruitiest engine is the T-Series, in normally aspirated or turbocharged guises. Often thrashed, these engines are tough enough if the oil and filter have been changed every 6000 miles. Listen for top-end rattling, suggesting a head rebuild is due – although it could just be that the exhaust manifold gasket needs replacing. When this is done, you must use a genuine fire ring gasket (ie a metal one, not just a foil-wrapped card item), or it won’t last long.
Start the engine and let it tick over in neutral. Press the clutch; if things get noisy, the clutch release bearing needs replacing. A new one is £30. If things get noisier as you release the clutch pedal, the gearbox bearings are badly worn – a decent used unit costs £50-300.
On the move, the gear change should be light and precise, although the clutch can be heavy. Any rumbling or whining means a gearbox rebuild is on the cards. If the gears are hard to find, the linkage needs adjusting, but new replacements aren’t available.
Turbo Coupés had a limited-slip diff as standard, but these could be damaged by worn bearings. These have a rather feeble plastic cage, but stronger metal-caged bearings are available. The gearbox identification sticker should start K7BX, K7BSUT or K4BX, but it’s possible to rebuild an LSD with non-LSD parts; don’t assume the car is as it was built.
STEERING, SUSPENSION & BRAKES
All Coupés have power-assisted steering, so check the fluid is up to the mark, as leaks are common. Pumps can also prove short-lived, so listen for whining as you turn between locks; replacements are £250-500.
The main issue with the Coupé’s suspension and braking system is that of wear. Sagging springs, worn trailing arm bushes and tired dampers are common. Brakes are especially prone to wear, so feel for juddering through the brake pedal as you slow down, signifying warped discs.
You should also feel for vibration under acceleration, suggesting that the lower ball joints, wheel bearings or track rod ends are past their best. It might also mean that the wheels need balancing; if that’s the case, make sure none of them have been kerbed heavily, throwing the tracking out.
Most enthusiast-owned Coupés have uprated brakes and suspension; the former because the standard anchors are marginal, the latter for less maintenance. The easiest suspension upgrade entails fitting polyurethane bushes, as the rubber items fitted on the production line tend to perish and split, especially the rear lower arm bushes, which generally only last 30,000-40,000 miles.
INTERIOR AND ELECTRICS
Half or full-leather trim is common, but the cloth otherwise fitted is durable, although the driver’s seat bolsters tend to wear. New parts aren’t available, but you might find some decent used trim – don’t count on it though.
Many Coupés have had their interiors butchered to fit aftermarket stereos and security systems. Clearly there are potential issues with the quality of any work undertaken; if the rear trim panels are loose they’ve been removed and their retaining clips haven’t been renewed. Because they’re not reusable, they have to be replaced each time – but they’re available and very cheap, so it isn’t the end of the world.
The electrical system is usually reasonably reliable, but the door-operated light switches fail along with the number plate light – the latter, usually because the wiring stress-cracks where it goes into the boot lid.
The Coupé makes a great usable classic buy, as long as you can find a good one. These cars are firmly in banger terroritory, which is why many have been snapped up merely as cheap transport. There are plenty of well cared for examples out there too though; buy a low-mileage high-spec Turbo while you can, and you’re guaranteed a sure-fire investment that’s also going to provide plenty of fun every time you take it out of the garage. There’s already a huge club scene too.