I ran one of these as a company car. It was a 1996 (N) 820 Vitesse Sport saloon in Tahiti Blue.
It started off as a disaster. The original gearbox packed up at 6,000 miles and it's replacement went the same way at about 15,000. The third 'box however, which I was told had "modified parts" in it, lasted until the car was disposed of 3 years and 130,000 miles later, and still felt perfectly alright. I guess this was something to do with the steel caged bearings you mention.
Once the gearbox was sorted, it was a good reliable car. There was just one other incident in all that mileage and it happened when decelerating off an Autobahn near Hannover after a "flat out" run (indicated 148 mph by the way). As soon as I lifted off, there was a huge bang and the feel of an impact throughout the car. Immediately, the engine began to sound really ropey and lost power. My first thought was I'd blown it up, but it turned out that it had blown the catalyst to smithereens (unburnt fuel presumably). This was replaced, and it never happened again.
When it went back at 130,000 miles it still performed superbly. It was on the original clutch (3rd gearbox, mind), original engine and original turbo. The engine used a bit of oil, but nothing excessive, and still sounded as sweet as a nut. The interior was falling apart though. It had routine servicing only, and was never mollycoddled.
There's nothing much wrong with the 800 as long as you steer clear of the crappy, unreliable four cylinder engines. The 827 models using the silky smooth Honda 24v V6 were quick and reliable. A testament to this was how many ended up in police traffic divisions. Certainly, I saw scores of these going through police disposal auctions with 150-180k on their clocks and still sounding like new. There was never a shortage of people waiting to buy them either.
The police would not have bought fleets of these things and kept them for this kind of mileage if they were as problematic as some people imply, and it does prove that the basic car is sound enough. The trouble is caused by that grotty 2.0 four pot and the inadequate transmission of the turbo models.
I have a 800 turbo. I renewed the brake discs & pads, then had to bleed them. I also had to replace the servo and the brake master cylinder. now the brakes are fine, but then I had to bleed the clutch. to cut a long story short it, s not working so I thought I would change the clutch master cylinder which is behind the clutch pedal. I followed the manual. I took out the clevis pin from the clutch pedal, undid the two nuts from inside the engine bay, disconnected the pipes. then it says to pull out the cylinder, but no matter what I do it will not move. i have even tried to prize it off with a screwdriver. can you "HELP"
You spend £450 on a car and expect it to be reliable? Then think that's why rover went down the pan? Rover went bust because of years of under investment, but they still had some cracking cars over the years.
I once had a ford fiesta that cost the same and it was a pile of crap! Does this mean all fords are the same?
Well some might say yes, but that would be a bit cheeky!
The reason why I managed to buy the car for £450 was because the gearbox was faulty. The performance was increased afterwards.
This still does not excuse all the other faults.
I do think however the T series is a good engine, its just the rest of the car that lets it down.
The T16 is a superb engine. It only has two inherent problems - oil leaking from the corner of the head gasket (permanently fixable with an upgraded gasket), and weeping camshaft oil seals. Neither are particularly expensive to put right, and if you do the head gasket with the upgraded part, the fix will outlast the car.
If serviced to schedule and not stupidly modified, this engine is fine for 150,000 miles without major attention. I ran an 820 Vitesse Sport up to 165,000 miles and it never skipped a beat. Still quick enough to see off a top end 3 series and apart from a slightly increased appetite for oil, it ran like a 20,000 miler. Even the original clutch went to 130,000 miles and I don't hang about.
Half the problems with this engine are caused by people getting them chipped. This engine has very little spare capacity for tuning. Unlike a Cosworth YB, this is a pure road engine specced exactly to the output it left the factory with. Any power upgrades need accompanying engineering work particularly on the bottom end. The gearbox also has very little spare torque capacity, and will destroy itself quickly on a tuned engine. Nothing would make me run further or faster than someone offering me a chipped 2.0 Turbo Rover for sale, unless they could show me a grand's worth of accompanying work on the bottom end. Nobody bothers, and then they slag off Rover when it goes pop. A bit like the idiots that came up with the awful VHPD version of the K-series, which Rover copped the flak for, but had absolutely nothing to do with.
This is the difference between certain car buyers out there. People who buy British for example would be over the moon if the cars reach 150k! This is silly. I am a Volvo driver and most people who buy such a car would expect it to at least run to 250k without major problems - 150k is just run in. Or is it just that these are better engineered than British (especially Rover) cars?