Thursday, October 18, 2007

White Rover

Commenter JC (a very old pal from college) reminds me of an incident that bears recounting here...

It was about 1979 or so. We were spectacularly dissipated sophomores, taking far too many drugs and drinking ocean-loads. Just... horrible.

On a holiday break, JC kindly assented to let me bum a ride from New York to Boston to visit my girlfriend, who was sharing a flop in Aliston with a quite-good rock band called The Zoo Types. (Reading this back, it occurs to me that I was kinda hip in those days...)

JC's parents owned a late-Sixties Rover TC2000 -- a car you don't see much, and which you didn't see much even then. Though common in Britain, the Rover didn't get exported to the States; so if you wanted to own one, you really had to work at it. There might be 500 of them in the country now.

When we were stationed in Finland, my parents drove a Rover TC2000. "TC" stands for "Twin Carburetter," in case you're interested. I imagine the "2000" is the engine size in cc's. Not a particularly powerful car, but British cops used them; I remember a TV series called "Zed Cars"; I was particularly chuffed to see my parents' car being used in car chases.

I suppose my affection for that car is of a piece with my purchase of that 1964 Triumph bike; I will go to my grave believing that human civilization hit a high-water-mark in the mid-Sixties, and it's been a long, slow slide down the crapper ever since. I saw a Rover for sale in the Giant parking lot in Purcellville last year; I was sorely, sorely tempted to make an offer.

(What, are my neuroses showing?)

So there we were, driving up to Beantown, me waxing nostalgic in this great car. We hit a tollbooth (Mass Pike? Seems likely...) -- and the Rover crapped out. Dead as vaudeville. Neither of us knew a damned thing about engines.

Panic began to set in. Where the fuck were we gonna find a shop off the Mass Pike that can work on a twelve-year-old British import -- and did I mention it was two in the morning?

It was cold. It was late. We were tired. We were fucked.

Then, the most amazing thing happened.

A white Rover TC2000 -- of course it was white! -- pulled up behind us. Guy has tools, parts, I dunno, exploded diagrams. A Rover freak. Loves 'em. Has three. You guys stranded? Here, lemme take a look...

He had us back on the road in maybe twenty minutes.

What are the odds? I mean, seriously, what are the odds?

Life's amazing sometimes.


Anonymous said...

What a perfect follow up to your previous post! Good luck NJ! The universe has a funny way of providing when you least expect.

jdmack said...

>>What are the odds? I mean, seriously, what are the odds?>>

298,064 to 1. I can show you the calculations some time, but that's right.

J. D.

Annapolitan said...

Nice story, Ned.

Your rescuer is probably telling the same story from the other side:

"You know how much of a fan I am of the TC2000. Love the car. Carry spare parts with me and a mechanic's manual 'cause where are you gonna find parts for this old beauty?....There are probably only 500 of them in the whole US, and I own three of those."

"I'll never forget the time I came through the turnpike and saw two young men on the side of the road with a car deader than a doornail and guess what they were driving...?"

cleek said...

that was no Rover: that was the Angel Rover. he watches invisibly from above, in his Heavenly-white Rover (like Wonder Woman in her invisible plane) and appears only when a Rover driver is in need of rescue.

Will Divide said...

With Peeps nothing surprises.

thestoic said...

When I married the lovely woman to whom I remain married, we honeymooned by driving around Scotland in a rented car which was, of course, a Rover. It was an 80s version of JC's speedster (the one in which his mother, I believe, feared mice were living), and was prodigiously...epically underpowered.

One day, on the Isle of Skye, we found ourselves driving -- in first gear -- up a hill so steep that the Rover began to shudder and strain and came within an rpm or two of stalling.

But once I told M. to get out, the car made it to the top just fine. (Ha...just kidding. Didn't I say I was still married?)

Susie from Philly said...

That sort of thing happens to me ALL THE TIME. Kind of gives you a little boost to know the universe is that well synchronized, eh?

Wakboth said...

Oh, so your family was positioned in Finland at some point?

That explains the Pori Jazz comment. Do you have any interesting and/or amusing memories of our country (he said, revealing the national neuroses)?

Neddie said...


Yes, we were in Finland 1964-69. Do I have interesting memories? Of course I have, but they're of the sort that are difficult to recount ina mere blog-post. I remember the topological shapes of pine forests reflected against lake-surfaces that are among the most beautiful things in my whole memory-cache. I also remember Vappu, the May-Day celebration, where students and Communists cavorted in the streets, and I remember the drunks in Kaivopuisto, who were the first derelicts I ever saw.

It was a complicated time, which I remember very, very fondly. That Tom Jones "What's New, Pussycat" record was intimately linked with our apartment in Tapiola. That's where I heard it.

Anonymous said...

My father acquired two TC 2000's. One had a beautiful white body, with a blue C pillar and a sunroof. The engine needed a rebuild. The other one was grey,rusted out ,but,great engine.My father swapped engines and with the help of myself and brother, we parted the grey one.My father was an engineer,and, was tired of finding his mechanical pencils in parts.So I was given a treatise on engine rebuilding at the age of ten. Talk about making memories.He told me that my two other brothers ,who were ten years older,were given same tasks,but,with two E type Jaguars.I wish he hadn't sold the '56 300SL.That's another story.
Tim C.

Dave Ayars said...

Anyone who owns a Rover TC2000 in the US, as I do, pretty much has to be his own mechanic, but it's still a miracle that your guy happened to come along just when you needed him.

The TC2000 was one of the P6 series, which came in three flavors--single carb (SC), your twin carb, and V8(3500). The cop car was the V8 and *very* fast, it was called a Jag catcher. The P6 was Motor Trend's car of the year in 1964 and Ralph Nader praised it for its innovative crash cage. This didn't prevent Princess Grace from suffering fatal injuries when her 3500 went off the road and rolled down a steep embankment. The accident was at first attributed to brake failure, but it turned out that she'd suffered a mild stroke and that had caused her to lose control of the car. No word on whether she was wearing her seat belt.

Quite a few P6's were built for export to the US and elsewhere, probably including Princess Grace's, and had left-hand drive, like mine. They just never caught on in the US.

My worst experience with mine was when one of the rear brakes stuck and with nowhere to pull over, I had to muscle on till I wore the pads down enough that wheel could turn freely again.

Overall, a beautiful, innovative car, great fun to drive, and not one I'd recommend to anybody. If you could do your own work that would be different, except for one thing: that's exactly what you'll find yourself doing, putting in untold hours. To get that rear brake off, for example, I had to drop the whole rear end. (They'd mounted the rotors and calipers inboard, right off the differential, because it "reduced unsprung weight," enhancing performance. As if anybody cared.)