Red Rover: The Remarkable Rover P6

When the Citroën DS debuted in 1955, it was indisputably the most advanced family sedan in the world. Naturally, the proud British auto industry was not about to take such a challenge lying down, but it took almost eight years to field a British contender: the remarkable Rover 2000. This week, we examine the history of the 1964-1977 Rover P6 from its abortive turbine engine to the calamity of the British Leyland merger and the V-8-powered Rover 3500.

Rover badge on the nose of a 1968 Rover 2000TC © 2009 Aaron Severson

THE ROVER

If our American readers know the Rover name at all, it’s probably because of the Land Rover and Range Rover sport-utility vehicles, luxurious off-roaders that are the only remnants of the original Rover Company still sold in the U.S. The last Rover passenger cars sold here were the unsuccessful Sterling 825 and 827 of 1987-1990, which were related to the contemporary Acura Legend and Rover 800.

The Rover Company had a long history stretching back to the 1800s. In 1877, John Starley launched the Starley & Sutton Company, manufacturing tricycles, velocipedes, and “Penny Farthing” bicycles. Starley & Sutton’s Rover Safety Bicycle, launched in 1884, is generally considered the prototype of the modern bicycle. Based on its success, Starley went public in 1896, changing the name of the company to Rover Cycle Co. Ltd. Rover moved into motorcycle production in 1902 and automobiles in 1904. The firm was named Rover Motor Co. Ltd. in 1906, although until the 1920s most of its business was still in bicycles.

Rover’s fortunes waned in the 1920s until the arrival in 1929 of new general manager Spencer Wilks, formerly of Hillman. Wilks — joined the following year by his brother Maurice, who became chief engineer — decided to take the company up-market. By the start of World War II, the Wilks Brothers had established Rover as a thoroughly respectable but somewhat stodgy middle-class brand, staunchly conservative in both styling and engineering.

TURBINE AMBITIONS

Behind the scenes, Rover had grander designs. During the war, Rover had been a contractor for Frank Whittle’s Power Jets Ltd., developing the “Whittle Unit” gas turbine that became the basis of Britain’s first jet engines. Although Rover transferred the work to Rolls-Royce in late 1942, after the war ended Rover hired several former Rolls gas turbine engineers, including Frank Bell and Charles Spencer (“Spen”) King. Frank Bell proposed adapting the gas turbine for automotive use, leading to an enthusiastic, highly secretive development program. By 1947, Bell and King had completed the first running prototype and by 1950 had unveiled the world’s first turbine-powered car: the JET 1.

The gas turbine was one of the great unfulfilled dreams of the fifties and sixties. Smooth, simple, and offering a better power-to-weight ratio than most piston engines, the turbine soon came to dominate the aviation world and many saw it as the automotive powerplant of the future. Unfortunately, gas turbines were badly handicapped for passenger car use by their high fuel consumption, poor throttle response, high exhaust temperatures, and the cost of machining suitable turbine blades.

Nevertheless, Spen King, Gordon Bashford, and Peter Wilks kept working on the Rover turbine program throughout the 1950s. In 1956, they developed the T3, the first car specifically designed around a gas turbine engine. Aside from the turbine, the T3 had a variety of other advanced features, including unibody construction with fiberglass body panels, a De Dion rear suspension (previously installed on the Rover Special one-off race car in 1949), and four-wheel disc brakes. The T3’s performance was greatly improved from earlier turbine prototypes, but its fuel consumption — less than 10 mpg (23.5 L/100 km) — was still unacceptably high.

THE ROVER P6 TAKES SHAPE

The Wilks Brothers realized that the turbine was far from ready, but many other aspects of the T3 were very promising. In 1957, they approved the development of a new midsize model, the P6, which would replace the popular P4 series and use many of the concepts from the T3. Since the engineers were still hopeful that the turbine program would bear fruit, the P6 was to be designed to accommodate either a conventional engine or a turbine.

While Bashford, King, and Peter Wilks worked on refining the T3’s advanced engineering, styling director David Bache and his team set to work on the exterior design. Possibly inspired by a number of one-offs by the Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti and possessing proportions mildly reminiscent of the Lancia Flaminia Berlina, the Rover P6 emerged as crisp, slightly rakish four-door sedan with styling that foreshadowed the angular Giugiaro designs so popular in the 1970s. Initially, the P6 was to have a sloping nose with somewhat awkward exposed headlights, but after seeing the initial prototypes in early 1959, the sales department registered strenuous objections, leading to the adoption of a less aerodynamic blunt nose with quad headlights set into a full-width grille.

One of the minor goals of the P6’s “base frame” construction — like the Citroën DS, it had a steel monocoque with unstressed, bolt-on exterior panels — was to make it cheaper and easier to restyle. Ironically, the P6’s styling would be almost unchanged throughout a 14-year lifespan, but even at the end of its run, it still looked surprisingly contemporary for a car designed in the late 1950s.

1968 Rover 2000TC front 3q © 2009 Aaron Severson
Some 178.5 inches (4,534 mm) long on a 103.3-inch (2,624mm) wheelbase, the Rover P6 was a little shorter overall than a Chevrolet Corvair, but a fairly big car by British standards, fully 10 inches (25.4 mm) longer than the contemporary Ford Cortina. (author photo)

In 1961, Rover unveiled its latest turbine prototype, the T4. This now had front-wheel drive and Rover’s latest 2S160 regenerative turbine, making 140 shaft horsepower (104 kW). The T4 had impressive performance, but fuel economy remained sub-par: Rover quoted 20 miles per Imperial gallon (16.7 mpg U.S.; 14.2 L/100 km), which was probably optimistic. The T4 proved to be the end of the line for Rover’s passenger-car turbine, although development of truck and marine engines continued until the end of the decade and turbine-powered Rover-BRM race cars ran at Le Mans in 1963 and 1965.

What was ultimately more significant about the T4 was that its body was a prototype of the Rover P6, albeit with an extended, more streamlined front clip designed by Spen King. The T4 had FWD, of course, while the P6 was rear-drive and had a different rear suspension, but much of the T4’s structure was the same as the conventionally powered P6 that debuted two years later.

A MODEL MODERN MOTOR

Even without a turbine engine, the production Rover P6 was a highly sophisticated car with notable advances in almost every area. Occupant safety was a high priority, a rarity in that era except at Mercedes-Benz: The monocoque base unit was intended to provide a rigid safety cage for the passenger compartment and Mercedes-style impact-absorbing crumple zones were provided both front and rear. In a severe frontal impact, the firewall was designed to deflect the engine downward, preventing it from being forced into the cabin. All these things are standard practice for modern cars, but were almost unheard of at the time. Inside, the dash and interior were thoroughly padded and shoulder harnesses and inertia reels were standard equipment.

The P6 had a peculiar front suspension, designed by Gordon Bashford to accommodate the bulky turbine engine. The suspension used horizontally mounted coil springs, acting against the cowl structure rather than the fenders or front crossmember. Each steering knuckle was carried on a stout tubular strut, which was connected to the lower wishbone via a ball joint. The upper ball joint was mounted atop the strut, as in a MacPherson strut suspension, allowing the strut to pivot with the front wheels. The top of each strut was also connected to a pushrod that transmitted wheel motion to the spring and the upper wishbone, which was turned sideways and pivoted on the cowl. Tubular shock absorbers were mounted vertically behind the struts and ahead of the upper wishbones, which were connected by an anti-roll bar. The principal advantage of this unusual arrangement was that it maximized the width of the engine bay by eliminating the need for shock towers.

The rear suspension was another cause célèbre of this era, the De Dion axle. Named for the Marquis Albert de Dion, whose company patented it in the 1880s (although it was actually invented by Charles-Armand Trépardoux), the De Dion is a compromise between the independent rear suspension (IRS) and the live axle. As with IRS, a De Dion suspension’s differential is fixed to the body and thus is not part of the vehicle’s unsprung weight, improving ride quality. Unlike IRS, the rear wheels are connected with a U-shaped beam (the De Dion tube) that forces them to maintain a constant camber, which doesn’t allow the wheels to respond individually to bumps, but reduces the tail-happiness to which swing-axle or semi-trailing arm independent suspensions are prone.

In the Rover P6, the De Dion tube was located by trailing arms (which also served to transmit braking and acceleration forces to the body), upper leading links, and a lateral control arm. Although De Dion suspensions don’t allow camber changes, the rear track does change slightly as the wheels move through their travel. Some vehicles accommodate these changes by using sliding driveshaft splines, which is less than ideal because the splines can bind under power; to avoid that problem, the Rover’s De Dion tube used a telescoping center section, allowing the tube itself to change its width slightly.

The P6 had Dunlop disc brakes at all four wheels and the rear brakes were mounted inboard, further reducing unsprung weight. Unfortunately, the consequence was that the rear brakes were more cumbersome to service than outboard brakes and in hard use, the brakes and differential could cook one another to their mutual detriment.

Such foibles notwithstanding, the net result of this arrangement was fine handling, excellent stopping power, and a very good ride, marred only by certain slight but disconcerting pitching motions under certain road conditions. In overall road manners, the Rover P6 was one of the most capable sedans of its era.

SIX BY FOUR

Although the gas turbine never made it to production, the Rover P6 did have a completely new engine, a 1,978 cc (121 cu. in.) overhead-cam four with an iron block and an aluminum head with an integral intake manifold (much like some postwar Nash engines). The four used a Heron head, with the combustion chambers formed by the tops of the pistons rather than in the cylinder head itself. Heron heads, which were common on motorcycle engines and were later used by Ford for its Kent cross-flow fours, allow an engine to be shorter, stiffer, and lighter while improving gas flow for better low-end torque and fuel economy than conventional combustion chambers. With a single carburetor, the 1,978 cc engine made a reasonable 100 gross horsepower (89 hp DIN, 66 kW), albeit with more noise and vibration than Rover customers were used to enduring.

1968 Rover 2000TC front © 2009 Aaron Severson
This Rover P6 is a 1968 2000TC, but the current owner has installed a V-8 engine: not the Buick/Rover 3.5-liter, but a 4,942 cc (302 cu. in.) Ford V-8. Not only was the 302 cheaper than the Rover unit, the owner found it an easier fit in what was originally a four-cylinder car. The iron Ford engine is about 120 pounds (55 kg) heavier than the aluminum Rover V-8, but actually about 4 inches (100 mm) narrower overall. (author photo)

With a new four-speed manual transmission, the single-carb engine could push the 2,800-pound (1,270 kg) Rover P6 from 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in less than 15 seconds, with a top speed of 104 mph (166 km/h). That was far from blazing performance, but it was certainly adequate and competitive with many of the Rover’s contemporary rivals.

A NEW MARKET

Impressive as it was, the Rover P6 caused much consternation within the company. The new model was a considerable departure from Rover’s traditional quiet conservatism, which had made the bigger 3-Litre (Rover P5) the car of choice among British government officials. The P6, by contrast, had a more raffish aura, closer to a Jaguar than a traditional Rover. That was partly by design, but it was not an uncontroversial decision.

1968 Rover 2000TC rear 3q © 2009 Aaron Severson
This 1968 Rover P6’s notable “California rake” is not a standard feature. The owner had clearance problems after adding the 15-inch wire wheels, forcing him to shim the rear suspension to avoid the tires contacting the fenders. Wire wheels were available for four-cylinder P6s, but they were not very common and they were not deemed strong enough for the V-8 cars. (author photo)

The Rover marketing department was very uneasy about the P6, particularly its four-cylinder engine. Even the company’s suppliers were not sold on the basic concept and many Rover execs feared the P6 would cheapen Rover’s image. The object of the new model, of course, was to increase the company’s volume and reach out to younger buyers who would not otherwise have considered a Rover. Both the Rover P4 and P5 sold in modest numbers and total annual sales in the early sixties hovered around 12,000 units, but the P6 was planned for much larger volumes, with a production capacity of 500 or more cars a day.

CAR OF THE YEAR: THE ROVER 2000

Although the T4 prototype had been shown in 1961, production delays meant that the Rover P6 didn’t make its formal debut until the Earls Court show in October 1963, two years later than originally planned. Dubbed Rover 2000, the new car made quite a splash, particularly among patriotic British journalists. It won the first European Car of the Year award, beating out the formidable Mercedes 600. Critics universally praised the Rover’s ride, handling, brakes, and safety features.

Fears that the Rover 2000 would be a commercial flop were soon allayed. With a starting price of £1,264 9s 7d with purchase tax (about $3,500), it was more expensive than any Vauxhall or Ford, but a good deal less than a Citroën DS or Jaguar Mark 2. The 2000 was also far more obtainable than its 3-Litre brother, which cost some £600 (nearly $1,700) more. The 2000’s only direct rival was the new Triumph 2000, introduced at about the same time. The Triumph was marginally less sophisticated than the Rover, with rear drum brakes and semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension, but had a smooth 1,998 cc (122 cu. in.) inline six and optional overdrive, which allowed more relaxed cruising than its Rover counterpart.

1968 Rover 2000TC rear © 2009 Aaron Severson
The Rover P6 had reasonable interior room for its size, but its boot space was disappointing, a consequence of the bulky rear suspension. This 1968 Rover 2000TC’s brilliant red color, incidentally, was not an original paint choice. (author photo)

Together, the Rover and Triumph carved out a market in the U.K. for what we would now call near-luxury sedans. Between the two of them, the two 2000s claimed about 90% of the 2-liter saloon market. The Triumph sold better than the Rover, thanks in part to a lower price — a Triumph 2000 with overdrive cost about £110 less than the Rover — but the P6 boosted Rover’s 1964 sales to nearly double those of 1963 and there were lengthy waiting lists. By 1966, Rover was selling nearly four times as many cars as they had at the beginning of the decade.

THE COLONIES DEMUR

The Rover 2000 had far less impact in the U.S. than in Great Britain. It was not from any lack of critical approval; the American press was as enthusiastic as their UK counterparts were, Road Test declaring the Rover P6 the best European sedan in its class. Still, by American standards, $4,000 was a lot to ask for a compact sedan with an underpowered four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. An automatic option didn’t appear until 1967 and it had an unfortunate effect on both acceleration and fuel consumption.

The addition of the more powerful 2000TC (of which more shortly) in early 1966 helped somewhat, but U.S. sales remained sluggish, never topping 3,000 units a year. The Triumph 2000 fared no better — American buyers appreciated British sports cars, but modest-size European sedans had yet to find their niche. Worse, the P6s that did sell in the U.S. made a poor impression on buyers. A 1970 Road & Track survey of Rover 2000 owners reported a litany of complaints ranging from premature clutch and tire failure to oil leaks and overheating.

1969 Rover 2000TC dash © 2013 Aaron Severson
The dashboard of the early Rover P6 had a very clear and sensible control layout, although in standard form actual instruments were rather sparse. The Rover 2000TC model added an extra binnacle with a tachometer and the clock, displaced from its normal position at the center of the dash. Each of the padded sections beneath the dash is a tilt-out storage bin that is also intended to provide knee protection in a crash. The amber light to the left of the instrument panel is part of the Icelert system, which monitors the outside temperature via a bumper-mounted sensor; the light flashes to warn of near-freezing temperatures and glows continually if the temperature drops below 32°F/0°C. The Icelert system was standard on U.S. cars and was optional but rarely ordered in other markets. (author photo)

Interestingly, in the U.K., the P6 was generally considered a reliable car, albeit not without its trouble spots, including the brakes (particularly the original Dunlop units, replaced in mid-1966 by a Girling system), differential oil leaks, and a propensity for corrosion of the monocoque base structure. However, the U.S. cars were admittedly handicapped by more demanding American driving habits and the different expectations of American buyers regarding routine service. The Rover 2000 was not easy to work on (valve adjustments, for example, required removing the cylinder head and the inboard rear brake pads could only really be accessed from below), which translated into higher repair costs.

Compounding the problem was the spotty availability of parts and qualified technicians. Rover’s U.S. organization, then headed by J. Bruce McWilliams, came up with clever promotions, but putting Rover on the map in America would have required the factory to make a much bigger investment. In 1967, Rover’s North American organization merged with Triumph’s following Rover’s acquisition by Leyland Motors, which owned Standard-Triumph. After that, the slow-selling sedans took a back seat to the more popular Triumph sports cars. Rover finally withdrew from America entirely in 1971, save for Land Rover, which lingered until 1974 and would return later.

ROVER 2000TC AND BENT EIGHT

The Rover 2000 was a comfortable car with fine road manners, but its straight-line performance lacked the verve of bigger-engined Jaguars. To answer the demand for more power, Rover contemplated offering bigger derivatives of the P6’s four-cylinder engine: a 2,472 cc (151 cu. in.) five and a 2,967 cc (181 cu. in.) six, both created by simply adding extra cylinders to the four.

The five was abandoned when the Rover engine department determined that they could nearly match its output by giving the four a new cylinder head with a higher compression ratio, new intake and exhaust manifolds, and a pair of bigger S.U. HD8 carburetors. The result was 124 gross horsepower (114 hp DIN, 84 kW), enough to trim 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) times to around 11 seconds and boost top speed to a claimed 112 mph (180 km/h) while still returning respectable fuel economy. The twin-carburetor car, known as the Rover 2000TC, was introduced at the 1966 Geneva show and offered first in Europe with the same 9.0 compression ratio as the standard engine and 107 hp DIN (79 kW). The more powerful high-compression British and American versions followed later in the year.

1968 Rover 2000TC badge © 2009 Aaron Severson
In 1968, a new Rover 2000TC with manual transmission cost $4,198 POE in the U.S., and that didn’t include tinted windows or a radio, although it did include radial tires and the novel “Icealert” low-temperature warning light. For the same price, you could have an Alfa Romeo Sprint GT, a BMW 2000ti, or a lavishly equipped Pontiac GTO with nearly three times the horsepower. Although the automatic Rover 3500S was more suited to U.S. tastes, the V-8 pushed the price tag to $5,398, so few were sold here. (author photo)

The six, which required a longer, restyled nose, would have provided more power still while answering the sales staff’s persistent fears that the four lacked the smoothness and refinement Rover buyers expected. The six would probably also have offered much better performance with the Borg-Warner 35 three-speed automatic that became optional on single-carburetor four-cylinder cars in late 1966.

The six-cylinder car was known internally as the P7 and had it made production would probably have been called the Rover 3000. However, the P7 was canceled in late 1964 because Rover managing director William Martin-Hurst — who had succeeded Spencer Wilks in 1962 — had found an entirely different solution.

During a 1964 trip to pitch the Rover turbine engine to the American outboard motor manufacturer Mercury Marine, Martin-Hurst had come upon an example of Buick’s recently abandoned 3,528 cc (215 cu. in.) aluminum V-8. He soon discovered that the V-8 was very nearly the same length as the Rover 2000’s four-cylinder engine and, thanks to the Buick’s aluminum construction, weighed only 12 pounds (5.5 kg) more. Martin-Hurst arranged to buy the engine and ship it back to Rover’s Solihull factory, where he persuaded engineer Peter Wilks to install the V-8 in a 2000 sedan. The Buick engine’s power and torque provided impressive performance and the aluminum V-8 did not change the 2000’s weight distribution in the way the six-cylinder prototypes did.

Martin-Hurst eventually secured the manufacturing rights to the Buick engine and enlisted the services of retiring Buick engineer Joe Turlay, the aluminum V-8’s lead designer, as a technical adviser. (More details about the origins of the aluminum V-8 can be found in our article on the Buick Skylark.) While the basic design had to be revised in a number of significant ways to suit Rover’s needs and British manufacturing capabilities, including a switch from semi-permanent steel molds to sand-casting, those modifications did not alter the engine’s obvious virtues.

1971 Rover 3½ Litre saloon © 2010 Tony Hisgett (CC BY 2.0 Generic)
The Rover 3½ Litre (P5B) was the first Rover vehicle to use the ex-Buick aluminum V-8, beginning in 1967; this is a 1971 P5B saloon. The P5B remained a popular staff car for British government officials into the eighties and Prime Ministers Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher each drove one. (Photo: “Rover P5 3.5litre 2” © 2010 Tony Hisgett; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

The V-8 found its way into the Rover P5 in 1967 and was installed in the P6 the following year. Doing so was not a universally popular idea — Spen King, for one, strongly opposed the idea of buying an outside engine — but the V-8’s effects on performance were too dramatic to ignore. Despite a larger radiator and other changes, the V-8-powered Rover P6B (B for Buick) was only about 35 pounds (16 kg) heavier than the four-cylinder 2000 and shifting the battery to the boot actually fractionally improved weight distribution. Fitted with two S.U. carburetors, the 3500 engine was rated at 184 gross horsepower (146 hp net, 109 kW), substantially more than even the 2000TC.

The Rover Three Thousand Five, as it was pronounced, was expensive, bowing at £1,791 with purchase tax (around $5,000), but the added muscle was well worth the premium. Despite compulsory automatic transmission and a taller axle ratio, the 3500 was more than a second quicker to 60 mph than a manual-shift 2000TC and fully 6 seconds quicker than a single-carb automatic 2000.

The 3500 would have been quicker still with a different transmission. The Borg-Warner 35 was initially mandatory because the 2000’s four-speed gearbox couldn’t withstand the V-8’s torque, but the automatic made the powerful engine feel unaccountably sedate. A 3500S manual with a beefed-up four-speed (not to be confused with the poor-selling and short-lived U.S. V-8 car, which was also badged 3500S) was added in the fall of 1971. The manual transmission and a revised exhaust system providing slightly more power (not reflected in the official specifications) made the 3500S by far the fastest P6 model, capable of 123 mph (197 km/h) all out.

1974 Rover 3500 (P6) 3.5-liter engine © 2009 The Car Spy (CC BY 2.0 Generic)
The soon-to-be-ubiquitous Buick/Rover V-8, seen here in a 1974 Rover 3500 automatic. In 1972, the V-8 in the Rover P6B was rated at 153 PS (112 kW) DIN and 203 lb-ft (274 N-m) of torque with twin S.U. HIF6 carburetors. (Photo: “Rover 3500 V8” © 2009 The Car Spy; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

THE BIRTH OF BRITISH LEYLAND

In 1967, Rover was bought out by the Leyland Motor Corporation, which had acquired Standard-Triumph earlier in the decade. The following year, Leyland — with no small encouragement from Harold Wilson’s Labour government — merged with British Motor Holdings, which included BMC (Austin, Morris, MG, and Riley) and Jaguar as well as various automotive suppliers. The result was British Leyland, an enormous, unwieldy conglomerate of more than 100 different car, truck, and bus manufacturers and suppliers.

Although LMC chairman Donald Stokes received a peerage for his efforts in the birth of British Leyland, the results were chaos. British Leyland now included nearly every automaker in the UK. Companies that had previously been arch-rivals were now siblings; what had been healthy competition abruptly became cannibalism. While Lord Stokes played the confident captain of industry in the press, the scope of his new empire would have daunted the most gifted executive and its problems were sobering.

1974 Rover 3500 (P6) front 3q © 2009 The Car Spy (CC BY 2.0 Generic)
A 1974 Rover 3500 shows off its new plastic eggcrate grille. The V-8-powered Rover P6B also had a standard vinyl roof covering, usually black. (Photo: “Rover 3500 V8” © 2009 The Car Spy; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

For a time, things at Rover proceeded apace, but Lord Stokes soon began to order rationalizations and cutbacks throughout British Leyland. The planned successor for the Rover P5, the P8, was canceled in 1971 on the grounds that it would compete with Jaguar’s XJ6, even though Rover had already invested around £5 million (around $12 million) in the project. Rover and Triumph were ordered to develop a joint replacement for the Rover P6 and Triumph 2000/2500 (which became the Rover SD1) and combined into a short-lived Specialty Division.

In the meantime, the Rover 2000 and 3500 got a minor facelift for the 1971 model year, featuring a rather ugly black eggcrate grille, a new bonnet, and, for V-8 and twin-carburetor cars, an updated instrument panel. Four-cylinder cars also got boot-mounted batteries to match the 3500. In 1973, the four-cylinder engine was bored out to 2,205 cc (134 cu. in.), increasing the output of the single-carburetor engine from 89 to 98 hp DIN (66 to 72 kW) and from 108 to 126 lb-ft (146 to 170 lb-ft) of torque. The bigger engine also brought a new name: Rover 2200SC. The dual-carburetor version, badged 2200TC, now had 115 hp (85 kW) and 136 lb-ft (184 N-m) of torque. Both four-cylinder models adopted the V-8’s rear suspension, which had stiffer springs and a slightly lower ride height.

In other respects, the P6 was little changed. While the styling still looked sharp and the engineering was far from dated, the car’s minor foibles had become harder to overlook as the competition improved. Moreover, reliability and build quality declined markedly, doing serious damage to Rover’s reputation.

1974 Rover 3500 (P6) cabin interior © 2009 The Car Spy (CC BY 2.0 Generic)
The facelifted Rover 3500 and 2000TC/2200TC had a new fascia with a full set of clear, round instruments and new rotary switchgear instead of toggles. Single-carburetor four-cylinder cars retained the earlier dash. The automatic Rover 3500 had leather upholstery, but full leather was now a £24 (roughly $60) option on other P6s. (Photo: “Rover 3500 V8” © 2009 The Car Spy; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Rover P6 production continued through 1976 and the 2200 remained on sale through the 1977 model year. Total production was something on the order of 330,000 units, including a small number of CKD (complete knocked down) cars for overseas markets. (The final car off the line was identified as No. 327,308, but that figure was almost certainly incorrect.)

The P6’s replacement, the Rover SD1, was an impressive car in many respects, but — at least on paper — represented a technological step backward, with its live axle and rear drum brakes. Alas, the SD1 was even less reliable than the seventies P6, which did nothing for Rover’s image and made a disaster of the brand’s short-lived return to the American market in 1980. Rover would go on to produce some decent cars, but none as advanced or impressive as the 2000 and 3500.

1974 Rover 3500 (P6) rear 3q © 2009 The Car Spy (CC BY 2.0 Generic)
A 1974 Rover 3500 like this one originally cost more than £2,200 with purchase tax (about $5,300), although that included the automatic transmission that was an extra-cost option on the four-cylinder P6; the price premium for the V-8 was relatively modest. (Photo: “Rover 3500 V8” © 2009 The Car Spy; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Rover’s subsequent misadventures and the fate of British Leyland are a story for another day. Suffice to say, the tale doesn’t have a happy ending, and today Britain’s native auto industry is either extinct or owned by foreign companies.

What the Rover P6 makes clear is that the fate of the British industry was not the result of any lack of talent. In design and engineering, the P6 was a match for any sedan in the world. That today it is little more than a historical footnote (at least outside the UK) is sad testimony to the damage done by decades of managerial blunders. The P6 is not unlike a gifted university student with a low B average: For all its flashes of brilliance, one can’t help wondering how much more it could have been if it had just applied itself a little more.

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NOTES ON SOURCES

Our sources for this article included Keith Adams’ candid interview with Spencer King for AROnline, 13 December 2002, www.aronline.co.uk, accessed 24 March 2009; Adams’ multi-part history of British Leyland and Rover Group (AROnline, 19 September 2008, www.aronline.co.uk, accessed 24 March 2009); “Autocar road test 1944: Rover 2000,” Autocar 11 October 1963, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200 1963–1977, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1983), pp. 10-15; “Autocar Road Test Number 1956: Triumph 2000 1,998 c.c.,” Autocar 10 January 1964: 66-70; “Autocar Road Test Number 2099: Rover 2000 Automatic 1,978 c.c.,” Autocar 30 September 1966, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 42-48; “Autocar road test Number 2181: Rover 3500 3,528 c.c.,” Autocar 18 April 1968, pp. 35-39; “Auto Test: Rover 2200,” Autocar 4 October 1973, reprinted in ibid, pp. 90-95; “Auto Test: Rover 3500 (3,528 c.c.),” Autocar 15 October 1970, pp. 74-79; “Auto Test: Rover 3500S,” Autocar 21 October 1971, pp. 88-91; John Bolster, “Rover 2200 TC — a transformed 2000,” Autosport 19 December 1974, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 96-97; Martin Buckley, The Encyclopedia of Classic Cars: A Celebration of the Motor Car from 1945 to 1975 (New York: Hermes House, 1997); “Buying a Rover P6,” Practical Classics July 1983; “Compact power pack (Motor Road Test No. 17/68: Rover Three Thousand Five,” Motor 20 April 1968, pp. 41-46; Michael Cook, Triumph Cars in America (St. Paul, MN: MBI Publishing Co., 2001); Mike Covello, Standard Catalog of Imported Cars 1946-2002, Second Ed. (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2001); Terry B. Dunham and Lawrence R. Gustin, The Buick: A Complete History (An Automobile Quarterly Magnificent Marque Book), Third edition (Kurtztown, PA: Automobile Quarterly, 1987); Jim Dunne and Jan P. Norbye, Buick 1946-1978: The Classic Postwar Years, Second Edition (Osceola, WI: MBI, Inc./Motorbooks International, 1993); “Giant Test: Triumph 2.5PI v. Rover 2000TC: The Battle Hots Up,” CAR January 1969, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 68-73; Chris Goffey, “History of the Aluminium Alloy V-8,” Autocar 20 November 1976, reprinted in British V-8 Newsletter Vol. XV, No. 3 (December 2007), www.britishV-8. org/ Articles/ Rover-Autocar- Article.htm, accessed 25 March 2009; Harold Hastings, “A new kind of Roving,” The Motor 20 April 1968, pp. ii-iv, 69-70; Chris Horton, “Living with a Rover P6,” Classic Car Mechanics Summer 1986; Geoffrey Howard and Dave Thomas, “2-Car Test: Rover 3500S, Triumph 2.5 PI,” Autocar 5 October 1972, pp. 36-41; Henry N. Manney III, “Rover 2000,” Road & Track November 1963, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 16-17, and “Driving the Twincarb Rover 2000,” Road & Track June 1966, reprinted in ibid, p. 35; Don MacDonald, “Instead of a Used Rolls-Royce, For $4200 Try a … Rover 2000-TC,” Motor Trend Vol. 18, No. 8 (August 1966): 68-69, and “Turbine Progress,” Motor Trend Vol. 18, No. 2 (February 1966): 32-34; Raymond Mays, “Rover makes good,” Motoring Life #19 (1968), reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 67+; “Road & Track Owner Survey: Rover 2000TC,” Road & Track November 1970, reprinted in ibid, pp. 78+; “Predominantly sporting (Motor Road Test No. 37/66: Rover 2000TC),” Motor 1 October 1966, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, 49-54; “Road Test: Rover 3500S,” Motor 16 October 1971, pp. 20-25; Graham Robson, The Rover Story, Fourth Edition (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Patrick Stephens Limited, 1988); Graham Robson and Richard Langworth, Triumph Cars: The Complete Story, Second Edition (Pitlake, Croydon: Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 1988); “Room for Two?” Car February 1967, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 56-57; “Rover P6 engineering,” Road Test Vol. 4, No. 4 (June 1968), reprinted ibid, pp. 58–61; “Rover 2000,” Autocar 11 October 1963, reprinted in ibid, pp. 5-10; “Rover 2000,” Road Test Vol. 1, No. 10 (December 1964), reprinted in ibid, pp. 20-25; “Rover 2000 TC,” Autocar 11 March 1966, reprinted in ibid, p. 27; “Rover 2000TC,” Car and Driver Vol. 11, No. 10 (May 1966), reprinted in ibid, pp. 28-33; “Rover 2000TC,” Road & Track February 1969, reprinted in ibid, pp. 74-77; “Road Test: Rover 2200TC,” Motor 6 October 1973, reprinted in ibid, pp. 84-89; Eduard Steiner, “There’s still so much to do…” Auto, Motor und Sport 1970, translated from German by Bjørn Honne and reprinted at AROnline, www.aronline. co. uk, accessed 12 February 2013; James Taylor, “A real Rover,” Popular Classics July 1991, “Rover P6 — Revolution for the young guns,” Classic Car Weekly 2 January 1991, and The Classic Rovers 1934-1977: A Collector’s Guide, 2nd printing (Pitlake, Croydon: Motor Racing Publications Ltd., 1989), “The $4000 Imported Sport Sedan,” Road Test Vol. 3, No. 2 (April 1967), pp. 5-27; “They spell it swop,” Car Life December 1969; “Used Car Choice: Rover 2000,” Autocar 30 August 1973, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 82-83; John Wheaton, “The Rover Turbine Cars,” Rover Car Club Auckland NZ, n.d., www.rover. org.nz, accessed 25 March 2009; Rüdiger Wicke’s Rover P6 page, www.roverp6. info, accessed 12 February 2013; the Wikipedia® entries for British Motor Holdings (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Motor_Holdings, accessed 24 March 2009), British Leyland (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Leyland, accessed 23 March 2009), Donald Stokes (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Stokes, accessed 12 February 2013); the Rover P6 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rover_P6, accessed 23 March 2009), and the Rover Company (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rover_Company, accessed 24 March 2009); Rene Winters’ Rover P6 pages from the Dutch Rover Archives, www.rover-V-8.nl, accessed 24 March 2009; and Jonathan Wood, “Classic Choice: Rover 2000,” Thoroughbred & Classic Cars October 1981, reprinted in Rover 2000 + 2200, pp. 98-100.

Historical exchange rates for the dollar to the pound came from Werner Antweiler, “PACIFIC Exchange Rate service, Foreign Currency Units per 1 British Pound, 1948-2007” (2007, University of British Columbia, fx.sauder.ubc. ca). Exchange rate values cited in the text represent the approximate equivalency of British and U.S. currency at the time, not contemporary U.S. suggested retail prices, which are listed separately. All exchange rate equivalencies cited in the text are approximate and are provided for informational purposes only; this is an automotive history, not a treatise on the historical value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!


39 Comments

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  1. What’s this “California rake” you mentioned in the article?

    Anyway, thanks for this history of the Rover P6. Even I haven’t heard of this car before, so it’s really worth knowing it. The Rover’s a pretty car!

    1. “Rake” is the technical term for one end of the car being higher than the other. “California rake” was customizer slang for a car with the tail higher than the nose. It was the opposite of the [i]pachucho[/i], or lowrider rake (sometimes “East L.A. Rake”), which lowered the tail (either by modifying the suspension or putting weights in the trunk).

      California rake was mostly for appearances, but hot-rodders also tended to jack up the rear end, both to provide clearance for big, fat tires and to facilitate weight transfer in hard, drag-racing starts.

  2. i would love to see an article by you on the racing history of the Buick small block/v6 family.

    the first stock block at Indy in 15 years, two F1 championships, pole and qualifying records for the v6 at Indy some 20 years AFTER the aluminum v8 had returned stock blocks to the series, NASCAR participation, etc.

  3. Rover was more the Leyland Buick.

    Rusty Rover was a common spit for the brand as corrosion protecttion at production was slipper bath and not complete immersion.

    That RED above is Californian sans any original engine tells plenty.

  4. “[i]A slightly hotter 3500 S model was added in 1971, with a five-speed manual box that made it by far the fastest P6 model, capable of 123 mph (197 kph).[/i]”

    A minor correction for your record: the manual Rover 3500 only had four speeds, the first five speed Rover was the SD1 of 1977.

    1. Oops, you’re quite right. Fixed — thanks for the correction.

  5. top historical effort youve achieved here with this story

  6. I don’t know who Rover’s U.S. ad agency was, but they had a serious of print ads for the P6 with delicious British humor. At some point the Federal government said that all cars bought for Federal agencies beginning in 1967 would have to have certain safety equipment, and I imagine 3-point belts were on the list. (This was separate from the smog/safety requirements for all U.S.-market cars starting with MY 1968.) Shortly after, a Rover ad was headlined, “To whom it may concern: does your government intend to walk until 1967?” In the body copy, they gave assurances that if anyone in the government wanted to contact them about a fleet purchase of P6’s, they’d guard his privacy zealously. They added, “We’d like to say how sorry we are about burning down the White House in 1814. You certainly put the insurance money to good use.”

    Another ad in the same series mentioned that it was possible to remove a dented fender and continue driving the car while the body shop was working on the fender: “This is the same principle that allows you to drop off your jacket at the cleaners without leaving your body there.” I wish I had the entire collection of those ads.

    Speaking of advertising, there was, naturally, an advertising campaign for the SD1 in the U.S. But U.S.-market SD1’s were so delayed by production snafus that by the time they landed on American soil, the ad campaign had been and gone.

    [i]Road & Track[/i] used to run owner surveys on various cars, and they once did one on the P6. It turned out to be the most unreliable car whose owners they’d surveyed up to that point, by a landslide. They said, “We feel apologetic, because we have liked Rovers and reported on them favorably. But truth is truth, and we are going to tell it the way the owners say it is.” They concluded that aside from the unreliability, they saw no sign that Rover had been able to get its house in order with regard to parts and service.

    A couple of issues later, they had a letter to the editor from one of the owner survey participants, saying, “I would rather try to sell birth control pills in a convent that try to sell a used Rover.”

    A coworker of mine in Boulder, Colorado, in 1972 had had a P6. He said that he’d once hit a deer in Wyoming, and Rover’s New York and Los Angeles offices got into a turf battle over who’d get to sell him a new radiator. He finally parked the car in his back yard, and it broke its steering damper just sitting there, from temperature changes.

    I can’t remember where I read it, but I have the impression that the offbeat front suspension was hard to keep in alignment.

    I think it’s fair to say that the P6 was a textbook case of good concept, atrocious execution.

    1. I recall reading a later interview with Spen King in which he said the complaints about the P6’s unusual front suspension were mainly from people who didn’t understand it. You can take that as you will, I suppose — it’s natural King would want to defend the design, but on the other hand, it’s also customary for people to blame unusual technology for problems, whether they’re actually responsible or not.

    2. Back in 1972 I bought a low mileage 1970 p6 Rover 3500, I kept it for almost 5 years,and traveled all over Britain in it; and to this day; I cannot say that I have enjoyed any car better than that one, I put that down to the great V8 Engine, I believe Rover was a victim of willful mismanagement, and that BL was the downfall of the British motor industry, I have owned five P6 Rovers, and although the inboard rear brakes were a bit more work to change than conventional brakes, there wasn’t a time with all five cars, that I ever regretted owning any one of them.

      They ranged from a 1968 2000 TC, which my Dad bought after driving mine,(the P6 3500) I also bought a 1972 2000 TC, That I ran for another 5 years, and another 1969 2000 TC that I owned,
      In fact my wife had a serious accident in the 69 TC, and was uninjured, apart from a bruised knee, the front wing and drivers door was ripped off in the accident, but the structure of the car was so strong it protected her from any serious injuries.

      Had the British Rover Co kept Rover, I believe Rover P6 cars would have been a great success. BL have got a lot to answer for; especially any bad press that Rover received, American versions of the car never stood a chance of success, due to what I (personally believe) to be, industrial sabotage.

    3. The front suspension stays in slignment just fine!

  7. Quality control (or lack of it) has destroyed the reputation of many well-designed products, and the Rover P6 is another sad example. I have had a 2000TC for a couple of years now, and has been perfectly reliable. It seems to be well put together, and of quality materials. It sits in the garage all winter, and fires willingly the next spring. Quality control in the British car industry was always highly variable, which is no way to survive.

  8. I remember that one US mag, was it “Car & Drive” or “Road & Track” that at the time it was tested, they stated, It to be the best European sedan to arrive at your shores.!!! Back here in the UK I have owned 5 variants, the Buick engine being the best for the chassis, however the 4 block just offers the best MPG these days. I have owned my currant TC 29yrs which is also Red & still gives me a “boot”. I hope the P6 owners over there, enjoy their P6 motoring…Regards John

    1. The P6 was quite lavishly praised by the U.S. automotive press. [i]Car and Driver[/i] (in their May 1966 issue) proclaimed the 2000TC the best sedan they had ever road tested while [i]Road Test[/i] called the 2000 a “best buy” choice and implied (without quite saying directly) that it was the best car in the world.

      There are not a lot of P6 survivors here and most of them are (or were originally) four-cylinder cars; we only got the 3500 for a short period and I don’t think many were sold. On the other hand, I think it’s safe to say that most of the American owners who do have P6s today understand and appreciate them, which wasn’t necessarily the case when the cars were new.

  9. A very good and interesting read about what should have been one of the world’s best cars had it not been for build quality and general servicing problems. When the cars operated well, they were a delight to drive, a real luxury driving experience in the classic British style. But, as you say, they were often not put together very well and for many owners who were not mechanically inclined the experience of owning a Rover was troublesome and eventually disappointed. How many even survive in the U.S.? It can’t be more than dozens and certainly not more than a few hundred if that. Did they all rust away? Or were few even sold here? I remember seeing them on the East Coast from time to time.

    They always looked good in classic British car colors like British Racing Green or Old English White, and the one unfortunate example you’ve been forced to include as illustrations in eyeball searing red does not seem very Rover-like to me. I mean the raked red example from California with the equally unattractive wire wheels. If you had wanted to make a good looking car look out of character that would be the way to do it. In BRG or another color, the Rover sedan is one of the most handsome cars of its era. Too bad the quality problems sank it so fast.
    Finding the rarer 3500 model compared to the 2000 model is particularly hard in the U.S. and I’ve only inspected one in 20 years but passed on it due to concerns about parts availability and servicing issues.

    1. In fairness, wire wheels were optional, although not these precise wheels. I assume wire wheels were more common in the U.S. than elsewhere, reflecting buyers’ assumptions about what English cars should be. The red is a little bright, although how much of that is the camera that day is another matter; red is not an inherently bad color for the P6, as the red 3500 illustrates.

      1. wire wheels were never offered on Rover cars sold in the US – hello from 2 1/2 yrs later…

  10. I’m australian. My parents owned a Rover 2000 TC in the 1970s. We bought it second hand from English friends who had decided to move back to England. Fortunately, it was one of the very first TCs and did not suffer from the later quality control issues and never rusted. It was white with the wire wheels (which were beautiful on our car and so easy to change, with the single massive chrome wheel nut, that my 50 something mum wouldn’t let dad change a flat because she enjoyed the job so much!!!). Inside, it had the timber-look steering wheel and gear shift and delicious smelling red Connelly leather seats. The most comfortable seats I’ve EVER ridden in, even in the 30 odd years since. The engine had a throaty rumble, the car held the road like glue and riding in it was like gliding along in a luxury aeroplane capsule. Certainly, spare parts and servicing were ridiculously expensive but I often regret that the car is not still in the family instead of having been traded for a Honda Accord c.1980. Yes, I fell in love with that car like no other before or since and am an unapologetic, unreconstructed Rover tragic. I’m so sorry hat the beautiful Rover 75 of the new millennium proved to be the last of the breed. Vail Rover.

  11. Great Unique car !!!

  12. Another well informed and thoroughly researched article Aaron, thank you.
    Rover and its contemporary Triumph 2000 models found a niche In the British car market that caught other makers napping, as did Ford with the Capri range a few years later.
    Ford, Vauxhall and BMC had similarly priced models but they were big and unrefined by comparison. Rootes had the Humber Hawk, slower and old fashioned, imports such as small Mercedes-Benz models, BMWs or Volvos were much more expensive.
    Ford came up with the Corsair 2000e, which was a bit faster but less refined. Rootes had their Humber Sceptre which matched performance and was almost as refined. BMCs Wolseley 18/85 was very spacious but slower by comparison. All were perceived as luxury versions of cheaper models, not near luxury in their own right.
    It wasn’t until the 1970s that serious rivals emerged, Fords Granada was perhaps the only “British” rival, although just how much of was British manufacture is debatable, the other contenders were Peugeots 504 models, Volvos 2 liter sedans, Saabs 99 model and Audi 100 models. The Chrysler 180 and 2 liter and Japanese cars of similar size had little impact.

    1. The Chrysler 180 looked for all the world like a scaled-up Hillman Avenger (known briefly to Americans as the Plymouth Cricket), which can’t have been good for its snob appeal. At the time it was introduced, I read a brief article in which the writer (who’d driven it) said, “a solid car that won’t excite the buyer” and “yawn-a-mile.”

  13. Hi There

    I have now my P6 running, but I did ask myself if a V8 can be fitted in a 2200TC 74, there are people who did this but I can not find enything on the internet.

    maybe here someone do now where to find.

    thanks.

  14. I have been looking at a 1974 rover 3500. We actually have a few of them still here in New Zealand. All the information i have been reading about states how good the car was leading up to about 1971. Would this mean this car could have issues with the body being that its a 74 and do you know what i should look out for when i go to have a look at it. I think its an awesome looking car and the fact that it has a v8 is even better. Its had a new motor, not sure if its the aluminium one but is does look identical to the motor in the red rover in the photo. Would love to hear back about any info you may have, thanks again

    1. Shelley,

      I’m afraid I’m not in a position to advise you on buying a car. I would suggest checking out Rover clubs, both locally and online, which may have buyer’s guides or be able to offer more cogent suggestions. If the club is local, you may also be able to find out more about the history and condition of a specific car. Good luck!

  15. Thanks a lot for the help Aaron, i will do that right now and thanks again.

  16. In an interview around the time the Rover SD1 was launched, Spen King was asked why the SD1 was so conventionally engineered when the P6 had been so ground-breaking. His response was along the lines of, “We were young and starry-eyed when we designed the P6.”

    1. The world is littered with reminders that just because something is newer and more innovative doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better, so there is a point to be made there. On the other hand, it’s hard to see the reversion from four-wheel discs to rear drums as anything other than cost-cutting…

  17. Very nice article , does justice to a car made by brilliant engineers for connoisseurs.
    I have a P4 and a P62000TC , the P4 could be considered a little dated by some people , but the P6 is still today a completely usable daily driver, and ergonomically it is the closest thing to perfection ( THOSE SEATS !! )
    I would only complain about the absence of a central armrest , but i have to recognize that the car was made to be driven with one hand on the shift lever , unless you have an automatic ,so it can be considered an inconvenience just for the passenger , not that much for the driver.
    To improve starting , it is advisable to add an electric fuel pump in series with the mechanical to fill the carburettors and make life easier for the starter.

  18. I had 3 p6 3500 rovers , all gave me lots of trouble free motoring , the rear brakes were a pain to service but other than this if you kept proper service upto them they were a GREAT car .

  19. I have owned a Rover 3500 P6B for about 3 years and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. The previous owner had driven it on wet, muddy roads so luckily I got it before any significant rust had developed and it was stored in an open sided barn so the rear seats and shelf were somewhat sun damaged however the paint work is pretty good and polishes up well. Mechanically it has proven to be in good condition and has only required minor work to date. I had the wheel alignment done and it made a big difference to handling. I had to print out instructions from the internet for the mechanic who did the alignment but in the end he said it was quite simple to do. I have also read that it probably wont have to be done again for a very long time. One thing that hasn’t been done since I have owned it is servicing of the De Dion tube. Does anybody have any experience of doing this? The car is a joy to drive and is comparable to my wife’s brand new car although without all the modern bells and whistles that you get but may not need and the ride is softer than that of modern cars with their ‘sports’ suspension! I have had over 30 cars over the years and the Rover is the most enjoyable of them all apart from an early Kombi Van (split screen no less!) but that’s another story. In fact they will probably have to bury me in it!

  20. What a nice surprise. I was Googling down memory lane and came across this article. In July 1970 my bride and I picked up a US Spec 2000TC at the factory and toured the car in Europe for the next six weeks. The car was shipped back to San Francisco to my dad, who had bought the car pretty much sight unseen based on magazine articles. We not only got to drive the car, my wife earned a commission selling him the car through her travel agency. One of our options was the “touring package” which included a spare tire mount on the top of the trunk and a change of bulbs for the Continent. There was a little diagram to help me re-aim the headlights using the wall of an underground garage in Paris. My brother bought the car from dad and put the car’s safety to the test when he ever-so-gently rolled the car over into a snow bank with wife on board. The only damaged panel was the roof, which was changed out much like the removable fenders. The car was sold in about 1980 and I always check photos of TCs for a tire mount on the trunk – never seen one yet.

  21. I have owned two P6 3500 cars, the first purchased in 1981 was a ’73 of unknown provenance but was good enough to be my daily driver, in the Johannesburg area, until 1989. It was even used as a company car doing long runs regularly in that period. Although condition in South Africa are quite harsh, it really proved to be pretty reliable and very comfortable for long spells at the wheel. Rust in a that area is not a problem at all.

    In 1987 I spotted an advert in our local “Car” magazine for a ’74 with just 39k km. on the clock and in mint condition. I rushed around to the advertiser’s house and bought the car. Soon after that my wife and I moved to the coast, since when the car has had little use and even now has under 64k under its belt. We are very close to the sea but there is almost no rust and the car runs beautifully when used for car club events. Like most, I installed electric fuel pumps on both cars. Replacement parts are horribly expensive now because of our weak currency but as a useable classic it is wonderful.

  22. The Rover P6 is the car I feel strongest about. If I had enough space to store it I would buy one immediately. Nothing compares to Rover P6.

  23. The Rover P6 was to also feature the 2.2 DOHC 16v Slant-4 engine mentioned on the Buick / Rover V8 article, which ended up donating it’s bore size to produce the 2200.

  24. Question since this is one of the many British car articles that mentions rust issues… I am of the impression that English winters are milder than those in the upper Midwestern US. Cold/wet perhaps, but absent the ice storms, blizzards, multiple feet (meters) of snow, etc. At least I’ve never seen those conditions on Coronation Street.

    To deal with this, municipalities in the US are quite found of dumping literal TONS of salt, or even more corrosive salt-hybrids onto the streets. This is what turbocharges rust in the region. Cars from the upper Midwestern rural areas (which use sand, or wait for the sun to melt the ice) don’t suffer as severely as those from metro areas addicted to salt.

    Do the English use/need salt as much as your American cousins? Just curious because I read so much about the “rusty Rovers”, etc. and I don’t picture your winters being as severe. We never had enough English cars here for an adequate sample size, but it was an issue for the Japanese and I’d say it still is to some extent. In fact, I could show you some ML Mercedes and sedans with massive holes in tailgates and rockers.

  25. You can’t get further than 72 miles from the sea in the UK, it follows that we get salty air from the coast over a larger proportion of the country than much of North America.
    Rovers had a better reputation than most for rust issues with their contemporaries.
    Very cold conditions will slow down chemical reactions, rust being one such action, it’s slushy near freezing conditions that rust thrives upon, such as you might find in a typical British winter.

  26. @ Roger… Thanks. I hadn’t really thought about the proximity to the ocean; basically everywhere. We’re in the middle of a negative temp snap right now, so I’ve been able to breathe easier about not underbody-washing my blue car, literally colored white with road salt. Is road salt ever used in urban areas, perhaps during a bought of temps just below freezing?

  27. Salt laden grit is sprayed over much of the UK’s road system during winter.
    Perhaps the steps manufacturers have taken to make modern cars much more rust resistant might make interesting reading?.

  28. Hi people,I have owned over 100 cars here in NZ with Mercedes being my favorite for many years.
    At least up until I purchased a 1970 P6 3500. BRG, very cool, it’s do good I have just bought another one to restore.

    Kevin.

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