I wonīt go into those tired old jokes about "gentlemenīs
carriages" and "gentlemenīs railway carriages" that have been brought up and
disproved every time a Rover has been tested over the past few years. But one
point must be made before I start: Rover has a reputation for making solid,
tasteful, long-wearing vehicles which have an aura of prestige and are usually a
trffle behind the times.
The Rover 2000 is the nice kind of thing that can happen when a
company with this sort of reputation builds a "compact" car without worrying too
much about the final cost.
The emphasis is on craftmanship. Not the quaint little old man
turning out one ornate chair leg a day kind of craftmanship, but the
craftmanship which comes with modern technology.
The kind of craftmanship you get when you tell a group of
dedicated engineers to start with a clean sheet of drawing paper and make a
motorcar that does everything a motorcar should without worrying about false air
vents on the bonnet, trick fenders to make it look longer, or any other useless,
expensive or wasteful sales gimmicks.
Thereīs nothing really startling about the 2000. Weīve seen De
Dion rear suspension layouts before: weīve seen inboard rear brakes; thereīs
nothing new about an adjustable steering wheel, or a stubbly little gear lever
that moves about an inch or so from gear to gear, or a skeleton body-chassis
unit on which all the body panels and accessories are hung like toys on a
Christmas tree - and can be replaced just as easily. But what is worth taking
notice of is the way in which all these features have been combined in logical
order to make a car which has no feature that can be called bad - only some that
I donīt like, but you might, and some that are the other way around.
The basic design of the Rover 2000 is similar to the Triumph
2000īs, which isnīt all that surprising, as both cars started out as a joint
affort in the basic planning stage. Rover had the advantage of aiming for a
higher price range and the carīs shape has a look of solidity and sophistication
which, to me at any rate, makes it a better-looking car. The shape is remarkably
to that used on the experimental Rover gas turbine cars and is modern without
any of the bad taste that generally goes with the word.
The body-chassis unit is a skeleton framework which has been
carefully jig-aligned so that a bingled door or mudguard can be unbolted and
replaced with another one which is carried in the distributorīs spare parts
stock already painted one of the basic Rover colors.
Although the chassis skeleton is a fairly lightweight
construction, rigid box section units are placed strategically to give it
tremendous strength. A really solid head-on collision would be needed to force
the engine through into the passenger compartment.
Interior trim is modern, with the traditional British pieces of
wood thrown about here and there to make sure you know itīs a Rover. Itīs all
very tasteful, but the rectangular instrument panel looks like a complicated
transistor radio and, to a man who wants to know whatīs going on in the power
department, almost as complicated to read at a glance.
Not that thereīs much information available. I would think the
owner of such a fairy expensive piece of machinery, with an overhead camshaft
and peak revs of 6000, would want more than a water temperature gauge, a fuel
gauge and a strip speedometer. Pretty lights along the top of the panel tell the
driver if the chokeīs been left out too long, that he hasnīt got any oil
pressure, that his electrics have gone haywire, that heīs left the handbrake on,
that his headlights are on high beam, or that heīs turning to the right or the
left and his indicators are working.
I know the experts tell us that these days warning lights can
adequately safeguard an engine and the ownerīs pocket, but I like to know whatīs
going on. Whatīs more. I derive great pleasure from watching a speedometer
needle chase the numbers round the dial and a strip slinking across a narrow
band leaves me cold. You have my full permission to feel otherwise.
The various knobs are carefully placed where they wonīt crack
driversī and front passengersī kneecaps, and a padded shield in front of them
folds down to reveal a cavernous store for odd bits and pieces.
A parcel shelf runs across the width of the car to bring the
controls close enough for the driver to operate them without unbuckling his belt
and to provide a platform to rest the beer cans on at a drive-in - if, of
course, Rover owners drink beer at drive-ins.
The heater system is excellent and easy to adjust to a nicety,
and extra, individual fresh air controls are sited in front of the driver and
his passenger with an arrangement by which the cool air can be controlled and
directed where itīs wanted.
Nice touches about the controls are the combined wiper/washer
switch (the wipers are variable speed) and a light in the lighter socket which
operates when other lights are in use.
The all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox is operated by a stubbly
lever which sits on the transmission hump beside the driver and which needs only
an inch or so of crisp movement from gear to gear. Reverse is easily selected by
lifting a handle built round the lever.
The seats, both front and rear, are as comfortable as any lounge
suite. Carefully contoured to fit a fairly wide range of human bodies, the
driver and three passengers are held comfortably and securely when swaying
through corners. A fifth person can be carried in the middle of the back seat,
but heīs not meant to stay there for long.
The front seats have a good fore and aft range and ínfinitely
adjustable backs. Combined with the adjustable steering wheel, which moves a
couple of inches up or down, this makes for an almost perfect driving position.
Performance, while not startling, is good enough for this kind of
car, although its superb suspension makes it seem to cry out for a few more
horses. Time and time again I found myself lining up for corners 10 miles per
hour slower than the suspension could comfortably cope with. Even so, it gets
from a stationary position to 50 miles per hour in a brisk 9.15 sec., hits 70
mph in 18.3 sec. and tops 105 mph flat-out. It takes a respectable 19.25 sec. or
less to cover a standing quarter-mile.
The brakes, servo-assisted discs on all four wheels, are good
enough to keep on hauling the car down from any speed time after time without
showing any tendency to fade. A slight tendency to groan when applied gently in
traffic is troubling the distributors and pernickity owners, but weīve all got
our problems, havenīt we?
The suspension, a De Dion layout with long, massive trailing arms
and coil springs at the rear, and cantilever-operated horizontal coils at the
front, must take up a fair amount of the 2000īs purchase price.
It looks solid enough to support a truck and gives a ride so soft
that first time up youīre sure the car will sway like a schooner in the breeze
as it goes through a corner.
It doesnīt, though. The nose dives when the brakes are punched
hard and thereīs a certain amount of body roll in tight bends at moderate
speeds, but things improve considerably as speed increases.
On long, sweeping bends there is no change in the carīs attitude
to the corner at all and it hangs on, and on, and on, and on.
Thereīs a bit of understeer at slow speeds, but steering becomes
fairly neutral on the open road. The big advantage of De Dion suspension - the
rear wheels remain parallel at all times - means that the road-holding remains
constant all the way through a corner at any given speed.
I know itīs costly; Ģ2285 is not the kind of money everybody
expects to pay for transport, but youīd have to pay a lot more to find a car so
well matched for all-round appeal, versatility and durability.
Motor Sports & Automobiles 8/1965