One Gentlemanīs Carriage
Okay. So Iīm
always telling you what cars you oughtnīt to buy; what do I actually own myself?
Currently the answer is a Rover 2000, which was preceded by a Mini, a Cortina
and a Cortina GT. The Rover is a very early one (chassis number 80) and had done
nearly 20.000 miles as a press demonstrator before I bought it in March 1965 -
since when I have covered another 30.000, so that now it is probably approaching
people told me I was mad to buy an ex-press car, and I thought they were right
only a few weeks later: I was cruising down the M1 at a steady 100 mph (this was
in the good old days when we were allowed to burn petrol) wondering if the water
temperature should be quite so near 100degC when there was suddenly a loud
silence. Investigation (ie. turning the starter key) showed that there was a
marked lack of compression, and my pride and joy was ignominiously towed by an
RAC Land Rover to the nearest garage, whence I journeyed sadly home.
returned a few days later with a new set of pistons, and since then - touch
simulated wood door cappings - it has never let me down. There have been a few
minor defects, like a broken rear damper mounting, a broken dynamo mounting and
burn-out dynamo, but I have always been able to get home under my own power -
and snagger up to the local garage next morning.
One of the
most annoying minor faults has been a buzzing choke cable which has been
silenced several times but has always reasserted itself. I also had a little
trouble with gear lever vibration, plus a tendency to jump out of top on
overrun, but this was cured by fitting a new gear lever. The gearbox itself
remains as good as new, with a beautifully light change (2000s seem to vary in
this particular) and a very short travel between gears. The ratios are well
spaced, with 55 mph available in second and over 80 in third, and it is
necessary to use them to get the best out of the car. Top gear flexibility is
definitely not a strong point - and itīs very little better on the new TC.
One of the
things that encouraged me to buy the Rover was the very generous amount of
legroom; it is, in fact, possible to push the seat too far back even for my 6ft
5in. Adjustable backrests and an adjustable steering column enable me to get
really comfortable, and also make it possible for much shorter people to drive
the car - not that I let them very often. The Irvin seat belts have an
adjustable diagonal strap which tends to get a little loose at times but even
when it is done up tight I can still reach all the controls and switches.
another department in which Rover are way ahead of most of their rivals, with
each switch clearly marked and with its method of operation in keeping with its
function. Thus the screenwiper control turns, whereas the lights switches go
down for on and up for auxiliaries - unilateral parking light and fog lamp
respectively. If you want to use dipped headlamps and a fog lamp at the same
time you have to fit a separate switch; in any case the fog lamp and the long
range lamp are extras, and if I had had any coice I would have had rectangular
Cibiés rather than circular Noteks - if only because they blend better with the
lines of the car. I did think at one time of fitting quartz iodine headlamps,
but on the whole - possibly because of the 70 mph limit - I have found the
standard lights entirely adequate. Another small plus feature is the tell-tale
extension on the top of the side lamp lenses; itīs reassuring to know that both
lights are on and that you are not lilkely to be mistaken for a high speed
interior appointments, the two front parcel compartments have proved to be
extremely useful and surprisingly capacious - the passenger one anyway (most of
the driverīs is occupied by the steering column). But the top parcel shelf is a
dead loss, as anything placed on it slides from side to side on every corner.
instrument layout scarcely received wild acclaim when the car was announced, but
in fact is very practical. The ribbon speedometer is much easier to read than
the majority of the circular ones, and with the maximum speed in each gear
clearly marked there is no need for a rev counter (instead Rover fit a much more
useful electric clock). The water temperature gauge is rather vaguely
calibrated, but the fuel gauge is very accurate and there is also a reserve tap,
which so far I have never needed to use (hmmm, I wonder if it works?). Added to
this there is a battery of warning lights which spell out their message brightly
and colourfully in good, straightforward Anglo-Saxon: ING, OIL, BEAM, CHOKE and
BRAKE. The choke warning light is thermostatically operated and it would be
difficult to drive far without seeing it. It would also be very difficult to
drive far without using the choke on a cold winter morning, for breathing is
somewhat restricted by the single SU carburettor. However, once it is warm the
engine never shows any sign of temperament, and fuel consumption has worked out
at a consistently commendable and commendably consistent 26-28 mpg.
One of the
best features of the Rover is the ventilation system, which provides fresh air
at face level without the normal penalty of a cold hand and which can be
assisted by a fan which is virtually silent at the lower of its two speeds. In
summer it is sometimes necessary to open a rear quarter light to get adequate
extractor effect, but for the rest of the year it is possible to drive with all
the windows closed and thus remain completely insulated from the mechanical
commotion of other traffic. The peace and quiet which can be achieved simply by
closing a window is quite remarkable, and is one of the features which helps to
set the Rover apart from more mundane cars.
works very well and is completely odourless, which is more than can be said of
the equipment fitted in some rival cars. It also demists the windscreen very
quickly, but the rear window does tend to cloud up with four people in the car
on a wet day (before Rover write in let me hasten to add that
electrically-heated rear windows are available).
distinctly individual seats, four adults is the normal maximum complement, and
the one sitting behind me needs to have rather short legs. Some rear seat
passengers have complained of car sickness, but they are the sort of people who
get sick in almost any car. Enthusiastic driving does promote rather a lot of
roll, but I cut this down somewhat - and also cut down fore-and-aft pitching -
by fitting a set of Armstrong Firmaride dampers. Much to my surprise these have
had no adverse effects on the ride, and it is possible to cover extremely long
distances without feeling tired.
and handling are very much influenced by tyres - of which more anon - but in
general the Rover has a slight understeering characteristic which becomes more
pronounced as speed is increased. In view of the suspension layout this is only
to be expected, but I would prefer a front end with less camber change and thus
more cornering power, though this might eventually lead to the front wheels
breaking away rather suddenly. Perhaps we shall see some changes in this
direction on the forthcoming V8?
I have used
several different makes of tyre - all radial ply - and have reached the
conclusion that most manufacturers still have a lot to learn about this type of
construction. Some provide good wet weather adhesion, some provide long life and
some give a quiet, comfortable ride. But none incorporate all these qualities
and one - the Firestone F100 - didnīt have any of them when I tried it. To be
fair to Firestone, they claim to have improved the F100 considerably since I
used up mine almost two years ago.
Pirelli Cinturato wore well and were generally quite civilised, but were not
very good in the wet. The Dunlop SP 41 was good in the wet but wore out quickly
and was rather harsh. The current Avon Radial is even harsher, but is very good
in the wet and seems to be wearing quite well. Perhaps a really good cross-ply
tyre would be the answer after all?
one of the least satisfactory features of the Rover, being heavy at low speeds
yet at the same time rather low geared. It is nevertheless surprisingly
responsive if the driver is in a sporting mood and feels like a quick blast.
personality - gentlemanīs carriage or sports saloon - is one of the most
remarkable things about the 2000. Even at 6.000 rpm - at which it makes quite a
lot of noise - it doesnīt have a great deal of power, but the combination of
performance, handling and braking make it a very quick car for cross-country
journeys. Alternatively it can be driven deceptively fast in almost complete
silence provided the engine is not taken above 4.000 rpm.
the brakes brings to mind a formidable array of superlatives, the only proviso
being that they always have tended to squeak. Sometimes they squeak when they
are put on, and sometimes they squeak when they are not in use. I think I may
have cured this finally, with a set of Ferodo DS5S pads, but these put the pedal
pressure up somewhat and donīt seem to be as good at low speeds.
the car has dated very little in the four years since it was introduced, and the
basic pressings should be able to go on well into the 70s. My only real
objection is to the fussy grille, which is impossible to clean, and to the use
of a rear-hinged bonnet; I just donīt like the idea of a great slab of metal
blowing up and obscuring my vision.
four years of active service, 145 FLK shows very few signs of age. There are a
few traces of rust on the door sills, and a small hole in the driverīs carpet,
but the seats and most of the interior fittings are virtually as new. The engine
uses no oil at all, and the car in general seems all set for another 50.000
When I had
had the Rover just over a year I felt really ought to change it before something
serious went wrong (I am convinced that in the long run this is the most
economical way of organising oneīs motoring). I had a good look at everything
that was available, but apart from the Lotus Elan (which wouldnīt really
accomodate my growing family) and various BMWs (which are just a bit too
expensive in England) I couldnīt see anything in my price range to compare with
So I tried a
nearly new Rover, and found that it was no better than my own; in several
respects, in fact, it was not as good (it was noisier, it didnīt run straight,
and the heater and choke controls were garishly coloured - quite out of keeping
with the rest of the interior appointments). I also tried a TC, but could
scarcely detect any improvement in performance and felt that the enormous offset
badge on the bonnet was in even worse taste than the heater controls. I thought
briefly of getting a TC without badges but with Lucas fuel injection (for which
the twin caburettor head is essential) and then of an ordinary 2000 with AEI
injection, but soon decided that I didnīt want to be a guinea pig.
So although I
feel like a change - if only for the sake of progress - I am still the proud
owner of a very early Rover 2000. Any offers?
CAR / UK