Rover 3500 V8
Long Term Assessment / 14.000
registered at the end of May 1968, the month after the vee-8 3 1/2-litre-engine
was offered in the Rover P6 body, our 3500 has topped 14.000 miles. In its
15-month life so far it has proved entirely reliable and exceptionally
trouble-free, giving us much less to report than is usual after this initial
"breaking-in" spell of service.
miles were covered without any attention or replacements at all, apart from two
minor accident repairs - of which more later - and normal routine service at the
recommended 5.000 mile intervals. This is a particularly good record since most
of the mileage has been covered in London traffic.
Just short of
10.000 miles, at the third service, the front disc brake pads were replaced, a
front door lock was replaced, and the engine was noticeably smoother after
fitting new sparking plugs. Later on, at 11.000 miles, engine power fell off
body and there was a loud tapping from the engine, diagnosed correctly as a
sticking tappet. On this engine the tappets are hydraulically operated. The car
war returned to the Rover service department for attention to this, and at the
same time our maintenance unit asked for comment about a faint whine noticed
from the transmission in neutral, at about 1000 rpm.
reported that this transmission whistle was caused by the front pump of the
automatic transmission, for which a modification had been introduced. As it was
seldom present while the car was on the move with Drive selected, it seemed
reasonable to ignore this detail. The faulty tappet was replaced, restoring the
normal exceptionally smooth and quiet engine performance.
unobtrusive improvement introduced on the 3500 at last year´s Earls Court Show
is the adoption of D,2,1 selector control positions for the Borg Warner 35
automatic, in place of the earlier and much more familiar D1,D2,L control. Our
car, of course, has the earlier set-up, but we feel the later one is a valuable
improvement. The main differences are that one can change down to low when
needed, which is less easily done with the ordinary Lock-up selector, and that
second gear can be held without a lock-up change to low at very low speeds. The
D2 position on the old control (giving starts in intermediate) has always seemed
rather pointless, and it obviously makes better sense for the driver to be able
to choose which gear he wants if he decides to override the automatic
The sixth of
the month seems to have been the Rover´s unlucky day, because on this date in
August last year came the first minor accident, when an articulated lorry cut
the lane at a junction where there was a filter light, and damaged the right
side. The second mishap followed on the sixth of November when a Triumph Herald
skidded on a wet and slippery road and collided with the back of the Rover. The
driver was not to blame in either cases.
damage was all fixed at £40 including a new front bumper (£6), but the second
accident was more substantial. Although the main damage was on the left rear
corner, the engine was pushed forward on its mountings, and the huge curled-over
fan blades hit the radiator and had to be bent back for clearance to enable the
car to continue its journey. Labour alone was £46 on this occasion, and parts
totalled about £30 including a new rear bumper (£8), and lower valance at £3 2s
4d. These charges for parts on a quality car seem very reasonable. On both
occasions there was no difficulty in obtaining full remission of repair costs
from the all too obviously blameworthy third parties.
When the car
came to Autocar six months later the closest examination, including a careful
check underneath, revealed scarcely any trace at all of any accident repairs,
showing that it can be almost impossible to detect that any car has been damaged
when viewed some month afterwards, if repairs have been carried out well. As is
this case, there is nothing for even the most thorough inspection to reveal,
particularly as there was not even the sometimes give-away pointer of one bumper
much newer than the other, since both had been replaced in quick succession. A
few traces of paint spray on areas which would not normally have received paint
are about the only clues.
after the car was taken over, some right dipping yellow lamps, giving almost
dangerously ineffective light output, were fitted and the car was used as
transport to Stuttgart to collect a Mercedes Benz 6.3 for Road Test. On the
round trip it returned a remarkably good fuel consumption figure of 18.2 mpg
overall, in spite of being cruised for long spells at about 105 mph. On a later
trip including performance testing and more traffic work consumption fell to
16.8 mpg, but 20 mpg is always available as a target for a run on which the full
performance is not used too much. Oil consumption is small and the level dropped
only one pint over the 1200-mile distance.
were at once apparent in conditions of fast driving. First was severe vibration
from 80 to about 95 mph, and the car was still riding rather roughly even at
100. Every enforced drop in speed through the vibration period was reminiscent
of the shake set up by the washboard test surface at MIRA, and made the image in
the rear mirror a vague blur. We avoided the critical speed as much as possible,
and on return to England the unused and balanced spare wheel was fitted at the
front on the left side. Because of uneven wear varying from 1 to 5 mm tread
depth, a new Avon radial was fitted and balanced on the right front. The track
was checked and found slightly out, and adjusted.
Sadly the new
tyres made no difference to the vibration, which seemed if anything worse, so
the rear wheels were rebalanced in situ. A slight improvement was
noticed. But there was still quite bad vibration. Major changes to the rear
suspension assembly were then carried out by Rover, including fitting a new rear
cross member, replacing rubber mounts and propellor shaft, fitting an extension
of the final drive unit with two additional rear suspension dampers, new rear
springs, hubs and drive shafts. Rover state that these modifications are
available for owners of very early 3500s if considered necessary. Afterwards,
the vibration was reduced to a barely discernible tremor at 85 mph.
problem concerned the brakes, which developed a lot of noise during prolonged
stops, amounting to a quite alarming roar. On autobahnen and the fast
return through Holland we tried to avoid braking at speed as much as possible,
even using Lock-up to change down to intermediate, and maximum anticipation,
because it was feared that some form of brake trouble was developing. However,
on return to England it was learned that pads of soft material had been fitted
to give better low-speed responses. New pads of correct grade cured this moise
It was a
surprise to find how small the Rover´s boot is, and one realizes why many owners
take advantage of the optional occasional mounting for the spare wheel on top of
the boot lid, since the space runs away with much valuable space when carried in
the usual position in the boot. Inside the car the excellent under-facia pockets
absorb a lot of maps and the sort of odds and ends for which so many cars seem
to lack the necessary space, and the shelf along the top of the facia proves
useful for such items as passports and insurance papers when frontiers are
The key to
the 3500, of course, is its superb vee-8 engine which wafts the car along with
so little effort and has such ample reserves of power for overtaking. The
acceleration from rest to 100 mph in only 37.7 sec. is exactly the same as the
time we measured in the original Road Test. Particularly impressive and useful
on the road is the sweeping acceleration in intermediate from 40 to 80 mph in
just over 20 sec. A little figure 2 in a yellow blob on the speedometer at just
over 80 mph marks the recommended change-up point, and although the ultimate
maximum for intermediate is nearly 100 mph, acceleration is appreciably slower
by over-revving in this way than if an earlier change is made to top gear. So to
use more than 80 mph in intermediate is wasteful.
maximum speed the engine is scarcely audible, though there is then a high level
of wind noise to drown it.
corners the Rover grips the road extremely well, and although it leans over in
rather exaggerated fashion and understeers markedly, the driver feels very safe
when cornering fast. Adhesion in the wet on the Avon radials is extremely good.
A weakness of
the car is its rather vague steering. On the fairly narrow motorway lane widths
in Germany one is often uneasy when passing heavy lorries because of the way the
car tends to wander as it gets buffetted by the slipstream.
and out, the bodywork has lasted well, though the carpets show quite a lot of
wear and the pvc trim is of the kind which picks up a lot of dirt and soon looks
grubby. Underneath there is excellent absence of rust and oil leaks.
certainly upholds the Rover traditions of longevity and freedom from irritating
troubles; it will remain for a further spell "in the pool" as chauffeur driven
directors´ transport. It is an extremely good car, with a magnificent engine.
Autocar / UK