mid-sixties, there were only two cars available for the Bank Manager class - the
Triumph 2000 and Rover 2000. Mark Gillies compares them.
bank manager had both an easy and difficult task when it came to choosing his
new car in 1967. Easy because he had to buy British, but difficult because the
choice of cars was narrow and evenly matched. Triumphīs and Roverīs 2000s would
have been the perfect cars for a man with his status and aspirations, just that
cut above average motor cars of the day.
were, in many ways, the pride of the British motor industry, combining technical
flair and fine road manners with good old Trad Brit virtues such as superb rides
and opulent interiors. However, both were to suffer the same fate as most of the
best British cars of the sixties - no-one knew when to kill them off, both cars
lasting, in forms various, until 1977, by which time their concepts had aged to
the point of senility. Although Triumph had up-engined the 2000 into the 2.5 PI
in 1968, and the model stayed on until the late seventies, none could deny that
it, and the Rover 2200, were showing their age, especially compared to foreign
newcomers like BMWs 3-series which carried a much younger image.
If we look at
the cars in their true era, the sixties, they were regarded very highly. The
Autocar, for instance, said that the Rover "will make many new friends in
Europe and beyond, who hitherto have sought in vain for a British car in this
class combining our high standards of finish, trim and equipment with their
expectations of road behaviour". They were not quite as complimentary about the
Triumph, saying that it was no scintillating performer, "but it will grow on
you", particularly with regard to the handling and ride.
Of the two
cars, the Triumph stands out as more of a compromise than the Rover. It came at
a critical time for the firm, which had been attempting throughout the fifties
to place itself on a firmer footing by buying up component suppliers - with the
might of Ford, the BMC combine and Rootes against it, Standard Triumph was quite
a small fish in the huge pond.
In 1960, when
plans to produce a 2-litre saloon were well advanced, the firm had hit a crisis.
A number of factors conspired to give Standard Triumph real liquidity
problems: car sales were falling compared to projections in both Britain and the
USA, and the nationīs economy was "overheating", so that a series of measures
aimed at reducing inflation took the edge off the retal trade - more expensive
hire-purchase and credit were among those measures - just at a time when the
firm was stepping its policy of acquisition and started building a new
manufacturing plant in Liverpool. What was needed was a business partner.
talks were held with Rover, but these broke down, thanks to personal differences
between negotiators, and Roverīs non-plussed reaction to Standard Triumphīs
profits record - in the course of the talks, both engineering groups found out
that they were working on "executive" 2-litre saloons!
ended up as Leyland Motors, which had been looking for ways to expand its
operations by returning to car production. The 2000 project only really began to
take its final shape when the new, Leyland dominated, board took over in 1961.
date, the broad outlines had been sketched. It was to have the firmīs new
six-cylinder engine - basically a Herald "four" with two extra pots - all-round
independent suspension, transmission in unit with the final drive, and a new
sleek bodyshell to replace the outdated Vanguardīs styling. In fact, the
development car, known as "zebu", had all these features and a sensational
dramatically styled body courtesy of Giovanni Michelotti, which featured a
reverse slope rear windown, á la Ford Anglia - which is why, with the Anglia
launched in 1959, the shape never saw production. When they attempted to restyle
the car, and when the gearbox was relocated behind the engine, the project lost
impetus, and was only revived with the Leyland boardīs approval in 1961.
Twenty-four months after their go-ahead, the car was ready for production.
was the 1998 cc six-cylinder with pushrod operated overhead valves, mated to the
same four-speed gearbox as used in the Standard Vanguard Six. The bodyshell was
a conventional monocoque, with long nose, short tail styling. Under the skin,
there was a number of novel features for an English saloon car - the most
important was the all-round independent suspension, with McPherson struts at the
front and semi-trailing arms at the rear.
The car was
announced just a week later than the Rover in 1963, and it had a number of
advantages compared to its Solihull competitor - for a start it was cheaper by
Ģ141 at Ģ905 basic, it had a silky smooth six-cylinder engine, it had the
automatic and overdrive options the other car lacked and there was a useful
estate version available. It sold better and made more money for its parent
company, too. The basic mark I 2000 lasted until 1969, when it was replaced by
the Mark II version, with tidied styling, wider rear track, and improved
interior. A power boost was given to the car by the adoption of the TR5īs
2.5-litre fuel injected unit in the new 2.5 PI. The two cars soldiered on until
Autocar testers liked the original car, with the engine and ride coming in
for special praise - however, the gearbox was felt a bit notchy, the steering a
shade woolly (and the wheel too large), while there was pronounced roll during
fast cornering. "It will not cause a flutter of excitement if one is looking for
ultimate performance", was their summation...
development was far less hurried and less affected by compromises. It was,
according to American magazine Car and Driver, "an entirely freak
approach, unfettered by tradition, or lack of imagination, or what the rest of
the industry is doing". It also marked, in the way that the Triumph 2000 was a
radical change to its Standard ancestors, a total departure from the firmīs
previous cars in this field.
Robsonīs book, The Rover Story, divulges that engineers Maurice Wilks and
Robert Boyle had started work on the P6 line some 10 years earlier, with the
identifiable project first appearing in Solihull as early as 1956. A meeting in
September that year laid out fute P6 meetings procedures, and confirmed the
basic layout - base-unit body shell, separate bolt-on-panels and de Dion rear
the projected car looked to be smaller, cheaper and more saleable than anything
in the existing range, and with the introduction of the Land Rover the firm
desperately needed more factory space in which to build their new baby. In the
end, a new site in Wales was chosen, and gearbox production and related
operations took place there.
One of the
most important aspects of the proposed car was to be the styling; this was
undertaken by David Bache, who was responsible for the large P5 saloon and coupé
range. Eventually the styling was compromised, because the sales team had enough
difficulty coping with a Rover which was due to have a four-cylinder engine and
only four seats without the added complication of a car with a Citroen style
nose, all curves and sweeps and no traditional Rover grille... A slpong nose
shape appeared on one P6 variant, however: a special gas turbine powered car.
the carīs development, just about every conceivable alternative was considered:
front-wheel drive, five- and six-cylinder engines, hydropneumatic suspension,
swing-axle rear suspension, and even the seating capacity came in for attention.
layout was still pretty adventurous for a British motor industry then hide-bound
by conservatism. The rear suspension used a de Dion arrangement in the interests
of weight saving, and because it kept the rear wheels parallel at all times.
However, fixed length diveshafts and a sliding joint in the de Dion tube were
added complications. Front suspension was also complicated by the possibility of
a gas turbine engine being offered at a later date, and by the wish to take some
loadings back to the rigid scuttle pressings. Thus there were longitudinal top
links with a traverse bottom link and coil springing. Brakes were discs all
round with inboard location at the rear.
like the rear axle and gearbox, was to be brand new design. There was no chance
of modifying any existing power units to fit the 100 mph/up to 2-litre criteria
specified, so the eventual unit was a 2-litre- four-cylinder, single overhead
camshaft design. Rover was one of the first manufacturers to use the Heron head
layout, with the combustion chamber cast into the piston crown. Initially, there
were no overdrive or automatic options for the car.
was a revelation and did a great deal to shed the old "Auntie" image with a
buying public used to frumpy P4-panelwork. An interesting quote from Maurice
Wilks was that the design team felt the extra cost of the de Dion back end
totally justified: "We did in fact succeed in creating an image of engineering
innovation which had an impact the car might otherwise not have had."
Triumph, Roverīs 2000 soldiered on, even after the introduction of the
astonishing SD1 model in 1976. First major change was to uprate the 2000 engine
with a new twin carburettor inlet manifold, which meant that the engineīs
performance potential was at last unlocked, giving the 2000 TC a top speed near
the 110 mph mark. This improvement, along with an auto option, came in 1966, the
year that Rover became part of the Leyland-Triumph combine. This caused the
ironic situation where the same group was producing two cars which competed
head-to-head for the buyerīs favours. And they continued to foster this state of
affairs all the way to 1977, because 1973 saw the introduction of the Rover
2200, basically a 2000 with bored out 2-litre ohc engine.
was unbelievably over-the-top, with the Americans being the leaders in the
florid prose stakes. Car and Driver reckoned that "If every car on the
road was as good as this one (2000 TC), they could raise every speed limit in
the country fifteen miles per hour and still have a reduced accident rate".
Ralph Nader must have loved that one... They rated the car "absolutely the best
sedan that has ever been presented in the pages of this magazine".
Autocar tried very hard to find fault with it, and came away raving, while
the normally pithy Henry Manney III, doyen of American motoring journalists,
"liked it immensely", and stated that "The most remarkable thing about the car
is the feeling that the designers have thought compassionately about you, the
difficulty concerning this "Back to Back" was just which Triumph and Rover
models to choose. Our comparison took a 2000 TC Rover and automatic Triumph, but
the author has pretty extensive experience of driving a manual Triumph 2000 as
was provided by Stuart Harvey, who in his spare time runs the technical advice
service to the Triumph 2000/2.5 Register. His olive green Mark I automatic is
well known in Register circles, as it has won the annual concours for the past
two years... Stuart is only the second owner, having bought the car with 32.000
miles on the clock three years ago. It had previously belonged to an old lady,
who, unable to handle her husbandīs Rolls Royce, had been given a blank cheque
to buy something she could drive! Since then, Stuart has clocked up a further
18.000 miles, and done relatively little to it. A front end rebuild became
necessary after a shunt (!), while the rear suspension has been uprated with
stiffer springs and some Mark 2 modifications such as wider track. Stuart: "The
Mark I had a narrower rear track than at the front, which had an adverse effect
on road holding - this arrangement is far more stable". There are extra dials on
the dash, including an oil pressure gauge, and the head has been rebuilt.
Talbotīs Rover 2000 TC is also a 1967 car and, like the Triumph, it is with only
its second owner. Derek has had the car for 15 years, buying it from the garage
where he worked, and in that time he has increased the recorded mileage from
36.000 to 84.000 miles. It has now been retired from active service - a Triumph
2.5 PI fulfills that function - but Derek has an intention of selling a car that
is "now part of the family". In his tenure, the wings have been replaced, some
minor repairs to the back end of the base unit have been effected, and the
leather upholstery has been renewed. That job was done last December, and cost
almost as much as the car!
doubt that when the two cars are parked alongside each other, the Roverīs looks
have the most impact. The styling is clean and functional, free from unnecessary
ornamentation and acres of chrome plate, although a high waistline does make it
appear a little heavy. It shows little European styling influence, although
there are American overtones.
mix is Detroit meets Old England. The dash, with its ribbon type speedo,
temperature and fuel gauges in a rectangular panel in front of the driver, is a
marked contrast to the row of toggle switches below it, or even to the pair of
conventional instruments to the left of the steering wheel. The leather seats,
smacking of the best of English coach-building, contrast with the plastic
headlining, door panels and dashboard lockers.
always feels to have more space than it has, but at the same time it is not
particularly airy, thanks to the high waistline and relatively small window
area. Driver comfort is first class though, with all major and minor controls
failing to hand, and pleasant, comfortable seats. The driving position may not
be to everyoneīs taste - you sit too high for my liking - but you certainly have
a commanding view of the road ahead.
idles smoothly and silently, and once on the move, this car impresses. It pulls
well and cleanly thoughout the rev range - almost belying its four cylinders -
the clutch action is delightful and mated to a fast and precise change with only
the shortest of throws between ratios. The brakes work well, the pedal spacing
allows for heel and toe changes, and the road manners are exemplary. The
Autocar said that "Driven near the limit of tyre adhesion, it handles like a
well bred sports car, understeer finally predominating"". I did not push the
car, but it felt very neutral and well balanced, even if the steering was not as
precise as The Autocar reckoned.The TC was quicker than its earlier
stablemate, recording 108 mph and a 0-60 mph in 11.7 sec, and Derekīs car feels
capable of those speeds - the chief impression was how pleasant, how relaxed, it
feels an earlier design that the Rover. For a start, the styling looks a bit
more conservative and, logically, continental. It is certainly lower than the
Rover, with a greater window area, which, paradoxically, gives the cabin a more
modern, lighter feel than the Rover. If anything, the car looks overly narrow,
something that Triumph engineer Harry Webster has commented on - he reckoned the
car could have been just that bit wider...
cabin feels narrower than the Rover, and while the dash is slightly more
old-fashioned looking, it is somewhat better styled than the Roverīs
mish-mash arrangement. In front of the driver, thereīs a recessed binnacle
containing a number of centrally placed warning lights, a combined
ammeter/fuel/temperature gauge, and a speedometer. Either side of the binnacle
are the windscreen wiper and light controls, while the steering wheel is a
massive affair, similar in size and style to the Roverīs, but with a rim mounted
horn. On Stuartīs car, the gear selector occupies the same space as the manual
shift lever. Like the Rover, the Triumph interior has its incongruities: while
this car has plastic upholstery (a ī67 year "improvement"), the door cappings
are made out of genuine wood - none of your plastic rubbish here.
the Triumph is a better bet - there is certainly more legroom, and it seems to
have more headroom in the rear. Like the Rover, the driver comfort is excellent,
although neither car suits my driving position - or is it the other way round?
The Triumph is easier to place, with its lower bonnet.
On the move,
it is the Triumphīs engine which really impresses. While the Rover "four" is
smooth enough, it just cannot compare to the Coventry "six" which is silken and
provides such superb low down pulling power that you hardly have to use the
gearbox. Which is a good thing with the manual car, because although the clutch
is fine, the change itself is a little slow and notchy - if anything, the auto
"box" is better suited to the engineīs characteristics.
perform well, and the ride is superb - probably better than the Roverīs. It
soaks up bumps supremely well and can also be driven enthusiastically. The
steering feels slightly woolly at low speeds (a bit like the Rover) and the
predominant trait is towards understeer - rumour has it that the rear suspension
will "clap hands" in extremis, but Iīve never found that out. In Mk I
form, there is a tendency towards a lot of roll in hard cornering, but Stuartīs
car, with the Mk 2 rear end, seems far more stable.
Triumph feels an older design than the Rover, although that in no way detracts
from its driver appeal. Like the Rover, it is an effortless and comfortable
middle-class motor car with road manners good enough to appeal to the sporting
driver. Indeed, American magazines raved endlessly about the Rover, although
this may have had something to do with the appalling barge-like handling of
between the two cars would probably come down to image and price in the end -
which is what Car said when they tested the TC and the 2.5 PI. The Rover
had a more respectable image, more avant garde looks and engineering...
and a higher price. Mr. Average Bank Manager would probably have gone for the
Triumph, which was cheaper, more conservative and had a minor sporting image.
Today, both lack the image they once had, but the choice would probably come
down to the Rover, on account of its looks as much as anything else.
Sportscar September 1985