Rover P6 - Revolution for the
The Rover P6 was a very
advance design for its time, and yet it is delightfully simple to own and
maintain today. James Taylor guides you through the joys and pitfalls of owning
one of these popular classic saloons.
Up to 1963,
production Rovers had always been just a little staid, but the Rover 2000, or P6
in company parlance, turned the image on its head when it was launched at that
yearīs Motor Show.
represented a revolution for Rover. It had no carryover engineering from
existing models, it was built in an entirely new plant, and it was aimed at a
younger clientele than its predecessors. Nevertheless, its price, fittings and
high quality kept it well within familiar Rover territory.
structure consisted of a strong skeletal "base-unit", to which all the
unstressed skin panels were bolted. Unlike existing Rovers, it was drawn up as
an uncompromising four-seater, and its interior design incorporated high levels
of passive safety.
With 90 bhp
from its new OHC four-cylinder engine, it could achieve over 100 mph and still
return nearly 30 mpg.
The car was
immdediately hailed as an outstanding design, but it had some failings. Rear
legroom was poor, boot spare worse, and the chassis could clearly handle a lot
more power than was available.
really overcame the first criticism, but from 1964 they offered an external
spare wheel mounting to give more room in the boot, and in 1966 they introduced
the more sporting twin-carburettor 2000 TC.
At much the
same time came an automatic transmission single-carburettor model, which sold
well to Roverīs traditional clientele even though it was rather slow.
was high on the agenda for the next major introduction, which saw 1968īs 3500,
complementary to the three four-cylinder cars and running the ex-Buick 3
1/2-litre light-alloy V8 engine. Although only automatic transmission was
available, this 144 hp car had a winning combination of refinement, luxury in
compact dimensions and high performance.
From 1971, a
manual transmission version, the 3500 S, became available. and provided even
higher performance. These V8 models were known by the P6B code - the B stood for
Buick, original designers of the V8.
the original styling had been facelifted (in 1970), and the instrumentation
vastly improved in the top models. From 1973, the four-cylinders were given
overbored engines and renamed 2200 models, but the last P6s were built in 1975
to make way for 1976īs new SD1.
production figures are in dispute, but around 330.000 of all P6 models were
made, of which about 80.000 had the V8 engine. Around 150 cars, mostly V8s, were
converted to estates by FLM Panelcraft.
Rover took a
great deal of care over the design of the P6īs driving position and controls,
and it shows. When you sit in a P6 you immediately feel at home. Some
commentators have said the car fits you like a glove, and Iīd agree with that.
On the move,
four-cylinder engines are fairly refined, though TCīs (especially the early 2000
TC) can be a bit rorty. A V8 in good condition is quiet, smooth and gutsy.
Thereīs no doubt that a P6 Rover is an impressive car to drive. The ride is
smooth, the steering positive, and the roadholding and handling excellent.
there is considerable body lean in corners, which means the driver usually loses
his nerve before the car loses its grip. The P6 is quite a heavy car and it
isnīt as agile as you might wish for.
with the single-carb 2000 engine is leisurely by modern standards though you can
hustle the car along surprisingly quickly if youīre prepared to use the gearbox.
TCs are spritely, but automatic 2000s are pedestrian and not a little
everything is a little bit quicker: the TC is really quite rapid, but the
biggest improvement is to the Automatic, thanks to better mid-range torque.
Once you get
up to the V8 models, youīre driving a quick car. The manual-gearbox 3500
S isnīt actually a lot faster than the automatic, but it certainly feels like a
road-burner, and allows you to make the most of all that superb roadholding.
In spite of
the sophistication of its design, the P6 is quite a simple car to work on. All
the panels are bolted on, which makes life straightforward in repair, although
space in the engine bay is rather limited, so be prepared for barked knuckles
and a lot of swearing. There is no problem with parts to rebuild or repair any
of these engines.
may well lose your cool over the rear brakes. They are mounted inboard and
alongside the differential, and you really do need a pit or four-poster lift to
get at them properly. Working on seized rear calipers while lying on your back
in the road with the car on ramps is definitely not recommended.
What to check
single mistake you can make when buying a P6 is to go for a rusted-out car which
has been tarted up with new panels. Itīs very simple for a seller to do this, as
all the body panels are easily available. But the thing to remember is that a
seriously corroded base-unit will probably be uneconomic to repair.
To avoid this
trap, check the inner sills first. The outers are cosmetic screw-on panels, so
ignore them, but weak metal in the box-section immediately behind spells
Peel back the
sill carpets and press the metal from the inside, too. Remember that a full sill
job might cost you Ģ500 a side, especially if there is associated corrosion in
the floorpan and inner wheelarches.
four-cylinder engines are fairly robust but can become noisy. Tappet adjustment
is by shims (and is therefore often neglected) and the hydraulic timing-chain
adjuster can clog up in old age, resulting in a ringing noise from the chain at
the front of the engine.
should be quiet and smooth, but infrequent oil changes lead to clogging of the
hydraulic tappets and also to wear of the camshaft lobes, so top end rattle is
V8s, watch out for leaks from the rear main bearing oil seal, and on all V8s,
watch out for overheating; it usually means someone hasnīt used inhibitor in the
cooling system and the waterways have started to corrode and silt up.
gearboxes are another weak point, especially on the 3500 S mdeols. Worn
synchromesh is common, but beware of cars which jump out of gear, usually in
third or reverse.
for clonks in the driveline, which usually mean worn UJs (the P6 has six in the
prop shaft and drive shafts), and beware of braking maladies.
Weekly / UK 2 January 1991