A brilliant car when new, the Rover P6 series is today an underrated future
classic. Chris Horton tells you everything you should know about the P6 buying
The Rover P6īs
body is constructed as an inner skeleton clad with 19 bolt-on panels. Thatīs a
mixed blessing. Itīs easy to tackle corrosion of those panels but the base unit
itself can rust in the most dramatic fashion.
Itīs also a
complicated structure: each inner sill, for instance, consists of five
individual box-sections. Rust can, of course, be disguised easily by the fitment
of rust-free exterior panels.
pay particularly close attention to the condition of the bodywork when viewing
any potential purchase to avoid costly, long-term repairs to the structure.
panels, look for tell-tale signs of bubbling paint and carelessly-applied filler
on the front and rear wings, particularly round the sidelight housings at the
front and rear bumpers, the quarter panels between the rear window and the rear
doors and, finally, what is known as the "decker" panel - between the rear
window and the aluminium-alloy boot lid.
about the all-important base unit? You should start your search at the sills. We
donīt suggest you dig away at the metal with a huge screwdriver - no vendor will
be amused by such behaviour, and serious rust should be obvious to careful
examination with your fingers.
But it will
pay to have a discreet poke with a penknife to find rust that is beginning to
take hold, as well as metal that has been added to try to repair or conceal the
entire floor area of the inner-sill box-sections, just inboard of the outer
sills. Then examine their front and rear ends, visible in the wheelarches
forward of the rear wheels and behind the front wheels.
the car, look under the seats and carpets - chances are youīll see the first
signs of rot as you open the rear doors. The curved sections of the D-posts
corrode in the concave area next to the channel for the rubber door seals and,
although this is not too serious, it indicates there is more extensive rust
inside where you canīt see it.
Lift the rear
seat cushions (they slot into place, so no owner should mind), carefully lift up
the insulation beneath, and you should see the rear-most section of the inner
wall of each inner sill. Check very carefully for corrosion and, if possible,
remove the plastic grommets and have a look inside the inner sills themselves
with a small torch.
front doors next, and use the torch to examine the forward ends of the sills
that are just inboard of each front wing. Inside the car again, lift the carpet
in the front footwells and repeat the examination of the floor and the walls of
the inner sills.
If all this
hasnīt put you off the car, open the boot and carefully peel back the rubber
matting on the floor. Surface rust is inevitable, and youīll often find the
entire forward part of the floor, where it sweeps up over the rear axle, is
badly corroded. Repair is straightforward, however.
interested? In that case, open the bonnet and look at the inner front wings.
Designs vary according to the age of the car and the engine type, but common
trouble spots include the flat area behind the headlights, and the small
vertical flanges on which the outer wings are located.
The good news
is that most panels are still available to repair damage. Most sought-after, and
priced accordingly, are genuine Rover/BL Unipart items. Front and rear wings are
the only major items still in production (available for around Ģ90 each) but
thereīs no shortage of inner sills (around Ģ35 apiece) or inner front wings on
the autojumble and new-old stock circuits.
front and rear wings, universally derided by the classic car fraternity as
"un-original", cost a fraction of the price of the real things (a set of which,
remember, could easily set you back over Ģ400 including VAT), and thanks to the
simplicity of their fixings can always be replaced with steel when funds allow.
front and rear bumper valances are in short supply (new V8 front panels are
unobtainable) so itīs good to hear that various firms (not least Swindon
Classics) are now offering glassfibre alternatives. We would suggest you avoid
pattern steel valances, though: they are expensive and conspiciously
remanufactured, whereas GRP ones, in addition to locking uncannily like the real
thing, are also much cheaper.
A good source
You can also
find sound secondhand exterior panels. With a little searching (the ownersī club
magazine is a good source of relevant adverts) you should turn up a perfectly
serviceable set of wings for about Ģ150 and, if youīre lucky, even those elusive
front and rear valances. Mechanically, the situation is much better; get a good
body and anything else will be a piece of cake.
four-cylinder engines are reliable, long-lasting units. Most problems that arise
stem directly from abuse. There will always be freak breakages, of course,
but the most common symptom of high-mileage engines seems to be straightforward
cylinder-bore and timing-chain wear. The former is most noticeable through
smoking and loss of power, the latter by a hollow ringing sound at about 1200
rpm that disappears as the engine speed increases.
four-cylinder engines have a real bęte
noir itīs cooling-system corrosion. Many cars will have been run without the
right mix of water and anti-freeze in the radiator, in which case you can expect
serious corrosion of the waterways in the cylinder head.
or not, most engines have also reached the age at which the pressed-steel plates
covering the sides of the cylinder block are rotting through. Replacements are
easy to find (if not to pay for, expect to fork out Ģ per pair plus Ģ5 for
gaskets) but fitting them is an engine-out job unless you have 9 in-long
exhausts, rot is the problem, particularly of the rearmost sections, on both
four- and eight-cylinder cars, but the former tend also to shake their systems
Eight-cylinder engines have few vices. Pre-1971 cars have marginal crankshaft
oil seals and so can suffer annoying leaks, but they will all leak oil like the
Torrey Canyon if the flame traps in the crankcase breathing system should become
Thanks to the
size and power of the engine very high mileages are common before complete
overhauls are necessary but neglected examples will age quickly. The
camshaft, hydraulic tappets and rocker shafts all wear once oilways become
blocked with the sludge that builds up in these engines, and replacement is the
only anwer - itīs a straightforward job which can be done without removing the
that you keep a water/antifreeze mix in the cooling system of this all-alloy
engine. Progressive furring-up of the radiator and water jacket will make
overheating more likely (a big engine in a small engine compartment is always a
risk) but itīs worth pointing out that overheating, even in heavy traffic in the
summer, is not inevitable. If it does occur then the underlying cause of
the problem will be earlier neglect, and the usual remedy of bolting on an
electric fan is not tackling it at source. The V8īs cooling system operates at
around 15 psi, so be careful if you remove the radiator cap with a hot or even
slightly warm engine...
either four-speed manual units or three-speed Borg Warner automatics. Expect
bearing noise on high-mileage manual boxes and a change quality, particularly on
earlier 2000s, varying from difficult to impossible. The synchromesh should be
unbeatable unless the gearbox is on its last legs.
The 3500 was
built from 1968 to 1971 with automatic transmission only (there was initially no
manual unit strong enough) but even when the 3500 S appeared with an uprated
version of the 2000īs manual gearbox it was running near its maximum capacity
and failures were common; most of these were during full-bore standing starts.
so pruden driving will be rewarded with long gearbox life.
gearboxes, either of the BW 35 or BW 65 type are reliable, long-lasting and
pleasant to use. Check the state of the fluid as a precaution: it should be pink
in colour and smell tolerable, if not actually pleasant. If it had black
particles in it and/or smells like rotten eggs the transmission has been
"cooked" and will need replacement.
in mind that the flexible drive plate on which is mounted the starter ring gear,
and the torque converter, can crack. This is more common on 2000s and 2200s
rather than 3500s.
expect to find no particular vices other than wear in the total of six universal
joints in the propellor shaft and driveshafts. This will be evident in a
clonking sound when you press the throttle or back off (less noticeable on
automatic cars, of course).
are indestructable unless theyīve been run without oil but the oil can leak out.
On early cars this is due to a faulty breather system allowing the differential
casing to pressurise and blow oil out through the driveshaft seals, but most
suffer to some extent. The oil then finds its way all over the inboard-mounted
rear brake discs...
us neatly to the one major mechanical problem area of the P6 - brakes. We
donīt suggest itīs not up to scratch; indeed, its all-disc configuration can
provide sustained high-speed braking that would be the envy of the manufacturers
of many modern cars. The problem lies in what happens when it is neglected.
not too bad at the front, where the calipers are readily accessible, but the
inboard location of the rear discs and calipers, right under the centre of the
car, means that pads are rarely changed until they are down to the metal, and
that the hydraulic fluid and seals are rarely, if ever, renewed at the
before 1966 have the added complication of a Dunlop-type braking system. This
does a good job of stopping the car, and the fact that each caliper consists of
two cylinder--and-position assemblics bolted to a central frame should, in
theory, make for easier overhaul.
practise, the scarcity and expense of the components are liabilities. Itīs
common to find cars converted to the later Girling braking system, but if you
think of doing it yourself, remember that not only will you need the front
suspension legs from a later car (of which more later) but that you will also
have to fit a complete final-drive assembly from a later car.
/ UK September 1989