value „Sports Saloon“?
It caused a
sensation back in 1963. It was about as unimaginable as the Duke of Edinburgh
becoming a long distance runner. It was a brand new luxury saloon with almost
sporting aspirations, and yet it came from one of Britain´s least adventurous,
most old fashioned luxury car manufacturers. It was the exciting new Rover 2000.
had been wonderful in an old “English kind” of way. They were luxurious,
beautifully built, almost majestic. But they most certainly were not aimed at
people who wanted a sports car driving style combined with family car
practicality. The P4 and P5 “Aunties” were the kind of Rovers you´d see a Prime
Minister being chauffeured around in rather than driven enthusiastically by
somebody of “middle management” status.
But the Rover
2000 was different. It had low, almost sporty (by saloon standards) styling, a
radical new bodyshell structure, unconventional suspension design and absolutely
brilliant handling and roadholding capabilities for the time. It set new
standards to its class and it was the first Rover ever that could be sold to
people who enjoyed driving hard and driving fast.
traditional Rover buyers of old frowned upon the Solihull company´s fascinating
change of direction. And Rover management knew that it had to retain the support
of its existing customers. So it was perhaps rather clever forward thinking that
saw the by then ancient P4 series soldier on another year after the P6´s launch,
while the vastly larger P5 lived on right through to 1973 as the luxury Rover
for those who appreciated the values of tradition and serenity.
may have disliked it back in 1963, but the P6 went on to become one of the most
successful Rovers ever, enjoying a production run that ended in 1976, by which
the even more outrageous Rover SD1 was effectively its replacement.
Those who were
against the P6 from the outset said the car was far too small to be a proper
Rover. And admittedly, its dimensions were unusually compact by Rover standards,
leading to restricted space both for rear passengers and their luggage.
pessimists feared that the Triumph 2000, launched within a matter of days of the
P6´s arrival, would steal sales by attracting customers who wanted genuine
family-size accomodation and who were frightened of the P6´s unusual structural
design and all-new mechanicals. And bearing in mind the conservative nature of
“old style” Rover buyers, such fears could well have come true. But in the
event, nothing could have been further from reality, as history now proves.
and 327.000 cars later, the P6 was finally laid to rest, the Rover line being
continued by the aesthetically advanced SD1. Ironically, the car that had been
seen as far too adventurous and daring for Rover back in the early Sixties was
being replaced by a model that was seen by many as far too adventurous and
daring in the mid-Seventies. It was good to know that Rover´s new-found ability
to shock potential buyers had not worn off during the life of the P6.
Looking back at
the P6 series now, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of its life is how little
is changed over the years. Fourteen years is a heck of a long lifespan for any
car, and yet the P6 went from success to success with only relatively minor
break from the norm came with the introduction of the V8-angined 3500
(automatic) in 1968 and the 3500 S (manual) in 1971, fascinating for combining
the ex-Buick 3.5-litre powerplant (that had seen good service elsewhere) with
the P6´s relatively compact dimensions. The result was a real flier of a saloon
car, and it is these V8-engined P6s that command such healthy prices nowadays,
twenty years after the final P6 was produced.
perhaps little argument that the Rover 3500 and 3500 S are the P6 models to go
for if there is no great monetary problem. But bear in mind that a fully sorted,
pristine 3500 S can fetch as much as ₤1.500 more than a 2000 in similar
condition and you begin to wonder whether the attraction of a V8 is that great
So for this
particular model guide, we´re going to ignore the V8-engined P6s completely –
they´ll be saved for another day. In fact, we reckon that a four-cylinder P6 is
probably the best value four-door classic saloon currently available – and by
the end of this feature, you may well agree.
For the first
three years of the Rover 2000´s life, virtually nothing was done in the way of
model development. Why? Simply because there were no need for it. The 2000 was
attracting so many potential customers that a waiting list had formed almost
from day one, and the model´s novelty value showed little sign of subsiding for
quite some time. If you weren´t prepared to wait for your new Rover 2000, you
wouldn´t get one – it was as simple as that. Rover´s position between 1963 and
´66 was surely every car maker´s dream.
The gamble had
paid off – and what a gamble it was. If nothing else, it was the P6´s structural
design that set it apart from the crowd. It comprised a strong, sturdy “base
unit” (or “inner skeleton”) from which were hung nineteen bolt-on, easily
removable body panels.
too, the P6 was new. Power came from a brand new four-cylinder, single
chain-driven overhead-cam unit of 1978 cc capacity, fed via a single SU HS6
carburettor. A four-speed manual gearchange was the only transmission option.
equally fresh, with a de Dion system at the rear, with fixed-length driveshafts
similar to the earlier Rover T3 gas turbine experimental car. At the front, top
wishbones acted through a cranked linkage onto horizontal coil springs braced
against the scuttle; apart from uitlising the stiffest part of the P6´s “base
unit” structure to absorb suspension loads, this layout also allowed room to
install a planned gas turbine engine option. We all know, of course, that such
an option never materialised.
By the autumn
of 1966, UK-spec Rover 2000 TCs were available, featuring twin SU carburettors,
a new cylinder head and an increased power output (up from 90 to 114 bhp). The
difference in performance was startling, and an automatic transmission option
was also introduced.
In the same
year, the P6´s all-disc Dunlop braking system was replaced by a Girling design,
offering more response and, as it turned out, improved realibility.
By 1970, with
the Rover 2000 already seven years old, the range was treated to a range of
revisions, these “Series IIs” featuring modified trim, a sportier front grille
and more racy looking instrumentation (the old strip-type speedometer being
replaced by round dials). Although the Series II was right for the time,
bringing a touch of Seventies style to a Sixties design, many enthusiasts now
look upon the Series I Rover 2000 as the purest, most appealing of the breed.
Not much else
happened for a further three years, when the Rover 2200 replaced the 2000 in
October 1973. The new model´s 2204 cc engine, simply a bigger bore version of
the old 2000 unit, produced 98 and 115 bhp in single and twin carburettor forms
respectively, and at lower revs than with the previous 2000. The driving
experience was, most people agreed, better than ever.
By 1976, the
brand new Rover SD1 was on the scene, albeit in limited numbers at first; the
writing was finally on the wall for the P6, with the final examples being sold
and registered by early ´77. Amazing to think that even the very last examples
are now a full twenty years old.
four-cylinder Rover P6 makes an interesting, useable and good value for money
classic in the late Nineties is indisputable. But does anybody who has never
owned one and who knows relatively little about the model have anything to fear
from its unusual construction design or perhaps its spares availability?
although there are obviously certain checks you will need to carry out to avoid
being sold a “dud”.
For a start,
you need to be sure that a P6´s “base unit” is in good fettle. Because none of
the body panels are particularly structural and are easily changed (in theory at
least, assuming that none of the nuts, bolts and screws are rusted or seized!),
it is easy for any vendor to make a wreck of a P6 look very presentable indeed.
So start by checking the sills, running your hand along the entire length of
their lower faces and tapping with some force. Remove the outer sill rubber
plugs and check that the jacking tubes are still in line with their access
holes. If in any doubt about these areas being okay, walk away.
It´s a good
idea too, to tap (maybe with a screwdriver) the vertical front and rear ends of
each sill and to remove the rear seat aquab and sound-deadening beneath it. Both
these checks will give a reasonable idea of “base unit” sturdiness.
By opening the
front doors, use a torch to examine “inside” the front of each sill; lift the
carpets and check thoroughly for corrosion to the floorpan; peel back the rubber
matting in the boot and look for damage to the boot floor; and lift the bonnet
and check carefully the inner front wings. If it´s possible to remove the rear
wheels (most honest vendors should not object to this) check carefully the inner
structure up inside the rear wings, as corrosion here spells bad news for the
rest of the shell; even more serious is any corrosion at the front, where the
road springs and suspension links connect to the bulkhead, as serious damage
here should be enough to make you seek out an alternative car to buy.
Inside, a P6 is
hard-wearing, particularly if it is a Series I with leather seat facings. Later
Series IIs, with their less appealing, Seventies-style cloth upholstery are less
robust. Interior condition is important to a P6´s value, so do look thoroughly
for wear, rips and poor repairs.
the p6 story is mainly good news. The four-cylinder engines are robust and
reliable, with most problems stemming from either abuse or sheer neglect.
Cylinder-bore and timing chain wear are fairly common; check for excess smoke
and reduced power for the former, a “ringing-rattling” sound at fast tickover
for the latter.
well, but it is not unusual for valves to require replacement – removal and
replacement of the cylinder head is a fairly laborious task.
engines´ main problems are with their cooling systems, and it is not uncommon to
find erosion of the waterways in the alloy heads. Straightforward replacement is
the simplest approach.
On TC models,
the twin SU carburettors are notorious for creating “lumpy” running, although a
good, professional tune-up should help. Nevertheless, even a properly tuned,
well sorted TC tends to suffer from “pinking” and “running on”. With the SC
models, you lose the power and performance of the TC but you perhaps gain less
temperamental, more even running. The choice is yours.
three-speed Borg-Warner automatic gearboxes are reliable and longlived, though
you should take a lengthy test drive to make sure !yours” is changing up and
down the box as and when it should. Manual transmissions are equally dependable,
although early examples can be stiffed and awkward to use after a high mileage.
Most gearboxes will give little trouble if properly treated, and don´t worry too
much if there´s a “graunch” when you select reverse on a manual – this is very
commonplace and is usually a sign of clutch drag rather than a gearbox problem.
When it comes
to steering and suspension, the news is equally encouraging. The worm and roller
type steering in particularshould cause no more than the usual wear and tear
problems as the miles mount.
At the rear of
the car, check carefully the longitudinal links that locate the top of each de
Dion tube “elbow”; the Metalastik bushes are prone to deteriorating with age.
More importantly, it´s not unknown for badly corroded P6s to corrode around the
suspension mountings and for the links to be physically torn away from the “base
front suspension lokks strange and a little complicated to the untrained eye, it
is actually reasonably easy to work on. The whole system is logical and very,
very effective at ensuring the P6 is one of the best handling, affordable,
classic saloons currently available. Obviously, carry out the normal checks for
worn bushes, excess play and signs of wear and tear, as you would on any car.
all-disc braking system is equally effective, although the very early (Dunlop)
set-ups are now rare and probably best avoided. With even many early examples
being converted to the Girling system, it is most likely that any P6 you´re
examining will be so equipped.
The P6´s rear
brakes are notorious for being neglected, thanks to their in-board design that
means the discs and calipers are towards the centre of the car, well out of easy
reach. Check the condition of the rear braking system, including discs and pads,
With the brakes
in general, carry out the normal checks for fluid leaks (the master cylinder is
tucked away in the pedal box) and, of course, wear and corrosion to the flexible
hoses and rigid pipework. Servo failure is rare but not unknown.
availability is more impressive with a P6 than with many of its saloon rivals of
the Sixties, with a number of specialists able to supply the essentials, whether
they be Rover originals or reproductions.
most genuine Rover body panels are scarce brand new, although some new-old stock
does crop up from time to time. At the time of writing,it is thought that brand
new British Heritage-approved front and rear wings are creeping onto the market,
with estimated prices of around ₤150 each plus VAT.
We spoke to
Rover specialist Jonathan Wadhams about spares availability and were encouraged
by the vast range of parts he keeps in stock for all P6 models. Example body
panels include front wing repair sections from ₤20, Series I front valances
(original Rover) at ₤75, inner front wings (original Rover) at ₤145 and Series I
bonnets at ₤120 – all prices plus VAT.
items can be supplied either brand new or reconditioned, whether it be a Rover
2000 head gasket at just ₤10 or a brand new manual steering box at ₤100.
Exchange gearboxes are also available from ₤295, as are exchange front brake
calipers (from ₤64), exchange rear calipers (Girling - ₤70) and exchange
alternators (from ₤65).
stocks interior trim, icluding complete new carpet sets (₤200), boot carpet sets
(₤30), door panels (₤60 each) and even complete retrims in leather (₤1400).
Compare most of
these sample prices with those for other cars from the same era, offering the
same levels of luxury, comfort and prestige, and you should be fairly pleasantly
What to pay?
As you would
expect, P6 prices vary enormously, which is where the discrepancy between
four-cylinder and V8 values comes in – it makes sense to deal exclusively with
V8 versions in a future issue.
For what they
offer, both the Rover 2000 and 2200 are superb value for money. Runners with no
MOTs can be bought from little more than ₤200; MOT´d but tatty examples (with
which you should be particularly wary of the condition of the “base unit”) can
fetch ₤500-₤1000, depending on the extent of the tidying that´s needed; and
vehicles in “A1” but not concours condition can be anywhere from ₤1500 to ₤2500,
depending on mileage, history and the level of their detailing.
There is an
argument that Series I 2000s are worth more than Series IIs in a similar
condition. This depends entirely on your own preference – certainly a Series I
has a purity of design on its side, but a decent Series II (maybe even a 2200)
still makes ideal everyday or occasional transport. You pays your money...
Mainstay of the
Rover range throughout the Sixties and Seventies, the 2000/2200 series offers
tempting transport in the 1990s. As a model, it is rewarding to drive,
practical, comfortable and will swallow long distances with ease. Buy a decent
example, of which there are still plenty about, and you´ll be enjoying one of
the finest, affordable, post-war saloons ever produced in Britain.