This article is an account of the development, production and modifications of the P6 Series of Rovers, and the recognition points through the long manufacturing period, spanning fourteen years, with specific relevance to the Australian Market.
The Rover P6 began in 1953 as an idea when the Rover Company Limited started to think of a successor to the P4 range of cars. The first hand-built prototypes were actually running in 1958, and although they looked somewhat different to the final product with their “droop snout” bonnets and protruding headlights, they were used extensively to test and develop the engineering. These prototypes, incidentally, were badged and registered as TALAGO in an attempt to fool the inquisitive.
One prototype emerged in 1961 as the famous T4 Rover Gas Turbine Car. It is fortunately preserved. Significantly, this car appeared in public before the official launch of P6.
P6 was released to the public in October 1963 as the Rover 2000. It was a dramatic departure in styling and engineering to previous models. The body is a four-door, four-seater, employing an extremely strong, safe base unit which carries all the stresses. All body panels are non-load bearing and are bolted on to the base unit. This method of construction makes for fast and convenient replacement of body panels in the event of damage. The interior is laid out as a very comfortable but strictly four-seater configuration. The facia features a rectangular instrument panel incorporating a ribbon-type speedometer. Switches are of the toggle type for lighting, with rotary action type for interior lights and windscreen wipers. Early 2000’s, up to mid-1966, had map reading lights with individual switches on each side below the front parcel shelf, a lamp behind the rear view mirror shining down directly on to the switchgear, and another lamp above the rear window. In mid-1966, this lighting was deleted and changed to a single circular lamp in the centre of the roof.
On the engineering side, the engine was a four-cylinder overhead camshaft design, with the combustion chambers incorporated in the crown of each piston. The alloy head is therefore flat. Engine displacement was 1978 c.c., fed by a single SU HS-6 carburettor. Output was 99 brake horsepower gross.
Front suspension is by coil springs mounted horizontally and acting directly on the scuttle. This was designed to allow sufficient space for the proposed gas turbine option, which was not proceeded with. Rear suspension is de Dion sliding tube located by Watts linkage. This design maintains the rear wheels in a vertical position relative to the drive shafts at all times, virtually eliminating tyre scrub and providing superior stability and handling to that of a live rear axle. Four-wheel disc brakes of the Dunlop system appeared on the first models, with the rear brakes mounted inboard on either side of the differential casing. This was changed in mid-1966 to a Girling system, employing the same configuration.
Externally, the early 2000 model had small 2000 badges on each front wing and on the lower right hand corner of the boot lid. Individual R O V E R letters were mounted above the number plate plinth on the boot lid. The tail lamps incorporated reflectors in their lower portions, and a single reversing lamp was mounted below the centre of the rear bumper bar. As introduced, front and rear bumper bars had no over-riders, however, there were small under-riders on either side of the front number plate mounting.
Below: 1966 Rover 2000 SC
In mid-1966, two new models joined the P6 range – the 2000SC Automatic and the 2000TC. The Automatic incorporated a Borg-Warner Type 35 gearbox and retained the single carburettor engine. The original manual version became known as the 2000SC. The 2000TC introduced a higher performance twin-carburettor engine, developing 124 BHP (Home Market) or 117 BHP (Export). TC badges appeared above the 2000 motif on the front wings and boot lid, and also on the leading edge of the right hand side of the bonnet. Over-riders subsequently appeared and became standard on 1968 TC models onward. The TC also had a tachometer mounted on the facia along side the clock.
Below: 1968 Rover 2000 TC
On all models, the front valence under the bumper bar was altered in shape to improve fresh-air flow to the radiator. Reversing lights were incorporated in the lower section of each tail lamp cluster. The reflectors were mounted separately on the lower corners of the boot lid. The manual gearbox cars received an enlarged rubber boot at the base of the gear lever, and a TC motif was mounted on the front radio speaker grille for that model.
The acquisition and subsequent manufacture of the ex-Buick V8 Engine has been well documented, and I shall confine my description here to the engine relative to the Rover P6. After manufacturing rights were acquired from General Motors, the light-alloy V8 engine of 3,528 c.c. was completely re-worked by the Rover Company. In Rover form, with twin SU HS6 carburettors, it developed 184 BHP gross. In late 1967, it was installed in the Rover P5 3-Litre body to create the Rover 3.5 Litre. In April 1968, P6B, the Rover 3500 (Three Thousand Five) was born. It was available initially only with Automatic Transmission (Borg Warner Type 35) as the existing 2000 gearbox was not thought strong enough to withstand the torque of the V8 engine. As introduced, performance was exhilarating. The 3500 was only 100 pounds heavier than the 2000 and handling was virtually unchanged.
Below: 1970 Rover Three Thousand Five
Externally, plates bearing the 3500 legend were placed on each front wing and on the right hand side of the extruded aluminium radiator grille. The leading edge of the bonnet was altered to incorporate a bright aluminium finisher. The valance below the front bumper bar was much enlarged and gives the car and aggressive appearance. This was required to house the radiator, moved forward to allow the installation of the V8 engine. 1968 and early 1969 3500’s also had the 3500 plate and V8 motif mounted on the right hand side of the boot lid in line with the number plate plinth. On all 1968 – 1970 models, the V8 badge was also mounted on the right hand side of the leading edge of the bonnet and on the front radio speaker grille. 1970 models had the badges on the boot lid moved to the lower right hand corner and a different script of R O V E R letters moved to the lower left hand side of the boot lid. This altered script was also applied to 1970 2000 models, and the 2000 motif had a black background. All 3500’s had bumper bar overriders. On all 2000 and 3500 models, rear quarter lights were fixed in lieu of opening for the 1969 – 1970 season, and a type of flow-through ventilation incorporated in the rear quarter panels. The automatic gear lever knob was changed from a round shape to a dished top. Hub caps were altered from a separate centre insert to a single pressing with two painted and recessed black rings for 1970, and the TC badge was deleted from the front wings for 1970.
In late 1970, the first and only face-lift was applied to the whole range. The radiator grille was changed from extruded aluminium to a black plastic chequerboard pattern. The TC or V8 motif was mounted on the lower right hand side of the new grille as appropriate. The bonnet pressing was standardised on all models with two false raised camshaft cover profiles on either side of the centre line. The rear quarter panels are covered in black vinyl and have a small, stylised Viking Ship affixed thereto. Opening rear quarter lights were reinstated. Reflectors were moved from the boot lid corners to below the tail lamp clusters on the rear wings. 2000 and 3500 motifs remained unchanged.
Below: 1976 Rover 3500
Inside the car, the instrument panel of the 2000TC and 3500 were altered to a circular speedometer and tachometer, flanked by minor gauges.
These two models also received new rotary type switches. The 2000SC and SC Automatic retained the ribbon speedometer and most of the original switch-gear, and all models now had a steering wheel lock incorporated into the ignition switch. The 3500 gained altered front door armrests and all models received shrouded outside door handles. Hub Caps were amended to a painted black centre with a stylised Viking Ship.
Following increasing demands from enthusiasts of the Marque, a manual version of the 3500 was introduced in late 1971, having a strengthened 2000 gearbox with integral oil pump. Performance was startling. The gearbox is at the limit of stress, and while it performs its duties satisfactorily when used sensibly, it will not tolerate abuse. Carburettors on both V8 models were amended to SU HIF6 type, and power was quoted as 146 BHP DIN. Externally, 3500S badges and a full vinyl roof covering distinguish the manual gearbox car. Wheel trims for the 3500S are of a spoked pattern, with the wheel nuts protruding.
Around this time, the upholstery specifications were amended, buyers having the choice of Ambla, Brushed Nylon or Leather.
Below: 1975 Rover 3500S
Below: 1973 Rover 3500S
1972 model 2000 badging was amended to a plate motif, with the twin carburettor model being badged 2000TC. The individual ROVER letters on the left hand side of the boot lid were changed to a single plate motif on all models.
Late 1973 saw the four-cylinder engine enlarged to 2205 c.c. The three models were re-badged as 2200SC (98 BHP DIN) or 2200TC (115 BHP DIN) and gained SU HIF6 carburettors. The manual versions sported a taller gear lever, also incorporated in the 1975 3500S. The gearbox ratios remained unaltered. Upholstery was standardised throughout the entire range to a box-pleated pattern, with narrower front seat backs, allowing greater rear passenger legroom. Although a small number of Rover 2200 cars were brought to Australia as private imports, they were never marketed here. I know of one example which is an ex-British High Commission car, and now in the hands of a Western Australian enthusiast.
Below: 1976 Rover 3500, assembled by the New Zealand Motor Corporation, Nelson, NZ for the Australian Market. Photo taken in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory,
28 November 1986.
The gearbox in late-1973 3500’s was changed to a Borg Warner Type 65, and in 1974, the vinyl roof covering was standardised on both Home Market 3500 models. The V8 badge was deleted from the boot lid. The 3500 Automatic had been assembled from CKD Kits in New Zealand since 1971, and from about 1973, most of these cars sold on the Australian Market came from that source, part of the Australia – New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. These cars do not have the vinyl-covered roofs, and to confuse matters, have the 3500S spoked wheel trims. An additional Commission Number under the bonnet on the right hand sub-frame can also identify them.
The 3500S continued to be imported direct from Great Britain in small quantities, but suffered from having a higher purchase price compared to the Automatic owing to Import Tariff. The 3500S ceased to be available in Australia in 1975.
Production of 3500 models ceased in Great Britain in 1975, being replaced by the Rover SD1 3500. However, as CKD Kits were still stockpiled in New Zealand, the last of the P6B 3500 Automatics were available new in Australia as late as 1981. It is understood that Melbourne, Victoria Dealer Regent Motors franchised the last group of cars. The three 2200 models continued in production in Great Britain until late 1976 and could be purchased new, well into 1977. They were superseded by the six cylinder versions of the Rover SD1, the 2300 and 2600.
Rob Turner 1983. REVISED 2014