Rover (P6) 3500 V8: Spotted


Speed matters. It certainly does. Many boring and mundane everyday tasks can be made infinitely more bearable if they are done faster. Paperwork? Yes. Meetings? Sure. Eating your greens? It just means you get to dessert faster. So what does a 47 year-old Rover have anything to do with speed? Surely, it is the complete antithesis to that.


Well, I've been reading through the old Autocar road test archive and as it turns out, this Rover Three Thousand Five (3500) is faster than many of its contemporary rivals, blowing stuff like the BMW 2000 Ti into the weeds in the 0-60mph tests. Admittedly, 10.5sec is hardly notable today, but quite an achievement for the time. It makes you wonder what happened to Rover in the intervening years to lose this momentum over their rival (Amongst many, the buy-out in 1994 certainly didn't help).

The Rover P6, then, was quite a revolutionary car for its time. After the war, many car companies simply went back to producing their pre-war designs, which suited the English middle-classes quite nicely. Change was slow and the long production cycles of the P4 'Auntie' Rover and P5 (beloved by royalty and government officials alike) were looking quite old fashioned when the 60s came around. Rover couldn't rely on that aging customer base for much longer, especially with the onset of the baby boomers. Enter the much sleeker looking Rover P6.


When you think of a sporting saloon car today, you think BMW 3 Series. The P6 was the equivalent of that back then. Compact, rear-wheel drive and featuring an efficient 2.0-litre petrol engine: a masterstroke, as the Suez crisis a few years earlier and the fuel rationing that went with it had given the buying public reasons to consider downsizing to more efficient options.

Fortunately, when the 3500 came out in 1968, petrol rationing had long since been forgotten and North Sea oil was beginning to be explored, so 17.2mpg - the typical fuel economy figure quoted in the test - could be tolerated. At least by those who could afford it.

But, that V8 did have more positives. Firstly, it improved the weight distribution of the P6. It was an ideal 50:50 split when you had a full tank of fuel. Refinement was better compared with the cast-iron four-cylinder and the new all-aluminium engine was about the same weight of the smaller unit as well. The only thing that spoiled the 3500 was the three-speed Borg-Warner automatic transmission and its rather long gearing - you could reach 60mph in first. It made the car more of a "very refined high speed touring car" rather than a "super high performance saloon". We'd have to wait until 1971 for the sportier 3500S to come out.


This Rover P6 is on for very strong money. If you look at the engine bay photo, you can clearly make out the front corner of a Lexus LFA, which perhaps goes some to explaining that. The advert suggests that this car has had a nut-and-bolt restoration, which certainly doesn't come cheap, but the P6 seems to be gaining some recognition in the classic car scene, with prices beginning to rise.

So, is this Rover still PistonHeads material? I think it can be. The P6 isn't the usual slow classic you might be expecting and it is perfectly usable in everyday motoring. And the P6 had a starring role in the crime thriller Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, where debt collector Vinnie Jones first used it to write off a Ford Cortina estate, before testing the build quality of the driver's door on Dog's head. Well, everyone has to earn a living, and that V8 is rather thirsty...


SPECIFICATION - 1970 ROVER 3500 V8

Engine: 3,528cc, V8
Transmission: 3-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 170@5,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 210@2,600rpm
MPG: 17.2
CO2: Vast quantities of
First registered: 1970
Recorded mileage: 67,484 (March 2017)
Price new: £1,801 (£38 10s 8d for a radio)
Yours for: £14,950

See the original advert here.

Max Adams



 

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Comments (91) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Quhet 02 Dec 2017

    "But, that V8 did have more positives. Firstly, it improved the weight distribution of the P6. It was an ideal 50:50 split when you had a full tank of fuel. Refinement was better compared with the cast-iron four-cylinder and the new all-aluminium engine was about the same weight of the smaller unit as well."

    confused

  • sidewinder500 02 Dec 2017

    It just means that the Rover (nee Buick) V8, built in light alloy, was essentially lighter, more refined, more efficient and even cheaper to build.

    By the way, the tappets and other internals of the engine were still bought in from GM until the last engine!

  • julianm 02 Dec 2017

    First car I ever did 100mph in - on the Fosse Way - which is now 40mph just about everywhere. There`s progress for you.

  • Jim AK 02 Dec 2017

    I remember my Grandad getting one of these, Old English white with Black interior to replace his BRG P5B Coupe.

    He always said it was 'not a patch' on the Coupe.

    Wish we had kept those & not my FiL's X300 Jaguar Sovereign!


  • huckster6 02 Dec 2017

    Phenomenal car.
    1) Metroplitan Police had a fleet for traffic duties, augmented by the dashing Triumph 2000.
    2) The rallying legend Roger Clarke rallied P6s
    3) A derivative of the Rover engine was used in a Repco-Brabham (?) Formula 1, considerably modified.

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