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Rover P6

Rover P6 Published: 26th Nov 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Rover P6
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Arguably the P6 is the last of the real Rovers where quality and integrity reigned supreme, and yet 55 years later they remain absolute bargains – but for how much longer?

Just because a car was awarded Car of The Year (CoTY) this doesn’t automatically give it the right to become a classic but we can’t fathom why Rover’s mould breaking P6 still hasn’t caught on as one – because if any model surely deserves to it has to be the 2000.

Sometimes it takes just one car to change the public’s perception of the manufacturer. With Volvo, the transformation from safety to sexy was down to the saintly P1800, with Rover it was the P6 that transformed the company’s cosy ‘old auntie’ image into the BMW of its day. Even by the end of the P6 production in 1977, after almost 15 years on the market, the car was far from outclassed in the showroom and today, more than half a century on, remains one of the most usable and affordable classic saloons you can buy with good support from the P6 Rover Owners’ Club.

1963 P6 appears two years later than planned but it’s still highly futuristic and wins the first ever Car Of The Year award with ease. Available only with 1978cc 90bhp four-pot engine and four-speed manual gearbox and highly advanced running gear.

1966 Sportier TC (twin carb) introduced (initially only for export) plus automatic option added (2000 only). TC ups power from 90bhp @ 5000rpm to 114bhp @ 5500rpm. Brakes switch makes from Dunlop to Girling. Revised light clusters are fitted.

1968 Through-flow ventilation introduced. Improved gearbox uses needle rollers instead of plain bearings. Oil cooler on the TC becomes optional but biggest news is the new 144bhp V8-powered 3500 joining the range albeit as an automatic only.

1970 Major facelift sees new (plastic) grille, re-styled bonnet and new stainless steel side mouldings to create so-called Series 2 cars. 2000TC gets V8’s circular instrument panel. An alternator becomes standard, as does hazard warning lights. 1971 At long last, the 3500 gains a manual gearbox to become the stand alone 3500S (along with some sportier touches) although automatic becomes an option. Amazingly, and not to say confusingly, Rover offers the ordinary 3500 in manual box mode too!

1973 2200 engine offers more torque (useful on automatic). TC’s compression ratio is reduced to run on four star fuel and final drives are uprated to 3500 spec.

Brushed nylon, trim and the seats are re-shaped to provide a touch more knee room in the back. 1977 Production of the P6 ends on 19th March, after (Triumph designed) six-cylinder variants of the new-fangled SD1 are added to the expanding range, although some P6s hung around in dealerships afterwards.

Driving

The Rover is a supremely capable sports saloon – the sort the Germans now excel at – and is one of the few ’60s classics we’d heartily recommend as a long-distance daily driver with a reasonable turn of speed, can cruise with the flow and are pleasing to drive in safety.

The P6’s forte has always been in its handling. In an era where lever-arm dampers, leaf springs, drum brakes and cross-ply tyres dominated, the P6 was streets ahead with its de Dion rear axle, inboard rear disc brakes and radial tyres (one of the first cars to be specifically tailored for them).

The de Dion system prevents camber changes and keeps the wheels parallel to the road for excellent roadholding and while the P6 is not a sports car, (it rolls too much) when you get cracking – especially in the wet – the Rover inspires confidence, particularly once you get used to the little shimmy from the rear end known as ‘the de Dion lurch’ that is characteristic of the design. The high roll angles, criticised when new, can be easily addressed with uprated dampers and it’s an accepted Owners’ Club mod. If there’s is a downer, it’s the heavy non assisted steering and whopping sized steering wheel as a result; only a few V8s were so equipped.

The four-cylinder engines, which were advanced for their day, are perhaps the least attractive part of the mechanical make up now, being not overly refined plus they need to be revved to give of their best, thanks to a combination of tall gearing and relatively little torque. Performance on the SCs is at best adequate and tiresomely sluggish in 2000 guise; the 2200 unit is better to be fair and TCs are quite brisk but a tad rougher – Rover never explained why autos couldn’t come in TC guise, nor why overdrive was never an option when this car cried out for one. The V8 is another matter of course and has grunt and refinement to spare.

Comfort was what the P6 was all about. The seats were something else for their day, with backs and squabs infinitely adjustable. The boot is mean so you may need a boot-mounted spare wheel if you plan to go touring with four people and all their luggage (£150). Finally, if you do intend to use your P6 every day, you can be comforted in the knowledge that its in-built safety aspects were streets ahead of the contemporary competition way back when.

Best models

Most folks want the V8 but we’d go for condition above all else. The purist will like pre-1972 cars as after this date they look a tad tarty with their fussy detailing but the 1973 revised range boasts many benefits, not least more power, although there’s a fair chance these bigger engines have been fitted by now, ditto the SD1 five-speed manual transmission which makes a massive difference. A handful of Crayford estates were made incidentally and are sought after.

Prices

Prestige for peanuts, that’s what. You’ll find it difficult to spend more than £8000 for a peach of a P6 – unless it’s a show winner – more likely £6000 for something really nice for any model as the 3500s only command a slight price advantage, all things being equal.

Verdict

Where you consider the greatness of the P6, it’s amazing that their prices remain so inexpensive. It’s a classy, cultured if cramped saloon that makes a great classic for all the family and a viable daily driver plus enjoys a far better reputation than the regressive SD1 that replaced it…

Top five faults

General

Spare parts supply and special support is fair but it’s mostly used parts. Go to Ely Service www. elyservice.co.uk, JR Wadhams http://www.jrwadhams. co.uk, Rimmer Bros, and MGBD Parts (roverp6parts.com) P6 Rover Owners’ Club www. p6roc.co.uk and Rover P6 Club (p6club.com).

Body

Panels are bolted on, even the roof, but condition of the base skeleton unit is of primary concern, particularly the rear inner door, rear wheel arch and below the rear seat squab – it’s vital to remove this to check the state of decay.

Engine

A ringing noise from the front of the engine suggests a worn lower timing chain, clattery rattle points to the upper one. Tappets shouldn’t be silent; they are shimmed like a Jag XK unit. The sump can be removed with engine in situ to attend to bottom end overhauls.

Running gear

The de Dion tube joint must be in good condition. Also check for rust by the elbows, as they can rot from the inside out and are hard to restore. Bushes can be substituted by modern polyurethane replacements while rear brakes are often neglected due to poor access.

Trim

The flat dash top and the shin lockers can warp and split with age, leather seats can split and cloth ones can stretch and sag. Good secondhand interiors are getting scarce, particularly complete ones; fake wood is actually Formica!

 



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