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An English car better than the Rover P6?

Chris Haining December 20, 2016 All Things Hoon, Cars You Should Know 23 Comments

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Here’s startling revelation for anybody who hasn’t spent a lot of time in this comfy little corner of the internet: I’m English. Yep, a fully paid up, tiffin nibbling, tea drinking, cricket… uh, ignoring, monarchy…uh, tolerating limey. We all have our problems.

Here’s another truth. Though I have a huge fondness for ’em, I’m by no means diehard fan of the English car; especially not if there is a direct equivalent from another nation that can beat it, either on points or issue a comprehensive wholesale drubbing. There are some, though, that will never test my allegiance, and a prime example is the Rover P6.

Running (if you got a good one – JK) from 1963 to 1977, the Rover P6 can surely be judged as an example of the British doing the car properly. It was a pretty sophisticated machine, really, with a De Dion rear suspension setup, inboard rear disc brakes (that may be effective are absolute hell to work on) and a cleverly designed ‘safety first’ interior. It was also one of the very first cars to receive the ex-Buick 215 c.i V8 that would soon become the doyen of the British sports car industry. It was certainly better than the Chevy Corvair, with anti-sway bar enthusiast Ralph Nader citing it as an example of how all cars should be built.

But how could you make it better?

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Well, how about lengthening the roof?

Rover was rather slow on the uptake when it came to offering a station wagon, and while the comparable Triumph 2000 could be ordered as an estate, Rover had little or no interest in competing in this market. In fact, after the P6, the next Rover badged station wagon would be the Honda Concerto-based Rover 400 tourer.

Converting the P6 into a station wagon was left to independents, with FLM panelcraft doing the hard work, Crayford finishing things off and HR Owen selling the completed product. And, in principal, it was a great idea, building on the P6’s practicality while not doing anything to spoil its appearance. In fact, I reckon it looks rather fetching.

In practice, though, there were problems. It was rather an expensive conversion, taking a finished P6 Estate rather further upmarket than it was ever intended to go, and it wasn’t really especially practical, either. Furthermore, the quality of the conversion wasn’t the best, either, and water ingress would encourage the rear end of the car to rust in a most inelegant fashion. It was so close to being a great car.

Today, there are very few left, but those survivors are fastidiously looked after.

And I’m certain that, at least in concept, they were the best P6s ever built.

(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

  • longrooffan

    This olelongrooffan would totally Hoon that longroof every day of the week.

  • spotarama

    wouldn’t that be considered a shooting brake? I thought that was the correct term for converted sedans in the UK?
    irrespective of the nomeclature, I can just see a pair of English pointers or (more likely) golden retrievers leaving their own particular form of nose art all over those back windows
    wouldn’t do for me though, apart from being banned from owning any more English cars after the P6 I got about 400kms out of before it gave up the ghost, it’d never fit the great dane or irish wolfhound in the back

    • Rover 1

      Shooting Brakes are generally based on two door cars.
      The XJ40 conversion in the picture is an estate car,( for use on ones estate). The Lynx Eventer based on the XJS is a shooting brake for carrying two people, their guns, and their shot birds.
      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f3/56/47/f356476e59e8f5fba0683095b70a80e7.jpg

      • Van_Sarockin

        Are you required to show proof of owning an estate, before they’ll sell you one? Asking for a friend…

        • Rover 1

          I think they’ve dropped that requirement now.

  • Rover 1

    P6s can also be made to be quite quick with the installation of modified Rover V8s from TVRs or even just the efi 4.6 V8 from the P38 Range Rover, with it’s matching ZF 4speed automatic,( instead of the ancient,(ex Studebaker?) Borg Warner 35 or 65, 3 speed auto).

    Manual conversions are popular, either the later SD1/Rover group 5 speed(GB/Europe) or the Toyota 5 speed( USA,NZ, Australia). Having got hold of an ex Mercedes Benz W203 diesel 6 speed manual to fit in a W124, it looks like that might fit too, but I’ll have to match it to a bellhousing and output shaft as there is no available ‘bolt on’ conversion kit.

    My V8 is an ex P76 long stroke tall block which I’d like to take out to 6 litres as seen in some Aussie Range Rover re-powerings.The standard Rover diff has to be swapped for a Jaguar one like on the factory racers.(One of the factory cars had an entire Jag IRS fitted and this is homologated for racing as well as the Rover De Dion rear suspension, a P6 in Ireland has taken advantage of this
    Actual original, rebuilt P6 racing car with Traco 4.3 l V8,( and Jag diff)
    https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7335/9937020085_246ca1f20e_b.jpg
    NZ classic rally car,Bygone Autos 1972 4.0 l, 5 speed, quad Webers, W58 Toyota box 400bhp (can be a little throttle steery)
    http://www.leadfootfestival.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/img_3090_grande.jpg?1000
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMOT3jBxdLA

    • Rover 1

      And Estates can be modified too.
      Jensen Interceptor wheels, efi V8 5 speed.
      http://motorbase.s3.amazonaws.com/pictures/auctionlots/1729422903/379419431/fs_7468326-2-1.jpg

      • Wayne Moyer

        Those “Now and then” pictures are always a bit depressing. Kamil was just tweeting about the ’92 Camry in the same way.

        • Don’t even get me started on those irrationally oversized Prius land yachts.

          https://c3.staticflickr.com/1/386/30947040994_28051219b2_z.jpg

          • Vairship

            It somewhat depends on the provenance and era though: my “compact” Corvair absolutely dwarfs my PT Cruiser in every dimension except height…

          • Chris Ford

            I’m the one that sent the allegro, and mg metro, and maestro, do you still have all 3?

            • I have the Allegro and the Maestro but the Metro now belongs to a friend of mine in California. Thanks for sending them this way; I’ve been having a great deal of fun with them.

    • Poobah Poobah

      IMHO -not worth a big thirsty engine. Supercharge it- same displacement. Use a Vitesse plenum and SD1 injector set with aftermarket controller. SD1 gearbox not too tough- but the best is the TRV 5speed. I knew M Clark of Bygone Autos (New Zealand). We had a mutual mate who was an ex works mechanic.

      • Rover 1

        The Getrag 6 speed used in the Merc W203/4 diesels and BMW M cars is stronger still. Taking the motor out to a 100 mm bore unshrouds the valves and allows use of a wider variety of pistons. With a Buick 340 crankshaft and the 17mm taller deck height of the P76 block, 401+? cubic inches are available. Add to that the tuning potential from all the work that’s gone into Buick V6 and GM3800 head and chamber design, and the great power spread with good fuel economy because of the torque spread, and you have a light motor that outperforms more modern motors with their heavy quad cam heads.
        Or you could swap to the later Chev LS V8s but where’s the fun in that?
        Also, I have my P76 block, 340 crankshaft and Wildcat(UK) heads and it seems a fun project. For EFI, the later Range Rover stuff from the P38 is easier to get, the same as the SD1 Vitesse, and is self tuning and works well with Ford modular V8 distributorless ignition. Great advice is found on
        https://www.classicroverforum.net/index.php?threads/my-3500s-project-future-daily-drive.35002/
        and
        http://www.roversd1.nl/sd1web/capacity.html
        and
        http://forum.britishv8.org/read.php?6,11865

  • NapoleonSolo

    Ah, a Tobacco Leaf P6. Had two of them.

  • caltemus

    Neat car, though I wish the roofline was a bit flatter like a Volvo Amazon or a Type 3 Squareback. Was it that angle because they had to match the top of the rear doors?

    • Rover 1

      Yes, some of the early conversions were almost fastbacks.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    While I do really like the P6 in standard, estate and convertible form my favorite Rover is still the 3500 Vitesse. The SD1’s Ferrari Daytona styling cues resonate with me and the Vitesse was a very successful road racer, although the SD1 lacked the fancy DeDion axle and Citroen DS style base unit body construction

  • boxdin

    I knew a guy who bought one of these new in Phx AZ in 1966. Very Cool car!
    I do find the front suspension odd though.

  • Vairship

    “It was certainly better than the Chevy Corvair, with anti-sway bar
    enthusiast Ralph Nader citing it as an example of how all cars should be
    built.”

    Ahem, the Corvair is clearly the better car, as shown in the fact that Ralph Nader spent time behind the wheel of one. Can’t say that about the P6, can you? 😉
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/350f9c6d0ead734b84476389e7210e394e2c114be40705b7b9644991da739d40.jpg

  • Poobah Poobah

    Best of British beef, so beefy it gives Bovril a small willy complex. Owned many P6’s and P6B’s series 1 and 2. Lies, horrible lies about series 2 rusting out like mad. All British cars rusted at the same rate due to Labour action shutting down Sheffield steel plants meaning Pressed Steel Company UK who produced panels for every British car- from Bentley and Rolls downward- which overlapped the series 1/2 2000 & 3500 & P5A and B (including coupe) production runs.
    Best one was supercharged 3.5 v8 (low compression head easy supercharging), custom intercooler (of an Isuzu), custom oil cooler (thanks Isuzu), bent de Dion (thanks to idnustrial press at truck mechanic)- gave negative camber at rear, cut-down custom front suspension-spring pushrods on custom coil mounts, 2 inches lower all round, 5 speed Toyota box modded to have correct Rover gear lever (ugly otherwise), Ford brake vacuum pump, Ford radiator (cheap to repair), F250 front calipers, modded brackets, self-drilled front rotors (stock). Went like stink outran many a Bobby peeler. Marriage meant we divorced.