The aluminum 215 c.i. V8 that GM developed in the late ’50’s debuted to much fanfare for the 1961 model year, but the design and tooling was solely owned by Rover in the U.K. by early 1965. Rover, which had lobbied hard to purchase the lightweight wonder, undoubtedly ended up getting the better end of that particular Tango Atlantico. It stayed in production in some form for four decades, which probably has caused some seller’s remorse and gnashing of teeth in Detroit over the years. Today, it feels like the quintessential British V8 in much the same way the iconic small block Chevy holds that title for American cars. Interestingly, we Yanks tend to subtly complement our ethnosymbolic selves by persisting in referring to it as the Buick-Rover V8, whereas it’s simply the Rover V8 to Brits and the rest of the world. But I guess the birth father does retain some bragging rights, eh?
Due to its overseas adoption and the disfunctional home it would grow up in, the lightweight alloy darling ended up in a remarkable variety of vehicles, three of which we will consider today. (Click on the name for a larger view of the images above).
- 1961 Buick Special 4-door sedan – The Special had neither the turbocharged engine nor the rear transaxle of its more notable Y-body brethren from Olds and Pontiac. Thanks to the longevity of the Rover engine, however, it’s probably the most practical of the three “senior compacts” to own today.
- 1968 Rover P5B 3.5-Litre – The alloy V8, now equipped with SU carbs, rejuvenated the aging Rover P5 platform with more power, better fuel economy, and better handling compared to Rover’s previous inline-6.
- 1973 MGB GT V8 – By the early ’70s, the British government had collected most of its hemorrhaging domestic auto industry under the corporate umbrella of British Leyland, which allowed the aluminium V8 to migrate into a wider selection of cars. The fixed-head coupe version of the MGB, the GT, could be had with the V8 from ’73–’76. As with the P5, the V8 actually weighed significantly less than the older, less efficient iron-block engine it replaced. Sadly, the MGB GT V8 was never sold in North America.
These three vehicles share very little in common besides the alloy lump under the hood…er, “bonnet.” Which would you choose to:
- RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
- DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
- RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not register to drive on the street.
Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about. As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.