The Rover 2000 ... two years later

I was hooked by that December 1965 issue of ROAD TEST... the one that featured "Rover 2000: Does the Worldīs Finest Car Cost Only $4000?" As a result, I have just completed two years of Rover ownership, outrunning the factory warrantee by several thousands miles. In the process, Iīve become convinced that the 50c ROAD TEST and the $4000 Rover were both well worth the price I paid for them.

The Rover story impressed me because I was in complete agreement with another article in that vintage issue of The Factual Automotive Guide... the one that summarized the Ford Mustang as "a sporty looking compact car which, by clever publicity, has trapped the typical face-conscious American into accepting a cheap status symbol in lieu of the real thing." Having fallen for Ford Motor Companyīs advance publicity on this revolutionary new American Sports Car. I had become the hopeful owner of one of the very first of them, back in the spring of 1964; long enough to have convinced me of the accuracy of ROAD TESTīs generally unflattering evaluation.

When two transmissions fell out of my pony within the first month after the guarantee ran out, I had a third installed and drove gingerly the sixty miles to the nearest Rover dealer. So help me, I only intended to try out that little British four-banger, but after putting it through its paces on a section of hairpin boulevard turns and through downtown Seattle traffic, I found my self reaching for my check book. Abandoning the Mustang without so much as a farewell pat on the muzzle, I drove home in a Rover fresh off the showroom floor. Thatīs one impulse purchase I havenīt regretted.

Not that the Rover has proved to be without flaws. Itīs just turned out to be far and away the best all around automobile I have ever owned or driven... including a gigantic custom-made Horch which I liberated from an SS field marshall during World War II.

Following a weekend of delighted test driving, I drove my brand new Rover proudly to the office and began bragging at the top of my voice. Most of my co-workers came out to the parking lot to view the Rover and observe that it was kind of small to cost four thousand dollars. I bragged louder than ever, while ridiculing their Detroit iron. At quitting time I seated myself on the prime English leather and turned the key. Nothing happened. I ended up calling for the Triple-A emergency service. It broke my colleagues up but good. The Lucas battery was a dud. Next day the dealer shipped a new one down. The replacement is still going strong.

At about five thousand miles the engine developed a slight clatter. It wasnīt nearly as bad as say the normal valve racket od a Dodge V8, but it was quite noticeable in that sweet-running, perfectly balanced little overhead cam four. I took it to the dealer and the mechanics looked grave. After a day or two of tinkering they called the distributor in San Fransisco. After much consultation, they tore the engine down, rebored it and installed new pistons.

Trying to find out what had happened was like questioning a bunch of high-priced specialists in a busy hospital. There was a great air of mystery and I caught a couple of the mechanics given me the sort of suspicious looks doctors might give a parent who has brought in a badly abused baby. Finally the service manager muttered something about "collapsed pistons". Just a few days ago I mentioned this strange circumstances to a Rover factory mechanic at an ownerīs service clinic. He fixed me with the same sort of accusing gaze. "But sir", he said in a fine British accent, "the pistons couldnīt possibly have collapsed unless you let the engine overheat."

Apparently the Rover Motor Car Company is as puzzled by the whole thing as I am, but I know I never let that engine overheat. In any event, the motor rebuild was on the house, right down to the replacement oil in the crank case, and that little added displacement seems to give the 2000 a bit more get-up-and-go.

At ten thousand miles the Rover had an opportunity to prove its much vaunted safety features. Upon one of the rare occasions when I permitted my wife to drive it she was clobbered by a Volkswagen being piloted diagonally across a shopping center parking lot by a teen-age dare-devil at about fourty miles an hour. The Rover was just getting underway and the Beetle hurled itself aganinst the left front fender with sufficient impact to turn the car around a full 180 degrees. The Volks then caromed on for half a block or so, shedding vital parts. Aside from a punctured fender, bent bumper and slightly askew bonnet, the Rover was unscathed. I drove it for almost a month before having the sheet metal damage repaired and there wasnīt so much as a rattle. The only way you could tell it had been in a fairly hairy collision was to get out and look.

At fifteen thousand miles the Rover suddenly lost power... just wouldnīt accelerate or work up to over 70 miles an hour on the freeway. After two days of tinkering and fine tuning back at the dealerīs an enterprising mechanic found a section of Turkish towel neatly rolled up in the carburettor air intake. On this one I suspect sabotage.

And that just about sums up two years problems with the Rover 2000, except that the paint (a now discontinued maroon) has tended to fade more rapidly on the aluminium hood and trunk lids than on the steel body panels, giving the car a sort of involuntary two-tone effect. I donīt think this happens to Rovers of other colors.

The plus factors are far more numerous. The Roverīs riding qualities are indeed superb and mine is every bit as quiet, smooth and rattle-free as it was two years ago. The leather upholstery is in showroom condition and even "smells new". Things like the electric clock, cigar lighter and courtesy lights still work and I get 27 miles to the gallon in average usage.

Despite the modest hundred horses of the 2000, I frequently delight myself by running away from the purple-faced drivers of Toronados, GTOīs and Super Sports when the light turns green. The superb suspension and those Pirelli radials put all the horses there are on the road, while the Detroit monsters spin their wheels, fishtail and mark up the road with rubber.

Without a brake adjustment in two years, I can still make one finger on the wheel stops from 80 miles an hour in about four seconds without a trace of swerve or sway. And I know exactly what the Rover is going to do every time I touch a control.

So far I havenīt become brave enough to even approach the limits of the carīs cornering ability. The closest to an all-out test was given it by my sister, whom I was allowing to test drive it in the hopes of weaning her away from her Chevrolet Impala Super Sport. Used to an automatic transmission, she had a little trouble with the Roverīs controls and went through a right angle turn on a gravel road under the impression that she was braking. As a matter of fact she was accelerating all the way. The Rover threw quite a bit of gravel around, but the tires didnīt ever squel.

My sister compromised. Sheīs driving a Rover automatic now.

Most important of all, I have developed a real affection for this gallant little machine... an emotion I havenīt felt for an automobile since high school days when I lived dangerously with an ex-dirt track racing car with a 1916 Auburn engine, Cadillac frame and three-foot wheels. I have no urge at all to go the trade-in route, for my 1966 Rover 2000 is literally just like new.

Maybe in seven or eight years Iīll buy a new car.

A new Rover.

Gordon Newell

ROAD TEST / USA June 1968