Rover 2000 TC

A Tale of Two Thousands

It must have been 12 years ago that I wrote in "Motor" about the Rover 2000: "I see no reason for driving anything else during the next 10 years." Well, 12.000 miles away and a gross of months later (it doesnīt sound so long put like that) Iīm still driving the things - two of them in fact - and still seeing no reason to change. Indeed, they have, over the years merely confirmed my original view that the Rover 2000 is the best car ever made.

All things are relative of course so I have to qualify that statement by adding "with regard to its time and the purpose for which it was designed" so all pedantic readers can lay their pens aside again. But keep in mind that part of the purpose for which the 2000 was designed was to have a very long production run.

When I quit British soil at Heathrow in 1969 I made sure that I went to the air terminal in 45 HLB, the "Motor" long-term-report Rover 2000. In Sri Lanka for 18 months I drove a Sunbeam Imp (Iīd ordered a Hillman but this one said Sunbeam on both ends and the wheels discs) which with its big quarterlights and opening rear end was ideal for the job. I never managed to work out why I wore the nearside rear tyre to the canvas in that time while the other three remained almost as new. A great fun car, with a lousy reputation in Australia lergely due to poor assembly.

After arrival in the Land of Oz I spent some time ghost writing for an "established motoring writer" (yes, the world really is upside down here in more ways than one) which gave me the opportunity to drive all the local offerings from GM (Holden), Ford Australia and Chrysler Australia. I suspect I upset the perpetrators of these verhicles quite a bit by being unable to take them seriously. I must write about them one day but a sort of aversion therapy things stays my hand in the meantime.

In the unlikely event that you have ever had to select (say) three photographs from over 100 supplied (as journalists do on a Sunday evening after a G.P.) youīll know that the trick is not to pick the best shots, but to reject doubtful ones until you have the required number remaining. So in the same manner, I must have spent all of two minutes rejecting cars and there, looking at me with a sort of "Oh, ye of little faith!" expression, was the Rover 2000.

I mentioned all this to a local Leyland PR man and about a week later he phoned to say heīd located a 2000 TC in the back yard of a dealership that was going into voluntary liquidation. It had been doing nothing for eights months because the owner had gone overseas for a short time and had then changed his mind and decided to stay away for good. Evidently, European air has this property of quickening the intellect. "You believe that story?" I asked the Leyland man. "No", he said. "But thatīs what theyīre telling people." As I discovered later the story was in fact correct, which shows that thereīs always an exception that rules the roost.

So I headed for the dealership and there was this sad-looking 1969 TC in very bloomed maroon paint with a slightly skew-wiff front wing, the most incredibly out-of-balance wheels you could imagine, but with only 46.000 miles on the clock. The price was right so I did an instant deal. Australians will buy goodlooking cars which are mechanically clapped so, if you do the opposite, you get a bargain and, mechanically, this one seemed to be spot on. The tyres were good, too.

The out-of-balance wheels turned out to be a real oddity. When we checked them we found that all five (yes, spare anī all) had brand new glittering balance weights on them, of exactly the correct mass in each case - but every one attached exactly 180 degree opposite to where it shuld have been. So somewhere in Melbourne there was a man who didnīt quite fully comprehend what it was all about!

Buying a TC

But letīs leave the TC on one side for a while and turn the pages forward a couple or three years, to 1972, when I decided that it was utterly impossible to exist in Melbourne unless you had two cars - well, not if you want to have your personal transport serviced now and again. So I started looking at the ads in the Saturday papers and one morning saw this cheap 2000 listed by a car yard some few miles off.

It was a sort of sour-cream white, seemed to have been attacked by a stone-throwing mob, had a tow-ball on the back and a yachting club sticker in the window (together telling a tale of a "second car for towing the boat") and 108.000-odd miles on the clock. Oddly, it went incredibly smoothly, albeit with a lot of intake roar which was traced to a "sports" air cleaner. When you stopped at traffic lights, a lazy waft of blue smoke came from the rear of the bonnet, due to piston blow-by.

But I liked the feel of the car, the price was right and the engine characteristics such that it would be ideal for teaching my wife to drive - you could just about pull away in top without stalling or slipping the clutch excessively. So I bought this one too and soon found that the gearbox, suspension and electrical gear seemed to have been renewed within the past 10.000 or so miles.

Back to the TC. Iīd had the maroon paint stripped of it, a complete respray in dead white acrylic, plus 1971 trim (black valances, thin stainless side mouldings, black leather rear quarter panels with badges) and apart from some internal trim problems had a very pleasant and presentable vehicle. The brakes got new pads, clutch lining replaced, new exhaust extractors and silencer and that was about it apart from a few light bulbs. I had "non-meglo" numberplates made up to kill the carīs age and they read EM 179, which is my postal address - PO Box 179, East Melbourne. People seem surprised that my name isnīt Edward Marshall or something like that. How about Ego Maniac?

In this connection, the SC needed no age-killing plates because it had been registered initially in New South Wales and then sold to someone in Victoria in 1971, at which time it got new local plates for this state. By which comment youīll have gathered that it, too, is now in 1971 trim. Around this stage my wife said: "All right - youīve got two flats (we live in one and the other houses my office and workshop), two cameras, two cars - what next.... eh - why are you looking at me like that??"

Having more time on my hands when the SC came along and, of course, the TC as essential transport, I unbolted the panels from it one by one and, during what passes for winter in Melbourne, blow-lamped the old paint off them, filled and smoothed as necessary and then put them out to be sprayed. Again, dead white, but this time in polyurethene, orange peel and all.

In Melbourne, Rover owners are fortunate in having the services of a small garageful of competent Rover-specialising mechanics who trade under the name of Stephenson and Ollason Pty Ltd. The "Pty" stands for "Proprietary", not "Peity". So they were given the SC to restore and, while at it, replace the big ends and do anything else that needed doing inside. Meanwhile I scrapped the sports cleaner and fitted a Holden one (from a breakerīs yard for $2) after I had duly made up and riveted on a suitable backplate. A new Rover one would have cost over $35 - and when I opened the Holden cleaner it had a nearly-new element inside it, worth more than $3!

The end result of all this is a delightful car, capable of at least 95 mph - very smooth and reliable. The sales manager of another make passengering in it one day was heard to remark: "Hm - solid, isnīt it". Sure is.

None of which goes very far towards justification of my claim that the Rover 2000 is the bestest with the mostest, unless we count the fact that the things last and last, especially on Australiaīs salt-free roads. Also, of course, they look as if they were styled last week except for their flat side windows and narrow tail-light clusters.

Letīs got back to basics. The function of a car is to transport you, as an individual or a small group, in convenient comfort and safety. Iīve been sniggered at before. and no doubt will be again, for writing that the most important item in a car is the driverīs seat.

On a drive of more than an hour the majority of cars give me a sore back so, if we return to the basic function thing, Iīd be better going to train! In my time Iīve driven a bewildering variety of cars yet I have never found a seat as good as, let alone better than, that of the Rover 2000. The shape, the degree of firmness, adjustment range, relationship with the controls, sympathy with the suspension and so on seem absolutely perfect (weīll except the plastic-coat ones fitted to New Zealand-assembled models). The only faults are in the specification of materials - high quality hide sewn together with low quality thread that parts after a short time, and pvc on the rear seat tops that goes like cornflakes after a short time in Australian sun.

Next, there is the compromise between handling and comfort which, in the 2000, I reckon to the dead on. Realising that tyre pressure recommendations can be biased towards comfort, handling and tyre wear, but that never the trio shall meet, I got my own way and run them at 30 p.s.i. all round (Rover said 26 front and 28 rear) and that suits me very nicely.

The SC is on fabric radial Semperits (on when I bought it) and the TC has steel all round, local Olympics on the front and Japanese Bridgestones rear. The Semperits are best for quick driving and the steels for fast, so it has worked out right, the SC being mostly a city car. When the steering starts to feel heavy, I have the tyres reflated - donīt knock it because Iīm still at least on the car makerīs recommended pressures!

Actually, thereīs a lot of "early warning" about these cars, just as with the tyre pressures. Oil getting low and the light blinks on acceleration. Brake fluid low and the light flickers before it is on steady. If the heater blows cold air with a hot engine, the radiator water needs topping up. The brakes will make an odd sound if a pad is too thin, long before any damage is done on the disc. And thereīs the petrol reserve tap, bless it.

The pros and cons

Car safety is in the hands of the driver and at 35 accident-free driving years (I exclude failing off motorcycles at monotonous intervals and put that down to a keen interest in road-surface characteristics) I may be blase but I think the Rover cage isnīt only intrinsically safe. It gives the car an acoustic deadness that implies solidity which, in turn, engenders driver confidence and calmness of mind; which, in turn, produces safe driving. Iīm certain of that.


Similarly with the magnificent Rover brakes. Brake performance must be in tune with road-holding properties, something at which Mercedes Benz excel these days, and I canīt recall ever feeling that a Rover 2000 had taken charge of me. As I used to put it: "If I were to take off on a hump-back bridge in the dark and land to find that the road immediately did a right-angle turn, Iīd want to be in a Rover 2000."


Performance and fuel consumption are well suited to my ego and pocket respectively and reliability is splendid, although here I must say that all these years of 2000ing have turned me into sensing faults long before they actually happen, and I donīt just mean the early warning stuff already mentioned. I remember Phil Vincent, of Vincent-HRD motorcycle fame, once stopping his Bristol on the A1 north of Stevenage because "...this engine is running too well". Right enough, there was a water leak and it was starting to run dry.


An odd matter is that the TC in its early days, but not the much older SC, kept having things come loose until I let it know who was to be the master. Things like the petrol pump, starter motor, dynamo, steering idler box, screen washer bottle, seat rails...


(I really should tell you about the buzzing sound from the rear of the TC at about 2000 rpm. It seemed to be caused by a loose panel, or petrol tank, or boot trim, or boot lid, or wing, or deck panel, or quarter panel, or... Ken Ollason finally, and literally, put his finger on it - the boot lid torsion-bar balancer.)


It annoys me somewhat that my really basic reasons for being so fond of (or perhaps better, having such respect for) Rover 2000s are so intangible. I mean, who can really say why they like or dislike the scent of lupins, a certain texture of brick wall, worn-out slippers, mint humbugs, one person or another?


The bad points I can quickly enumerate. Slow petrol filler (especially the TC though I know not why), unreliable door lock mechanism, self-bunging screen washers of too-small jet bore and too-small tank capacity, shoddy electrical gear (I reckon it would be impossible to start the TC regularly in Scottish winter mornings), skimping of trim materials already mentioned, and doors apparently carefully designed so that when you open them after being parked in heavy rain, large blobs of water will fall straight on to the seats. Didnīt it ever rain during the development period?


But the good points, which are far more than Iīve mentioned here (De Dion rear axle, ventilation/heating, for instance) outweigh all that and we mustnīt ignore that fact that I own two cars which are appreciating all the time so that when I eventually leave here in a few yearsī time Iīll be close to having had free motoring!


Tale them with me? Alas, I go to a place where the best petrol, even now, is of 90 octanes and you may not import cars more than five years old. Now, if Leyland would only answer my inquiry of a few months ago about the 2.3 and 2.6-litre SD1s... But maybe Iīll have a Celica Liftback instead.


Thatīs the trouble with the motoring public. Fickle.

Rab Cook

Thoroughbred & Classic Cars / UK August 1980