Rover 2000

36.000 miles user report

I once had a car which fell hopelessly in love with me. It used to sit for hours gazing at me with adoration in its eyes and, now and then, it would put out a paw just to touch me. All attempts to turn it by magic into a princess failed miserably, by the way, and pussy just remained a beautiful beast. Now, I donīt claim that I have got into the same bemused and doting state over our old Rover 2000, 45 HLB, but at times I come close to it. I drive all sorts of cars that come on test and many of them I would gladly own and treasure: yet when I get back into the Rover and close that solid front door, I get the feeling that comes at the end of a splendid holiday - pity itīs all over, but nice to be home again in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

If you are a regular reader of reports on this car (this is the third!) you may wonder why we still have it when the usual mileage for Motor test cars is 24.000. Slightly puzzled friends, evidently anxious about my status, say: "Wonīt they give you a new one, then?", knowing that 45 HLB was delivered to our care at January, 1964. This makes me wince because the truth of the matter is that "they" have been trying very hard to give me something else, but I have been fighting back equally hard to keep the Rover. When I last reported on it, in February, 1966, I commented: "I... cannot see any reason for driving anything else during the next 10 years." This statement must now be modified to read: "...during the next 8 years 4 months."

The miles have been slow a-building for three reasons: I donīt live at all that far from the office; there are these road test cars to try; my work keeps me more desk-bound than the average motoring journalist - well, somebody has to watch the shop. The 36.000 miles only came up in August of this year while I was on holiday and Hamish Cardno had the car on loan for a weekend trip to Stonehaven. The following Monday I phoned the office from Thurso; Hamish happened to answer the phone and, when Iīd dealt with the bit of business, he said: "By the way, the Roverīs in Derby." "Go on," I said with my usual magnificent emotional control, "what happened?" "Oh - just the dynamo. It blew up on the way home."

Actually, the rear bearing had gone and since this was at night with the headlamps in use, the car had to be abandoned at a garage. It was only when he was back in London that Hamish remembered a box of Fraserburgh kippers in the boot. All this amused me somewhat because the only other time the car had come to a complete, unscheduled stop was a few weeks before when I loaned it to Jim Toser one night. The following morning it gassed itself a mite (dirt in float needle jet) and the battery went flat (a slipping dynamo belt was discovered later). The lesson here seems to be not to borrow a car from Cook; but if a car is going to be naughty, I personally prefer this to happen when some other person is in charge...

Long-distance reports in Motor are normally based on mileage but once the thing is past 24.000 miles I think that careful recording of distance covered between incidents is rather pedantic and, so far as the body is concerned anyhow, age, as with people, is much more important. I mean, take tyre wear, for example: it hasnīt changed from the 15.000 miles per Cinturato (no swapping round - explanation later) that I recorded last time, and why should it if the "under carriage" is kept in good adjustment?

Letīs start with the engine. Since the last report it hasnīt misbehaved in any serious mechanical way. After a lot of messing about with various kinds of sparking plug I settled for Champion N9Ys which are fine provided that they are changed fairly often because the insulation breaks down to some extent (but not totally). This is no reflection on the plugs - just that the type of use the engine gets is hard on them. With a lot of town running some slight misfiring will set in, especially when pulling hard in second gear, but a quick blast on the open road will chase the deposits away. Earlier in the piece I tried Japanese NGK plugs and these performed much better than the original Champion recommendation (the N9Y came later) and were very long lasting but Rovers hadnīt tried them out and couldnīt give a yea or nay so I backed down; they are still carried in the car as the spare set and Iīd happily use them. I notice that when a new set of plugs is fitted there is bad running-on when I switch off which suggests that the new, sharp corners may get a bit hot - this trouble goes away after a hundred miles or so.

Generally, the Roverīs engine tells the driver when it requires attention. Normal tick-over speed is 600 rpm (yes, I have at last fitted a rev counter) and if idling unreliability sets in, then I know that something is out of adjustment - contact-breaker points, plugs, carburetter. Another indication is cold-weather starting. If the unit fires immediately it is in fairly good trim and if the choke can be pushed in immediately the "choke out" warning light appears, then the adjustments are as near perfect as can be; this state is rare and only lasts for about a fortnight after a tuning session. In normal conditions I have to run for a couple of miles after the light comes on if fluffing and snuffling is to be avoided when pulling away in traffic.

Should lack of time for fiddling let the adjustments get sloppy the results of a quick going over are quite magical and I find that in traffic I can use a gear higher than normal for a given set of conditions. All this is, of course, applicable to any car but perhaps because of the Roverīs relatively high gear ratios, more noticeable. The best tweaking it has had this year was by a very thorough Indian chappy at W.H.M. Burgess, the SU kings at Acton. If he was Pakistani my apologies, but he said that I looked Italian... He went over the carburetter with infinite care, replacing the float needle and seating (to cure over-richness or even flooding when starting from cold with choke), fitting new plugs (I darenīt tell you what the gaps were on the existing ones - but the car does have a non-standard sports coil) and renewing the air-cleaner element, since the old one seemed to be of indeterminate age and very doubtful porosity. It was a pleasant morning well spent and the car felt just-run-in and ready for the next 36.000. I like going to Burgess - they have an air of knowing what theyīre up to, which makes such a change these days!

Incidentally, after the London-Stonehaven-Derby trip, Hamish left me a note saying that he had only got 25 mpg against my pre-Babs 34.2 of two years before on roughly the same run and it was this that really made me have the adjustments done, rather than anything specific crying out for attention. Shows how these things creep up on you. The earlier consumption is now restored - i.e., over 30 mpg on long main-road trips, under 20 in London and just over 25 in mixed going, which is all fair enough for a rather heavy 2-litre saloon. The oil consumption remains at a laughable nothing at all between changes, except in motorway use when a pint is needed per 150 or 200 miles. This situation is just as it was at 24.000 miles and suggests that all is very much well inside. Water it doesnīt drink at all.

Other matters under the bonnet include the Lucas battery which has soldiered on for nearly four years in magnificent fashion, and this despite a sporadic diet of Cricklewood tap-water - not recommended, really. I do get annoyed by the fact that this car somehow manages to splash road water on to its own battery, especially when I am so very careful about topping up and wiping off drops. As a result of this splashing the leads have had to be renewed because of corrosion. A surprising thing is that the distributor leads rub against the underside of the bonnet and a side-exit distributor cap would seem to be a good idea because, surely, short circuiting must set in eventually. Pulling the plug leads back through their sleeve cures this for a little while but they always wriggle back up again.

One evening a sticking float needle caused some difficulty in driving with, first, weakness, then over-richness: as already mentioned, this part has now been replaced. And at 31.000 miles, the thermostat hose burst with a loud bang but I was able to drive gently to our garage. Otherwise, no troubles.

The gearbox is rather noisy in first and very noisy in reverse ("Like an alī Aberdeen tramcar", someone remarked) and from time to time the lever develops a very "dry" feeling and in an extreme condition can creak like a sound-effect castle door. Drops of oil in the right place cure this but the change remains somewhat notchy, as though the clutch werenīt freeing completely. When the box is cold steady pressure and patience are needed to get into second from first but is has been ever thus, so age has no part in the matter. The change is positive but driving the family Imp reminds me that there are lighter ones!

For some reason the brakes, which were most terribly noisy with whistles, scraping sounds, howls and heaven alone knows what all, suddenly decided to shut up one day about a year ago and havenīt issued a single cheep since. I notice that other Rover 2000s I have driven recently are just as quiet and I suspect that the answer lies with the latest type of pad which squeals for a day or so after fitting (making you think that there is no improvement) and then goes quiet for good.

Oh! I nearly forgot the throttle linkage which disassembled in a big way one wet night because a circlip escaped and let a spindle pull out of a socket. Quick binding with a piece of wire - which I happened to have around - held it all together for a day or two until we found another circlip. What a horrible feeling it is when a throttle linkage goes - you put your foot down expecting to accelerate away and nothing happens; like realizing that youīve just knocked back a nip of cold tea.

Another wet-weather happening concerned the screen wipers: going home on the Friday before the Wold Cup Final (this may help you remember the torrential rain because there was some doubt about the state of the ground) the tip of the right-hand blade got under the heel of the other and both ended up in a tangled mass before my very eyes. Later experimenting showed that this was utterly impossible and that I must have imagined it all - but I moved one arm round one spline just to be on the safe side. As I once heard said in all seriousness: "Isnīt it infuriating how wipers only go wrong when itīs raining?" Quite.

There was the matter of the "hole in the tank". I glanced at the fuel gauge one day in May and noticed that its needle was moving slowly from full to empty. The oil pressure was apparently dying at the same time so I was led to conclude that the electrickery was at fault. Next day they cured themselves. In September the cycle was repeated. Itīs difficult to trace a fault when it isnīt there but I suspect that by using a wiring diagram I could find the point where both these gauges have a common supply of current and there improve a contact - possibly in a thing called the Instrument Voltage Stabilizer or its feed wire.

The final electrical matter concerns the side-light switch, but letīs start at the beginning. I was fumbling about under the edge of the dashboard one night for a reason which I forget and noticed that this switch was distinctly hot to the touch. I forgot about the matter but, a week or so later, I had a set of those splendid Cibié iodine-quartz headlamps fitted (how else can one see?); nothing wrong there but, soon after this, I fiddled about with the wiring so that on main beam the dip lamps were lit as well. This resulted in the switch becoming very hot indeed so I hastily undid my clever wiring and went and sulked off-stage for a while. This is the master switch so all the main-lamp juice goes through it. Taking it off, I found that some of the insulation around it was actually burned and that the strips of copper which carry the current donīt seem nearly heavy enough. It is still in use but Iīd feel very much happier driving after dark if I could find a heavyweight replacement to fit the space. Elephant-memoried readers will recall that this car had Cibié lamps before; the explanation is that its first driver, Charles Bulmer, took them with him to his next car.

Tyres, already mentioned, I never switch around because the front and rear wear patterns are so very different and when the spare (a worn rear) was put on the front while a puncture was being repaired, the handling was dreadful, with a strong pull to one side. The rear tyres wear flat across the tread while the fronts retain their original rounded section with slight coning towards the outside. The car has remained as sure-footed as ever it was, somewhat dodgy (in the non-slang sense) when assailed by gusty sidewinds, and the marvellously comfortable ride hasnīt changed. Once or twice I have harboured a doubt about the dampers not being quite 100 per cent and this is probably true, as comparison with other 2000s shows, but theyīre certainly not bad enough to require replacement for a long, long time yet.

When the gusty-wind handling got rather trickier than usual and I consequently completed a London-Coventry-London motorway trip with shooting pains across the back of my neck I also noticed a loud rattling sound when going slowly on rough surfaces so the car was immediately hoist in our garage. A rather startled mechanic told me in a hushed voice that the adjuster lock-nut on one trackrod end was five turns slack. Being a non-panic monger, I take this as meaning five bites of an open-ended spanner and equal to about a turn and a quarter slack or less. Just one of those things. I wonīt say who checked the steering geometry last, except to record that it wasnīt the lads in our own garage.

I remember Charles Bulmer writing in his 12.000-mile report that the steering box needed frequent adjustment but that this was very easy because you merely did the job from a standing position with the bonnet up. After that a different box with experimental ratios was tried and then we reverted to the original type. Presumably (well, inevitably) this third box was not the same one as we had in the first place and it has needed no adjustment since it was fitted about 14.000 miles back. Now perhaps it does, with about an inch of lost motion at the wheel rim - next Saturday afternoon Iīll have a go.

The interior of the car hasnīt really altered in any way. The back seats are seldom used (there was an incident when we got a rather short and very fat old lady in there and came near to requiring block and tackle to extract her: trouble was that she would keep giggling) and the front ones have drip-dry stretch nylon covers on them, chiefly to prevent them from getting over-hot when the car is parked in the sun. The electrically-wound clockwork timepiece, by Kienzle, has been very reliable but it has never been quite correctly adjusted. Why not? Because to get at the adjuster you have to remove two very fiddling nuts on downward-facing studs (plus washers and spring washers) and remove the clock - this caper is also necessary to restart it should it stop if the battery is disconnected, for how else can you give the necessary rotary waggle to the balance wheel? I leave the nuts finger-tight now, but itīs still a nuisance.

One gets used to a car and it needed a comment by Hamish Cardno to remind me of the manner in which the Roverīs sound-proofing cuts you off so successfully from the outside world. When the dynamo bearing went the vibration slackened a mounting bracket and there was considerable noise, but it was only the vibration through the throttle pedal that warned him of something amiss. Opening the window admitted the sounds of a very different state of affairs. Of course, if you use over 4.500 revs, the engine snarls harshly and tends to alarm the mechanically timid passenger, but I use up to 6.000 quite regularly and nothing has gone pop - quite the opposite because the unit seems to be in splendid order. A moral here for some?

The bodywork has remained totally rigid and rattle-free but the paint has been less happy. This is a very early 2000 and keen students of the marque will have noted that the original maroon was called "copperleaf red" (a pleasant name which should have graced a much more interesting colour) while the nearly identical maroon of present-day 2000s is called Venetian red. Change but no-change.... The current colour is chemically stable but the earlier one, in its earliest form at least, was not and this car has developed a bloom that a muscatel grape would be proud of; polishing merely makes the finish shiny for a day or so and then the matt effect returns. Seeing all the other little boys with nicely polished cars I felt miserable and out of things: people turned their heads away in the street....

That wasnīt all. On part of the boot lid I could, in the right light, detect brush marks. Yes, brush marks. And to my complete bewilderment I also found that one end of the valance below the rear bumper had rusted clean through and had sprung away from the body while the other end was in perfect condition. Some forceful digging in various minds produced the answer. When the car had been almost new it had been shunted at the rear offside corner and whoever bent it straight again and did the respraying had done nothing whatsoever in the way of rust-proofing under the paint. Everyone had completely forgotten about this incident and I never knew about; it also explains the apparently poor chromium at one point on the rear bumper. All this goes to show how a car can get a bad name that it doesnīt deserve.

In fact, the paintwork has remained sound if dull everywhere except those spots where it has been savaged by unskilled or irresponsible parkers and a runaway milk float. Only two areas of rust can be laid at Roverīs door; one is round the rather meatsafe-like air intake which lurks in the slot at the rear of the bonnet and the other is a corner of one of the bolt-on rear quarter panels. Some very thick, nasty, bituminous black paint quickly put a stop to the air intake nonsense. More sensitive people might care to apply Kingston Kurust, Holtīs Zinc Plate and perhaps Valspar in that order. So we have on our hands a car which is mechanically and structurally sound but which has suffered various misfortunes to its paintwork and rustproofing. Even if it were to be sold we would have to do something about the finish, anyhow, so we have started getting estimates for welding in a new rear valance, "making good" and repainting. The first one was for Ģ52, which seemed remarkably cheap. The second, a week later, was Ģ202 17s. 6d. and so far we havenīt summoned up sufficient constructive thoughts on this discrepancy even to discuss the matter: mind you, this second one does include pulling the thing completely to bits, apparently starting from scratch and ending up with a "brand new" car. I imagine that if the rust-proofing offered by the Ģ52 people is considered adequate weīll plump for that one. Oh, decisions, decisions.

No doubt Iīll be telling you all about it when the 48.000 miles mark comes up - or shall we make it a nice round figure and go for the 50.000 for the next report? Weīll see, weīll see...

Motor / UK November 1967