Rover 2000

24.000 miles user report

Over the years I have - like most others, I suppose - scribbled on envelope backs designs for the ideal car for me; no interest in anyone else, just plain selfish me. It was to be a squat car with a fairly wide track, rather like a scuttling duck in the rear view, with seats for four people, light steering, a two-litre, four-cylinder engine and a good aerodynamic shape. When Rover announced the 2000 I blinked furiously, got out one of my scribbled-on envelopes and checked: this was it! An industrial spy had been at work in my inside jacket pocket...... Later, when I got a chance to drive one, I found that the charge of spying was unfounded because theyīd done everything just that bit better than I had visualized so, for once, a Motor test report is, in a way, written by someone who is biased. I love the Rover 2000 dearly and cannot see any reason for ever driving anything else during the next 10 years.

The car which forms the subject of this 24.000-mile report has had a rather chequered history. It started off by being very nearly "pre-production" with a chassis number 609 and it covered the first 18.000 miles of its life in the hands of Charles Bulmer, Motorīs Technical Editor. Bulmerīs 12.000-mile report on the car - 45 HLB - was published in our issue of December 19, 1964 and when he became due for a new car he gave up the Rover with what, in a less charming person, would have been very close to ill grace.

It then changed hands very swiftly, being used to report, among other things, a Tulip Rally, and generally took a good tousing largely because we all knew that it was tough and reliable so that when a car was needed for hastening off to faraway places at minus five minutesī notice, the 2000 always drew the short straw. During this period, which lasted for just over 1.500 miles, such servicing as was necessary was carried out but nothing even remotely resembling loving care was lavished. The car was kept clean most of the time but I doubt if it ever stood still long enough to be polished. A fully detailed report covering the period from 12.000 to 19.500 miles would read: "Oil leak at diff., four tyres fitted, nothing else?". It had just kept on keeping on.

Finally, the car came to the owner for whom the makers surely intended it in the first place. I immediately pointed out to the editor that there was just one snag in this arrangement. He would find it out if he tried to take the car away from me again...

At this stage, 45 HLB was rather like Shakespearseīs isle - full of noises. If it was left standing in the sun, the steering creaked loudly towards full lock; both front seats made creaking sounds during changes of speed; and warping of the cold air intake shutters caused wind-in-the-chimney noises when they were closed. The clutch had changed from being moderately light to inordinately heavy (a new-type release mechanism is fitted nowadays).and wasnīt freeing too well - consequently, the gear-change was a bit notchy - and there was evidence of slight engine surging at very high revs (the red line is at 6.000) in first, slightly lower in second, lower still in third and about 3.800 rpm in top.

Since the 20.000-mile service was a matter of a few hundred miles away I decided to let well alone until then but the car knew better and nudged me into action. The extra load which the dragging clutch was putting on the gear-change mechanism suddenly became too much for the selectors, with the result that moving the stick forward could select either of two gears and hauling it back gave one of three; just which one was almost outside my control and the results were highly unusual, as anyone who has made a quick change up from third to second can confirm.

So Broadway Motors, of Cricklewood, were given the car and a longish list of jobs to do. They were kindly pointed out that the majority of these came under the 20.000-mile service heading anyhow and, accordingly, charged much less than I had expected. They also told me when they handed it back, dead on time, that the clutch master cylinder and the de Dion axle were both leaking very, very slightly, but both were jobs which could wait.

At this stage of the story I must emphasize that the car is an early one and tell you that I have recently done quite a lot of motoring in two other Rover 2000s - one late 1965 and the other, going by its colour, early 1966. These have improvements not fitted to my model and it is only fair that I should mention these in the appropriate places. Thus, creaking steering is no longer possible because a newer type of damper is fitted to current cars. The air intake shutters cannot warp, because metal edges have replaced plastic. Door veneer cannot become rain-sodden (mine did because of a small leak in the front passenger door sealing) since Formica is now used instead of wood but itīs almost impossible to tell the difference.

The matter of the engine surging was rather odd. A new set of plugs cured it initially but it came back. This time I fixed it by topping up the oil damper on the SU carburetter although it was half empty. The third time it returned, none of the earlier cures worked so in a fit of wild abandon I fitted a sports coil which I had left over from some earlier activities and the surging went. There had also been trouble with running-on, especially after short runs and, by happy coincidence, a set of Japanese NGK plugs arrived for test, the right grade for the Rover, so in they went and the running-on was cured.

But after about 3.500 miles the surging came back; consulted about this, Rovers held their hands up in horror over the use of plugs which they hadnīt tested and consequently couldnīt recommend (a very fit and proper attitude although in my experience these NGKs are first-class) and a new set of the ordained type was fitted. Again, the surging vanished but the running-on returned. Neither of the newer cars I tried had the same trouble and the mystery remains. Much earlier in this carīs life, the distributor had been changed for a type with a different vacuum advance curve to cure similar troubles at lower revolutions: a clue here, perhaps?

After a lot of careful twiddling, I got a perfect tick-over at what I guess to be 600 rpm (please, someone, tell me how to fit a rev counter neatly to this car) and after the car has been serviced I have to twiddle some more because the setting always seems to alter fractionally after new plugs have been fitted and then settles down indefinitely with a thoroughly reliable tick-over.

The fuel consumption has been something to wonder at, although when you remember that this is a heavy car (24 3/4 cwt.), with a good aerodynamic shape, the figures make sense enough. I have taken three sets of figures: (1) Home to office through London only; (2) Long distance touring only; (3) Mixed going (say, through London to Goodwood and back). The first produces 19 mpg because I tend to use high revs in low gears a lot in traffic - itīs that sort of car. Moderating my acceleration and contenting myself with being second away from the lights, I can make this figure 24 mpg. The long distance figure was taken over 1.700 miles from London to Fraserburgh, Inverness, Bonar Bridge and a few other places and south again - this came out at 34.2 mpg despite cruising at 80/85 mph (ah, happy carefree days). The mixed running gives 26 mpg which is what Charles Bulmer found in similar conditions. Oil consumption is still so low as to be considered negligible but why do service stations always overfill the sump of this car - is there a discrepancy between handbook and dip-stick, or doesnīt it drain fully?

Squeaking brakes when running on wet roads were a nuisance, now cured by the factory, and the new cars didnīt behave thus. The brakes also have fits of making "scrooping" noises when applied at low speeds but here again the new cars were blameless. Another difference in noise concerns the suspension. Mine is fairly noisy at times, making sounds like the wheels of a Caravelle (the aircraft, not Renault) coming up, while the new cars are relatively silent.

Talking of noises: while on holiday there were two bouts of strange sounds. The first was a hollow scraping which suddenly stopped, just as it had begun, with no apparent reason. The second was a violent crashing and banging which followed a fast drive along a rock-strewn path at New Aberdour beach, in Aberdeenshire. I drove the front of the car on to a little hillock, crawled below to investigate and found two answers to the noises.

The first had been caused by a piece of red sandstone which must have been thrown up by a front wheel and lodged between propshaft and tunnel - scrapes on the shaft and pieces of the now fractured stone lodged in the undercoating gave the game away. The second was more technical - a pivot of the handbrake system had been severely smitten by a boulder on the path and twisted a mere fraction to one side. This caused the little lever which works on the pivot to foul the bolts of a propshaft joint and, as you can imagine, the noise was considerable. I had already suspected something like this when I discovered that half-applying the handbrake stopped the racket and some brutal levering work with a tyre lever quickly cured that one.

A puncture and purchase of a new tyre (to replace the original spare which was on a rear wheel) have rather militated against taking long-distance tyre-wear figures for each wheel but spot checks reveal that Cook gets much the same life out of tyres as does Bulmer though probably for quite different reasons - just over 15.000 miles. Rover 2000 plus Pirelli Cinturatos equals one of the few cars I want to drive as fast in the wet as I do on dry roads and itīs about the only car I know of which it is true to say that the faster you go on a really rough road, the more comfortable it is. The only other Iīve driven which met this was a Phase I Vanguard estate - big wheels. Brake pads seem to last for about 10.000 miles. Which isnīt bad when you consider the ease of replacement.

The great thing about the Rover 2000 is its feeling of sheer solidity and one-ness with the driver, to which the seats contribute in no small measure (after Iīd experimented with tilt and settled, like Charles, for an extra inch of distance piece at the front); stretch-nylon covers stop them from putting a shine on my suit. Incidentally, the seat creaking mentioned earlier was cured very simply, by putting a spot of oil on the little pegs which engage in the fore-and-aft adjustment ratchet - it is astonishing that such a minor thing could make so very much noise. Steering and brake response are immediate (there is no feeling at all of brake servo cut-in) and the width of the car is easy to judge so that, all these things considered, the main-road fast cruiser can be driven through traffic in sparrow-like fashion, with quick gear changes and smooth, singing revs while the driver lolls back and takes an appreciative and approving interest.

The heating and ventilation system is really first class, with one proviso - the cool air openings, used at full aperture, blast straight into my eyes and make them water: since I breathe with my nose, a few degrees lower would be the thing and I contemplate a modification here. The gear lever is a little too far forward and having the light flasher and horns on identical stalks on either side of the steering column sometimes causes me to give a rude blast when I intend a polite flash - others I have spoken to find the same. And I donīt know if itīs a good idea to have the horn lever combined with the flashers as it should surely be in the same, predictable place at all times. But I am 100% converted to a hand dip-switch. I "lowered the pedals" by packing about an inch of handboard under the carpets at the driverīs side.

The finish is still good, if dull through lack of polishing, and unmarked except where it has been subjected to the slings and arrows of a communal car park. The chrome is all good except on the rear number plate surround and back bumper, where rust has shown up but here, too, evidence of another carīs bumper having overriden the Roverīs shows that the plating may have been strained and minutely fractured. The whole body and the mechanical parts seem determined to last for ever - editor willing, Iīm prepared to have a go at finding out.

Motor / UK February 1966