Rover 2000

Rover´s tremendous Two Thousand

Scratch a middle-aged businessman with gilt-edged CSR Chemicals holdings and he´ll very likely bleed pure Rover. From the good performing, sporting type Rovers of pre-war and the family-remembered P3 series of the late 1940s the Rover has evolved into a good performing, precision-built but staid and upright car of imposing dimensions and substantial price. That the Rover 2000, which took more than five years to grow from initial design sketches to the production stage, has partly reverted back to Rover´s beginnings is surprising. But it is eminently logical, both because of the demands of the growing European motorway network and because Rover´s sales volume and technical abilities put it in the unique position of being able to design a car which will fully conform to the high standards it has set in the past yet which can be produced using the most advanced production methods.

We spent a week and almost 600 miles with this unique car. Our final summation is that it may well be the ultimate businessman´s express; it is also one of the greatest cars designed anywhere in the world in the last 20 years.

Rover has succeeded in something that happens only rarely in the motor industry - it has built a car with most advanced specifications and yet, whether by accident or design, a car that has built-in character that no amount of cold-blooded design can capture. Again by either accident or design, it has produced a Jekyll-and-Hyde car, a limousine-cum-sports-sedan, a mileage eater and/or chauffeured suburban potterer that changes its personality in the wink of an eye. Effectively, it is the mailed fist in the velvet glove.

Rover started with a clean sheet of paper for this car; the aim was to produce a four/five seat 2-litre car of advanced specification, designed for maximum protection in accidents, and with long-legged performance for high-speed motorway cruising. The car is all these things and more. There is very little in it that has ever been used in another Rover - or any other car for that matter. Yet the design has been almost bug-free from the start, a direct result of a long period of planning and of painstaking workmanship in manufacture.

Aimed directly at the medium-size, medium-priced market where Rover sold so well in the 30s, the 2000 strikes out into several new fields in its construction. The body is substantially a monocoque body hull with the wings, doors, bonnet and boot lid fitted - pre-painted - in the final stages of assembly. Thery do not carry any stresses of the structure, and this, together with very deep box members set transversely fore and aft, helps to give the car a predictable ´crumple rate´ in collisions. A works car which collected a truck head-on 80 mph crumpled progressively back to the scuttle but was unmarked from then on; the driver walked away!

Rover decided to use a variable track De Dion system for the rear suspension, mainly to reduce unsprung weight. Fixed-length half-shafts are used and these help to locate the wheels transversely, while the De Dion tube is located fore and aft by a torque linkage and has a teleskopic bronze-bushed central joint to balance variations in wheel stance.

The front suspension is even more unusual. Probably because the T4 gas turbine unit was planned for the car at some stage, the front suspension members were spaced well apart from the centre line of the car. It is a double-wishbone layout, with the top Y-arm pivoted on the scuttle. The coil springs are not mounted vertically, but horizontally along the wing valances, and most of their loads are taken up against the very strong scuttle. Pushrods from the upper ´wishbones´ transfer the vertical wheel movements, and the upper arms are angled to give a built-in anti-dive tendency under braking. The steering is also mounted on the firewall, with drag links to the tops of the kingposts and a hydraulic damper unit between the steering box and the rod.

Dunlop disc brakes are mounted all round, with the rear ones hung inboard on the final drive housing.

The ´new broom´ approach to the car was carried through into the engine, which is a reasonably lightweight four-cylinder unit exactly square at 85.7mm for both bore and stroke and with a swept volume of 1978ccs. The combustion chambers are formed not in the head but in the crowns of the pistons, thus getting bigger valve area, simpler machining of the head and the ability to diecast the combustion chambers with precise accuracy. There are five main bearings on the crankshaft, while the six-bearing overhead camshaft runs in a cast-iron tappet block bolted to the head; the cam is chain drive, operating inverted bucket-type tappets, and has built-in adjusters for valve clearances.

The engine is backed by one of the new diapraghm spring clutches, leading into an all-new, four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox which, with Borg Warner internals, is about the most conventional item in the car. The gearlever is mounted remotely with one operating rod connecting it to the selector fingers.

Even more advanced techniques are used in the interior. Across the full-width of the front compartment, atop the facia, is a wide and deep shelf mounting only the flat speedometer panel. This, the radio speaker, the under-dash glove bins and the transmission tunnel finisher are simulated leather graining. The glove bins and the parcels shelf are made of polypropylene, which has predictable collapse behaviour under severe impact and also contains an anti-static agent which reduces the formation of dust on the surface.

Strictly speaking the Rover is a four-seater, as the rear seat is shaped for two individuals, and when the centre arm-rest is lowered these two are firmly locked in against sideways g forces. However, the arm-rest can be raised and a removable upholstered fillet between the two cushions will support a third person.

Trim and materials inside the car are of very high quality, which one comes to expect from Rover. Around the interior waist of the car is a wide strip of simulated wood panelling retained in plastic ribs. The trim material is real leather, the carpets very soft and heavy, but - sensibly - the headlining is washable pvc instead of West-of-England cloth which is traditionally used along with tree-wood and crushed hide.

In front of the driver and passenger are enormous hinged boxes, foam-padded, carpeted and leather-trimmed, which have a predictable collapse rate and released by press buttons on the facia itself. The one disadvantage of this idea is that the depth of the box on the driver´s side has forced the designer to set the pedals at too nearly a horizontal angle; your feet tend to slide forward on the pedals, particularly when the shoes are wet or muddy.

However, the seats are very well made, with cushioned rolls atop of the front squabs as a safety measure, padded rear quarter panels and a friction clutch on each front seat which gives omni-positional setting of the squab right down to horizontal. This range of seat adjustment and the provision of about 2in. of vertical adjustment of the steering wheel - by means of a knurled knob at the right of the column - allow virtually every driver to tailer the 2000 to his frame.

In front of the driver is the thin instrument panel on the parcels shelf, carrying strip type speedometer, warning lights for choke, trafficators, high beam, ignition, handbrake, low oil pressure and low break fluid level, plus fuel gauge, temperature gauge, instrument light rheostat, odometer and trip decimal mileage recorder. Thus all the information he needs is set right before the driver, only inches below his normal path of forward vision when driving; with only the centrally-located clock to distract him. Controls, individually shaped for quick recognition and marked with visual symbols, are ranged along the padded lower edge of the shelf. The wiper switch gives variations of the number of sweeps per minute as well as operating the windscreen washers.

Below these, travelling in vertical slots alongside the radio location are four matched levers - two each side - controlling a very efficient heater/demister system, with very delicate and positive adjunstments of temperature and flow. In front of both front seat passengers, in the edge of the shelf, are wide vents equipped with a blanking cover and a flow switch to direct fresh air into the face.

Matched stalks either side of the wheel, shaped to be hooked with a finger, control the horn and trafficators (right) and headlight flashers and dip-switch (left). Thus when travelling fast you can give ample warning by hooking both levers toward you with the fingers, which flashes the lights and blows the horn. The system falls down a little because the horn is not penetrating enough and at night the dip-switch movement lacks a really positive stop.

The handbrake is set between the seats and the short remote gearlever is precisely the right spot further forward. There is a lift-up catch for reverse selection. The four door sills are well protected with neat, ribbed stainless steel. Our drivers did not particularly like the location of the door hardware; while well out of the way of the legs it was too far forward and did not work in a natural plane. There is a vanity mirror let into each sun visor, but the rear vision mirror, of the traditional Rover convex type, annoyed us greatly. It gives great depth of vision and complete coverage of the rear of the car, but the change in length of focus is too severe for comfort.

Comfort is thus extraordinarily good for four people, particularly on long trips, for the ride is incredibly good over all surfaces and the seat springing correctly phased to the spring and damper rates. Even very badly potholed and corrugated dirt causes only barely perceptible changes in the car´s ride. The radial ply tyres fitted as standard (Dunlop SP 41 fitted on the test car) produce only faint reminders of normal radial ply thumping and harshness - the penalty you pay for a vastly superior tyre on all levels. This is because Rover engineers are fully converstant with modern techniques of tuning the suspension to phase out tyre oscillation frequencies and the fact that it is easier to do this with radial ply tyres because they vibrate over a much narrower spectrum.

The 2000 fires up easily from cold, although it is a little noisy in the valve gear for the first few minutes until properly warm. The new engine spins smoothly and readily, getting noisy only in the upper 2000 rpm of the 6000 rpm range. There was also on the test car some resonance in the exhaust system on a closed throttle, but there were no vibration periods in the engine at all - a rare thing with modern engines, perticularly those with four cylinders.

There is little torque below about 1500-2000 rpm, so that the gearbox has to be used frequently in town traffic - which is no hardship - but over that the engine is exceptionally flexible. The ratios are very well chosen, with second gear running to just under 50 mph and third to almost 80. This fact, the good air penetration, low wind noise, low road noise level and incredibly good handling and steering turn the 2000 into a mile-eater outside built-up areas. It is perfectly safe, comfortable and relaxing to cruise this car at 85-90 mph anywhere. This is a driver´s car to end all driver´s cars. The handling is completely predictable, with consistent slight understeer, tending into neutral at the extremities, with tremendous accuracy of placement.

The braking is matched right up to the performance, so that you can use this car to every last ounce of effort on the open road in the complete confidence that any situation can be controlled. More than this you cannot ask of any car. The Rover became a little toey on loose gravel, developing an oversteer which in retrospect we put down not to suspension behaviour but to the pace at which we were travelling without knowing it - much faster than we would take a similar car over our very trying gravel sections.

But these are only minor flaws in an almost perfect motor car - one of the best three or four to come our way in 11 years of the magazine´s life. Everybody should have one.

Wheels / Australia 1965