Rover 3500 V8
"Great car, but
it needs more power", was a comment frequently made about the Rover 2000 when it
was introduced some years back.
In those days
it was a tremendously sophisticated motor car, designed not only to carry people
rapidly in a high degree of comfort, but to cosset them in a cocoon of foam
plastic and carefully collapsing metal should they get into trouble. It was both
actively and passively safe. It handled and steered well and had brilliant
brakes. And its high speed touring ability was outstanding. It was so good in
all these departments that its straight line performance, while adequate, felt
positively shoddy by comparison.
Then came the
2000 TC. It had all the comfort and sophistication of the 2000 but considerably
more performance. It was warmly received by Rover owners who were enthusiast
drivers - motorists who liked to swap cogs, hear the little four-cylinder engine
revving like mad, and watch their progress on a tachometer. The motoring press
received it warmly too. It won rave reviews everywhere, and one American
magazine which is given to sweeping statements inferred that it was the best car
that had ever been made!
were many Rover owners who still werenīt tempted - not because the 2000 body was
small by Rover standards - but because the little engine had to work too hard,
and the by-products of its energy - noise and vibration - albeit very discreet
noise and vibration, upset the drawing-room atmosphere of the car. They wanted
something smoother and quieter - in keeping with the three-litre Rover saloon
they happened to be driving at the moment.
executives were aware of this of course. The opportunity to get just such an
engine came with news that General Motors were dropping from production the
lightweight aluminium V8 that had been used to power the
Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac "compact" range in the early 1960s. The engine wasnīt
being dropped because it wasnīt a success. Quite the contrary. GM built
three-quarters of a million of them, before they discovered that their new thin
well iron block V8s were almost as light, and less costly. The cost of
production of the aluminium V8 wasnīt so high that it couldnīt be incorporated
in an car of the Roverīs quality however, and the deal was done.
first appeared in the Rover three-litre - re-christened 3.5 in honor of the V8s
capacity, and soon after was shoe-horned into a 2000 body. It was a tight
squeeze. Exhaust system and a few other engine details had to be changed, and
the battery was relegated to a spot in the boot. Weight distribution
considerations may have entered into this, but they neednīt have because the V8
is only a few pounds heavier than the four!
The Rover in
this form is available with only one transmission - a Borg Warner 35. Unlike the
2000 and TC, four-speed manual is not offered. And itīs no great loss anyway,
because the Borg Warner works very well, and can be over-ridden manually almost
at will. The engine runs on a compression ratio of 10,5:1 but takes super grade
petrol without complaint. Two SU carburettors are fitted, and gross output is
184 bhp at 5200 rpm with 225 lb.ft. of torque at 3000 rpm. It is well oversquare
with dimensions of 88.9 by 71 mm. Capacity is 3528cc.
The engine is
all alloy except for steel cylinder liners (dry). Specific output is 52.2
bhp/litre, and thanks to the carīs all-up reasonable weight, power/weight ratio
is a gratifyingly small 14.8 lb./bhp.
Warner transmission can be used almost as a manual, and at first glance, it is
hard to tell that the floor mounted shift does not in fact control a four-speed
transmission. Final drive ratio is 3.08, compared to the 2000s 3.54. This gives
theoretical gearing of 23.5 mph/1000 rpm. In fact, because of slippage in the
automatic, this figure would never be realised. The transmission has a
multiplication factor of 2 to 1.
unchanged from the Rover 2000. At the front, double wishbones and horizontally
located coils are used, the upper wishbone angled to minimise dive under
braking. Additionally thereīs an anti-roll bar to keep things on an even keel.
The rear suspension is a "semi-independent" arrangement using a de Dion tube
behind the differential and two double-universal axle shafts. This is mounted on
two long trailing Watts linkage type arms and there is additionally a transverse
linkage bar from the final drive. Coils provide the springing. Sounds
complicated, but in fact it is a fairly straightforward arrangement - and
servo-assisted disc brakes are fitted. They have a total swept area of 372
sq.in. and give - as you would expect - stopping of the very highest order. The
front brakes are mounted conventionally, while the rears are mounted inboard,
thus reducing unsprung weight.
Steering is a
variable ratio recirculating ball arrangement, with 4,5 turns of lock.The wheel
itself feels too big, but it is obviously designed this way as the top half
neatly frames the instrument cluster. It is adjustable.
Like we said,
Rover owners value a drawing-room atmosphere in their car, and the Three
Thousand Five lines up to this tradition very strongly. The car is without
question designed for four people only. The individual front seats are
sumptuously upholstered in a combination of leather and vinyl - with the leather
managing to look considerably less attractive than the vinyl. However, it smells
better - and whoever heard of a motorised drawing-room that didnīt smell of
appointments are of a high order but instrumentation isnīt especially
comprehensive, nor is the rectangular speedo especially legible. The wipers have
a clever rheostat control that varies the interval of sweeping and the other
controls are ranged along the dash and clearly marked with symbolic drawings.
In front of
both driver and passenger are deep, sloping bins. These bins are padded to
protect occupentsī knees in accidents and are quite flexible.
Thousand Five gave a scintillating account of itself over our test course. It is
not a big car, and it shot along the narrow winding roads we picked with great
agility and safety. Over rough surfaces the driver is kept informed by a
steering system that manages to provide good insulation in addition to lashings
of feedback and vibration.
suspension is remarkably silent over potholes and gibbers, and gives a peculiar
"see-sawing" ride over more gentle undulations. The steering is heavy at parking
speeds, but is very sharp once the car gets moving.
excellent. We stamped on the big brake pedal time and time again and the car
just kept stopping and stopping. A best stop of 1g. was recorded. There was no
fade, and no sign of temperament - wheel locking or swerving off the straight
transmission is very responsive and we found ourselves snicking up and down
between drive and intermediate when we wanted engine braking to slow down or
more power for an overtaking manoeuvre. It is much quicker to do this than to
kick the transmission down with the throttle. Kickdowns are available up to 60
mph and the car runs to 75 mph in intermediate under full throttle before
wonīt be able to complain about performance now. The 3.5 ran the quarter mile in
17.5 sec., recorded a speed of 115 mph through the "traps" and accelerated to 80
mph in 22 sec.
On the open
road the car just naturaly rolled along at an effortless 80 mph. And there was
power on tap for bursts up to 90 and 100. We canīt say that the car was
drawing-room quiet at these speeds, but it was still easy to converse and listen
to the radio.
consumption worked out at 19.8 mpg, for some pretty rapid mileage.
Three Thousand Five sells for $5945, and at that price is, we think, very good
buying. It has the mechanical sophistication of Mercedes, Detroit performance,
and British comfort and quality. It is a rare combination of pukka and pizzazz.
We like it - a lot.
Modern Motor / Australia 1969