Rover 3500 V8

At the time of the last London Motor Show the Rover Company created a lot of interest with the vee-eight version of their former 3-litre model, this fine luxury car being transformed in respect of performance and road-holding by the installation of a 3 1/2-litre light-alloy engine adapted from a General Motorsī Oldsmobile-Buick design. The next developement was rumoured to be the insertion of this effective lightweight power unit in the well-established Rover 2000, of which over 100.000 have been produced in five years, this advanced, individualistic overhead-camshaft 4-cylinder Rover, which has been voted "Car of the Year" in six Overseas countries, including S. Africa and America, has twice been voted the best luxury compact available in Australia, and which has won AA gold medals for safety and coachwork, now being made at the rate of 800 a week.

The V8 Rover 2000 is now an accomplished fact, Peter Wilks, Roverīs Technical Director, having at last emerged from wading almost knee-deep in alloy V8 engine castings, to proclaim his success at shoe-horning one of these 184 bhp, 88.9x71.12 mm (3528 cc) engines which originated in America for the GM compacts into the successful and much-liked 2-litre from Solihull. What to call the resultant new Rover has been solved by naming it the Three Thousand Five.

I was able to try one of these cars prior to its Press preview in Brittany and long before its release to the public, by driving it in London traffic, over country roads, and quickly on a well-known Hampshire/Radmorshire/Hampshire route. Being conversant with the 2000 TC, I first set out to note the differences between one of these Rovers and a Three Thousand Five. Even those you can see donīt add up to very much. The strip speedometer now reads to 140 mph, to do which it is unchanged in size but smaller digits are used for every other speed calibration - 0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 etc. As the fuel tank holds 15 instead of 12 gallons the gauge has been recalibrated and its contents are quoted in US gallons (18) as well as in our gallons and in litres (68). There is now only one, central roof-light instead of lamps for front and rear compartments as on the 2000, so the rotary-switch controlling them has only one "on" position; this I regard as a retrograde, money-saving point.

At first there appears to be an extra control on the extreme right of the instrument panel, but this is for the Triplex rear window demister, which can also be fitted to 2000s (although I could never get one for mine). A tachometer is not required on the V8, on which a "3500" motif appears in the steering wheel hub. The anti-dazzle vizors are slightly more shallow than before, a good point, because the driverīs head comes too close to the o/s one, because it parks badly on the 2000 TC. These vizors were devoid of vanity mirrors on the test car. The battery is now in the boot, on the o/s, beneath a plastic cover instead of under the bonnet, and is a Lucas, whereas "my" Rover has an Exide. The ignition key has a gate to prevent it being turned with the engine running, which the 2000 has not, and this accentuates the sharpness of the different key on the V8. The prop for the very heavy bonnet is on the bonnet itself instead of on the bulkhead and has an anti-rattle clip, and the bumpers are of a different shape, with rubber-tapped over-riders. The external door locks have dirt-excluding covers.

Otherwise, no apparent changes, so the Three Thousand Five retains all those "different", sensible, well-planned controls and layout, including the quickly replaceable body panels of the 2000. The test car had front/rear radio speaker selection, Lucas Quartz Halogen spotlamps and wing mirrors, and was on 185-SP140 Avon tubeless radial tyres. Its various badges and V8 motifs had been removed (they weigh 2 lb.) and so the only outward indication that there was anything diferent about the car was the cowling under the radiator grille which houses the transmission oil-radiator - an observant mechanic at the Llandrindod Wells Rover distributor spotted this when I called there to ask them to free a jammed petrol-reserve control. As there is still a single exhaust tail pipe, otherwise only the beat of the vee-eight engine gave the game away.

First impressions were of slight nose heaviness, which is soon overlooked and much nicer choke and seat-adjustment action that on the Editorial 2000 TC. Small objects placed on the facia shelf stayed in place instead of flying about as they do on "my" car, because an anti-skid mat is standdard on the new model, whereas it is an extra (not easily obtained) on the 2-litres. Steering is slightly lower geared, at just over four turns lock-to-lock of the same 16 3/4-in. dia. wheel, against 3 1/2 turns, but this is scarcely noticeable. It is, I suppose, something of an achievement or a tribute to the low weight of the American engine that power steering isnīt essential, although strong wrists are a tight-packing requisite.

Wanting very much to contemplate owning a Rover Three Thousand Five but not wishing to go over to automatic transmission until I am in my sixties, I am disappointed that the new big-engined Rover will not be available with a manual gear change - apparently because the 2000 box would break up under 3.5-litre torque (226 lb.ft. at 3000 rpm). As it was, the book spoke of upward changes under kickdown at 40 and 70 mph but they happened at indicated speeds of 42 and 63 mph respectively. If you are prepared to put up with rather harsh selection of L on the gate of the Type 35 Borg Warner box, maxima of 48 and 80 mph can be attained in the lower gears, the engine reaching its safe maximum speed at 5200 rpm.

Frankly, I was disappointed with the performance of the Three Thousand Five. I had expected a punchy feel and very impressive acceleration from this car, which has 47 % more power than a 2000 TC and a power/weight ratio of 144 bhp/ton. But this wasnīt apparent on the road. As for top speed, Rover claim 118 mph and I am sure this compact aluminium-engined V8 will work up to this. I can only report that on ordinary English (well, Welsh) roads I needed more space than is commonly available to get near to an indicated 100 mph. I would, indeed, call this an 80-mph car for practical off-the-Motorways driving.

This is not to say that the Rover Three Thousand Five is pedestrian; very far from it. I was so impressed with the way in which it effortlessly covered much ground, putting up deceptively high average speeds while providing great comfort for driver and occupants, and with the fact that adding 1 1/2 litres and four cylinders to the under-bonnet space has in no way impaired the road-holding, understeer not having noticeably increased, nor altered the all-round excellence of the all-disc, Lockheed-servo brakes that I nearly stopped at a remote Post Office in Herefordshire to send Peter Wilks a telegram of congratulation. If the telegraphic address of the Engineering Department instead of that of the Service Department had appeared in the handbook, I should have done...

The latest Rover is, then, something of a tantalising quantity. Not possessing quite the sizzling performance anticipated, not entirely a luxury car like the 3 1/2-litre V8, because there is wind noise at speed and quite a lot of road noise, not noticed in the 2000 TC because of its noisier engine, the new Three Thousand Five nevertheless appeals because of its smooth vee-eight progression in a very fast safe-handling car of notably compact dimensions. At the time of writing I did not know what it was to cost but felt that if it can be sold at around Ģ1700, Rover would never be able to keep pace with demand.

The main differences between this model and the 2000 are confined to a modified base unit to take the different power unit, altered bottom front suspension links to clear engine, 170lb./in. rate instead of 150lb./in. rate coil springs in front, front shock-absorber bore increased by 1/8 in. to 1 in. bore, offset front hubs to take the new road wheels, strenghtened final-drive mountings and rubbers, modified rear suspension top links to clear bigger tyres and larger top-link rubber bushes to improve noise insulation, new rear suspension bottom links with modified shock-absorber mountings with strengthened rubber bushes, pivoted from a rubber-mounted cross member to reduce road noise, and 1 3/8 in. bore rear shock-absorbers with 266lb./in. rate coil springs.

The Burman F3 recirculating ball steering has a variable ratio, 21.5:1 to straight ahead, 26.0:1 on full lock, compared to 20.3:1 of 2000 steering. Then there is the uprated Type 35 Borg Warner transmission, but like the power unit, this is already used for the 3 1/2-litre V8 Rover luxury range. The only differences in the engine installation for the Three Thousand Five are those to air cleaner, exhaust manifolds, oil filter attachment and choke and throttle connections to get it into the space available, new double-skin exhaust downpipes leading into two aluminised steel silencers, heat insulated, and high-pressure hoses for the 15lb.-pressurised coolant system to suit the new engine and radiator.

The final-drive ratio has been changed (we will return to this in a moment) and has been strengthened with a 4-star differential. There are the bigger tyres, Girling brakes with 3-cylinder calipers at the front, using Ferodo 2424F pads and a Lockheed Type 8 servo. Thatīs about all. There is a Lucas 11 AC alternator giving 45 amps at 2400 engine rpm and a pre-engaged starter, but these are common to the 3.5-litre V8. In case any lady readers are still with me, the Three Thousand Five is available in April Yellow as well as in the 2000īs colours, but Brigade Red replaces Racing and Venetian Red. Extras include headrests for front and back seats, with reading lights for the front seats, heated rear window, laminated screen, boot lid spare wheel carrier, tachometer and tinted glass.

Reverting to the somewhat less than expected acceleration, it could be that the Rover Three Thousand Five is deceptive. It does accelerate better than a 2000 TC and the bigger V8 by quite a useful margin, as the following figures show:

  2000 TC 3 1/2-litre Three Thousand Five
0-30 mph 3.8 sec. 4.8 sec. 3.7 sec.
0-40 mph 5,8 sec. 6.6 sec. 5.1 sec.
0-50 mph 8.5 sec. 8.9 sec. 7.0 sec.
0-60 mph 11.9 sec. 12.4 sec. 9.5 sec.
0-70 mph 16.5 sec. 16.3 sec. 13.1 sec.
0-80 mph 22.0 sec. 21.8 sec. 17.3 sec.
0-90 mph 31.2 sec. 31.5 sec. 22.9 sec.
quarter-mile 18.4 sec. 18.3 sec. 17.5 sec.

That these figures are not even better is probably due to the high gearing Peter Wilks has adopted, presumably out of consideration for the rev limit sensibilities of a former-generation push-rod power unit, or perhaps to reduce noise level from a unit which is packed into a confirmed space in very close proximity to the front seat occupants. He certainly has used high gearing, the Three Thousand Five having an axle ratio of 3.08 to 1, compared to 3.54 to 1 of the 3 1/2-litre V8 and the 2000 range. It would seem to be this which hampers performance, for the new car has some 70 bhp more than the 2000 TC for a weight increase of only about 52 lb. However, a standing start quarter-mile in 17.5 sec from a four seater saloon isnīt bad - 6 1/4-litres of the V8 in the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow also require 17.5 sec.

Rover claim a touring fuel consumption of 21.6 mpg from the Three Thousand Five. For part of my journey I was getting around 20 to 21 mpg but driving moderately quickly this became 19.0 mpg, with the lowest figure 18.7 mpg of the essential 100-octane petrol. After the first use of the petrol reserve control it needed force to return it; it functioned once thereafter and then became inoperative. The gear selector became stiff to move from the P position and there was an occasional squeal from the region of the brake pedal. Otherwise, this latest small Rover V8 proved a fast, fascinating car. Its V8 engine added much refinement, removed a taste of agricultural from a brilliant conception of modern luxury/compact motor car. If endowing the old Rover 3-litre with a V8 engine has made it into a very acceptable small-businessmanīs Silver Cloud, the new V8 Three Thousand Five may be said to represent a very opportune, if somewhat clamorous Budget Day Silver Shadow.

Motor Sport / UK May 1968