Getting rid of the granny image

The Rover Company has long been accused of building granny motorcars, although with the 2000 they have attempted to move out of this classification. Certain aspects of Italian design stuck firmly in the mind of stylist Bache and his merry men with the result that the 2000 not only was of modern specification but looked modern, and will do so for some time. The only trouble was that it didnīt go. In an effort to rectify this, the company threw the new car into the deep end of rallying – without too much success as it turned out, for they couldnīt afford to mount a full programme with Finnish kamikazes and the like although Roger Clark was a good home-grown substitute. However, much good was learned from the rallying and the end result was the decision to make a twin-carburettor model for export markets at first and then, if the clientele got used to the image (Gad, Sir!), at home.

Most surprisingly this TC (for twin carb) comes in two flavours – one practically standard-looking with nine to one compression for the continent and another with Mustang stripes on the lower body, a contrastingly painted panel behind the rear quarter lights, wooden wheel and gear lever knob, sundry tidyings-up inside including a rubber raised-pattern finish for the facia odds tray, 10 to one CR, and magnesium wheels of all things for the Americans. As an Amurrican, I think that they have missed the boat on two counts: (1) the mag wheels donīt fit the image and (2) the car is not all that jazzed up that it wouldnīt sell better everywhere with the fancier paint job. The big Ford Taunus in Germany is selling like hot-cakes, not to mention the Opels, because they are jazzed up baby Americans. The Rover is much more plush and in a lot better taste but people these days, even Rover owners, like a bit of pizzaz.

Anyway, you all are familiar enough with the Rover two-litre so that I donīt have to go into any great detail. Suffice it to say that the interior, already comfortable and refined with all that lovely leather and all those keen switches (worth buying the car for alone), has been smartened up a bit more with the new wheel and gear lever knob. The wheel, incidentally, is larger than the undisguised plastic one normally fitted and thus gives a little higher-geared steering. There still remains plenty of room for legs etc and it also seems to me that the driver sits up higher to see over the large rim. In any case it masks the 6000rpm tachometer slightly from some positions but pays dividends in arranging just the right steering ratio for winding roads.

The steering itself is both lighter and more accurate than I remember it, and is a pleasure to use; rallying has also paid off by teaching Rover to lower the rear suspension slightly, cutting out the mild wander that afficted earlier models and making the roadholding absolutely delightful – even in the wet. Or I should say especially in the wet as when the Pirellis eventually let go, as on a roundabout approached exuberantly, both ends go gradually and together.

Performance is stepped up a bit with a 0-30 of 3 sec and a 0-60 of 10.5, both taken in the rain. Although the tach was unmarked we found out later that the redline is around 6.5 and 60 mph comes at 6000 in third. For some reason we omitted to get the usual speeds in gears but third is good for about 80, revving up to 70 anyway very cleanly and with a strong pull. Top speed was supposed to be over 100 but we didnīt find that out... the demonstrator that we were delivering to the Paris agents was held up at La Tourquet by French Customs because of some irregularity in the papers and thus we didnīt get to have our good old blast. And thatīs a new excuse.

Anyway, both of these cars were only fractionally noisier on full throttle than the normal one (most of the interior noise came from the rather whining gearbox) and both were really remarkable in their ease of handling in diffcult weather conditions and resistance to crosswinds. The only hint that a more powerful engine was fitted came from the rather lumpy idle after a fast run and I would suspectfully suggest to Rover that they look into the Japanese NGK plugs. I have to experience myself but a good friend informs me that they are the only thing he can keep in his slightly vintage Ferrari with Californiaīs highly leaded fuels and stop-and-go driving. A very wide heat range is an advantage with tuned engines.

Summing up, I suppose you could say that while the normal 2000 is a gentlemanīs carriage the TC is a four-seater gentlemanīs express. With these changes, it now is much more competitive as well as much more fun to drive in faster continental main-road situations and yet loses none of the traditional Rover refinement. Too bad you will have to wait for yours!

Henry Manney

UK 1966