Good buy Rover

The P6 might seem like a restorer´s dream – 19 exterior body panels bolted to an inner “base unit” – but it is something of a mixed blessing. It is easy to tackle corrosion of those panels but the base unit itself can rust dramatically. It is also a complicated structure and rust can, of course, be disguised by the fitting of rust free exterior panels.

The cost of repairs means you should pay close attention to the bodywork when viewing any potential purchase. Look for signs of bubbling paint and filler on the front and rear wings, particularly around the sidelight housings at the front, and above and in front of the wheels at the rear.

Check the door bottoms, the valances beneath the bumpers, the quarter panels between the rear window and boot lid. The bonnet and boot lid are made from aluminium.

As for the base unit, start by examining the floor area of the inner sill box sections, inboard of the outer sills, the examine their front and rear ends visible from the wheel-arches. Remove thr rubber plugs from the outer sills and ensure that the jacking tubes are still in line (if they aren´t repairs will be necessary), then move inside to look under the seats and carpets.

You´ll see signs of rot ar you open the rear doors. The curved sections of the D post corrode next to the door seals and indicate there is extensive rust inside.

You may also find serious rust in the vertical box sections on which the leading edges of the rear wings are bolted. Peel back the rubber seal to have a better lock.

Lift the rear seat cushions and the insulation beneath, and you should be able to see the rearmost section of the inner wall of each inner sill. Check for corrosion and remove the plastic grommets to lock inside the inner sills themselves. Then lift the carper and check the solidity of the floor and the area where it is joined to the vertical wall of the inner sills.

Open the front doors next, and use a torch to examine the forward ends of the sills just inboard of each front wing. Inside the car again, lift the carpet in the front footwells and repeat the examination of the floor and the inner walls of the inner sills.

Continue by opening the boot and gently pulling back the rubber matting on the floor: you´ll often find the entire forward part of the floor where it sweeps up over the rear axle is corroded. Repair is straightforward.

From Inside the boot you can gain a reasonable idea of what the inner rear wings are like. Pull back the trim covering the upper sides of the boot compartment and look for a semi-circular line of rust around the inner wheelarch.

Still interested in the car? In that case, open the bonnet and have a look at the inner front wings. Trouble spots include the flat areas behind the headlights, and the flanges on which are located the outer wings. From inside the wheelarches examine the vertical stiffening panels for those flanges and, on four cylinder cars, the solidity of the vertical panels behind the headlamps.

Much panelwork is still available. Most sought after are genuine Rover/BL/Unipart items. Front and rear wings are the only major items still in production (around ₤90 each) but there seems to be no shortage of inner sills or inner front wings on the autojumble circuit.

There is also an increasing number of pattern panels around and these, not surprisingly, are generally items which have disappeared from the Unipart list. Exterior panels are available in both glassfibre and steel, inner panels in steel only. While quality is variable and they will never be as easy to fit as genuine Rover items, they could get you out of trouble.

Genuine steel front and rear bumper valances are in short supply – new V8 front panels are unobtainable – so various firms are now manufactoring pattern alternatives. We suggest you should avoid pattern steel valances though. they tend to be expensive and conspicously remanufactured, whereas the GRP ones, in addition to looking like the real thing, are also cheaper.

The four cylinder engines are reliable, long lasting units, and most problems that arise will stem directly from abuse. Naturally there will always be freal breakages, but the most common maladies seem to be cylinder bore and timing chain wear. The former is most noticeable through smoking and loss of power; the latter by a ringing sound at about 1200 rpm. Overhaul is the best answer in both cases; parts are still numerous and relatively cheap.

Camshafts seem to last for ever. We have seen one or two engines where one of the camshaft bearing caps has fractured, and others on which a valve seat has dropped out of the cylinder head, but this doesn´t seem to be a widespread problem. Burning of the valves and seats is not unknown either, and if you find a car which runs on three cylinders at tickover but picks up as you open the throttle you can bet number four exhaust valve has a chunk missing from it.

If the four cylinder engines have e real problem it is cooling system corrosion. Many cars will have been run without the right mix of water and anti-freeze in the radiator, in which case you can expect to find erosion of the waterways in the cylinder head. Repair is possible, but the best answer is a replacement head.

Most engines have also now reached the age at which the steels plates covering the sides of the cylinder block are beginning to rot through. Replacements are available but fitting them in an engine out job unsless you have double jointed fingers.

Twin carburettors can give erratic, lumpy running, and most cars suffer from pinking and running-on to some extent. Enriching the mixture and reducing the dile speed will help, but in severe cases you may to fit an anti dieseling valve. The P6 owner is well advised to avoid unleaded fuel....

Rot is the usual exhaust problem on both four and eight cylinder, but the former tend to also shake their systems to pieces. The pipework must be correctly aligned, and you should check any TC for fractures of the special tubular steel manifold.

Eight cylinder engines have few inherent vices. Pre 1971 examples have marginal crankshaft oil seals and can suffer from annoying leaks, but they will all leak like the Torrey Canyon if the flame traps in the crankcase breathing system become blocked.

High mileages are common before a complete overhaul is necessary but neglected examples will age quickly. The camshaft, hydraulic tappets and rocker shafts wear rapidly once oilways become blocked with the sludge, and then replacement is the only answer – although it is a relatively straightforward job which can be done without removing the cylinder heads.

It is vital to keep a water/anti-freeze-mix in the cooling system of the all alloy engine. Furring up of the radiator will make overheating more likely but this problem, even in heavy traffic in the summer, is NOT inevitable. If it does occur then the underlying cause will be the result of earlier neglect, and bolting on an electric fan is not tackling it at source.

There are no great problems with V8 carburation or exhaust systems, but earlier cars fitted with an automatic choke will benefit from a manually operated system. Reliability can also be enhanced by the fitting of a contactless electronic ignition system.

Gearboxes are either four speed manual units or three speed Borg-Warner automatics. Expect bearing noise on high mileage manual units and a change quality, particularly on earlier 2000s, that can vary between difficult and impossible. The synchromesh should be unbeatable unless the gearbox really is on its last legs.

Most gearboxes, however, will show some signs of the gnashing of teeth when you select reverse. This is due to clutch drag rather than any fault within the gearbox itself, although allowing the fault to persist may well cause some damage.

The 3500 was built from 1968 to 1971 with automatic transmission only – there was initially no manual unit strong enough. Even when the 3500 S appeared with an uprated version of the 200´s manual gearbox it was running near its maximum capacity and failures were common. That said, most of those failures were during full-bore standing starts, so prudent driving will be rewarded with long gearbox life.

Reconditioned and secondhand manual gearboxes are readily available, although there seems to be a trend towards fitting of the SD1´s five speed manual gearbox. This is easiest and most useful on V8 powered cars, but four cylinder conversions are beginning to surface in the small ads.

Automatic gearboxes are reliable, long-lasting and thoroughly pleasant to use. Check the gearbox actually changes gear like it should, and that you have reverse, and look at the state of the fluid. If it has black particles in it and/or smells like rotten eggs you can bet the transmission has been cooked and will need replacement.

Final drives are almost indestructible unless they have been run without oil, but then they do have a tendency to leak. On early cars this was due to a faulty breather system allowing the differential casing to become pressurised and blow oil out through the driveshaft seals, but most suffer to some extent. The problem is that the oil then finds its way all over the inboard mounted rear brake discs.

Which brings us neatly to the one major problem area of the P6: brakes. The front calipsers are accessible enough, but the inboard location of the rear discs and calipers means pad are rarely changed until they are down to the metal, and that the hydraulic fluid and seals are rarely renewed at the recommended intervals.

Cars built before 1966 also have the complication of a Dunlop system. This does an excellent job of stopping the car, and the fact each caliper consists of two cylinder and piston assemblies bolted to a central frame should make for easier overhaul. However, in practice, the scarcity and expense of the components makes it something of a liability. It is not uncommon to find cars which have converted to the later Girling system.

The suspension and steering look complicated but there is relatively little to worry about. Wear in the front suspension joints can be assessed by jacking up the car under the front crossmember, grasping thw wheel in the six o´clock position and rocking it gently. You´ll ned special tools to remove and refit the joints, but some specialists are now offering exchange overhauled suspension legs for little more than the price of parts.

Steering is by an inherently vague worm and roller follower box which is quite adequate once you get used to it. Some V8´s had power assistance, and all cars have provision for adjusting the backlash in the mechanism. Beware of cars with tight spots which might indicate someone has wound it up to get rid of excessive play.

The rear suspension abounds in rubber bushes which must be checked for wear. The two arms locating the rear wheels have a Metalastik bush at each end, as does the large transverse member supporting the nose of the differential on later cars, and supplies of all these are drying up, so check them for softening and collapsing by judicious levering with a screwdriver.

The de Dion tube aft of the differential must be kept lubricated (oil or grease depending on the year; check with the handbook) and, conversely, the rubber gaiter protecting the tube´s sliding joint and keeping the oil in must be intact.

The most important check at the rear, however, is on the security of the two longitudinal links locating the top of each de Dion tube “elbow”. The bushes are prone to softening with age but, more seriously, the links themselves can tear out of their mountings on the base unit. This produces rather bizarre handling characteristics, and the car should only be driven as far as it necessary to get it off the road in safety. Repair is straightforward, however, and if done properly should prevent any recurrence.

With the youngest P6 now something like 13 years old, there is also evidence to suggest that the de Dion tube-elbows are not as long-lasting as they look, and it is worth examining them for corrosion eating through from the inside.

Quoting an average price for a P6 is like asking the length of a piece of string. You can pick them up with an MOT and a few months´ rent on the window for a few hundred pounds, you can, on the other hand, spend upwards of ₤5.000 on a low mileage one owner car with a full service history from new. There´s even talk of really low mileage cars fetching over ₤10.000!

The performance and natural exclusivity of V8 engined cars – notably the manual transmission 3500 S – tends to make them more expensive then their four cylinder counterparts, but don´t dismiss the latter; the 2200 TC is equally agile in the right hands as an automatic 3500. That said, don´t pay too much for a 2000 automatic unless it´s in absolutely superb condition; it´s a relaxing car to drive, but you won´t get anywhere particularly quickly...

Below ₤500, then, you´re really looking at bargain bangers, cars that will probably soldier on for a year or two with the aid of basic running repairs, but which are really too far gone to be economically restorable to a high standard.

From ₤500 to ₤1.000 you´ll get a fairly sound four cylinder car or a V8 requiring a bit of attention, but if it is a 3500 S it´ll probably be in need of serious remedial work before you can use it reliably and safety.

Between ₤1.000 and ₤1.500 you´ll find plenty of good, honest four cylinder cars, and quite reasonable 3500s, including some of the tattier manual P6s. Up to ₤2.000 will buy you a very sound example of the breed, four or eight cylinder, and you can take heart from the fact that the former will have to be very good to make it worth much more than two grand.

Be careful if your budget runs above this figure. You should get something pretty special for ₤3.000 and upwards, but then many owners have rather optimistic ideas of what their cars are worth. Be prepared to haggle, and never forgot that for all their relative rarity now, well over half a million P6s were built. There are still plenty around if you bother to look!

The Rover 2000 was introduced in October 1963, and was initially only available with a single carburettor engine until the arrival of the 2000 TC (twin carburettor) in 1966. An automatic version of the SC, as the single carb version subsequently became known, was launched at the same time. There was never an automatic TC.

The automatic only 3500 was launched in 1968. In 1971, after all models received a facelift featuring the so-called egg box grille and a stainless steel body stripe, appeared the manual 3500 S.

The 2200 SC and TC were introduced in 1973 to counter criticism that the 2000 was under-powered (again with an auto option only on the SC); both they and the two 3500s lasted until the range was abandoned in 1976.

As to which is the pick of the bunch, accepted wisdom seems to favour the 3500 S. It is certainly the fastest P6, but since speed alone isn´t everything we´ll stick our necks out and say that a good 2200 TC takes some beating. An early Series 1 2000 TC is pretty rapid, too, and a late 2200 SC still feels quite quick, even by today´s exacting standards.

For sheer mechanical simplicity and purity of line, though, it has to be the Series 1 2000 SC or 3500 auto. Neither is particularly fast and their advancing years will be taken a toll, but find a good one and you´ll own what many enthusiast regard as the definitive P6.

We didn´t have to go far to find a P6 owner: Nick Blackledge, Art Editor of CM´s sister magazine Street Machine, is the proud owner of a tidy 1972 3500 auto, and has nothing but praise for it.

“I´ve had two other P6s, both V8s as it happens, and I really bought this one for my girlfriend Martie, to use. She had been driving a Daimler 250 saloon for several years, so she was used to the comfort of an automatic gearbox and power steering, so whatever we bought to replace that had to have s similar specification. This car was actually advertised in the North West Auto Mart last summer for ₤1.200, but we eventually got it for ₤800. We caught the train up to Cumbria to see it, bought it on the spot, and by the end of the weekend we´d done over 500 miles. That proved to be a good test of its reliability, and even though the weather was boiling hot there wasn´t a trace of overheating.”

Nick is the first to admit his car isn´t totally rust free, but there´s no denying its basic solidity. It will pass the next MOT, but then, like so many others, it may need new inner sills.

“It must have been standing for some time before we came along”, Nick said. “It looks like it´s had new outer sills quite recently, and although the inners are fairly good I think the tinworm is definitely there. The handbrake isn´t so clever, either, and it´ll probably need a pair of new rear discs to cure that problem. The engine runs with a good oil pressure, though, so even though it´s done at least 92.000 miles I think there´s plenty of life in it yet.”

Martie seems to like it, too. “It´s very comfortable and quite fast enough for me”, she says, “and the power steering makes town driving and parking dead easy. It´s surprisingly economical to run, too”, she continues. “Round town the fuel consumption is only about fourteen to the gallon, but on a run that goes uo to well over twenty. The best bit has to be the full length fabric sunroof, though. It was open for most of the summer, and I just hope I´ll be able to do the same this year. It´s easily as good as a convertible!”

UK 1990