Rover 2000 TC

Englands answer to Naderism

The very first thing we noticed when driving the new Rover 2000 TC was that everybody seemed to be staring. This can sometimes be disconcerting when road testing a new model. Especially when ste stares accompanied by a few polite snickers, sneers, or even outright laughter. But in this instance there were no snickers, no sneers, no laughter. If anything the stares could best be described as being compounded of equal parts unbridled interest and open admiration.

But this really isn´t too surprising in view of the ink given the recent Senate committee hearings on auto safety. At one point the Rover achieved a certain degree of notoriety by being one of the world´s few cars that Ribicoff & Co. didn´t condemn. According to many this also marked the point that anything sounding like intelligence came out of the hearings. In any event it wasn´t a bad andorsement in anybody´s league.

Of course there´s a strong possibility that everyone who stared at the car hadn´t ever heard of the Senate hearings and were mainly interested just because the Rover is a good looking car. It really is. There´s nothing flashy about it and it´s as much of an example of the form-follows-function school of design as an old Willy´s Jeep. Which is not to say it looks like a Jeep. The design is actually as new and as fresh as tomorrow with none of the usual non-functional lines, curves and planes that most of the other design studios are turning out these days. It can best be described by saying that it borrows nothing, nor looks like anything else on the road.

A point not overlooked by those types who are mainly looking for status and snob appeal is an automobile. Currently the Rover, because of its complete differentness and because they are also slightly scarce, is a great favourite with these types. We recently ran across one of these in Tijuana of all places. While parking the car we noticed we were being closely scritinized by a fellow and his wife standing on the curb. We were informed that he had owned his Rover 2000 for three months and in that time ours was the only other he had seen on the whole West Coast. We countered that that was strange because we had seen three of them in the short distance between the border and the bull ring. Well, his was red. We riposted with something to the effect that so was the one that was being used as a taxi. In fact we understood that they were in great demand by the local taxi drivers and that soon all the taxis in Tijuana would be Rovers. Probably red ones. He later one-upped us by pointing out he was shooting a Nikon F while we were equipped with less expensive Minolta cameras. We considered demanding satisfaction – something like 600 mm lenses at forty paces – but decided to let it pass. After all the seed had been planted and he probably couldn´t wait ´til he got back to the States to trade the Rover for something just a little less common. Which is just our round-about way of saying that the Rover does indeed have something to offer for everyone, including the status conscious.

The safety angle probably arouses the most interest as far as the Rover is concerned. Unfortunately it was beyond the realm of our road test to conduct any deliberate crash and collision studies with the model we tested. However, we are here to say that neither did we have any unplanned accidents. In over three thousand miles of driving under all conditions we didn´t even come close to an accident. That´s saying something too. There were occasions where, if the brakes hadn´t been so reliable, or if the cornering power hadn´t been so high, we might have had a close moment or even a bad accident. Thanks to things like good four-wheel disc brakes and sophisticated suspension along with very superior tyres, the incidents weren´t ever worthy of second thoughts. As far as we´re concerned the primary safety considerations in automobile design always have been and always will be those that reduce the chances of an accident happening in the first place. Cars can and will be designed that will also reduce the possibility of death or serious injury if an accident does occur. But anyone who thinks that a car can be designed that will eliminate the possibility of death or serious injury resulting from accidents is just blowing so much smoke.

According to many exoerts (both legitimate and pseudo) the Rover 2000 is one of three of the world´s best cars to have an accident in (Citroen and Mercedes make the other two). This is quiet probable but also highly theoretical. The overlooked danger inherent in this line of reasoning is that with all the emphasis being placed on accident survival instead of accident prevention the average driver (encompassing the bulk of the driving population) is apt to become an even worse driver than he already is. And as tests have shown Mr. Average Driver is a lousy driver. We can see him now, as more and more survival equipment is developed and built into our cars, blundering serenely along secure in the fact that Ralph Nader, the Great White Father, and the auto manufacturers will protect him from all evil. In the inevitable accident he will have a rude awakening.

Don´t go us wrong – we´re not sayning that cars can´t be made safer – we just deplore the misplaced emphasis. After testing the Rover we agree that it is one of the safer cars on the road.

It´s suspension is one of the most advanced found anywhere on a racing car. All four wheels are indipendently sprung. At the front, wide-based upper and lower A-arms are used. The coil springs lie horizontally in the rear of the fender wells and are actuated by a lever arrangement off the upper control arm. This location reduces unsprung weight, allowing more positive shock control. At the rear double U-jointed axle half shafts are used and located both by trailing control arms and by a de Dion tube. The de Dion arrangement keeps both wheels parallel to each other throughout their travel and also keeps them perpendicular to the road during cornering (no camber change). Conventionally mounted coil springs are used. The handling of the car has to be experienced to be believed. A four-door, family-type sedan just can´t corner like that!! (Comments overheard from drivers of several “sports cars” who had been badly used by the test car over a particularly twisty stretch of mountain road.) About 50% (at least) of the Rover´s capacity for cornering can be attributed by the Pirelli Cinturato tires that are as much a part of the suspension system as one of the control arms. In fact, as the factory likes to point out, first they had the tire and then designed the suspension around it. The steering is “just right” – 3 ¾ turns between locks. Quick enough for precise handling without being either too heavy or too light. Power isn´t offered, or needed.

The brakes are an equally big safety feature – if you´re concerned about preventing accidents. Servo-assisted discs are used on all four wheels. Front discs are 10 ¾ inch in diameter and the rears are 10 ¼ inches. Total swept area is 436 square inches. We used them very hard but couldn´t beat them up to where any degree of fade or increased pedal pressure was noted. They never once pulled – hot or cold, wet or dry – and all stops (panic or otherwise) were straight and quick. Even though the brakes are servo-assisted (standard equipment) the requited pedal pressure is higher than what one is used to with power-drum brakes. The wheels were virtually impossible to lock – which is good, and it is a simple trick to apply just the right amount of pedal to obtain the maximum rate of deceleration. Here again a lot of the credit has to go to the Pirellis. The rear discs are mounted inboard next to the differential to cut down on unsprung weight. They are self-adjusting, but the fronts aren´t. The parking brake is a pull up lever mounted between the front seats and can be used in an emergency to stop the car (though not too quickly).

The engine is just as interesting as the rest of the car. Small by our standards (120.8 c.i.) it affords an amazing degree of performance. The “TC” designation means that twin SU carburettors are fitted. These, along with 10.0:1 compression ratio, help produce 124 bhp at 5500 rpm. The cylinder head is aluminium and carries the single overhead camshaft. The crankshaft runs in five main bearings and is smooth enough to fool even the experts into thinking that what is actually a four cylinder engine is a six. Performance is very good with brisk acceleration and a top speed of 110 mph plus. Overall fuel consumption averaged out to 21.1 mpg and was fairly consistent for all types of driving conditions, never recording less than 19.8 mpg with a high of 22.2 mpg.

The transmission is a four speed, all synchromesh unit. First gear has a 3.6 ratio, second 2.1, third 1.4, with top being direct. The rubber-mounted hypoid differential has a 3.54:1 ratio. The gear shift lever is floor-mounted and features a reverse lock-out. Shift action is about par for English transmissions which means it´s on the heavy side and not as precise as you´ll find on an American four-speed.

Looking into the basic body structure and the interior reveals some of the design features that supposedly make the Rover into a better car in which to have your accident. Unitized construction wherein the body and chassis are welded up from sections and panels into one unit is used. By design the front and rear sections are supposed to crumple (in an accident) at a given rate to help absorb some of the forces generated by the collision. This cuts down on the loads imposed on the human body and hopefully will absorb enough of the force to keep the passenger section from collapsing. The section between the front and rear doors is supposed to be strong enough to act like a roll bar, but we wouldn´t bet on it holding up the top in case of a roll over. The firewall is a rigid structure, better described as a bulkhead, and is angled in the area of the engine so that if a front collision forces the engine back it will be deflected downward and away from the passenger compartment. Another good feature is gas tank location. Instead of the usual under the trunk mounting the Rover has it right behind the rear seat, vertically, where it is less apt to receive forces that would rupture it. Door latches are advertised as being “accident proof”, meaning that they aren´t supposed to fly open on impact. Could be but they aren´t mentioning if they mean any accident at any speed. The exterior body panels are unstressed and all bolt on for ease of replacement. Hood and deck lid are aluminium.

The passenger compartment is well designed and definetely on the luxurious side with full English leather upholstery and deep pile wood carpeting. Other features include fully adjustable, two-spoke aluminium steering wheel and bucket-type rear seats. The seats are about the most comfortable you´ll find with plenty of fore and aft adjustment plus the reclining back which will allow any shape to find the right position.

Steering wheel rake is adjustable over a two-inch range. The gearbox for the steering is mounted back by the firewall which keeps it from slamming back into the driver´s chest in which case of a front ender.

The brake, clutch and accelerator pedals are all of the suspended variety and of the same size and shape. They take a little getting used to. The clutch and the brake aren´t bad but the accelerator is impossible. We defy anyone to drive any distance and not end up with foot cramps. There just isn´t a comfortable position possible with it. It´s very tiring. Luckily the driver will be too uncomfortable to fall asleep. Maybe this is an added safety feature?

We also had no love for the shoulder harnesses that came as standard equipment on the front seats. A well designed harness is a must if the fatality rate is to be reduced, but a poorly designed one could be worse than none. The across the shoulders type has several drawbacks – you can slip out of it from the side – or just as bad, it puts the seat belt in such a position that it is right over the vital organs of the stomach where it shouldn´t be. You can also slip right out from under it in this position.

The Rover carries a base price of $4195 which at first sounds high. But after you consider what you´re getting it´s not too high after all. In addition to the advanced engineering and design concepts you also get quite a few “extras” that are included in the base price: Icelert Electronic Probe; bumper guards with rubber inserts; Pirelli radial ply tires; outside rear view mirror; tachometer; aluminium two-spoke adjustable steering wheel; wooden gearshift knob; fully adjustable bucket seats; prime leather upholstery; pile carpeting; dipping rear view mirror; seat belt anchorages front and rear; windshield washers; electric clock; heating and ventilation system; safety sun visors and vanity mirrors; front shoulder harnesses. All of which added to good English craftmanship make it an excellent buy. We won´t say there should be one in every garage – but there should be one that´s at least equal to it.

USA 1966