Britain´s best value „Sports Saloon“? 

It caused a sensation back in 1963. It was about as unimaginable as the Duke of Edinburgh becoming a long distance runner. It was a brand new luxury saloon with almost sporting aspirations, and yet it came from one of Britain´s least adventurous, most old fashioned luxury car manufacturers. It was the exciting new Rover 2000.

Previous Rovers had been wonderful in an old “English kind” of way. They were luxurious, beautifully built, almost majestic. But they most certainly were not aimed at people who wanted a sports car driving style combined with family car practicality. The P4 and P5 “Aunties” were the kind of Rovers you´d see a Prime Minister being chauffeured around in rather than driven enthusiastically by somebody of “middle management” status.

But the Rover 2000 was different. It had low, almost sporty (by saloon standards) styling, a radical new bodyshell structure, unconventional suspension design and absolutely brilliant handling and roadholding capabilities for the time. It set new standards to its class and it was the first Rover ever that could be sold to people who enjoyed driving hard and driving fast.


Some traditional Rover buyers of old frowned upon the Solihull company´s fascinating change of direction. And Rover management knew that it had to retain the support of its existing customers. So it was perhaps rather clever forward thinking that saw the by then ancient P4 series soldier on another year after the P6´s launch, while the vastly larger P5 lived on right through to 1973 as the luxury Rover for those who appreciated the values of tradition and serenity.

Traditionalists may have disliked it back in 1963, but the P6 went on to become one of the most successful Rovers ever, enjoying a production run that ended in 1976, by which the even more outrageous Rover SD1 was effectively its replacement.

Those who were against the P6 from the outset said the car was far too small to be a proper Rover. And admittedly, its dimensions were unusually compact by Rover standards, leading to restricted space both for rear passengers and their luggage.

Rover pessimists feared that the Triumph 2000, launched within a matter of days of the P6´s arrival, would steal sales by attracting customers who wanted genuine family-size accomodation and who were frightened of the P6´s unusual structural design and all-new mechanicals. And bearing in mind the conservative nature of “old style” Rover buyers, such fears could well have come true. But in the event, nothing could have been further from reality, as history now proves.

Fourteen years and 327.000 cars later, the P6 was finally laid to rest, the Rover line being continued by the aesthetically advanced SD1. Ironically, the car that had been seen as far too adventurous and daring for Rover back in the early Sixties was being replaced by a model that was seen by many as far too adventurous and daring in the mid-Seventies. It was good to know that Rover´s new-found ability to shock potential buyers had not worn off during the life of the P6.

Looking back at the P6 series now, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of its life is how little is changed over the years. Fourteen years is a heck of a long lifespan for any car, and yet the P6 went from success to success with only relatively minor revisions.

The biggest break from the norm came with the introduction of the V8-angined 3500 (automatic) in 1968 and the 3500 S (manual) in 1971, fascinating for combining the ex-Buick 3.5-litre powerplant (that had seen good service elsewhere) with the P6´s relatively compact dimensions. The result was a real flier of a saloon car, and it is these V8-engined P6s that command such healthy prices nowadays, twenty years after the final P6 was produced.

There is perhaps little argument that the Rover 3500 and 3500 S are the P6 models to go for if there is no great monetary problem. But bear in mind that a fully sorted, pristine 3500 S can fetch as much as ₤1.500 more than a 2000 in similar condition and you begin to wonder whether the attraction of a V8 is that great after all.

So for this particular model guide, we´re going to ignore the V8-engined P6s completely – they´ll be saved for another day. In fact, we reckon that a four-cylinder P6 is probably the best value four-door classic saloon currently available – and by the end of this feature, you may well agree.


For the first three years of the Rover 2000´s life, virtually nothing was done in the way of model development. Why? Simply because there were no need for it. The 2000 was attracting so many potential customers that a waiting list had formed almost from day one, and the model´s novelty value showed little sign of subsiding for quite some time. If you weren´t prepared to wait for your new Rover 2000, you wouldn´t get one – it was as simple as that. Rover´s position between 1963 and ´66 was surely every car maker´s dream.

The gamble had paid off – and what a gamble it was. If nothing else, it was the P6´s structural design that set it apart from the crowd. It comprised a strong, sturdy “base unit” (or “inner skeleton”) from which were hung nineteen bolt-on, easily removable body panels.

Mechanically too, the P6 was new. Power came from a brand new four-cylinder, single chain-driven overhead-cam unit of 1978 cc capacity, fed via a single SU HS6 carburettor. A four-speed manual gearchange was the only transmission option.

Suspension was equally fresh, with a de Dion system at the rear, with fixed-length driveshafts similar to the earlier Rover T3 gas turbine experimental car. At the front, top wishbones acted through a cranked linkage onto horizontal coil springs braced against the scuttle; apart from uitlising the stiffest part of the P6´s “base unit” structure to absorb suspension loads, this layout also allowed room to install a planned gas turbine engine option. We all know, of course, that such an option never materialised.

By the autumn of 1966, UK-spec Rover 2000 TCs were available, featuring twin SU carburettors, a new cylinder head and an increased power output (up from 90 to 114 bhp). The difference in performance was startling, and an automatic transmission option was also introduced.

In the same year, the P6´s all-disc Dunlop braking system was replaced by a Girling design, offering more response and, as it turned out, improved realibility.

By 1970, with the Rover 2000 already seven years old, the range was treated to a range of revisions, these “Series IIs” featuring modified trim, a sportier front grille and more racy looking instrumentation (the old strip-type speedometer being replaced by round dials). Although the Series II was right for the time, bringing a touch of Seventies style to a Sixties design, many enthusiasts now look upon the Series I Rover 2000 as the purest, most appealing of the breed.

Not much else happened for a further three years, when the Rover 2200 replaced the 2000 in October 1973. The new model´s 2204 cc engine, simply a bigger bore version of the old 2000 unit, produced 98 and 115 bhp in single and twin carburettor forms respectively, and at lower revs than with the previous 2000. The driving experience was, most people agreed, better than ever.

By 1976, the brand new Rover SD1 was on the scene, albeit in limited numbers at first; the writing was finally on the wall for the P6, with the final examples being sold and registered by early ´77. Amazing to think that even the very last examples are now a full twenty years old.


That a four-cylinder Rover P6 makes an interesting, useable and good value for money classic in the late Nineties is indisputable. But does anybody who has never owned one and who knows relatively little about the model have anything to fear from its unusual construction design or perhaps its spares availability?

Not really, although there are obviously certain checks you will need to carry out to avoid being sold a “dud”.

For a start, you need to be sure that a P6´s “base unit” is in good fettle. Because none of the body panels are particularly structural and are easily changed (in theory at least, assuming that none of the nuts, bolts and screws are rusted or seized!), it is easy for any vendor to make a wreck of a P6 look very presentable indeed. So start by checking the sills, running your hand along the entire length of their lower faces and tapping with some force. Remove the outer sill rubber plugs and check that the jacking tubes are still in line with their access holes. If in any doubt about these areas being okay, walk away.

It´s a good idea too, to tap (maybe with a screwdriver) the vertical front and rear ends of each sill and to remove the rear seat aquab and sound-deadening beneath it. Both these checks will give a reasonable idea of “base unit” sturdiness.

By opening the front doors, use a torch to examine “inside” the front of each sill; lift the carpets and check thoroughly for corrosion to the floorpan; peel back the rubber matting in the boot and look for damage to the boot floor; and lift the bonnet and check carefully the inner front wings. If it´s possible to remove the rear wheels (most honest vendors should not object to this) check carefully the inner structure up inside the rear wings, as corrosion here spells bad news for the rest of the shell; even more serious is any corrosion at the front, where the road springs and suspension links connect to the bulkhead, as serious damage here should be enough to make you seek out an alternative car to buy.

Inside, a P6 is hard-wearing, particularly if it is a Series I with leather seat facings. Later Series IIs, with their less appealing, Seventies-style cloth upholstery are less robust. Interior condition is important to a P6´s value, so do look thoroughly for wear, rips and poor repairs.

Mechanically, the p6 story is mainly good news. The four-cylinder engines are robust and reliable, with most problems stemming from either abuse or sheer neglect. Cylinder-bore and timing chain wear are fairly common; check for excess smoke and reduced power for the former, a “ringing-rattling” sound at fast tickover for the latter.

Camshafts wear well, but it is not unusual for valves to require replacement – removal and replacement of the cylinder head is a fairly laborious task.

The 2000/2200 engines´ main problems are with their cooling systems, and it is not uncommon to find erosion of the waterways in the alloy heads. Straightforward replacement is the simplest approach.

On TC models, the twin SU carburettors are notorious for creating “lumpy” running, although a good, professional tune-up should help. Nevertheless, even a properly tuned, well sorted TC tends to suffer from “pinking” and “running on”. With the SC models, you lose the power and performance of the TC but you perhaps gain less temperamental, more even running. The choice is yours.

The P6´s three-speed Borg-Warner automatic gearboxes are reliable and longlived, though you should take a lengthy test drive to make sure !yours” is changing up and down the box as and when it should. Manual transmissions are equally dependable, although early examples can be stiffed and awkward to use after a high mileage. Most gearboxes will give little trouble if properly treated, and don´t worry too much if there´s a “graunch” when you select reverse on a manual – this is very commonplace and is usually a sign of clutch drag rather than a gearbox problem.

When it comes to steering and suspension, the news is equally encouraging. The worm and roller type steering in particularshould cause no more than the usual wear and tear problems as the miles mount.

At the rear of the car, check carefully the longitudinal links that locate the top of each de Dion tube “elbow”; the Metalastik bushes are prone to deteriorating with age. More importantly, it´s not unknown for badly corroded P6s to corrode around the suspension mountings and for the links to be physically torn away from the “base unit”.

Although the front suspension lokks strange and a little complicated to the untrained eye, it is actually reasonably easy to work on. The whole system is logical and very, very effective at ensuring the P6 is one of the best handling, affordable, classic saloons currently available. Obviously, carry out the normal checks for worn bushes, excess play and signs of wear and tear, as you would on any car.

The P6´s all-disc braking system is equally effective, although the very early (Dunlop) set-ups are now rare and probably best avoided. With even many early examples being converted to the Girling system, it is most likely that any P6 you´re examining will be so equipped.

The P6´s rear brakes are notorious for being neglected, thanks to their in-board design that means the discs and calipers are towards the centre of the car, well out of easy reach. Check the condition of the rear braking system, including discs and pads, particularly carefully.

With the brakes in general, carry out the normal checks for fluid leaks (the master cylinder is tucked away in the pedal box) and, of course, wear and corrosion to the flexible hoses and rigid pipework. Servo failure is rare but not unknown.


Spares availability is more impressive with a P6 than with many of its saloon rivals of the Sixties, with a number of specialists able to supply the essentials, whether they be Rover originals or reproductions.

Inevitably, most genuine Rover body panels are scarce brand new, although some new-old stock does crop up from time to time. At the time of writing,it is thought that brand new British Heritage-approved front and rear wings are creeping onto the market, with estimated prices of around ₤150 each plus VAT.

We spoke to Rover specialist Jonathan Wadhams about spares availability and were encouraged by the vast range of parts he keeps in stock for all P6 models. Example body panels include front wing repair sections from ₤20, Series I front valances (original Rover) at ₤75, inner front wings (original Rover) at ₤145 and Series I bonnets at ₤120 – all prices plus VAT.

Most mechanical items can be supplied either brand new or reconditioned, whether it be a Rover 2000 head gasket at just ₤10 or a brand new manual steering box at ₤100. Exchange gearboxes are also available from ₤295, as are exchange front brake calipers (from ₤64), exchange rear calipers (Girling - ₤70) and exchange alternators (from ₤65).

Jonathan also stocks interior trim, icluding complete new carpet sets (₤200), boot carpet sets (₤30), door panels (₤60 each) and even complete retrims in leather (₤1400).

Compare most of these sample prices with those for other cars from the same era, offering the same levels of luxury, comfort and prestige, and you should be fairly pleasantly surprised.

What to pay?

As you would expect, P6 prices vary enormously, which is where the discrepancy between four-cylinder and V8 values comes in – it makes sense to deal exclusively with V8 versions in a future issue.

For what they offer, both the Rover 2000 and 2200 are superb value for money. Runners with no MOTs can be bought from little more than ₤200; MOT´d but tatty examples (with which you should be particularly wary of the condition of the “base unit”) can fetch ₤500-₤1000, depending on the extent of the tidying that´s needed; and vehicles in “A1” but not concours condition can be anywhere from ₤1500 to ₤2500, depending on mileage, history and the level of their detailing.

There is an argument that Series I 2000s are worth more than Series IIs in a similar condition. This depends entirely on your own preference – certainly a Series I has a purity of design on its side, but a decent Series II (maybe even a 2200) still makes ideal everyday or occasional transport. You pays your money...


Mainstay of the Rover range throughout the Sixties and Seventies, the 2000/2200 series offers tempting transport in the 1990s. As a model, it is rewarding to drive, practical, comfortable and will swallow long distances with ease. Buy a decent example, of which there are still plenty about, and you´ll be enjoying one of the finest, affordable, post-war saloons ever produced in Britain.

UK 1997