The mechanic looks at Rover

Emergence of one make of car with such a high rating aroused such interest at ROAD TEST that we felt it important to seek a completely objective opinion on the mechanical merits of the machine. We therefore, through exhaustive inquiry, located an independent garage owner who specializes in Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar and Rover. He is Mr. Anthony van der Ploeg, whose establishment is located in West Los Angeles.

Tony, here at your shop we see a great many exotic machines. Obviously you specialize, Tony tell us about your specialities.

We spezialize in Rolls, Bentleys, Jaguars, Rovers and we do some Mercedes work.

So your work essentially deals with the more exotic and primarily British machinery.

Thatīs right.

Tony, your accent shows a trace of the British influence but your name is certainly anything but British, V-a-n d-e-r P-l-o-e-g. Tell us a little bit about yourself and the name and your accent.

Well I came originally from Holland, came to Canada first about 15 years ago without being able to speak English, I learned my English from two Scotch boys over there, so I guess I may have picked up a trace of English and Scotch.

Itīs certainly anything but a Dutch accent and itīs very charming. Your background in matters automotive; did you learn about cars in Europe or pick it up mostly in Canada?

No. I started working on cars when I was 15 years old. Right after the war stopped in Europe.

That was in Holland?

This was in Holland and Iīve been working on automobiles ever since.

How did it happen that you came to specialize in such as Rolls, Bentleys and Rovers?

Well, when I worked in Montreal the dealer I worked for took on Rools Royce and asked me if I would take a course in Rolls and do all the service work on Rolls over here. So thatīs how I get started in Rolls Royce business which branched out into other different cars.

And essentially British makes. Now I see a few examples of the more expensive German cars, such as the big Mercedes. Is there that much difference in the cars?

Not really, there are certain little things that may be diffently made on an English car as compared to a German car. The cars basically are the same, all over really.

ROAD TEST magazine, among several of the other automobile publications, has given a great deal of praise to the Rover. I see that you have several Rovers here in the shop. Letīs talk for a minute about the Rover  and the alleged excellence of this particular car. I know itīs in the $4000.00 price range. Can you tell us something about the features of the car from the standpoint of a man who works on them? For example, what is the average frequency of repairs made on the Rover?

The Rover carries a service handbook with that specifies that the car should be serviced every 2.500 miles. Then every 5.000 miles there is what we call a big service which includes tuning engines, and things like that. We find that if you stick to this book you can avoid a lot of unnecessary repairs and youīll find that there is very little work to be done on this car.

So the Rover generally, if you take pretty good care of it seldom has anything go wrong.

Thatīs right.

Now, among the things that inevitably must go wrong, because anything that has 10.000 parts in it, and a lot of those movable parts, things must fail from time to time. What are the things that most often give trouble?

We have had trouble with the brakes. The disc brakes are known to be squeaking brakes and on the Rover in particular weīve had plenty of problems with this. We have found some of them where the disc pads were sticking or the caliper was sticking inside, especially the earlier ones, this seemed to be quite a problem. They have corrected a lot of it now on the newer cars when theyīre coming through with softer brake pads and a better braking system so we have gotten rid of most of that problem.

This is more of an annoyance isnīt it than a serious mechanical problem?

Well, occasionally it would make the car pull on the brakes or if you had to make a rapid stop it would pull the car either to the left or right.

One of the things that is highly praised by the magazines writing about the Rover is the superior braking ability of the car, when all is going right. Is it pretty much borne out by your experience with the car?

Thatīs right, even with the squeaking brakes the brake action itself is just as good as it could be.

The Europeans have only recently come around to thinking in terms of automatic transmissions and I know Rover sells a car with the automatic unit, is it troublesome or up to now has it been relatively trouble free?

Up to now the only thing weīve had to do in a Rover automatic transmission is an adjustment on the linkage. The downshifts may have been a little rough. I was absolutely amazed the first time I stepped into a Rover 2000 with automatic transmission and found it had as much power as it does. Iīve always said that a four cylinder engine shouldnīt be used with an automatic. Rover has certainly proved me wrong on this point.

The ones that I have driven are a little down on power compared with the stickshift but it does seem to be an adequate unit.

I think thatīs true especially if you handle it properly, you can shift from low into the different gears, D1 and D2. Once you get to know the car you can drive it just like the stickshift.

Of other problems that Rover owners encounter, in the mechanical line, can you think of any additional that might crop up now and then?

We had problems with the exhaust valves on the early ones. The metal used was too soft and consequently there were quite a few that burned. The factory came out with the heavier stellite valves which we are using now and that seems to have solved the problem.

One of the things the Rover people make a considerable advertising to-do about is the alleged safety of the car. As a specialist who has gone over them from top to bottom and from front to rear, what are the specific safety features built into the Rover?

One in particular is that in the event of a head-on collision the engine would go under the car rather than coming in with you. The front end is designed so that the engine will push itself down under rather than straight back. Also there is the shock absorbing construction, the metal at front and rear is designed to crumple up at a controlled rate. Iīm not just sure how it works but it does. The protected location of the gas tank is another safety design.

Tony, it would appear that in your experience the Rover is a relatively trouble free car and as long as the maintenance schedules are adhered to it should be a pretty long lasting one. Is that right?

That is correct.

Anything else that you can think of, Tony, that might cause a Rover owner problems?

One of the things that we advise all of our customers to do is to change the radiator hoses at least once a year. We find that the material the hoses are made of apparently canīt stand our smoggy Los Angeles air. They kind of disintegrate arfter a while.

Is there a replacement American size that would solve the problem or are the sizes such that they have to be British parts?

We have to use the British parts because the hoses are all different sizes and many of them have one size on one end and a different size on the other.

So as long as the owner knows of the problem he can replace all the hoses as a matter of routine maintenance and avoid an inconvenient let down.

I would advise any Rover owner to carry a spare set before starting a long trip, a fan belt too.

Is that all you can think of so far as special problems?

Otherwise we donīt seem to run into any major problems. Of course we occasionally have little problems like the alternators when they first came out but thatīs been ironed out. I canīt think of any others that have occurred. Of course weīve had cars that have been mistreated, engines run out of oil, transmissions shifted very badly, rear ends which werenīt checked and consequently burned themselves out, that sort of thing. But these werenīt faults with the car, just careless owners.

Then with sensible care, in your opinion, the Rover is a reasonably reliable machine?

I would go even farther than that, I believe it is one of the finest motor cars built.

Thank you very much, Tony van der Ploeg, for giving us your time and your expert opinions on the Rover.

ROAD TEST / USA June 1968