Rover 2000 – design for living

Maxwell Boyd

I remember the Rover a friend once had. It stood four-square to the winds of fashion. It was as upright, secure and conservative as its owner. It liked to do things in its own time, resented over-exuberance at the wheel and never reacted kindly to undue haste. Its breeding was unquestionable, its dignity and presence awesome. It was the apotheosis of the club armchair on wheels, and it exuded an unmistakable air of St. Jamesīs and vintage port. It was a superb carriage. But it was rather dull. Towards the end of the 1950s, the old-established Rover Company made a calculated effort to facelift their image of staid, but slightly insipid respectability, without infringing their reputation for high-quality engineering. The result was the Rover 2000, introduced in late 1963 at ₤1264. a price falling neatly between the dearest of the popular mass-produced Fords and Vauxhalls and the more exclusive Jaguars.

The 2000 was greeted with wild publicity, but itīs only now that sufficient have been sold to allow the passing of a valid judgment on its success. That it had succeeded there is no doubt, despite the early production delays which played right into the hands of its rival and contemporary, the Triumph 2000. The Rovers are now being built at a rate of almost 600 a week. They have created their own enthusiastic and much younger following, taking customers from both the lower and higher ends of the market. Rover see their future firmly anchored to developments and derivations of the 2000 rather than the larger and more expensive 3-litre.

The 2000 has scored for three principal reasons – imaginative styling inside and out, particular attention to safety features and, of course, sound engineering and quality construction.

Styling is a matter of personal taste. But the neat, clean-cut lines of the 2000 undoubtedly give it a crisp, well-tailored look that few cars seem to attain no matter how haute couture their stylist. Stand back from the Rover or sit in it and look around you. All the angles – roofline to rear window, rear quarters to doors, wings to bonnet and boot lid – are visually pleasing. Nowhere are there humps, bumps or stray, unrelated curves.

Under the bonnet, the 2000 has a 4-cylinder, 2-litre engine. This is the one feature which has attracted criticism. It is inclined to be noisy, especially when working hard. It is short of pulling power at low revs, which means that you must use the gearbox. And it is not quite as smooth as a 6-cylinder engine might be.

But htese drawbacks do not spoil the car. The engineīs 90 horsepower provide plenty of agility, while I certainly donīt mind changing gear when the box is as pleasant to use as the Roverīs four-speed, all-synchromesh, with over 50 mph in second and over 80 mph in third. Top gear provides effortless cruising at, and way beyond, the 70 mph speed limit.

My view of the disc brakes and independent suspension is based more on Monte Carlo Rally experience than my road test for this series, which came later. Obviously the car was driven a lot closer to its limits during the former exercise, and it behaved impeccably. When driving against the clock along single-track roads clinging to the side of a mountain, with nothing between you and the rocky river far below, one puts a touching faith in a carīs road-holding and brakes. Our faith was amply repaid.

The Rover 2000 is also the nearest thing there is to a production safety car – this because of the steel bulkhead, which deflects the engine beneath the car in a head-on crash; the steel division between the fuel tank and the passenger compartment; the steering machinery which canīt spear the driver in a collision; and the stout steel frame on which hang the body panels. It feels an inherently safe car to drive, too. It would also be nice to see flush-fitting interior door handles and window winders.

A road tester in one of the specialist magazines recently said of the 2000 that he couldnīt “see any reason for ever driving anything elase during the next ten years”. Thatīs overdoing it a bit, but I know what he means. Itīs that sort of car.


Elisabeth Benson

For the past year I have driven a Triumph 2000, which is the Roverīs immediate opposition, though almost ₤200 cheaper. That gives oneīs reactions a pretty sharp point of reference.

Two immediate thoughts make the point. I wish the Triumph had the Roverīs quietness at speed. I donīt mean the engine noise – thereīs not a lot to choose between them. But the wind noise in the Triumph once youīre over 60 is rather off-putting and, among other things, decrease enjoyment of the car radio. The Rover, by comparison, is dead quiet. In contrast I prefer the flexibility of the Triumphīs gears. Itīs a wonderfully easy car to drive without thrashing about. The Rover seems to have the edge in its feel of racy acceleration, but you have to be a lot more precise in your gear-changing. The engine labours a bit even in third if you let the needle drop to around 20 mph.

Generally, though, the Rover 2000 seems a thoroughly excellent car. Psychologists, I read, seem to think that our sub-conscious is not at all interested in safety in cars. What weīre really after is speed, glamour, sex and all that. About my sub-conscious Iīm uncertain, but I know about my conscious. It makes me feel happy indeed to know that the steering wheel wonīt impale me, that the locks are childproof, that there are no dangerous projections outside and, at more mundane level, that the padded parcel bins below the dashboard canīt knock my knees painfully or ladder my stockings.

The fact is that no one, surely, will object to inbuilt safety so long as itīs done prettily. And the Rover is very well designed indeed. There are probably more bright ideas in it than in any other car of the past five or more years.

Take the dashboard area. The switch arrangement is superb. All of them flick up and down like electric switches in a house and they have different shapes for easy identification. There are, sensibly, several dual-purpose switches. The wipers (variable speed – good) also incorporate the screen-washer; and attached to the steering unit is, on one side, an combined dip-switch and headlight-flasher with, on the other, a combined direction indicator and horn lever. The facia is wonderfully clear, with warning lights for choke and handbrake. All these things are details, but details which add up to easy, safe driving – especially the piece of design which means your foot doesnīt have to grope for the dip-switch.

Other valuable details: the small, external prong which tells you quickly whether your sidelights are on; the splendid fresh-air ducts at face level which keep you fresh and operate regardless of heater setting; the reserve petrol tank; the wind-protected ashtrays which really do keep much from flying around.

Iīm not quite as enthusiastic as Maxwell Boyd about the external shape. Rovers always used to have a dowagerly, fat-bottomed boot. This heritage still lingers a little. The boot is not as sharply clean-cut as the Triumphīs; the back-end looks heavyish. Inside itīs roomy enough (16 ― cubic feet) but as with so many cars the spare wheel (upright) intrudes. Rover provide a fitting (great for holidays) which enables the wheel to be fixed to the outside of the boot, but isnīt it time that all boots were left uncluttered, with the spare wheel slung under?

Storage inside the car is good. The parcel bins are first-class and thereīs also a wide rear shelf and a narrower one directly under the windscreen. Trouble is that things roll about on the corners (another common failing) which suggests that removable compartment dividers would be a good idea. Still no built-in wastepaper container, though. Whoīll be the first to do that?

I have the feeling when I get into this car that it fits me like a fur glove. Which is a good feeling to have, deriving from all the padding there is about. It is very comfortable, but there are two reservations. The seats may be “anatomically constructed”, supporting one on corners, but for runabout motoring (my kind) thatīs not the only consideration. Frankly I find them darned hard, certainly compared with the Triumphīs, and the car doesnīt feel as roomy as its competitor. Armchair comfort there may be, but these individual seats make three-in-the-back difficult and there is not that much room behind if the front seats are placed for the long-legged.

But such criticisms are strictly comparative, measured against the 2000īs sky-high standards. I like the rather sporty feel the car has; its design is, overall, almost faultless; the safety aspect is very comforting. This is a very desirable motor-car, indeed, even if Iīm still not sure itīs worth all that extra cash compared with the Triumph.


Peter Arundell (tape-recorded comments during and after driving at Brands Hatch)

One thing, itīs a very, very difficult car to get into trouble with. Did you see that corner, when I crossed up a bit? I could uncross it again fairly easily because it slows down so quickly. Steeringīs very light, even under these testing track conditions. Not many people would do what weīre doing on the road.

Brakes excellent, Iīd say. Mind, for the man who is driving too hard, thereīs a little too much braking on the rear. If you pull up in a hurry the rear wheels do tend to lock. See, they did it again! And this is a dry track. In the wet, if you had to apply the brakes rapidly, youīd instantly lock the rear wheels. And that probably would be that.

The seats holds you quite a lot even with fairly powerful cornering like on this track. For the type of man who is going to buy this motor-car Iīd say it handles marvellously, really. Nice smooth ride for the man who wants absolute comfort, and for the man who wants to get a little enthusiastic it still handles pretty well. Itīs only when you start to get it on the hairy limit that itīs uncertain. Itīs very softly sprung for that sort of driving.

Hereīs a corner now. Approach at 90 to 95.... now we had to turn immediately afterwards and that did upset the car considerably. Took a time to settle down. Itīs basically an under-steering car. If you come up to the corner too fast it tends to go straight on.

But this is driving really hard. For a road car it doesnīt roll too much.Itīs a very safe motor-car. Itīs just underpowered. It could do with another litre under the bonnet and then it would really be fun. And six cylinders. The gear ratios arenīt quite right either. They would be more suited to 3 litres. Doing 85 in third will appeal only to the enthusiast, and itīs not so hot all through the gears. It starts off being very brisk, but when youīve got to 70 in third it just runs out of puff and takes a long time to hit 80. They could probably cut third down to 70, second to 45/50 and first to 25. It would give the car much better performance for traffic.

Facia layout is a bit unconventional but it has a lot of advantages. Iīd want to put compartments in that shelf to stop the fags or screwdriver rolling about. I usually end up doing that. Good instruments, though. Even that ribbon speedometer which usually Iīm not very fond of, has got the maximum revs for each gear marked. It helps even the enthusiast make the engine last that bit longer by not over-revving it in any gear. Itīs easy to do that on this car because the engine is so quiet. On a long run I think this would be a very comfortable ride. Wind noise isnīt excessive. Itīs a very quiet motor-car. Even at 80, like now, you can still talk at reasonable voice level. Apart from that underpowered engine, I simply donīt think Iīve any serious complaints.

UK 1966