Rover 3500 V8

It had to happen some time. I took my wife for a goodish run in a Rover 3500 and she made an astonishing remark, which brought the car to a quick stop while I had an incredulous stare to make sure I´d heard aright.

“Of all the cars you´ve brought home in the last 20 years”, she said, “this is one of the few I´d rather have than our own”.

Modesty and good public relations forbid mention of the make of our own car, but it is a good one, renowed for its toughness, quietness, economy and good ride.

Now I´d thought all these things about the Rover, plus a few others, too, but I hadn´t expected to hear it from my much more critical better half.

As a contemporary inquired, “Is this the noblest Rover of them all?” Indeed it is.

When the rumours over the 3500 first began to spread, there were plenty of us, myself included, who wondered how it could ever work.

The Rover company took over the rights to the 3 ½-litre aluminium Buick-Oldsmobile motor, which was the basis of the fabulous racing successes, first of Bruce McLaren in the CanAm series, then of Jack Brabham in the world Formula 1 championship.

Rovers didn´t have any ideas in these directions. But what they wanted was a refined, reliable lightweight V8 to put into their 2000, a splendidly designed car which was obviously capable of taking a good deal more power than either the straight four-cylinder 2000 or the performance-oriented 2000 TC could provide.

They were among the most scientifically produced cars in the world, with individualistic but excellent suspension systems and a body-design unique in both the hammering it could take and the ease with which it could be repaired.

But with a power race on all over the world and the dignified 3-litre looking rather out of place, Rovers wanted a 2000 with all of the refinement of the 3-litre and the looks and roadworthiness of the 2000. They´ve got it.

The motor has been refined beyond recognition. Coupled with a Borg Warner 35 gearbox with a virtually foolproof quadrant between the front seats, it gives whatever type of performance the driver wants, from the snappy to the leisurely – and always in complete silence.

Only distinguishing marks from the 2000 are the big air intake grille under the front bumper and discreet flashes front and rear and at the sides.

Within, the air is one of the quiet luxury. High-backed front bucket seats have, in the model supplied, sensible and strong headrests – unlike many of those which are being thoughtlessly fitted at the present time. Some are downright dangerous and others are useful as dangling dollies.

The 2000 TC is much more of a sportman´s car than the 3500. Eagerly driven it will do 108, the 3500 114, and there´s not all that much in the acceleration figures, either. But there´s a world of difference in the way it´s done.

One could call the 3500 the sports saloon for the middle-aged, keen motorist, something which used to be the prerogative of, say, the 2 ½-litre Daimler V8. That was a fine car, but the Rover is even better.

For normal driving, all that is required is the “D” position, and even snappy reactions can be brought about by shifting to “D2”. This is achieved without impediment. But to get into “D1” or to neutral, reverse or park, it is necessary to press a button on the top of the shift lever, a useful built-in safety device.

The really keen motorist will still opt for a four-speed manual box (not as yet available on the 3500), but it would take a good man to beat the 10.5 seconds of the automatic to 60 mph.

Handling on the big radials is excellent and one never feels that the car is either likely to move off line or even consider doing so. It has a classically well-balanced “feel” to it, on either smooth or rough surface – though as always the case with a lot of power going down to the ground, the tail can be made to slide in loose metal or on a wet road.

The last thing that´s necessary to say about this excellent car is that the noise level is extremely low. There might be another half-dozen marques in existence at the present time which would return the same readings over all types of surface, but no more. It is the noblest Rover of them all.

NZ 1970