Unorthodox P6 road test

A test driver from the Rover Company Experimental Department had been driven around the English countryside all day in a Rover 2000 „mileage“ car. This is a test car on which the greatest possible amount of road mileage is put up on, in the shortest possible time. This kind of testing on public roads simulates normal use and occupies a considerable part of the Department´s time, being fundamental in the search for any weak points in the design. To add to the realism of the tests, the passenger compartment is loaded with sand bags to represent the weight of 3 passengers and the boot is weighted to simulate the luggage of 4 persons.

The driver´s stint that day had included further test work at the MIRA (Motor Institute Research Association) proving ground, and since this carried him well past his normal finishing time, he drove straight home in the test car which he was quite entitled to do.

However, it seems that even after a full day´s driving in the 2000, he had energy to spare, for after a meal he collected a friend and together they set off for a drive in the countryside, an event not quite so fully covered by his job description.

Later happenings make it difficult to assess the true object of this latter journey, maybe he saw his friend as a prospective buyer of one of his company´s cars, maybe they had some place to go.

In any case, 10.05 p.m. on a pleasant June evening saw them approaching a small town called Redditch, which lies a few miles to the west of Birmingham, on a well surfaced though relatively narrow road. The driver knew the road intimately and one feels some surprise at the fact that he seems to have forgotten about a narrow „humpbacked“ bridge, more resembling a ski jump, staddling a local canal immediately ahead.

Later our test driver estimated his speed at this point as approximately 80 mph (80 km/h) but since we have never offered vertical take-off equipment as an option on this model, it is thought that he erred on the side of modesty and that the true figure was more nearly twice his estimate.

It may be of course that, despite his undoubted experience as a test driver, he was deceived by the excellence of the 2000´s ride and thus made this error of judgement.

Be that as it may, when the car ascended the approach to the bridge, it just went on ascending and it did not touch the ground again for 164 ft. (49,9 meters).

Not surprisingly, some loss of directional stability was experience in the course of this manoeuver, a condition not much improved by the pronounced nose down attitude developed during flight.

The landing must have been somewhat tricky, in that it left a couple of tyre scrub marks on the road way equivalent to the track width of the vehicle and also a light, though sharply defined groove, indicating that one tyre had flattened sufficiently to allow the wheeltrim to contact the road as well.

A few feet further along, problems of control were heightened by the fact that the lefthand front wheel dropped into a short deep gully at the margin of the road. It is difficult to assess the degree to which our test driver was dictating the course of events at this juncture but the tyre skid marks clearly indicated that the car executed a somewhat lurid swerve across to the opposite side of the road and back again the course of covering the next 323 ft (98,45 meters), at the end of which it struck and partially disintegrated an unusually high standing kerbstone at the corner of an entry to a garage. This particular corner was also obstructed by a concrete post marking a public bus stop, and an intending lady passenger waiting beside it.

Fortunately both were avoided, though the narrowness of the margin may be judged by the fact that the lady, obviously recognising several features of the approaching vehicle that distinguished it from her bus, took refuge in the ditch behind her, the evidence which she subsequently gave in court could well have been coloured by the fact that although quite unharmed, two weeks were to elapse before she could utter a word.

Some 100 ft. (30,48 meters) further on, our 2000, still intact and containing two mountingly apprehensive occupants and still possessed of considerable momentum, encountered a wooden post. This time however there was no margin at all and the post hit by the left rear side of the car was ripped clean out of the ground and flung 60 ft. into an adjoining field.

Bouncing back into the roadway, the car travelled a further 70 ft. (21,3 meters) before it came upon another and more substantial object – a tree. Again the impact was taken on the left side, this time just in front of the rear wheel, indenting the structure deeply and ripping off both doors. This was the first time the vehicle had shed any of its component parts. It also turned end over end, detaching the complete left front suspension unit in the process.

Shortly afterwards it came to rest on its roof in the middle of the road, having travelling the hard way a distance of 748 ft. (228 meters) from the point of take-off at the bridge.

The test driver and his erstwhile friend stayed at their respective post to the end, however they managed to stagger forth shaken but intact.

They found that they had fortuitously chosen for their landing point the piece of roadway immediately in front of the Redditch Police Station. So the least possible time was wasted in recording the official details of this unsheduled if somewhat spectacular test.

The test driver is still a valued employee of the Rover Car Company, he has however been transferred from Experimental Testing to Inspection.

Road & Track (1966)