Rover 2000 3500 V8: Buyers' Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Nahan Jacobs

Presented by

Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8 Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8

Only the brave consider restoring, buying or selling Rover's great Briton...

Rover 2000 3500 V8: Buyers' Guide
Buyers guide: Rover 2000 3500 V8

 

Rover 2000 3500 V8

For the first 50 years of its existence, Rover built a reputation as one of Britain’s most conservative car-makers. Its best-known product, the dour but dependable P4 series, was affectionately known as ‘Auntie’ Rover.

Then came a dalliance with gas-turbine propulsion (including running a gas-powered prototype at Le Mans) followed by the aesthetically unpleasant Marauder sports car. However in 1963 Rover really did shake off the shackles of conservatism to reveal a world-changing design.

The car, code-named P6, sated Rover’s desire for a modern two-litre model and set a standard that outshone every British sedan until the arrival of Jaguar’s XJ6.

Surrounding an immensely strong passenger area, the Rover 2000 had controlled crumple zones which absorbed energy from a crash. The suspension coils were horizontally mounted to save space and absorb impact and the engine, when struck, moved under the passenger cell rather than into it. Rover also pioneered the design for a collapsible steering column, however early cars had seat belts and head restraints as options. Three-point front belts became mandatory in Australian-spec cars from 1966.

Early 2000s came with a four-cylinder, overhead-cam engine, one carburettor and 67kW. Four-speed manual transmission was standard until 1966 when Borg-Warner’s three-speed automatic became available. 

Australia’s first Rover 2000s arrived late in 1964; a cut above their most obvious rival, the Triumph 2000, and priced accordingly. With full leather trim, a clock, heater/demister, four-wheel disc brakes and radial tyres the 2000 cost a hefty $4520, or around twice the price of a basic Holden.

Performance was ‘adequate’ as Rolls-Royce was prone to say, but Rover wanted some added grunt so in 1966 added a second carburettor and watched output from the ‘TC’ version surge to 87kW.

Two years later and after a test run in the hefty 3.5 Saloon and Coupe, Rover announced a V8 version of the P6; officially known as the ‘Three Thousand Five’. Dopey name or not, a car with the P6’s driver appeal and enough power to properly challenge the chassis made media across the world very eager to lay hands on one.

Early versions did not look hugely different to the less-powerful models. Until the distinctive cross-hatched grille was adopted in 1970 (and flashy wheel-trims from 1973), the best means of identifying a 3500 was to look for the vinyl-trimmed C-pillar, and listen for the rumble as it left the lights. Power output increased by a massive 30kW over the TC and performance was good, even with the uninspiring automatic transmission that was mandatory until 1973.

In the days before blanket speed limits, cruising ability was an easy 130-140km/h and the 68-litre fuel tank made 450km between stops quite feasible.

Weight increased by just 15kg over the TC and wider, H-rated radials were standard.

Cars sold in Australia initially came from the UK but production was being shifted to a Leyland facility in New Zealand and around 1800 P6B Rovers reportedly crossed the Tasman during the 1970s. 

From 1973 the four-cylinder engine grew by 10 per cent but power from the twin-carb, lower-compression 2200 was less than from a 2000TC. The 2200 wasn’t officially sold in Australia but some did come here, probably via New Zealand. From 1973-75 a four-speed manual 3500S was also available to Australian buyers. 

The last local Rovers, believed to be the last ones sold in the world, came from stocks bought as Leyland’s NZ facility was closing and stored in Melbourne warehouses. Although the 3500 was officially discontinued in 1979, cars are said to have been delivered via Regent’s agencies until 1981.

ON THE ROAD

Twin-carb, four-cylinder Rovers are hard to find these days but worth the effort. With fewer mechanical gremlins than the V8 and 20kW more power than a single-carb car they offer a great compromise.

With manual transmission, the TC almost rocketed to 96km/h (60mph) in 14sec, four seconds quicker than the early cars’ time but four behind the 3500. Mid-range performance includes an impressive 7.7sec for 80-110km/h; only 2.1 adrift of the four-speed 3500S.

If you prefer a V8 that’s okay, because they are easier to locate and not a lot more expensive than a similar-quality TC. Having considered gas turbine power, the wacky guys at Rover made the engine bay wide from the outset, however the ex-General Motors motor is still a tight fit.

Even without the torque of a turbine the V8 isn’t bad at getting a hefty lump of British saloon off the line and up to freeway speed in around 12 seconds. The best part of being in a P6 of any kind is the ride quality and comfort levels. They don’t have the space of a P5 but the individual seats are like nothing else from the 1960s and you can – or could – sit a TC or V8 on the highway at 130km/h in near silence.

Cars with manual steering demand some effort and get tiring if you are constantly battling tight bends. People who have tried to hurry Rovers on gravel report being reasonably busy with understeer into bends and an untidy tail on the way out. That said, they did well as rally cars early in life.

Winding roads tackled at moderate pace make for serene driving, with the V8 rumbling away and a flick of the auto-’box’s T-bar all that’s needed for entertaining corner exits.

Reliability, it must be said, wasn’t a P6 strong point; early cars suffering suspension and gearbox gremlins and the V8s dying in their dozens when subjected to a full-on Australian summer. The basic cooling system wasn’t up to the job; let alone coping when sweaty Aussies started adding air-conditioning to the accessories list.

These cars need to be run on premium fuel and usually with an additive to take care of the valve seats, so filling the tank can be expensive. Push a V8 reasonably hard and those specially-made SU carbs demand at least 15 litres every 100km.

BUYING

Clubs, repairers that specialise in UK cars and display days are the most likely places to look if you want to buy a Rover of any sort and a P6 in particular.

Those that make their way into the general market are typically in ordinary condition and can need more work than their long-term value is likely to justify.

Given that many more of the 3500 version were sold here than four-cylinder cars it’s no surprise that the V8s are easier to find and are pretty much the same price as a 2000.

Restorable cars begin below $1000 and reach $3000, with decent-quality runners from $3500. If you want a 3500 that’s likely to need no immediate maintenance then budget at least $8000. Four-cylinder cars cost only slightly less.

Strong club and spare parts support means that P6s can be kept on the road almost indefinitely however niggling maintenance issues can drive owners to find something more reliable. A car that has had its cooling system fully serviced, carburettors and fuel pump reconditioned, a new clutch and rear suspension overhaul will address most of the issues that are going to make life with a Rover difficult or frustrating.

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Body/Chassis

The condition of a Rover frame is integral to the car’s viability and problems are hard to spot. Get it onto a hoist if possible or at least take a jack, some stands and a good torch. Inner sills, inner wheel-arches and rear suspension locating points are critical to a Rover’s survival. If it has rust in these obvious areas, more will be revealed once the body panels are unbolted. Look also at the sections between the rear window and boot lid, and bonnet edge and jacking points, which sit behind rubber plugs. If the spare wheel’s been moved to the boot lid check for damage and leaks around the mounting point.

Engine & Transmission

There are a lot of issues here for owners of four- and eight-cylinder Rovers. Overheating affects the V8 more seriously than the 2000 but both need their cooling systems pressure tested and probably a radiator flush. Overheated V8s blow gaskets, crack piston rings and damage the bores. Any smoke from the exhaust is a big no-no, so is oil contaminated by coolant or bubbles in the radiator. Oil leaks are common and time consuming but parts, like improved valley cover gaskets at $50, are available. Worn camshafts cause top-end rattles that don’t go away as the engine gets warm. Automatic transmissions are basic Borg-Warner and not prone to major issues. Difficulty selecting gears, especially reverse, can be a clutch issue or due to a worn gear-lever bush.

Some owners fit later five-speed manual units.

Suspension & Brakes

Suspension used by these cars seems complex and replacing some components is a specialist job but is not overly difficult. Most crucial is the condition of the large De Dion tube that keeps the rear wheels in check when cornering. This must be lubricated regularly and the seal replaced if worn or leaking. The front end is unconventional to look at but not hard to maintain as almost everything is available. Parts for early Dunlop discs are reportedly hard to source and some owners have taken the step of fully replacing the front and rear ends to adopt the more readily-sourced Girling discs.

Interior & Electrical

Electrics are a Rover bugbear so check everything. Continuous air-con use can cause overheating. Ensure windows wind up/down without binding. Early cars with leather seats are costly to authentically re-trim but later ones came with Ambla vinyl or cloth. Ensure the hard to find instruments in early strip-speedo models work.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Rover 2000/3500V8 (1963-78)

Number built:  310,000 (2000/2200), 79,000 (3500/3500S) (approximate)
Body: Steel/aluminium, integrated body/chassis four-door sedan
Engine: 1978cc or 2205cc in-line four-cyl, ohc, 8v, single or twin sidedraft carburettors; 3528cc alloy V8, ohv, 16v, dual downdraft carburettors
Power & torque: 117kW @ 5000rpm, 275Nm @ 2750rpm (3500S)
Performance: 0-96km/h: 10.7sec, 0-400m: 17.4sec (3500S)
Transmission: 4-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
Suspension: Independent with upper & lower links, longitudinal coil springs, anti-roll bar & telescopic shock absorbers (f); De Dion sliding tube with coil springs & Watts linkage telescopic shock absorbers (r)
Brakes: Discs with power assistance
Tyres:  165 x 14 or 185 x 14 radial
Price range: $500-$15,000
Contact:  Rover Owners Clubs throughout Australia  www.roverp6baustralia.com

 

Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.

Subscribe to Unique Cars magazine
- Print edition
- Digital edition