A LONG TEST OF R. E. RICHARDS’S ROVER TEN SPECIAL
A VERY POTENT COMPETITION CAR, OF WHICH REPLICAS WILL BE AVAILABLE. IT’S an ill-wind which blows no one
any good. A spell of anti-aircraft training inflicted on R. E. Richards, led him to offer us for test his well-known Rover Ten Special, which has run in numerous trials and which went so well at the Stanley Cup Race meeting as to lead lots of people to believe that the car had the 20 h.p. Rover engine. This car is interesting for two re.asons—it is about the only specially developed example of the marque in use, and it will shortly be -available in Replica form, so that its qualities and performance are of More than passing interest. Richards would like to build two more of these Rovers and form a trials team. In view of the fact that he is prepared to build them for 4200-1250 each, with bodywork and details to individual requirements, we imagine he should have no difficulty in realising this ambition. After a very extensive test of the original -car, we can say that it is not only a remarkable performer, but it is a very fascinating car in every way, and one which is quite the equal of many production sports models we know of, costing up to 4450. It should be explained that the car is a product of Motorwork Chalfont Ltd., who are Rover Agents. Q. W. Wuyts, of this concern, was with Rovers in the days when they used to race Poppe’s 14/45 single-seater at B.A.R.C. meetings and he had such good service from a modern Rover Ten saloon used as a hack when he ran ” Bira’s ” stable, that he was encouraged to develop a competition version. Accordingly, the saloon body was scrapped, and the chassis was cut down, and given new engine and radiator positions and a boxed-in cross member for stiffness. The engine (which is the four-cylinder 1,389 c.c. Rover Ten unit, with coil ignition, push-rod o.h. valves, inclined 14 mm. plugs and impeller cooling) was then dealt with. Actually, the modifications are surprisingly modest and a pertinent answer to those who regard the CAT as entirely re-built. As the unit had run over 60,000 hard miles, it was rebored 40 thou, and given new Specialoid pistons. The cOmpressiOn ratio was raised to 8.5 to 1 and stronger valve springs fitted. The crankshaft was reground and all bearings re-metalled with racing linings The Single carburetter was replaced by two downdraught S.U.s having horizontal mixing chambersand bolting direct to short external, separate pipes. The balance tube is neatly attached by two tiny hose-joints. The exhaust manifold is standard, but a flexible tube runs to the external silencer. Stronger clutch Springs are used. And that is all that Wuyts has done. The result is a really excellent combination—startling performance, yet an engine which is so smooth, starts so readily and runs unconcernedly at 20 m.p.h. or so in top that one has no compunction about using it as a regular and dependable means of transport, even in London. Yet this Rover is really fierce to handle and holds its own in competition work. The high compression ratio is undoubtedly the secret of the available performance, but it seems to have no effect on the smooth ness of the engine. Pinking, even on Disco!, is present at low speeds on the gears and right up to 35 m.p.h.. on top when opening–up, but the hand ignition retard relieves this without appreciable kiss of bite. Apart from its smoothness the engine starts very readily from stone cold without choke, has no vibration periods or flat-spots, and runs down to 15 or 20 m.p.h. in top. It also runs cool, at a normal temperature of 60 C.,
rising to 70-73 C. at Brooklands. The result is that, in spite of its very impressiveperformance, one. feels entirely confident of using this Rover for long runs, or for local pottering in the same way as one would use a family saloon of proven dependability. These characteristics, in combination, are necessary to the success of modern -sports cars, but are not always found in 4250 versions which can be raced and run in trials as normal, satisfactory procedure.
The handling of the car is a real joy. The suspension is distinctly hard at low speed, and looks after the road clinging most effectively at higher speeds.
The steering is certainly rather lowgeared, but then this was remarked to use before we drove the car, as something which will be altered in the Replicas. It is devoid of castor action, is fairly light, accurate, and has no return motion or undue column movement.
Acceleration is truly fierce, and in first or second gear power-slides are quite common on wet surfaces if full bore is given—in spite of ” Freighters ! ” The engine can be taken up to 18, 88, and 56 m.p.h. respectively, on the indirect gears, although there are red lines on the speedometer at 35 and 51 m.p.h. for second and third and one normally changes at about 10, 15 and 35 m.p.h. respectively. This extreme acceleration makes negotiation of difficult traffic, or winding going, a very rapid and untiring business, but actually the Rover also performs very useful work in top gear, from about 30 m.p.h. upwards, the urge coming. through clean and with no flat spots, the pleasant exhaust burble rising inspiringly„ but never to an annoying degree. Some idea of the top gear performance can be had when we say that from a moderate approach in top at Tilburstow Hill, on the way to Lewes, three-up, she was doing over 55 m.p.h. at the crest, while Countess Weir, on the Exeter By-Pass, was negotiated at 65 m.p.h. A car which is so full of life as this astonishing Ten and which also has good road-holding and steering, is remarkably good fun to drive, providing it has adequate brakes. The Rover has Girling anchors, which are extremely powerful under the lightest pedal action, and which play no tricks—a hard 600 miles produced some squeal, but no appreciable loss of power. As a rapid means of transport the Rover is the equal of the majority of bigger cars. It settles down very contentedly to a cruising speed of 60 m.p.h., and goes easily up to 70 on the straights. Rapid cornering is the
obvious mode, but the expert will find delight in checking tail slides in the wet when really throwing the car round— she is a car sufficiently ” alive ” at speed to satisfy the blasé enthusiast of long experience. One of the few moderns to have a crash pattern gearbox, the Rover benefits by this feature of its specification in sport’s guise. The very rigid central lever has an effective press-button reverse stop and the ratios go in without much pressure. The box could be handled by anyone used to a non-synchro box, but skilful judgment enables absolutely quiet downward changes to be made, even without the clutch. Upward changes are rather slow unless punched in, but go through beautifully if unhurried and
double-declutched. The clutch is extremely light, shows no sign of wanting to slip, and takes up smoothly once one is accustomed to the fairly considerable movement before it goes right home. That it takes heavy punishment is evident front the engine’s ability to spin the 5.25″ x 18″ Dunlop Freighters on a dry surface—incidentally, the front tyres were 4.50′ X 18″ Michelin ” Stop.”
We covered a four figure mileage with the Rover and liked it more and more each day. It gave no trouble whatsoever, used very little oil, and averaged rather better than 21 m.p.g. of pump Discol, driven hard everywhere. The oil pressure remains steady at approximately 50 lb.
per square inch. Experiment showed that a driver strange to the car, over not specially picked roads, never averaged under 40 M.p.h., without seriously trying. We will not comment on the bodywork and details in full road-test fashion, because at Chalfont they were inclined to apologise for them, explaining that on production cars better bodywork to clients’ specification would be fitted, and. details arranged to suit individual re quirements. Actually, the doorless two-seater on the original car strikes us as a most serviceable body., especially for regular trials work. It is very strongly made, very roomy and has nice lines, except when seen absolutely broadside on. Incidentally, the whole” frontworks” are notably rigid, except that the Roverflexible radiator mounting is retained, nor does the car suffer from that rather too prevalent modern complaint—scuttle dither. There is a big rear tank, and ample space in the tail for trials or touring impedimenta, or a reasonably tough third passenger. In matters of lighting, rigidity of wing mounting, steering rake, filler cap action, spare wheel mounting, horn strength, etc., the sponsors show a complete understanding of the longdistance drivers’ requirements. Naturally, production cars would be given full weather protection, which Richards’s motor lacks, save for two Triplex aero screens. No amount of descriptive matter can portray to the enthusiast a car’s worth as can performance figures
taken at Brooklands. Unfortunately, torrential rain cramped our style in Continued at foot of nezt page.
obtaining data of this nature, but even so, the figures speak for themselves, and speak loudly. Wheelspin spoiled the getaway very appreciably, but the standing quartermile occupied 21.2 secs. 0-50 m.p.h.consistently took 12.7 secs., two up, and under 12 secs. should be easy on a dry
surface. 0-60 m.p.h. took 19.6 secs., and from 10-20 m.p.h. was reached in 2.5 secs., 30 m.p.h. in 6.0 secs., 40 m.p.h. in 9.2 secs., 50 m.p.h. in 13.0 secs., and 60 m.p.h. in 20.4 secs. The flying half-mile, still with two persons in the car, and under horrible conditions, was done at 85 m.p.h. by both watch and speedometer—the speedometer was also almost accurate lower down the scale. Three flying laps were committed. The first, two up, at 73i m.p.h., the second, driver only at 791 m.p.h. and the last, using the banking, at 79 m.p.h. On the 79f m.p.h. lap as much grass clipping as possible was done, but the car liked the bankings. It bounced a good deal, the shock absorbers having slacked off,
but rode extremely well. A casual brake test, from 40 m.p.h., gave us a stopping distance of 60 ft., including a considerable slide. From the foregoing it will be seen that not only is this Rover Ten Special a completely dependable, individualistic everyday motor-car, but one which can outperform other cars of its price class. This being so, Richards should have little difficulty of realising his ambition of a
trials team for next season. We returned the car very reluctantly, feeling that the proverbial hot-cakes will have nothing on these Rover Replicas once they become well known. The low rating of the engine is a strong point, although clients may have the 12 h.p. 1,496 c.c. engine, in place of the 10 h.p. 1,389 c.c. unit, should they so desire. It is very evident that the standard Rover Ten and Twelve are very popular cars with discerning Britishers. Those who like the idea of a really well-converted sports edition will find R. E. Richards or Motorwork of Chalfont, enthusiastic to demonstrate. Mr. Richards’s address is :
” Loudhams Wood Lane, Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks.
Club News, November 1954
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