Matters of Moment, February 1964


One notable characteristic attributable to the British is modesty. So we can only presume that the splendid reception which the Rover 2000 received at Earls Court last year went to the heads of the Company’s publicity staff, for their recent Press release about an Auto-Visie (of Holland) competition is anything but modest! This Rover announcement claims that “for the first time in history a motoring magazine has elected ‘The Car of the Year’,” overlooking the fact that as long ago as 1960 Canadian motoring writers awarded this accolade to the then-new B.M.C. Minis.

In fact, the Auto-Visie competition was judged in the same way, by a panel of at least 26 European and American motoring editors and journalists (six were English), their task being to select the “Cars of the Year” on the counts of engineering conception and styling only, price being deliberately omitted. Also, only 1963 cars could be considered (and “face-lift” 1963 models were not taken into account) – which surely excludes the Rover 2000, Which we old-fashioned people think of as a 1964 model ?

The maximum marks were 125 and the Rover 2000, not surprisingly, was judged “The Car of the Year” with a score of 76. Second-place was occupied by the Mercedes-Benz 600, with 65 marks. The jury apparently felt that this great motor car could have been first on technical conception but was not shaped for the highest honour! The choice was narrow, only three other cars being mentioned.

We are not in the least surprised that the Rover 2000 took the biscuit, for MOTOR SPORT had already dubbed it the star of the Earls Court Show; we are merely sorry that the Rover publicity boys sought to guild the lily too thoroughly. This they did by quoting such bouquets as: “The fact that the Rover 2000 managed to accumulate so many votes for itself did not come to us unexpectedly. Only rarely has a car been introduced which so directly and strongly appealed to the taste of the real connoisseur, as this Rover, with reference to its price class” (But we thought price didn’t count), or: “The 4-cylinder 2-litre engine, of which the crankshaft runs in five bronze-lead bearings, delivers 90 b.h.p. for a ‘normal use car’ – definitely not an exaggeration, so as for durability there can be no worries” (Dorman engines had five main bearings before the First World War and so did the Austin 12 of 1921; granted they were notoriously reliable). Or: “… the traditional Rover factory combined a most interesting front-wheel suspension with a de Dion rear axle, a construction which must be called the most logical for a car of this class (it is not true that independent suspension rear, for big cars, is the only possible blessing, in fact it can only increase cost-price) “(But we thought price didn’t count). Or again: ” … the exclusive way of comfort offered, not in the least for complete adjustability of seat, squab and steering wheel, through which one can tailor the car like a made-to-measure Lotus which fits Jim Clark.”

And finally, so far as we are concerned: ” It does not happen every day that an automobile brought into market with great performance (and that the Rover provides) has been enhanced by such an attractive outward appearance. No sensible man whatever the difference in taste, find 2000 an ugly car. In fact this is the most surprising part of the car; it is the sort of car that will achieve acclaim in a difficult rally as well as in Concours d’Elegance. It is a car with which the driver and passenger (in other words with or without the uniformed back of a chauffeur in of them) can be equally happy.

“Then, when all this is offered a price in England of only £1,264 9s. 7d. incl. P.T., a price of which we do not yet know the equivalent in the Netherlands (We thought price didn’t count!), but still which shows conclusive prospects, we easily understand why this Rover 2000 became the car of the year.”

The Rover 2000 is an outstanding car. So were the pre-war Rolls-Royces. But long, long ago the makers of the latter decided to include in their advertisements a by-line, in decently heavy type, which read THE BEST CAR IN THE WORLD. At precisely the same time the Hispano-Suiza people, who were making a pretty advanced car with light-alloy cylinder block, overhead camshaft and servo-assisted four-wheel-brakes, drew up an advertisement that was noticeably like that used by R.-R. Ltd., indeed could have been a deliberate copy, except that the by-line was omitted. . . . At the time there existed those who thought this fine, fast, powerfully-braked Hispano-Suiza was the World’s finest motor car. There are those who today still adhere to this opinion. A case, it seems, of modesty being sufficient, almost, one could say, an advantage.

What a pity if the brilliant new Rover 2000 over-proclaims itself. (N.B. – The writer’s opinions of it, after driving one, were published in last month’s MOTOR SPORT.)