The first 10,000

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156

Some Impressions of the Editorial Rover 3500

Theres’s a bit of journalistic licence in the above title, because this article was supposed to be about my experiences with a Rover 3500 in its first 10,000 miles. But it hadn’t quite reached that mileage when it had to go in for repairs, just when I wanted to write this piece. Anyway, such .a mileage is much too low for fully assessing a car of this calibre and price. Even the least expensive cars should not, in my opinion, go “off-song” until they have covered around this 10,000 miles and the better ones, on the-assumption that the more you pay the better service you should get, ought to last at least 40,000 miles before the first small derangements intrude. Unfortunately, this Rover wasn’t quite like that…

I had become a devoted BMW enthusiast by the time the Editorial 520i became due for replacement. It was running very well and had only once let me down on the road, when the fuel-injection pump belt broke, admittedly when servicing was rather overdue, at 38.775 miles. However, I had had this excellent car for a long time, the brakes were beginning. to play up after 39,300 miles (proving my comment above?), and the clutch didn’t feel as once it had. So, when the MD rang to remind me that I had requested a new car, and asked if I would like a Rover 3500, I tried to quell hopeful thoughts of a BMW 528. “How long have I to decide ?” I asked. “Two minutes,” I was told, “and you have had one of them, already!” ‘Thus it was that I later took possession of an R-registration Rover 3500.

I had heard that one of these: excitinglystyled, redesigned; Solihull vee-eights with electric windows and sun-roof might come “on the Motor Sport strength”. After considerable delay I was told that Henlys had at last eradicated some faults in “my” car, RYW 935.R, and that I could take delivery. I had driven road-test examples of this latest multi-cylinder Rover and had discussed its engineering niceties with its talented designer, Spencer King, so I knew what to anticipate. But when I first took the Editorial, long-duration-test example out from Standard House into London’s traffic-tangle, I soon felt the need of some fresh air and felt around for the window-lift (or drop) buttons. There weren’t any, and I realised then I had been “Sold” a simplified 3500 with wind-up glasses; as this dawned on me I glanced upwards, to discover that there was no sunroof either! The Car also had automatic transmission, instead of the fine five-speed Leyland gearbox I had craved. In fact, to my surprise, this has not spoiled “Big Aunt” for me, and it is definitely a fatigue-reducing factor on the long one-day journeys I am accustomed to make, especially in the congestion at the London end of these. Any lack Of acceleration is easily countered by easy selection of “hold-2” on the quadrant.

I was certainly pleased to be in a British car once again, having become very attached to the former Rover 2000TC I used to drive, which would undoubtedly have been replaced with the earlier Rover V8, had not the rear suspension of the one supplied for road-test given us some very odd, sickness-inducing results. Anyway, here I was, Royer-orientated again, I think because of what might be described as a subsidised sales-stimulus, which however did not detract from the pleasure of seeing how this then “Car of the Year” would behave.

When i took RYW 935 R over the mileage was 3690 and I was told that it was now in a thoroughly decent condition. So I was disappointed to find a big piece of trim hanging from the off-side wall, inside the boot, and to hear a tinkle from inside the off-side driver’s door. The former has never been rectified at subsequent services and the latter is still faintly evident. There was the further disappointment that the upholstery wasn’t leather, as on my other Rover (I suppose as an animal lover I should have been pleased)  that the thick-rimmed steering wheel (where there was simulated leather), and that I sat very low, so that the view ahead was through a big bow-window, with no sign of a bonnet.

I was glad of the “hidden”, knee-protecting Rover stowage-pockets, found the cramped driving area quite comfortable, apart from the pan-shaped seat cushion sometimes rucking-up somewhat, and appreciated the business-like impression created by the many instruments and controls, although the “black box” atop the screen shelf, which contains these, could hardly be more ugly. It is a clever idea to accommodate the electrical fuses at the left-side end of it, or would he if the lid wasn’t secured by a single, small plastic catch, so that it frequently fans off. The vast lift-up tail-gate, so easy to raise, giving access to a vast amount of luggage space even without folding the back seats, was noted; also the fact that there was nowhere to stow upright my “Easy-Fill” one-gallon fuel-can, which tucked away so nicely in the BMW’s boot. To bring these first impressions up-to-date, the central door-locking, functioning with a satisfactory “clunk”, is a Rover luxury I wouldn’t be without. Excellent, too, is boot-illumination independent of the external lamps. The car is in that muddy fawn finish which the MD tried to convince me is the nicest 3500 colour there is—it has been less enthusiastically, and much more pointedly described, in certain other quarters! To date, I have never seen the Rover’s spare wheel or jack; but I am happy to see those chunky-tread XVS Michelins on its five-stud wheels, today the race-winning and rally-victory make of tyre… After nearly 10,000 miles there seems no diminution in the tread’s chunkiness. Naturally the 3 1/2-litre, borrowed-from-Buick, engine gives effortless performance, although without that one-time vee-eight exhaust-beat that I would willingly have accepted. The Rover power-assisted steering is by no means so well endowed with “feel” and accuracy as that on other makes I could name. But it is light and quick (2 1/2 turns, lock-to-lock), without being over-sensitive; indeed, it changes the direction of this big car so easily that there is, at times, the odd impression, probably increased by the lack of aiming-marks which a longer or higher bonnet would give, that “Big Aunt” is pirouetting about one of her back wheels. The brakes likewise lack “feel”, but they are light and quite adequate when pressed into urgent use. The handbrake seems to be positioned for a I.h.d. car but is probably easier to reach than if it were on the right of the transmission-tunnel.

To encourage it into running, the light-alloy engine requires choke when cold, this being obtained by lifting up an otherwise flush-fitting lever on the long, central console that divides the front seats. Beside this choke lever is what I would have thought was an ash-tray, as there is a lighter beside it, only its plastic top is a fixture—for those who do not mind shortening their life-span by nicotine-poisoning there are neat little ash-trays recessed in the doors. The choke can soon be dispensed with and this engine then runs in near-silence, and very smoothly exeept for some mild tremor at the steering wheel at its habitual 500-r.p.m. idling speed. if the gearbox is held in “D” with the brakes on. The oil gauge registers zero pressure at idle, but the needle climbs slowly to record over 30 lb./ sq. in. at cruising speeds. The various warning lights do not actually dazzle, but I must remember to tape-over the one that tries to frighten me into belting-up! I have still to concentrate when using any of the four big, square push-switches on the right of the aforesaid unimaginative-styled instrument binnacle, which operate the low-mounted foglamps, efficient rear-window demisting, rear fog-guard-lamps, and the hazard-flashers —the last fortunately not needed, for they should be reserved as real emergency warnings, not used at every kerb-side halt, or which so many drivers now employ them…

The Lucas H4 headlamps give a really excellent full-beam, hopeless illumination when dipped; the ingenious side-window demisting is useful but I have not yet convinced myself of the fog-lamps’ effectiveness, mounted as they are far back under the bumper. A hefty knob on the right edge of the instrument-box dims the adequate facia illumination but you cannot completely extinguish this array of light, and as there are 12 warning lights and the clock, heater-controls and gear-selector positions are also lit-up, the interior of a Rover 3500 after dark is never dull! Four vertical quadrant levers look after warmth and “coolth”. effectively when you know how, but the noise, when the car is stationary, from the 3-speed recirculation blower is depressing, in an otherwise quiet car; yet it is necessary for demisting when cold air is shut off, as it can be effectively when you do not require its useful volume to pour from the many vents. A single key is used for ignition and doors, but the BMW keys were nicer to use, if greater in number. A smaller key locks the Rover’s petrol-filler flap. The front-hinged bonnet releases easily and has a neat self-supporting strut. Tlw Unipart radio has excellent tone, and the Kienzle clock is an accurate time-keeper.

Those are the impressions I have formed of this Rover 3500, together with admiration for its very high cornering powers, without breakaway or drama, and its effortless performance. which so seldom causes the ordinary driver to have to explore the 6.500/7,000-r,p,m, limits or go into bottom gear. The rest has been said in our road-test reports.

* * *

The first place to which I went in my new British transport was Prescott for the very wet 1977 VSCC hill-climb. It was afterwards used for all the regular and irregular chores of a motoring writer’s business-life, until the fuel-pump failed, at 5,739 miles. I had previously had a Rover 3500 fail to prime on a gallon of petrol after it had run dry and I wonder whether there is a weak aspect to having a submerged pump, in the 14-gallon tank? Anyway, there I was, bonnet-up, not far from my house, when luckily a friend encountered me and took me in her Mini to the nearest Leyland Dealer. I say “luckily” because where I live there are no such things as “next-door neighbours” to call upon, for help in emergencies! Anyway, this Leyland Dealer performed a fine Supercover service, towing the car in, for about £1-per-mile (recoverable from the AA), but it was a week or so before a new fuel-pump was fitted, as these were not in stock. All this time, incidentally, there was no licence on the Rover’s, big windscreen. Henlys or Swansea having lost it; and it was a long time before the replacement arrived, from, the latter establishment!

The rectified Rover had in 6,000-mile service in London and then performed well, up to just before 9,000 miles came up on the odometer.. The driver’s seat-squab knob, now revolved freely. Fortunately the squab was set at roughly the right angle for me, for it couldn’t be adjusted. This, and the fallen boot-trim, were not noticed at the 9,000,-mile Service its London, and worse, I was told immediately this had been done that the power-steering was losing fluid, a fault, the garage said, that only Henlys or Rover’s should correct. Nevertheless, I drove 200 miles thereafter without incident and a small leak at a union was quickly cured by the Automobile Palace in Llandrindod Wells. So, at 9,220 miles, the car is again in use or will be when I can get some petrol.

The Rover 3500A is ideal for a lazy driver in a hurry, and is astonishingly fast over long cross-country hauls. Raymond Mays has said that the 3500 reminds bins of being in an airliner but mine does not have the original obtrusive wind-whistle past the windows, which may have suggested this analogy to him! As for fuel thirst, I was originally getting around 22 m.p.g., but recent checks have shown the consumption of four-star as closer to 20-21 m.p.g. As an indication of when to refuel, the grossly erratic gauge and the warning light (which appears when the gauge shows around a half-full tank.; are both quite useless. The last tankful took me 287 miles, equal, if the maker’s capacity is correct, to 20.5 m.p.g.

The Continental Correspondent says there is no point in writing about a quality car, like his E-type Jaguar, until it has done 100,000 Mlles or more, so perhaps I should now sign off and wait until my “new” Rover has run that far before referring to it again. It might be more prudent, thought, with, one hopes, everything, all go, go, go at British Leyland, to return to the subject at 40,000/50,000 miles.

W.B.

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