The New Rover Three-Thousand-Five

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A 3½ -litre vee-eight version of the well-established Rover 2000

At the time of the last London Motor Show the Rover Company created a lot of interest with the vee-eight version of their former 3-litre model, this fine luxury car being transformed in respect of performance and road-holding by the installation of a 3½-litre light-alloy engine adapted from a General Motors’ Oldsmobile/Buick design. Road impressions of this £2,000 V8 Rover saloon appeared in Motor Sport for November 1967. The next development was rumoured to be the insertion of this effective lightweight power unit in the well-established Rover 2000, of which over 100,000 have been produced in five years, this advanced, individualistic overhead-camshaft 4-cylinder Rover, which has been voted “Car of the Year” in six Overseas countries, including S. Africa and America, has twice been voted the best luxury compact available in Australia, and which has won A.A. gold medals for safety and coachwork, now being made at the rate of 800 a week.

The V8 Rover 2000 is now an accomplished fact, Peter Wilks, Rover’s Technical Director, having at last emerged from wading almost knee-deep in alloy V8 engine castings, to proclaim his success at shoe-horning one of these 184 b.h.p. 88.9 x 71.12 mm. (3,528 c.c.) engines which originated in America for the GM compacts into the successful and much-liked 2-litre from Solihull. What to call the resultant new Rover has been solved by naming it the Three-Thousand-Five.

I was able to try one of these cars prior to its Press pre-view in Brittany and long before its release to the public, by driving it in London traffic, over country roads, and quickly on a well-known Hampshire/Radnorshire/Hampshire route. Being conversant with the 2000TC, I first set out to note the differences between one of these Rovers and a Three-Thousand-Five. Even those you can see don’t add up to very much. The strip speedometer now reads to 140 m.p.h., to do which it is unchanged in size but smaller digits are used for every other speed calibration—0, 10, 20, 30, etc. As the fuel tank holds 15 instead of 12 gallons the gauge has been recalibrated and its contents are quoted in U.S. gallons (18) as well as in our gallons and in litres (6.8). There is now only one, central roof-light instead of lamps for front and rear compartments as on the 2000, so the rotary-switch controlling them has only one “on” position; this I regard as a retrograde, money-saving point.

At first there appears to be an extra control on the extreme right of the instrument panel, but this is for the Triplex rear window demister, which can also be fitted to 2000s (although I could never get one for mine). A tachometer is not required on the V8, on which a “3500” motif appears in the steering-wheel hub. The anti-dazzle vizors are slightly more shallow than before, a good point, because the driver’s head comes too close to the o/s one, because it parks badly, on the 2000TC. These vizors were devoid of vanity mirrors on the test car. The battery is now in the boot, on the o/s, beneath a plastic cover instead of under the bonnet, and is a Lucas, whereas “my” Rover has an Exide. The ignition-key has a gate to prevent it being turned with the engine running, which the 2000 has not, and this accentuates the sharpness of the different key on the V8. The prop for the very heavy bonnet is on the bonnet itself instead of on the bulkhead and has an anti-rattle clip, and the bumpers are of a different shape, with rubber-tipped over-riders. The external door-locks have dirt-excluding covers.

Otherwise, no apparent changes, so the Three-Thousand-Five retains all those “different,” sensible, well-planned controls and layout, including the quickly replaceable body panels, of the 2000. The test car had front/rear radio speaker selection, Lucas Quartz-Halogen spotlamps and wing mirrors, and was on 185–SP140 Avon tubeless radial tyres. Its various badges and V8 motifs had been removed (they weigh 2 lb.) and so the only outward indication that there was anything different about the car was the cowling under the radiator grille which houses the transmission oil-radiator—an observant mechanic at the Llandrindod Wells Rover distributors spotted this, when I called there to ask them to free a jammed petrol-reserve control. . . . As there is still a single exhaust tail-pipe, otherwise only the beat of the vee-eight engine gave the game away.

First impressions were of slight nose heaviness, which is soon overlooked, and much nicer choke and seat-adjustment action than on the Editorial 2000TC. Small objects placed on the facia shelf stayed in place, instead of flying about as they do on “my” car, because an anti-skid mat is standard on the new model, whereas it is an extra (not easily obtained) on the 2-litres. Steering is slightly lower geared, at just over four turns, lock-to-lock of the same 16¾-in. dia. wheel, against 3½ turns, but this is scarcely noticeable. It is, I suppose, something of an achievement, or a tribute to the low weight of the American engine, that power steering isn’t essential, although strong wrists are a tight-parking requisite.

Wanting very much to contemplate owning a Rover Three-Thousand-Five but not wishing to go over to automatic transmission until I am in my sixties, I am disappointed that the new big-engined Rover will not be available with a manual gear-change—apparently because the 2000 box would break up under 3.5-litre torque (226 lb. 11. at 3,000 r.p.m.). As it was, the book spoke of upward changes under kick-down at 40 and 70 m.p.h. but they happened at indicated speeds of 42 and 63 m.p.h., respectively. If you are prepared to put up with rather harsh selection of L on the gate of the Type 35 Borg Warner box, maxima of 48 and 80 m.p.h. can he attained in the lower gears, the engine reaching its safe maximum speed at 5,200 r.p.m.

Frankly, I was disappointed with the performance of the Three-Thousand-Five. I had expected a punchy feel and very impressive acceleration from this car, which has 47% more power than a 2000TC and a power/weight ratio of 144 b.h.p./ton. But this wasn’t apparent on the road. As for top speed, Rover claim 118 m.p.h. and I am sure this compact aluminium-engined V8 will work up to this. I can only report that on ordinary English (well, Welsh) roads I needed more space than is commonly available to get near to an indicated 100 m.p.h. I would, indeed, call this an 80-m.p.h. car for practical off-the-Motorways driving.

This is not to say that the Rover Three-Thousand-Five is pedestrian; very far from it. I was so impressed with the way in which it effortlessly covered much ground, putting up deceptively high average speeds while providing great comfort for driver and occupants, and with the fact that adding 1½ litres and four cylinders to the under-bonnet space has in no way impaired the road-holding, understeer not having noticeably increased, nor altered the all-round excellence of the all-disc, Lockheed-servo brakes that I nearly stopped at a remote Post Office in Herefordshire to send Peter Wilks a telegram of congratulation. If the telegraphic address of the Engineering Department instead of that of the Service Department had appeared in the handbook, I should have done. . . .

The latest Rover is, then, something of a tantalising quantity. Not possessing quite the sizzling performance anticipated, not entirely a luxury car like the 3½-litre V8, because there is wind noise at speed and quite a lot of road noise, not noticed in the 2000TC because of its noisier engine, the new Three-Thousand-Five nevertheless appeals because of its smooth vee-eight progression in a very fast safe-handling car of notably compact dimensions. At the time of writing I did not know what it was to cost but felt that if it can be sold at around £1,700, Rover would never be able to keep pace with demand.* (*The price has been announced as £1,400 basic, £1,750 19s. 5d. with the recently increased purchase-tax. This is only £255 11s. 1d. more than the price of a Rover 2000TC. We predict a very big demand for the Rover Three-Thousand-FiveEd.)

The main differences between this model and the 2000 are confined to a modified base unit to take the different power unit, altered bottom front-suspension links to clear engine, 170 lb./in. rate instead of 150 lb./in, rate coil springs in front, front shock-absorber bore increased by 1/8 in., to 1-in. bore, offset front hubs to take the new road wheels, strengthened final-drive mountings and rubbers, modified rear-suspension top links to clear bigger tyres and larger top-link rubber bushes to improve noise insulation, new rear-suspension bottom links with modified shock-absorber mountings with strengthened rubber bushes, pivoted from a rubber-mounted cross-member to reduce road noise, and 1 3/8-in. bore rear shock-absorbers with 260 lb./in. rate coil springs.

The Burman F3 recirculating ball steering has a variable ratio 21 : 5 to straight ahead, 26.0 : 1 on full lock, compared to 20.3 : 1 of 2000 steering. Then there is the uprated Type 35 Borg Warner transmission, but like the power unit, this is already used for the 3½-litre V8 Rover luxury range. The only differences in the engine installation for the Three-Thousand-Five are those to air-cleaner, exhaust mani-folds, oil filter attachment and choke and throttle connections to get into the space available, new double-skin exhaust downpipes leading into two aluminised steel silencers, heat insulated, and high-pressure hoses for the 15 lb.-pressurised coolant system to suit the new engine and radiator.

The final-drive ratio has been changed (we will return to this in a moment) and has-been strengthened, with a 4-star differential. There are the bigger tyres, Girling brakes with 3-cylinder calipers at the front, using Ferodo 2424F pads and a Lockheed Type 8 servo. That’s about all. There is a Lucas II AC alternator giving 45 amps. at 2,400 engine r.p.m. and a pre-engaged starter, but these are common to the 3.5-litre V8. In case any lady readers are still with me, the Three-Thousand-Five is available in April yellow, as well as in the 2000’s colours, but Brigade Red replaces Racing and Venetian Red. Extras include headrests for front and back seats, with reading lights for the front seats, heated rear window, laminated screen, boot-lid spare-wheel carrier, tachometer, and tinted glass.

Reverting to the somewhat less than expected acceleration, it could be that the Rover Three-Thousand-Five is deceptive. It does accelerate better than a 2000TC and the bigger V8, by quite a useful margin, as the following figures show:

2000TC

0- 30 .. 3.8 sec.

0- 40 .. 5.8 sec.

0- 50 .. 8.5 sec.

0- 60 .. 11.9  sec.

0- 70 .. 16.5 sec.

0- 80 .. 22.0 sec.

0- 90 .. 31.2 sec.

0-100 ..

s.s. ¼-mile .. 18.4 sec.

3-Litre V8 saloon

0- 30 .. 4.8 sec.

0- 40 .. 6.6 sec.

0- 50 .. 8.9 sec.

0- 60 .. 12.4 sec.

0- 70 .. 16.3 sec.

0- 80 .. 21.8 sec.

0- 90 .. 31.5 sec.

0-100 .. 45.0 sec.

s.s. ¼-mile .. 18.3 sec.

Three-Thousand-Five

(Maker’s claims)

0- 30 .. 3.7 sec.

0- 40 .. 5.1 sec.

0- 50 .. 7.0 sec.

0- 60 .. 9.5 sec.

0- 70 .. 13.1 sec.

0- 80 .. 17.3 sec.

0- 90 .. 22.9 sec.

0-100 .. 32.7 sec.

s.s. ¼-mile .. 17.5 sec.

That these figures are not even better is probably due to the high gearing Peter Wilks has adopted, presumably out of consideration for the rev. limit sensibilities of a former-generation push-rod power unit, or perhaps to reduce noise level from a unit which is packed into a confined space in very dose proximity to the front-seat occupants. He certainly has used high gearing, the Three-Thousand-Five having an axle-ratio of 3.08 to 1, compared to 3.54 to 1 of the 3½-litre V8 and the 2000 range. It would seem to be this which hampers performance, for the new car has some 70 h.p. more than the 2000TC for a weight increase of only about 52 lb. However, a s.s. ¼-mile in 17½ sec. from a four-seater saloon isn’t bad6¼-litres of V8 in the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow also require 17.5 sec. . . .

Rover claim a touring fuel consumption of 21.6 m.p.g. from the Three-Thousand-Five. For part of my journey I was getting around 20 to 21 m.p.g. but driving moderately quickly this became 19.0 m.p.g., with the lowest figure 18.7 m.p.g., of the essential 101-octane petrol. After the first use of the petrol reserve control it needed force to return it; it functioned once thereafter and then became inoperative. The gear selector became stiff to move from the P position and there was an occasional squeal from the region of the brake pedal. Otherwise, this latest small Rover V8 proved a fast, fascinating car. Its V8 engine added much refinement, removed a taste of agricultural, from a brilliant conception of modern luxury/compact motor-car. If endowing the old Rover 3-litre with a V8 engine has made it into a very acceptable small-businessman’s Silver Cloud, the new V8 Three-Thousand-Five may be said to represent a very opportune, if somewhat clamorous budget Day Silver Shadow. . .—W. B.

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