A WEEK OF LUXURY
Making the acquaintance of the new 34-litre V8 Rover Saloon
IT HAS been common knowledge for some time that the Rover Company was introducing a VA engine for their former 3-litre model. This car was released at the Earls Court Motor Show, and, as we announced last month, Great Aunt Rover has certainly lifted her skirts up; she has also changed her elastic-sided boots for running shoes. (See picture of new Rover wheel.) Through the enterprise of Rover’s Managing Director, Mr. Martin-Hurst, the design rights Of the former Buick Special)Oldsmobile F.85 light alloy V8 engine were obtained. Rover’s found it impractical to die-cast the components of this engine and consequently made it by sand-casting and using pressed-in dry cylinder liners. In America they contrived to cast the cylinder liners directly into the block. This new engine has been installed into what is virtually the old 3-litre coupe and saloon Rover with certain modifications in an endeavour to bring it up to date and more in keeping with the new and sophisticated power unit.
Having missed the Rover pre-view day I was able to make acquaintance with the more sporting ” Great Aunt ” in the week preceding the Earls Court Motor Show. Arriving at Rover’s Seagrave Road depot, where staunch Rover clients down the decades have waited for their newly-serviced Rovers in .a spacious waiting room, their inquiries dealt with by uniformed commissionaires, very much in the top bracket manner, I was able to transfer from a London taxi to a Rover V8 saloon. Driving it out of London in a rainstorm down the M4 I found it difficult to keep down to Castle cruising speed, in spite of the congested traffic on this two-lane motorway on which crawling private cars were forcing commercial vehicles to take repeatedly to the outer lane. First impressions of the Rover were that it is remarkably smooth and quiet, and this was later confirmed. The new engine is indeed so quiet that the creaking of the seats and, on the test car, a most irritating hunting noise from the speedometer drive, spoilt the otherwise quiet running of the car. At idling speed, the engine is quite inaudible, so that the noise of the windscreen wipers is a distinct disadvantage. After a day of local journeys, I penetrated into deepest: Sussex to inspect a pre-war Opel P4 Cabriolet which was looking for a new home in this fine Oar, and on the Sunday before the Motor Show, I drove the Rover on a cross-country route to Silverstone for the Guild of Motoring Writers test day. Although my driving permit had failed to arrive from the office, I was able to enjoy hot steak and kidney pudding in a heated marquee tenerously provided by B.M.C. Their’s was certainly the most r opular luncheon party Of the-.day and if their cars do as well, they have nothing whatever to fear from their rivals in the industry! On this cwss-country journey the Rover proved extremely easy to drive and otetstandingly comfortable, but on bad surfaces and round sharp bends on deserted roads I was conscious that the road-holding and ride have not changed appreciably since I road-tested the 3-litre 6-cylinder coupe some time ago. The ride can be distinctly lively and the big i 5-in.
Dunlop RS5 tyres tend to be deflected by road undulations at the expense of completely accurate steering. The Hydrosteer power steering itself is light and direct and I have no complaints about it except when one is driving the car hard rather more positive control would be appreciated.
There is no need to deal in detail with the Rover control arrangements as these are not greatly changed from previous models. There is the familiar nacelle before the driver with a series of rather fumbly flick switches each side of the instruments for controlling the minor services. Of these it is necessary to make three actions to bring all the lights into operation,the headlamps being selected by a right-hand stalk below the turn indicators/flashers’ control after the sidelamps have been switched on by means of one of the flick switches, and dipping is then a matter of operating the foot control. In similar vein, the wipers -have two switches, one to switch them on and the other controlling their two-speed action, while the screen-washers are operated by a button round the left side of the nacelle. The rheostat instrument lighting is controlled by one of the flick switches, which does not give a very precise action. All this, however, is of little moment if the Rover is driven as most Rover owners are likely to drive it. During the test, however, the switch controlling the instrument lighting got extremely hot and also heated up the nacelle adjacent to it, so that something within was obviously ” shorting.”
Following the Silverstone Sunday the Royer was used mainly Inc motoring up to London and for a considerable amount of commuting in town. On such journeys it is an extremely restful car, the high seating position, the driver’s seat controlled for height by a small crank handle, giving good visibility for traffic motoring.
Not only does the good torque of the new engine, which reached its maximum at 2,600 r.p.m., make for good acceleration, in traffic, but the Borg-Warner type 35 fully automatic transmission, with torque convertor and 3-speed epicyclic gearbox function smoothly and easily, the central gear-lever, very well located, providing for ” Hold ” in the lower speeds when this is required for extra efficient acceleration. Rovers are insistent that the engine should not .exceed 5,200 r.p.m., so that the speedometer of the saloon is marked at a maximu.n of 47 and 77 m.p.h., for observing should the ” Hold ” control be in operation. In addition, one has the usual D. x and D.2 settings, the D.2 position cutting out wheel-spin when starting on slippery roads. The Girling discidrum brakes with Lockheed vacuum servo are extremely smooth and powerful, perhaps slightly insensitive if casually operated, but otherwise some of the best brakes I have come across on a car of this size and weight. In typically Rover manuer the car is splendid equipped, with rear window de-misting, a parcels’ shelf which slides out from under the facia and which, below that, has the traditional tool tray, a lockable
cubby-hole, and between the Set ts a heater control and separate control for the rear speaker of the radio Within long reach of the rear-seat passengers. I was, however, rather disappointed to find that neither the lockable cubby-hole nor the parcels’ shelf would accommodate a Rolleillex camera. It need hardly be added that the spacious leather upholstered seats with individual arm-rests, the hack one incorporating a second picnic tray, and the quality finish of the entire car are fully in keeping with Rover’s idea. of how the luxury market sl,ould be catered for. It is inevitable that this car will be compared with the Jaguar 420. While this has independent rear suspension and disc brakes all round, and is probably a faster vehicle, there is little doubt that its considerably more powerful twin-cam 6-cylinder engine is both faster and noisier, at any rate towards peak speed, titan Rover’s new y.8. There is an irresistible smoothness of running, and fascination about eight cylinders, as Ford proved 10 the Plebs many, many years ago. The Rover is considerably less powerful than the equivalent Jaguar model but smoother and quieter, and it is on these grounds that it will appeal to the Rover clientele and should therefore continue the life of the former 3-litre model for a considerable time to come. Whether everyone will like the new wheels, which are not, as they first appear, of magnesium alloy, but are a rather clever form of pressed-steel wheel, is open to debate.
The test car continued to serve me faithfully during the harassing days just before the Motor Show, with no troubles apart from the aforementioned short circuit in the. rheostat lighting switch and a heater-fan which ceased to operate and left Me with cold feet while driving to London on Earls Court Press Day, and breakage of the exhaust tail-pipe bracket. The new engine has considerably increased the performance of the car, so that a top ‘speed of around 110 m.p.h. And a standing-start 1-mile accomplished in under 181 seconds has completely dispelled the ,staid aspect of the biggest car from the Rover factory. All the details are nicely contrived and the engine installation with its twin S.U. carburetters feeding into a Waterheated manifold is in keeping with tl.e demeanour of the car. With a compression ratio (if tol to 1, the best quality petrol is required. On long runs I got rather better than 20 m.p.g. and the overall consumption worked out at 18.4 m.p.g. After 600 Miles I-a-pint of oil would have restored the level on the sump dipstick—there is also a transmission dipstick—which is fairly easy to withdraw but difficult to read, as it is much the same hue as the oil.
Aircraft-type fresh-air vents on each side of the facia functioned effectively and the heater controls are simple to use. The gearbox has a Separate oil radiator below the main water radiator. There are other typically Royer aspects of this fine car. For instance, there is a petrol-reserve niggle under the parcels’ shelf alongside the mixture-enrichener toggle. This is a useful item, although the engine sometimes dies out entirely before it can be operated and some delay ensues before it will prime—however, the petrol gauge is reasonably. accurate and sufficiently pessimistic for an observant driver to Obviate this occurrence. (Range, before using reserve supply, approx. 230 miles.) Cold starting calls for mixture-enrichment but this control can be left out until the ” choke ” warning light conies on. -The sidelamp tell-tales found on theRover 2000 feature on the V8 and the boot lid shuts with the same precision under gentle persuasion. On the V-& the bonnet is self-supporting. A small horn-ring, to obviate blanking the Jaeger speedometer and matching general-services
operates.. the horn and the r.h. ” umbrella-handle ” hand-brake pulls out from above the parcels’ shelf„ and has a bright warning light. There is a well-placed quick-action fuel filler on the Ws, but it des not lock, as on the Royer 2000. The rheostat instrument lighting workS in conjunction with the
D.1, D.2, N., R., P. gear-gale and the Kienzle clock on the far left of the facia, and can be switched off completely. The interior dc’e(o is a tine combination of le:Idler (but what a horrid sick shade on the test car!), African cherrywood and black crash padding, with such luxuries as ash-trays front and rear, with lighter on the console, which it shares with the rear window heater and fog-lamp switches, roof” pulls,” a rest for the driver’s left foot, adjustable door arm-rests with pocket, front-door. pockets, 4-door courtesy interior lighting, etc.. Some of the minor controls would be out of reach of scat-harness wearers and there arc only single, but effective, Lucas headlamps-, and with inbuilt Lucasfog-lamps below. Instrumentation (in the r.h. dial) includes an ammeter and anoil gauge. The ‘spare wheel is in a wind-down tray (which has an ingenious wire-locking device) below the luggage boot. Qualifying earlier remarks, although the power-assisted Bydrosteer variable-ratio steering feels unduly light at times, and the suspension is too lively over bad surfaces and develops considerable roll angles,
the general handling hasbeen improved, and on longer acquaintance with the V8 ROver I found it could be hurried along, even on wet roads, without anxiety, and certainly with ,ery little driver-effort. I would describe it as similar to a Rolls-Royce -Silver Cloud to driveout-dated, but highly satisfying. (The three snags that arose, in 560 miles, might also typify what could be expected from a very highmileage used Silver Cloud ?) There were rather too many extraneous. noiseS, Such as upholstery creaking, that speedometer drive chuntering„. those noisy wipers and, towards the end, a rattle from the twin exhaust tail-pipes, whose bracket, as I have said, had broken, to enable full enjoyment of the very quiet engine, to be Obtained. But the high, comfortable seating, with friction-adjustable back rests, as on Rover 20008, the rear seats separate ” artn-chairs,” the great dignity of the 31-litre Rover V8, and its very good acceleration with no sense of any effort from the new 160-h.p. power unit, make this a highly-desirable car for the aged or the more lazy driver. For me it certainly eased the trying days preceding the Motor Show, with its silent travel and effortless traffic negotiation, and at just under £2,000 in saloon form I would regard it as a very good purchase. (Price with extras as tested is £2,069 48. 3d.)—W. 13.