Some weeks before the Motor Show British Leyland invited us up to Silverstone where they had laid on a test day to drive as many of their models as possible, including a brand new one which we can’t write about until later in the month. The other cars were all updates of already well-known models and Basil Wales’ Special Tuning Division had laid on their demonstrators for us to try as well.
Readers will realise that Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, with its succession of fast right-hand bends, is no place to assess the potential of road-going machinery even with the straw bale wiggle-woggle in the centre which always crops up at these fast days. BL realised it too and provided a map with a 20-mile route around the Bedfordshire roads, in which few of the scribes seemed to be interested but was eminently better for briefly finding out about the cars and was well sign-posted. Furthermore, a rough circuit had been laid out in one of the car parks for a Range Rover course. Incidentally a 1-litre Mini takes the whole Grand Prix circuit flat out.
However, the most interesting car we tried was the manual version of the Rover 3500. The new four-speed box is a beefed-up version of the one already used on the Rover 2000, and its use has improved the performance of the popular British Leyland V8 considerably. A 0-60-m.p.h. time of 9.6 sec. is claimed along with a top speed of 125 m.p.h., which compares with similar figures for the automatic of 10.5 sec. and 118 m.p.h. Those who have been clamouring for a manual version of the previously only automatic Rover 3500 will not be disappointed. The new model is termed the 3500S and what is more it is retailing at a fraction under £1,976. This represents excellent value in this day and age and a saving of £81 over the automatic version. Why didn’t they do it before? Incidentally the Land Rover has been given a considerable face-lift as well.
Of the other cars we particularly enjoyed a road drive in a Jaguar V12, some quick laps in a 1.3 Marina from Special Tuning, and drove an Automatic MG-B, which was an interesting experience. Never knew there was one!—A. R. M.