For older men

Comfort and luxury personified in the 3-litre Rover Mk. III Coupe

OLD age is a miseralsle business, as the late Somerset Maugham so graphically explained. Sight and hearing are impaired, the palate wearies, you tire quickly and are beset by ailments. You continue to look at women but they do not look at you. Approaching this unhappy state reactions slow and you tend to drive slowly along in the middle of the road, obstructing others—although I note that this is also a habit of many drivers but half my age. . . .

These thoughts were brought on when, going to Rover's London depot to collect for test a 2000TC, I was given instead a 3-litre Mk. III.

When the enthusiastically-announced Rover 2000 was a new car, Motor Sport published a full road-test report on it and we later added further to our initial impressions of this loudly-acclaimed newcomer. But that was a long time ago, November 1963 and January 1964, respectively, and as a considerable amount of development work has since been done by the Solihull engineers, I thought it would be a good idea to re-assess the Rover 2000, in its latest, faster TC form.

Alas, the car I was to have tried was involved in an accident and has not, to date, been repaired—what a lot of Press cars become unavailable at the last moment from this cause these days! We were to have had a reconciliation with Alfa Romeo by driving a Giulia Veloce but this, also, was crunched by a lorry or something before I saw it. Anyway, that is how I came to be driving about in a massive 3-litre Rover, a car which in appearance seems to have just happened, for surely it cannot have been "styled" ?

Within, though, it is mighty comfortable and very fully equipped in a notably individualistic style. The leather-upholstered seats are particularly restful, the gears can be changed quite pleasantly by a central lever, reverse safeguarded by a press-button in the lever-knob. Bottom gear whines, the others are quiet. This 4-speed transmission is supplemented by overdrive controlled by a l.h. steering-column stalk, but this is not effective on a trailing throttle, nor is it possible to get overdrive to disengage at small throttle openings. This is mildly inconvenient and I prefer positive selection, if one must have o/d at all.

Every comfort has been built into this big Rover. The front seat squabs recline after a Bache friction-lock has been releascd, fore-and-aft adjustment is controlled by a side lever, and a rather protuberant winding handle at the front of each seat enables its cushion to be wound up or down. If the passenger decides the old man drives reasonably and wishes to recline, the driver's central arm-rest is unfolded, remaining in place as her seat-squab is lowered; having its own range of adjustment. The four side arm-rests are similarly adjustable. Head-rests can also be provided for any of the four seats; they incorporate reading lamps for those behind if fitted to the front seats.

The speedometer and tachometer are set high before the driver in a separate nacelle, and are flanked by vertical batteries of flick-switches, one for putting the wipers into action, another for controlling their speed, others for 2-speed heater fan and side parking lamps, while there is rheostat instrument lighting control and, particularly commendable, a fuel-reserve switch - would that that all cars had one.

Another individual feature of the 3-litre Rover is that the subsidiary instruments are set in separate nacelles, as it were, below the main panel—a Lucas ammeter and Jaeger oil-pressure gauge, fuel gauge and thermometer. This leaves the facia, which like the window clippings, is of African cherry wood, clear of dials except for an electric clock, angled at the extreme left, this running off its own battery, charged from the main battery. There is a lockable wooden-lidded cubby-hole, the radio, if fitted, occupies the centre of the facia, and beneath it there is a deep, full-width parcels' shelf, supplemented by still-topped door pockets.

Ventilation is looked after by aircraft-type thumb-adjusted flap-valves, brought in by separate knobs, at the facia-sill extremes, openable parallelogram-shaped front and back quarter-lights and very neat, clearly-labelled heater/demister vertical quadrant levers, one each side of the radio panel. The rear-window can be electrically demisted from a knob under the facia, the front-seat passenger has a big under-facia covered ash-tray, and clear, labelled warning lamps for convenient pull-out handbrake on/low brake fluid level and choke in tee, are additional Rover refinements. The dip-switch is a proper treadle, a cigar lighter is fitted, and a rather small-diameter horn-ring circles the steering wheel. Courtesy action of individual roof lamps (with their own switches) as a door is opened, thick carpets with underfelt, counter-balanced bonnet and boot-lid with automatic illumination of the compartments they normally cover, front/rear radio-speaker balance and 2-speed heater control on the propeller-shaft tunnel in reach of all occupants, a tool-tray which draws out from under the facia to form a shelf, and a tray with two cup-holders in the rear-seat folding centre arm-rest, add to the comfort and convenience of Rover owners.

In a country in which speed is officially discouraged I think there is quite a lot to be said for motoring in quiet and comfort. The 3-litre Rover is extremely comfortable, in its own characteristic style, while its degree of hush must be close to that of the World's most expensive luxury cars—yet it -costs only just over £2,000.

There is a saloon version for bulky people or people who crave a bulkier car, but the low-roofed coupe has adequate room in its rear compartment, With separate-type seatings, for two people, and another on the arm-rest, and there is an enormous boot with the spare wheel in a wind-down container under its floor.

It was when I came to go quickly in the 3-litre Rover that my enthusiasm diminished. I have never liked Hydrosteer power-assisted steering and while that on the car from Solihull was better than that of the only 4-litre R-type Vanden Plas I have driven, it was far from perfect. Visibility to the near-side was restricted, the servo-assisted Girling disc/drum brakes were spongy and not very reassuring, and the degree of roll on corners, even before the 6.70 X 15 Dunlop RS5s protested, was not to my liking. Maybe I really am senile, for several of my friends whom I regard as discerning drivers lover their 3-litre Rovers, or profess to. To me, however, this big Rover seems to be an inexpensive luxury car for the older motorist. . .

The test car had a tendency to engine stalling, even when warm, at disconcerting moments, and its diminishing rear-view mirror was scarcely a safety factor. By judicious use of the rather odd overdrive I obtained 19.8 m.p.g. of premium petrol, and after 670 miles the 121-b.h.p. 77.8 x 105 mm (2,995 c.c.) 6-cylinder engine would have liked about a quart of oil. Incidentally, there is more individuality in the power unit, where inlet valves set above side-by-side exhaust valves prevail. . . .

The side rubbing strips along the body sides end, amusingly, in three chromium squares to signify Mk. III, reminder that eight years' steady development have gone into the car, which is available with automatic transmission if required. Rover engineering has been on the up-and-up since 1933 and the modern bodies are very conscientiously undersealed and sound-damped.

If top speed is of interest, this Rover will do 107 m.p.h. and for a car which is in the top-bracket comfort-category the all-up priece of £2,028, as tested, I regard as commendably moderate. Moreover, on the Service side, Rover do things rather nicely with their spacious London Depot in Seagrave Road (just past the historic Rolls-Royce Lille Hall), where gold-braided attendants are on duty day and night.

But dash it, I had intended to test the Rover 2000TC and still await it with interest, and, I hope, a steady hand.