Another worthwhile milestone happens this year. The 50th birthday of the Rover P6. History wasn’t so kind to it (or to Rover), as it was to the 911, but the P6 clearly deserves being remembered.
Available in several guises during its longish life – 2000TC, 2200, 3500, 3500S – it was elected Car Of The Year in 1964 (the first one actually), and with good reason. It had several innovations or features not usually available for the price point. Things like 4 disk brakes (inboard at the rear), DeDion rear suspension, unit frame construction with non stressed panels attached, 4 seat belts and 4 headrests (!), safety conscious interior with rounded surfaces and a unique front suspension with horizontal / longitudinal shocks.
This layout was chosen to liberate more room for an upcoming gas turbine that never materialized. However, that room came handy when, later in life an ex-Buick 3.5L V8 was dropped into it !
Apart from the technical highlights (or because them), the P6 single-handledly created a new marketing segment – the sporting compact executive car – whose current best examples are the formidable trio of 3-Series, A4 and C-Klass… but I digress.
It had a quite sucessful life of more than 10 years and 300K units produced. It was widely known as a poor man’s Jaguar, but for half the price of a contemporary XJ saloon, who could reasonably complain ?
It was unquestionably powerful and fast for an european saloon of its day, with the first versions having about 95hp, later supplemented by the 2000TC with 125hp, and eventually the V8s with around 150hp. No wonder, they were common with British police forces and, in such role, appeared in several movie / TV car chases.
Several years ago I owned a 3500S and can attest that, bar the Hydro suspended Citroëns, I never rode such a comfy, serene car. Of course, it did roll a bit in the corners…
To finish, a few race-prepped cars with highly tuned V8s made a quick appearance in the early 70’s. Also, the Rover V8 engine block was the basis for the F1 Repco engine of the mid-60’s, which gave Sir Jack Brabham the F1 title in 1966 !