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Rover P6 buying guide, history and review

Words: Matthew Hayward

Reinvention was the name of the game with Rover’s sleek, sophisticated P6. Launched in 1963 as the 2000, it signalled the beginning of a new era for Rover, which intended to ditch the slightly old- fashioned image of the P4 and P5. With development led by engineers, this was a car that was as brilliant to drive as it was futuristic to look at.

Key to the Rover’s style was a clever method of body manufacturing. Much like the Citroën DS, the P6’s body panels all bolt onto an inner monocoque – in the hope of keeping rust at bay. The P6 also features an unconventional and impressive independent suspension set-up, with disc brakes all-round.

As history shows, allowing engineers free rein doesn’t always work out well financially, so the hydropneumatic suspension and flat-four engine originally mooted were dismissed by the Wilks brothers. Instead, the P6 was initially powered by a new 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder. Sensible.

Production started in 1963 at Rover’s factory on Lode Lane in Solihull, and the P6 was launched just one week ahead of the similarly positioned Triumph 2000. Thanks to its great handling and intelligent design, in 1964 it became the very first winner of the European Car of the Year award – the only real criticism was that the 90bhp ‘four’ was slightly lacking in refinement. The P6 proved to be such a success that the factory couldn’t keep up with demand, although that was in part due to the various production stoppages and strikes. Production steadily improved into the 1970s.

Rover P6

The first major change came in 1966, with the introduction of the 114bhp twin-carburettor 2000 TC. As well as offering 110mph performance, it received a better Girling brake set-up and a few other tweaks. Sales continued to surge, and in April 1968 the P6 was fitted with Rover’s recently acquired Buick-derived aluminium V8 engine. Initially offered only as a three-speed automatic, the 144bhp 3500 punched considerably harder, but more importantly had the refinement the P6 had always deserved.

Enthusiasm continued to grow and in 1971 the 150bhp 3500S model was introduced, combining the V8 with a strengthened version of the 2000’s four-speed manual ’box, making for a real sports saloon.

The final change to the engine line-up came in 1973, with the introduction of the 2200. This new model saw a bored-out version of the 2.0-litre engine, with 98bhp and more torque. As with the 2000, it was available in both single- and twin-carb guises. Sales remained strong right up to the introduction of the SD1 in June 1976, and production of the 2200 and 3500 P6 actually overlapped into March 1977.

With the added benefit of that 3.5-litre Rover V8 later in life, the P6 has always been a popular classic, yet one that has remained affordable. Prices have firmed up in recent years, but great examples can still be bought for less than £10,000, making this a particularly fabulous and very usable British classic. Make sure you find a solid example, and enjoy what is simply one of the best saloon cars of its era.

Rover P6

Rover P6 common problems

Bolt-on panels can hide corrosion. The worst areas are usually underneath; check the inner sills and the D-posts behind the door shuts. The V8 engine needs regular oil and (because it’s all-alloy) coolant changes. The four-cylinder is reliable, but listen for a tinkling cam-chain and look for weeping coolant side-covers on the block. Inboard rear disc brakes are difficult to access, so maintenance is often forgone on infrequently used cars.

What to pay?

Condition is king. Most desirable is the V8-powered 3500S manual at £7000-12,000 for a good example, although the very best can fetch beyond £20,000. Even so, road-legal cars, usually automatics, start at £3500.

Four-cylinder cars are more of a bargain, with good examples from about £5000; you’ll still pay £10,000 for a particularly tidy car. TC models are worth a premium, too. If you’re less fussy about condition, or fancy a project, then you could find a solid runner from around £2500.

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