Early model Rovers, like many other prestige cars, were usually looked on as being very staid and suited only to elderly, grey-templed drivers rather like the early Volvo image. The Rover 2000-P6, introduced in 1963, was the first young man’s Rover. It was packed with new technology and was ideal for the young executive on the go who wanted big-car ambience with sportscar manners in a more compact car.
The Rover 2000 was a 160 km/h saloon, perfectly suited to the motorway age. This was a crisp, restrained car, modern without being gimmicky, which resisted all later attempts to tart it up. The Rover 2000 was one of the great saloons of the 60s, a car as mould breaking in its class as the Mini.
It was an immediate hit, lavishly well-reviewed around the world: Car and Driver magazine said it was the best sedan ever presented in the pages of this magazine’, while American safety campaigner Ralph Nader paid the 2000 the ultimate compliment when he cited it as a prime example of how all cars should be built’.
It inspired many inferior imitators in the genre it created, and sold, by Rover standards, in huge numbers – not only to young executives but to all the old-style Rover customers too: doctors, bank managers, lawyers and every other shade and shape of middle-class professional bought the 2000 in their thousands, just as today they buy BMWs.
For the first time, Rover was selling safety with the 2000, long before other manufacturers adopted this approach. It was constructed around a solid base unit’ cage which was in fact a steel skeleton to which all the unstressed outer panels were attached. It was fitted with four-wheel disc brakes and a well-padded interior.
Whilst some people joked that this was a great car in which to have an accident, the reality was that in the 2000 you stood a good chance of avoiding an accident in the first place but if an accident was your misfortune you were less likely to sustain serious injuries.
The ultimate P6, released in 1968, was the 3500S with its V8 engine developing 93kW and manual gearbox which turned the P6 into a real Jag-eater. The 3500S was easy to spot thanks to its sports-wheel covers. This version was much favoured by the police as a Jag-catcher.
If the P6 2000 didn’t go like any past Rover, then it certainly didn’t look like one either: David Bache’s shape did full justice to the modern mechanisms underneath. Its crisp, restrained lines were influenced by the Citroen DS – his became quite obvious when one looked at the rear of the roof-line.
In the early 1960s the 2000 set new standards of safety and driver appeal in the 2.00-litre executive class. The 2000 TC had twin carburettors, Rover’s answer to the standard 2000’s lack of urge. The only way of spotting a TC was by its badges. The main options on the TC were the wooden steering-wheel and extra round gauges and, whilst wire wheels were an option, they were rarely seen. All were Series 2 models with plastic grilles. In total 329,000 P6 models were produced from 1963 to 1977.