Wednesday, February 24, 2010

1970 Rover 3500S P6

Rover introduced the 3500 P6 in 1968 and to North America in 1969. Initially it was met with glowing reviews by the automotive press on both sides of the Atlantic. Those reviews changed quickly as the P6 3500 became synonymous with unreliability.

How unreliable was the 3500 P6? Well, in 1974, Britain's "Drive" magazine declared it the "worst new car in England". They purchased a 3500S P6. During their first six months and 6000 miles of ownership, it had gone through three engines, two gear boxes, two clutch housings and needed a complete wiring harness. The car had spent 114 of its first 165 days in the shop. This was 6 years after the model's introduction, by which time you would have thought Rover would have worked all the "bugs" out. Imagine how bad the early cars must have been. Yikes.

US sales were never good and Rover withdrew it from the North American market in 1971. They continued to build it and sell it elsewhere until 1977.

The good news is these cars are fast and fun to drive. The P6 was originally offered with just a 4 cylinder engine. The all aluminum V8 didn't weigh much more than the 4 and this car is quick for a large car. 60 MPH comes in roughly 10 seconds and its top speed is near 120 MPH.

The suspension is unique and effective. The rear uses a de Dion tube suspension. The de Dion set up is unique in that the "tube is in two parts that can rotate, thereby giving the rear suspension a quality of independent suspension while keeping the wheels vertical and parallel in relation to the body." (See diagram below, courtesy of

The front suspension was even more bizarre... "an L-shaped rotating bracket conveys the vertical motion of the wheels to horizontally mounted springs fastened to the rear wall of the engine compartment."(See photo below, courtesy of Autoden)

That was all interesting, but not enough to save the reputation of a car that had the potential of spending 70% of its time immobile. Poor sales, lousy resale value, poor reliability, and a propensity to rust sentenced most of the North American 3500S P6s to junkyards. They are rarely seen these days.

This Rover has had what could be best described as a "personalized restoration". The good news is that if you don't like the modifications done to the car, you can bring it back to its original state without too much cost and effort.

As the seller writes, the North American 3500S P6 came with 3 functional hood scoops. It also had wraparound bumpers, sidemarker lights, and a little thing called an "Icelert" (This warned the driver of falling temperatures and the possibility of ice on the road - My E36 BMW has a similar feature. It's a neat idea, but I don't know of anyone who pays much attention to it.) Except for the scoops, all of these are missing from this car.

Some old cars look really good without bumpers. This isn't one of them. The bumpers should be replaced, although I'm pretty certain they won't be easy to find. The exhaust has been shaped to exit from the side of the car and the front and back tires are different sizes. That's pretty cool on an old hot rod, but not on a classy English sedan. The exhaust should be rerouted out the back and the tires should be all matched.

What makes this car attractive, besides the fact that it still exists, is the body. The body looks spectacular. The interior looks to be in decent condition and complete, but could use a good "sprucing up".

Like most of the old cars we enjoy, the aftermarket and owners have figured out how to make these cars relatively reliable today. I don't know that I'd use one as a daily driver, but it would be cool to bring to car shows and to take on weekend drives.

Located in Buies Creek, NC, click here to see the eBay listing.


lukeg said...

One of my favorite Fun Family Sedans of the 70's ..its very hard to find Rover 3500S P6B V8 as clean as this 1..its perfect for me except its a debbie downer automatic..oh well still on the hunt,thats where the fun is ..Alfa Romeo Berlina's are my other fav...

Chris Keen said...

Nice... interesting to see the DeDion, since I'd assumed the Alfetta setup (solid triangle, not trailing arms) was the same.

Anonymous said...

I had a 1969 3500S - what a mechanical beast! Nothing conventional... Brakes (twin master cylinders, rear inboard disks, De Dion tube rear-end. It was all designed around safety - way ahead of Volvo. Also designed originally to accomodate a gas turbine engine (hence the crazy front-end suspension and steering set-up). I loved the car - truly unique!
Paul H.


Graham Clayton said...

My next door neighbour has an immaculate 3500S - the S featured a 4-speed manual transmission.