Tuesday, November 5, 2013

1970 North American Spec Rover P6 3500 - A Rare Survivor

In 1969, the year the P6 3500 was introduced to North America, we had few choices when it came to mass produced European luxury sedans. Audi (in its second incarnation) was just a year old and virtually unknown. BMW had yet to achieve "ultimate driving machine" status. Volvo and Saab were selling safe, reliable cars, but not luxury cars. Peugeot was offering the 404 in the US, but that car somehow managed to be neither a luxury car, nor an economy car. The only real choices came from Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.

The P6 3500 could have - should have - been a contender. It had a light weight, US designed, V8. It had a very unique, very sophisticated suspension. (See my February 2010 post for details about the suspension.) It had all of the comfort and convenience features you'd expect in a luxury car in 1969, and a few you wouldn't (i.e. The Icelert, which warned of icy roads).

What the P6 didn't have was reliability. It was a mechanical and - especially - an electrical nightmare. It didn't take long for the word to get out, and the car was all but ignored by US buyers. 1971 was the last year for the P6 in North America.

Cars produced for North America (known as NADA cars) had unique bumpers and scoops on the hood (bonnet). They also tended to be better equipped than the British and European cars. For many P6 aficionados, they are very desirable cars.

The story behind this car is documented in the seller's ad. It is a 3 owner car (if you don't include the seller). Since 1976 it has been owned and cared for by Rover enthusiasts. It has a few very minor flaws, but nothing serious. Amusingly, it still has some of the typical solutions for the car's typical problems. When a mechanic couldn't figure out why it "would sometimes start with the twist of the key, and sometimes not," a starter button was installed. It now has a manual choke, which cured the car's cold start problems. The seller says the brake warning light will illuminate on occasion, even though the brakes are fine. Back in the day, the typical solution for that was to ignore it. That is what is being done today.

This car is being described by the seller as "possibly be the BEST unrestored example left." Considering the tiny amount built and sold in the first place and how few of those survive today - even cars in good condition were scrapped, as their engines were in demand for MGB V8 conversions - I would say that claim is likely to be true.

Like so many of the cars I write about, the Rover P6 3500 is a car that was undesirable as a new car, but very desirable as a classic. If you're looking for a very cool, very rare, fun to drive, classic British sedan, this car is worth checking out.

Located in Pittsburgh, PA, click here to see the eBay listing (which has a lot of good, clear pictures).


Jon said...

The Wiki on these cars is worth a read and really underscores the reliability issue. It is amazing how Rover design took a giant leap from the stodgy P6 to the futuristic SD1.

Dan DiBiase said...

I always loved the look of these cars, as '60's-cool as it comes....