Tintin chased Mr Muller in an MG 1100 to find that the crooks had crashed their Jaguar Mark X into a tree. In the background, we can see another icon of British automobile technology, the Rover 2000 TC.
Till the late 1950s Rover had an image of builder of staid solid, conservative looking cars for a solid and conservative middle class clientele. However, things were changing and the result of all these changes was the Rover 2000. This was a car which was built from a clean sheet of paper. Everything about this car was new. It was manufactured from 1963 to 1977, a long run of 14 years. This car changed the perception of the people that a middle management car had to be a six cylinder car. Here was a car that had four cylinders but performed like a six cylinder car without occupying the same real estate on road. The memory of the then recent Suez crisis had also encouraged people to change over to smaller more economical cars. There were many revolutionary design elements in this car like making a strong monocoque under-body on which various panels were bolted. This allowed for easy replacement of body panels making repair against rusting a simple and cheap affair. Rusting was a major issue in cars built in that era.
Interestingly, the car had an independent front suspension which transferred all loads to the stiffest structures. The system was designed in such a manner that Rover could, at a future date, install a Gas Turbine engine into the same engine bay easily. Yes, Rover was developing a Gas Turbine engine for cars at that time.
Though the sales people were skeptical, the car was a major success and had waiting lists. Though Rover had expected to sell 250 cars a week, production of 550 cars a week with the plant working to full capacity was unable to cope with demand for these cars. People who did not want to wait were directed towards Triumph dealerships which sold the Triumph 2000, a rebadged version of the same car. The Rover 2000 was the first car to be voted the “European Car of the Year”.
This car was competing against and beating such luxury marques as Jaguar. Demand for the Rover and Triumph 2000s impacted badly on the sales of the Jaguar Mk2. In 1960 Jaguar built 21,436 Mk2 which was down to 10,523 by 1963 and finally slumped to 4847 in 1965. In 1965 the Rover P6 cost £1,298, while the Jaguar Mk2 2.4-litre cost £1,389.
Rover 2000 was powered by a four cylinder inline Single Overhead Cam (SOHC) 1,978 cc petrol engine which produced 90 BHP at 5,000 rpm. The engine also produced 154 N-m of twist that helped accelerate the 1,293 kg car from 0 to 100 km/h in 14.6 seconds. A four speed gear box allowed the car to attain a maximum speed of 166 km/h.
As I have told earlier also, the car had independent front suspension comprising coil springs and twin control arms while the rear had de Dion linkages. Speed was controlled using disc brakes on all four wheels. The interiors were luxurious and spacious as people were ready to move down to a smaller car but not to a less luxurious one, having been habituated to the luxuries offered on this class of cars earlier. The instrument panel was modular allowing for easy manufacturing change over from right to left hand drive.
In 1966 the 2000 TC with twin carburetors was introduced. This car produced 124 BHP. Later in 1968, the Rover 3500 was introduced. This car had a 3,528 cc Aluminum V-8 engine based on Buick’s 3.5 litre engine. This engine produced 158 BHP at 5,200 rpm and a torque of 280 N-m at 2,600 rpm. It could accelerate the Rover 3500 from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.5 seconds and propel it to a maximum speed of 183 km/h.
A Mark II was introduced in 1970 with certain changes to the exterior and interiors like plastic grille and round dials in the instrument cluster. In 1973, the 2000 was replaced with a 2200 running on a 2,205 cc four cylinder engine producing 98 BHP for single and 115 BHP for twin carburetor engines.
Ironically, in 1975, “Drive” magazine awarded the Rover 3500 the “worst new car” trophy. The magazine reported that a Rover 3500 which had been purchased in 1974 covered 9,600 kilometers during its first six months. In this short period of time the car underwent replacements of three engine , two gear boxes , two clutch housings and a complete set of electrical cables. “Drive” magazine brought out that this particular car spent 114 of its first 165 days in a workshop. It was the result of production problems at British Leyland which had taken over Rover by now.
The last car was produced in 1977. In the late 1980s Standard Motors of India introduced a 2000cc car based on the Rover 3500 called the Standard 2000. The car was good but under powered and the poor after sales of Standard Motors ensured that it died an early death in India.