Ian Hope took delivery of the latest addition to the British Car Museum's collection this week - a beautiful cream Rover 75 (P4 Cyclops if you prefer). The car was originally bought new in England in December 1951 by a Mr WP Saunders, an expat Kiwi from Arrowtown. Total miles from new only 88,000.
The engine still starts first time and runs very quietly and smoothly. I know this because I had a little drive in it today, lucky me! I was also very pleasantly surprised by the lightness of the steering - this remains even today a really enjoyable car to be in and to drive.
BAckground (from wikipedia)
The Rover P4 series is a group of mid-size luxury saloon automobiles produced by the Rover Company from 1949 until 1964. They were designed by Gordon Bashford.
Their P4 designation is factory terminology for this group of cars and was not in day-to-day use by ordinary owners who would have used the appropriate consumer designations for their models such as Rover 60, Rover 75 and Rover 90.
Production began in 1949 with the 6-cylinder 2.1-litre Rover 75. Four years later a 2-litre 4-cylinder Rover 60 was brought to the market to fit below the 75 and a 2.6-litre 6-cylinder Rover 90 to top the three car range. Variations followed. In profile not unlike a crouching sturdy British Bulldog these cars were very much part of British culture and became known as the "Auntie" Rovers. They were piloted by topmost royalty including Grace Kelly.
The P4 series was supplemented in September 1958 by a new conservatively shaped Rover 3-litre P5 but the P4 series stayed in production until 1964 and their replacement by the Rover 2000.
Announced by Mr S B Wilks, managing director, 23 September 1949 the new Rover 75 — now the only Rover in production — was first displayed at the opening day of the Earls Court Motor Show on 28 September. It featured controversial modern styling which contrasted with the outdated Rover 75 (P3) it replaced. Gone were the traditional radiator, separate headlamps and external running boards. In their place were a chromium grille, recessed headlamps and a streamlined body the whole width of the chassis. A steering column-mounted gear lever was fitted.
The car's styling was derived from the controversial 1947 —is it coming or is it going?— Studebakers. To understand the controversy it should be noted that Rover's P3 had almost no boot at all yet that had been considered rather more than adequate. The new car's bonnet-like extension to its rear was ridiculed. Furthermore the driver sat well forward with a short bonnet and the rear wheels were set well back behind the back seat. All the new car's proportions were different from the previous Rover and all the other new English cars.
Another, at the time minor, distinctive feature but this one did not catch-on was the centrally mounted light in the grille where most other manufacturers of good quality cars provided a pair, one fog and one driving light often separately mounted behind the bumper. Known as the "Cyclops eye" it was not continued in the new grille announced 23 October 1952.
Power came from a more powerful version of the previous model's 2.1 L (2103 cc/128 in³) Rover IOE straight-6 engine now with chromium plated cylinder bores, an aluminium cylinder head with built-in induction manifold and a pair of horizontal instead of downdraught carburetters. A four-speed manual transmission was used with a column-mounted shifter which was replaced by a floor-mounted mechanism in September 1953.
A car tested by The Motor magazine in 1949 had a top speed of 83.5 mph (134.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 21.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 27.8 miles per imperial gallon (10.2 L/100 km; 23.1 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1106 including taxes. The turning circle was 37 feet (11 m).
Road & Track ". . . and I honestly believe (barring the Rolls-Royce) that there is no finer car built in the world today." Bob Dearborn, Tester Road & Track. Road test no. F-4-52, August 1952.