Towards the end of MG Rover the Rover name was hastily superglued to virtually any model that John Towers and co could fit it on. But behind the proud Viking insignia lies an illustrious history of cars that were once the BMWs of their day. At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we think it’s time to remember what it really meant to drive a Rover.
In the 1950s and 196s Rover developed a range of cars that were conservative and traditional but superbly well engineered and made. These cars, such as the Rover P4 and Rover P5, were popular with doctors, lawyers and bankers for whom a Jaguar was just a little too flash. This range of cars and this market was solid and worthy but not necessarily wide enough to keep Rover in business for ever.
The staple car for Rover through the 1960s was the Rover P5, launched in 1958 with a 3 litre straight six engine and developed through Mark 1, 2 and 3 versions with steadily improving aesthetics and comfort. The Rover P5 was available, unusually, as a saloon and four door coupe, the latter having a sloping rear roof and particularly pleasing lines.
In 1967 Rover had a flash of inspiration. Following the chance discovery of a lightweight V8 Buick engine during a trip to the USA, the Rover management secured the manufacturing rights and promptly dropped it into the Rover P5 to create the P5B (B for Buick). The P5B was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the lightweight 3.5 litre V8 engine producing a lovely throaty noise and remarkable performance. This old girl could really lift her skirts when the doctors and lawyers of Britain’s shire counties fancied a walk on the wild side.
The Rover P5B in many respects saved Rover from oblivion. Plodding on making cars for Middle England was unsustainable in the rapidly changing Swinging Sixties. The Rover P5B changed that. It was equally at home chauffeuring a Head of State – Margarat Thatcher loved the Rover P5B – or the Managing Director of a newly successful engineering firm. Rover became about nouveau rich as well as olde worlde money.
Despite the opulence, style and capability of the Rover P5B, it has always been one of those cars that has hidden a little under the radar in the classic car fraternity. It seems to have been under the shadow of cars like the Jaguar Mk2 and later Rover P6. At Great Escape Classic Car Hire we’ve always loved them. And now we have two – a 1965 Rover P5 Mk3 with the 3 litre Rover engine and a Rover P5B coupe with the Buick engine. The Rover P5 is available to hire in Suffolk and the Rover P5B is available to hire from our Cotswolds base. Perfect for a day or weekend away with friends and family – just drop the picnic tables and enjoy some 1960s style. The Rover P5B is finished in white with a grey roof so it also looks good as a wedding car.