Rover 2000

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Rover 2000 Series 1/ Rover P6

1963 - 1973
United Kingdom
1978 cc/120 in³
78 kW
4 spd. man / 3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
94 mph
Number Built:
2 star
Rover 2000 Series 1/ Rover P6
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


AFTER the experience of their strong efforts in international rallying, Rover took a bold step forward from their familiar image as manufacturers of the gentleman's auto when the 2000 was introduced in 1963. Instead, the accent was on the sportsman's saloon, so naturally only a manual 4-speed gearbox was fitted initially.

The 2000 was launched as an enthusiast's car, aimed at the person who had grown out of two-seater sports cars but still took pride and pleasure in their driving, and who obviously appreciated a good gearchange and well-spaced ratios. It quickly become established as one of the most successful cars of the decade, and gained a well-deserved reputation for safety in its construction and road performance.

The 2000 was advanced for the time with a de Dion tube suspension at the rear, four wheel disc brakes (inboard on the rear), and a fully-synchromesh transmission. The unibody design featured non-stressed panels bolted to a unit frame, inspired by the Citroën DS.The de dion set up was unique in that the "tube" was in two parts that could rotate, thereby giving the rear suspension a quality of independent suspension while keeping the wheels vertical and parallel in relation to the body.

With the wider market appeal and greater production capacity, an automatic option was also welcomed by many. A Borg-Warner Type 35 was used, with D1-D2 control to permit intermediate starts, with the selector being mounted between the seats. It worked in a straight to-and-fro quadrant, with safety notches beneath the lever to prevent inadvertent selection of lock-up, park and reverse.

A small release button in the top of the selector knob (just as on the Rover 3-litre gear lever) was pushed to clear the safety latches. The lever would move freely between D1, D2 and neutral without the button being pressed. To move the lever back into the Lock-up position, the button had to be pressed, a practical reminder not to make this move without first checking that the speed is not above 70 m.p.h.

In the opposite direction, however, from Lock-up to D1, the lever was simply slipped forward over the ratchet. In all conditions the transmission worked extremely smoothly in conjunction with the lively overhead camshaft engine, and it scarcely ever caused any jerk or jolt. While our experience has been rewarding, others who have owned or currently own a 2000 have mentioned that there can be a slight snatch as the lowest gear drops in.

When moving away on a light throttle we found the upward changes imperceptible - close to the very high standards set by Lexus today. On faster take-offs the transmission would go smoothly into intermediate at about 25 and to top at about 55 m.p.h. With the accelerator right down on the floor, these change points were raised to 38 and 68 m.p.h, respectively.

As usual, the Lock-up gave overriding control to hold low or intermediate, depending on the road speed when it was selected. The maximum then were not automatically governed, and the driver had to respect the limits laid down by the manufacturers. These were marked on the speedo by yellow indicator markings at 47 m.p.h. (for low) and 78 m.p.h. (for intermediate). These maximums were high for an automatic 2-litre and showed that none of the high-geared character of the manual 2000 had been lost.

Some road testers thought the automatic Rover 2000 was too high geared, as the drop in performance compared with the manual car was very marked. Even at full throttle the auto got away sluggishly, taking more than 6 seconds to reach 30 m.p.h, from rest. The 0 to 60 m.p.h. time of 18.0 seconds was almost 3 seconds slower than the manual 2000 (amortised over 3 road reviews we have researched). The lack of punch was noticed particularly when there was need for brisk speed ranges. Even by slipping the lever to L and kicking down, low gear could not be selected above 25 m.p.h., so intermediate was the only option. Acceleration in D2, with first gear eliminated, was so slow that it was difficult to see any purpose for this other than possibly to reduce wheelspin on ice or snow.

Above 70 m.p.h., the good body shape payed off, but the power loss in the auto trans was felt, and only on a perfect day could it reach the claimed 94 m.p.h., a speed much easier to obtain in the manual. No doubt some will email us claiming the 2000 capable of a true 100 m.p.h., but all road tests we have used in research claim this only possible on downhill. However, compensating for the comparatively leisurely performance was superb controllability and road holding. This combination gave the driver confidence and enabled speed to be conserved and high averages to be put up in safety.

The 2000's steering was not heavy, even at very low speeds; almost feather light it retained good feel and balance when under way. The 2000 responded immediately to the smallest movement of the steering wheel at high-speed. There was considerable roll when corners were taken fast; until it would feel a little "loose" on its suspension and momentarily not as stable. Once it was leaning into a bend, however, the driver would sense the generous amount of cornering grip in hand and could push the car through tight twists and sweeping bends with real spirit. Slight understeer was balanced by an outward movement of the tail end when cornering forces were really high.

Rover 2000 Automatic
One unique feature of the Rover 2000 was the unusual design of the front suspension system, in which an L-shaped rotating bracket conveyed the vertical motion of the wheels to horizontally-mounted springs fastened to the rear wall of the engine compartment.

A single hydraulicly dampened arm was mounted on the firewall for the steering.The front suspension was designed to allow as much width for the engine compartment as possible so that Rover's Gas Turbine engine could be fitted. In the event, the Gas Turbine engine was never used for the production vehicle, but the engine compartment width helped the accommodation of the V8 engine adopted years after the cars initial launch for the 2000 (see Rover P5 Review).

Particularly on small movements, the springing was very soft yet thoroughly well damped, and the ride comfort was a match for any of the era's best cars. The suspension was excellently insulated from the body so that no road noise was heard on even the coarsest surface; nor was there any thump over average surfaces, quite an achievement for radial ply tyres.

Bad potholes provoked only the mildest jolt. It was most impressive when cornering hard on an un-even surface to find the wheels follow the road contours exactly and there was no trace of wheel hop. Occasionally undulations at highway speeds would provoke slight pitching, but this would occur only when the frequencies coincided with those of the road springs.

When British Built Meant Quality

At a time when British built stood for quality, we doubt any car covered quite as many pre-production development miles at the MIRA test track as did the 2000, so it was not surprising that it rode through corrugations with poise, at up to 60 m.p.h. with only a subdued hum from the tyres. The long-wave pitch test, however, produced rather violent recoil; the car did much better when it took a single sharp ridge, such as a hump bridge. There was noticeable dive at the front if the brakes were used viciously, but in sustained braking the car keept a fairly level attitude and stops relatively straight with only a slight squeal but no locking - and gave a 1·0g stop with only 100lb on the pedal from 30 m.p.h.

Braking was very progressive and gave a great feeling of security from any speed. Fade tests on the all-disc system produced a small increase in the effort needed, then they settled to a constant figure showing no further deterioration. Soon after production started, smaller Girling discs replaced the original Dunlops, but thankfully their performance was totally un-affected by the change. The handbrake had to be pulled up a very long way to hold the car on the 1-on-3 test hill, and you would be left feeling you had permanently stretched the cables (in fact, no damage would be done).

Exhaust noise would be heard during acceleration, not a sporty crackle from the tail pipe, but a deep throbbing under the bonnet and floor. Some mechanical noise could be heard when the engine was working hard, in spite of the thick sound deadening on the underside. Apart from that, the noise level was remarkably silent on over-run and for the lack of wind noise. Road Tests indicate the 2000 would return an overall fuel consumption figure of around 21·8 m.p.g. for the manual. The fuel tank held 12 gallons, and the gauge was marked in quarters.

Rover 2000 Safety and Ergonomics

Seating "ergonomics" and the layout of switches and minor controls received a lot of detail attention in the Rover 2000 design. The seats were well bucketed to give correct support right up to the shoulders and held the occupants in place very well on fast corners. The combination of infinitely adjustable backrests, ample to-and-fro movement on the seat runners, and about 2 inches of vertical adjusment on the steering wheel allowed each driver to tailor the position to their own taste.

The Rover 2000 won industry awards for safety when it was introduced. The car featured all-round seat belts and a carefully designed 'safety' interior. One innovative feature was the prism of glass on the top of the front side lights. This allowed the driver to see the front corner of the car in low light conditions. Inertia reel safety-belts were standard on the first cars off the production line, but later inertia-reel belts mad it much easier to reach the window handles. Deep under-facia pockets were padded for knee protection in accidents, and were lockable. The left pocket was large enough to take a sizeable brief case; the one on the right had two compartments to clear the steering column, but still gave ample space for a camera or other valuables. The arrangement of minor switches on the facia panel was well thought out, though the lighting arrangement was complicated by having separate switches for side and headlamps. The latter could be thrown the other way for fog-lamps if these were fitted. The side-lamps switch over-rode the head-lamp and threw the opposite way to light the offside front and tail lamps only for parking.

Excellent night driving illumination was given by the four headlamp system, with a really broad flood of light along the kerb on dipped beam. Pulled towards the wheel, the finger tip dipswitch flashed the headlamps on main beam. The matching switch on the right sounded purposeful wind-tone horns, and also served as the indicator switch. Separate front and rear interior lamps were fitted, and each was lit separately by opening either of the appropriate front or rear doors; front, or both lamps, could be turned on by the facia switch. The front interior lamp was concealed behind the driving mirror, and threw a pool of light downwards on the switches; it was just adequate for map reading - but this in an era when map reading lights were very rare!

When the panel lamps were on, the six positions of the transmission selector were illuminated in bright green, variable with the panel lights rheostat. The diminishing rear mirror made following traffic seem farther away than it was - although this was setting a trend for later versions and could be considered in hindsight as very advanced. Not only were the individual switch functions labelled, but each also had symbols picked out in white, no doubt to help the car in export markets (although it did make the dash look a little too fussy and detracted from the otherwise excellent neatness of the interior).

All the facia panel and imitation wood trim were high quality plastic mouldings and the appearance was simple and attractive. As well as indicator repeaters, the oblong instrument block ahead of the driver included warning tell-tales for choke (themostatically controlled, to come on only if the knob was left out after the engine had warmed up), low brake fluid level and handbrake on warning combined, oil pressure, and ignition. Cool air vents on the facia edge were directly ahead of the front seat occupants, and could be easily adjusted. The heater was responsive to careful adjustment of its controls, so that the interior temperature could be kept just right in all weathers. On its slower setting the fan was inaudible from within the car and at position "2" delivered a torrent of air into the car.

Demisting provisions were very effective. A good flow of air passed through the car even with all windows closed, but some owners we have spoken with have noted the heater can "cook" your right foot, making the left foot feel cold. The front quarter vents swiveled to let even more cool air in during hot weather. Visibility was good, and although the rather high scuttle and bonnet line concealed the little reflector tip above the left sidelamp from the driver's view, it was easy to judge the width.

The luggage compartment was limited in terms of usable space. This was due to the 'base unit' construction, complex rear suspension and, in series II vehicles, the battery location. Lack of luggage space (and hence the need to re-locate the spare tyre) led to innovative options for spare tyre provision including boot lid mountings and optional run-flat technology.

Two-speed windscreen wipers cleared big arcs, but could have been better sited. Although the end of the blade went to within an inch of the screen edge on the driver's side, a large triangular section at the bottom righthand corner was left unswept. When parked, the wipers were 2in. above the base of the screen - one of our pet peves here at Unique Cars and Parts. Imperfections in the whole car were, however, very few indeed, and mainly of a trivial nature. Sure, the 2000 auto was not exactly an enthusiasts "motor", but it did offer exceIlent handling characteristics, and remained a very fast and safe car. It had a tremendously likeable character, arousing enthusiasm from all who drive it. In fact, we have not found anyone who would dare criticise the 2000.
Rover 2000

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Also see:

Rover P6
Rover P6B
Rover P5 / P6 / 2000 / 3500 V8 Brochure
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