Rover P3

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Rover P3

1948 - 1949
United Kingdom
In line 6 cyl.
75 bhp
Manual/free wheel
Top Speed:
60 - 75mph
Number Built:
4 star
Rover P3
Rover P3
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


by Peter H. Edwards

Tim Brownell in How to Restore your Collector Car (1984) wrote, "'True 'Classics' are defined by the Classic Car Club of America as follows: fine or unusual. motor cars built between and including the years 1925 and 1948, distinguished for their respective fine design, high engineering standards and superior workmanship.

Strictly speaking, classics are distinguished by special styling or mechanical features not found in run-of-the-mill cars".

Without getting into a discussion about the definition of antique, veteran, classic, vintage, etc. it can be said that according to the above description the 1948 Rover P3 is definitely a classic, finely engineered and unusual.

Like most classics it is quite scarce. A Melbourne parts dealer said that over the years they had 30-40 P4s to wreck, but only three P3s. Total production of P3 Rovers 1948-9 was no more than 9,111 cars.

The 1948 Rover appeared as a 4 cylinder '60' and a 6 cylinder '75' with a completely new post-war engine of an inclined cylinder head design, the inlet valves being in the head, and the exhaust valves located at the side.

This 'IoE' design required the manifolding to have inlet and exhaust pipes on opposite sides of the engine. The inlet pipe has a thermostatically controlled water jacket.

During the war years many engineering advances had taken place. The Rover engines were beautifully quiet and more fuel efficient than their predecessors.

Light alloys were liberally used in valve covers, timing covers, the sump and gearbox assembly. The 4 cylinder version of the engine was used in the Series 1 Land Rover, while the 6 cylinder engine was the basis of those used in the P4 75's from 1950-1954.

Another special feature of Rovers at that time was the free wheel, described here in The Autocar (13/2/48): "At the back of the gear box is an inbuilt controlled free wheel which permits noiseless and easy gear changing without touching the clutch pedal, merely by releasing the throttle and moving the gear lever."

Rover had also gone over to independent front suspension with anti-roll stabiliser, and made extensive use of rubber bushing. Other features included electric fuel pump, synchromesh on 3rd and top gears, heating/demisting and hydro-mechanical brakes.

The chassis design was new too, but the most intriguing thing about the car, and what makes it 'fine and unusual' is the retention of a pre-war body shape to cater for the conservative tastes of the middle-class customers. The sales brochures describe it as an "attractive and dignified body design". As The Motor (18/2/48) said, "Many motorists, both at home and abroad, continue to approve the established styles". The body had 'suicide' doors, sunroofs were provided, and either two or three side windows ('4 or 6-light').

The door windows had rain-shedding glass louvres above them. Add to this, external tuned twin horns, running boards, and mudguard-mounted headlights and you have the advantage of an antique style with a respectable post-war performance. No need to own a car which drives like a billycart in order to experience old-world features, and I haven't even mentioned the interior, with its timbers and wonderful range of dials. The Rover P3 has an interesting history and a great look - a true classic.

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