1973 Rover - Austin P5B 3.5 Saloon 3.5
One to try out as a starter classic, IF you have basic automotive know how
There were a few, yes, but they were only niggling small ones.
Several small electrical faults showed immediately I brought this eight year old car home; reversing lights inoperative, wipers packed up three months into ownership, and lower dash needed a new bulb, all duly taken care of, save the reversing lamps.
At 70,000 miles, the accelerator cable snapped. It was replaced by a new cable.
I fitted gas shocks all round to this car from the start of ownership. And a set of 185/70 Bridgestones.
The transmission was feeling a little tired by 65,000 miles. So at 65,000, I put in a new BW/65 model auto box.
Nearside suspension ball joints needed replacement at 68,000 miles.
End finisher on the dash kept falling off! Stuck back on with Blu-tak.
Speedo cable needed replacement at 65,000, as the needle it was flicking on the speedo up and down, & wouldn't remain steady.
This car had been towing a double horse float for six years, so some of this wear and tear is to be expected at this mileage.
The engine was down on power, and sorely needed a full tune when purchased. The engine was then given both a new set of Champion plugs and points, and a full tune upon purchase.
A new Varta battery was purchased three months into ownership.
After the work was carried out, this car ran smoothly & very well!
OK, when I bought this at age 19, it was my first car! It LOOKED brill with its polar white coachwork gleaming, and red hide trim.
It was the MkII, first intro-ed in Oct 1970.
It showed in the papers, it was first registered in May 1973 to the South Island, and I paid the princely sum of 4800 dollars in late May 1981. It was the basic P6B 3500 sedan with NO options fitted, other than a tow bar.
The mileometer read 63,500 miles. The car came with a full service history, but it had missed the last two services.
I mean this car DID look fab to me! It was white after all.
AND it came with the 3528cc aluminium small block.
It did not matter that it had no power steering or headrests, or air con or power windows. This was a cool car, even without all that installed!
The interior was very nearly immaculate. It came with a Pioneer radio/cassette and two rear shelf speakers, and I saddle soaped the red leather from the off, even if that looked as if it didn't quite need it.
The Wilton wool carpets were barely worn!
My mate, then also nineteen, said it looked better than a Merc 450 SE; quite a compliment as you can imagine of an old Rover.
Evidently when checking through the papers while concerned about engine performance, we found the car had been used to tow a double horse float for several years, so at first I thought I'd need a top end rebuild.
This was not to be the case though, as after a thorough tuneup, the car suddenly gained what felt like 50 bhp!! ACE!! Now we were finally getting somewhere!! As all I really had previous to that was torque.
The wide opening boot came in handy when I had to take my sister's horse tack back from the paddock once or twice!
And a front offside suspension ball joint was replaced soon after.
These cars are incredibly stylish and classy, and even a little sporty, for what amounts to a four door saloon!
My ONLY regret is that it was never fitted with a manual box, but although the gearbox was a 3 speeder BW, it sure came in handy / the parking pawl on a friend's steep driveway - it was THEN six months later I blessed her for being an automatic!
Nonetheless, when I got her up & RUNNING, acceleration was ace on this car, very much more than merely adequate like my mate's cars, and so much more power than a nineteen year old really knew what to do with at the time!
I had the one opportunity on the motorway for example. On a long down country trip open road, where I sent her up to 100 mph, and she was still accelerating strongly!
Rear end grip in this car is SO good, it was difficult to get wheel spin, unless really gunning for it! Even wet road grip is tight.
The handling sharpened up some with the new tyres and gas shocks fitted all round, and she really up & came to the party!!
It just took me a couple or more months to get everything running right. Once I did that, this car was certainly worth the effort!!
The local CKD Nelson built cars had no tints, so I wore cool looking sunnies on a bright day!!
She took me & my mates all over the North Island, including a trip to the Mandel and Whangamatta, and later the next year down to the mountain and back - some 450 miles. The only complaint I had from one of them, was not quite enough legroom in the back seat with me in the front!! It was at one point there doing more duty than our family car at the time.
Headlamps were truly terrific on main beam, giving an even spread of bright light to 130 metres!!
Taken in context, 18 mpg on a run isn't all that bad. Although I'd heard the 4 speed was good for 23 or so.
OK, when provoked she rolled a tad in the tighter turns, but once used to that inherent characteristic, you could hustle through sweepers at 75 mph to 90 mph, no trouble at all.
The high speed braking was very good indeed, with ample stopping power for bringing the fairly hefty car right down repeatedly from 110 mph, with never any dire sense of fade! At auto route speeds.
The front seats in my one were the standard design introduced in 1968 on the mk1, and so while a little vintage and hard backed, were comfortable enough on a run of a couple or three hours out to the coast. But they were by no means as comfy, or so I heard, as the box pleated velour covered ones fitted from early/mid 74 on.
The rest of the interior was very well detailed and executed, with tweed headlining and padded leather cloth glove lockers and door trim, and altogether had an air of a luxury tourer.
0-60 mph was handled in a scant AND smooth 9.5 seconds, and 118 mph was possible in this car.
I truly believe this car to be every bit the equal of an Alfa 2000 Berlina saloon, or even dare I say it, a GTV manual, despite the auto box 3 speed.
This same gear box mind allows 52 mph in 1st - 88 mph in inter - if held to 5600, and as I said a highish top end of some 200 km/h.
Night time winter touring, what little I did of it, was especially pleasing in this car with its powerful heater blower, and two speed wipers that do NOT lift at speed! The ride on these, what to say - can be compared to driving on a Slumberland mattress, and only an XJ6 S1 or a Citroen DS23 Pallas is any better in that regard.
As mine was a non power steer car, it had the 17" wheel for leverage, and I wore gloves to make up for the plastic rim.
I did not find the steering to be heavy, except at parking pace.
A grand and fine car, with a lot of technological prowess to its armoury. It's being taken more and more for what it is, and is not so overlooked anymore, and more than that, makes a wonderful fast touring entry to the classic fraternity for those contemplating their first car - as long as you both know and can be bothered to spend some time on it.
After three and a half years of mostly very happy ownership, and 70,000 hard and not so hard miles squeezed in, I got 9500 dollars for a car that originally cost me 4800!
In a word to sum up then; what we have here is smooth, tuneful, comfortable, fairly practical - for four - stylish brisk, quite classy, utterly classic, and a fine and composed touring sedan over any distance.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 29th February, 2012