The Rover P4 Today

For obvious reasons, most preserved or restored Rover P4 cars today are found in the U.K., where the P4 Drivers’ League (see “Rover Links” page) was founded over 20 years ago. Today the League has several hundred members, and it sponsors several events throughout the year. It’s a grand sight at these events to see so many fine old cars gathered together, virtually all of them in immaculate condition. The picture here was taken on the League’s 1996 “Heartbeat Tour”, and shows John Gorham’s “60” at a location that will be familiar to all devotees of the “Heartbeat” TV series.

Considering the relatively small number of P4 cars produced, it’s perhaps remarkable that so many can still be found in the “lands and dominions beyond the seas”, where conditions can be hostile and spares hard to obtain.   In Canada and the northern states of the U.S.A., the salt used for de-icing the roads in winter is the great enemy.   Even a P4’s robust chassis and aluminium bodywork aren’t proof against constant attack by salty slush for four or five months of the year unless suitable precautions are taken. As a result, many North American P4s ended their useful lives long before their basic mechanical components were worn out.

Here is a 1957 “105R” as seen in 1996 in a breaker’s yard in Ontario, Canada. This was the P4 model that had Rover’s ingenious, if somewhat inefficient, fully automatic transmission. When first seen in 1995, this car could still have been restored. A year after this picture was taken, there wasn’t much left. A sad sight.

While unfortunate, this sort of thing does have its positive side: there are still many Ancient Monuments lurking in barns, garages   (“Well, it hasn’t been on the road in twenty years, but I couldn’t bear to part with it...”),   and even (as below) in grassy fields. These cars can serve as a useful source of parts to help keep their more fortunate siblings on the road.

In a field near Grimsby, Ontario, this 1961 “100” is being rolled over to allow the removal of its gearbox and overdrive. As can be seen, many other parts have already been removed for preservation and re-use.

To end this page on a personal note, here is my own P4, a 1959 “90”,   photographed in 2006 at Gravenhurst on Lake Muskoka.

Bought from a doctor in 1965 -- Rovers were traditionally known as doctors’ cars -- the “90” had 56,000 miles on the clock.  It served as my daily transport until 1975, when the combination of a broken rear spring and a shattered windscreen, both in the middle of winter, forced its retirement.

In 1988, with a repaired spring and new windscreen, the Rover was back on the road. Today, it is in constant use from April to November -- the salt-free months in Ontario. Still in original form apart from the addition of an overdrive (which allows comfortable cruising at 70 m.p.h) and radial tyres, the Rover continues to provide comfortable, reliable transport.

Over the winter of 2005/2006, a comprehensive restoration was carried out, with new sills, all dents fixed, new rear bumper, other chrome bits re-plated, a completely re-done interior (to factory standard, by Diamond Trim of Aurora, Ontario), and new paint in the Rover colour "Light Navy". The valves were re-ground and a new water pump and front suspension bushes fitted. Given all this, I’ve no doubt that she’ll be rolling along, in her silent and stately way, for another 50 years.

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