Mentioning Rover can be a frustrating affair for those of us passionate about now defunct British brands. The uneducated will retort with tiresome head gasket jokes, they’ll tell you – albeit incorrectly – how terrible they were, and how they were all a bit rubbish as a result. They are wrong of course, because Rover was once one of the brightest jewels in the UK’s automotive crown. It was a company that made cars for bank managers and lawyers. There wasn’t so much as a sniff of mockery afoot. Rovers were cars to aspire to. Certainly, if you had a Rover like a P4 on your driveway in the ‘40s through to the ‘70s, it was a sure-fire indication that you had made it in life.
Classic Rovers are still sought after today, with cars like the P5 and P6 at the top of many motoring shopping lists. The P6 especially was a spaceship of a car, seemingly plucked from the future when compared to its contemporaries. Then there’s the P4. The big saloon that often gets overlooked. Built during a time when Rover was still ‘sensible’ it’s not got the thrills or V8 noise that the later cars can offer. But don’t overlook it. The P4 is still a damn fine machine, and one that should be celebrated. Happily, that’s exactly what we have here.
What is it?
The car we have here is a 1957 Rover 60. That’s the ‘economy’ model, to you and I. Though by comparison to modern cars, the four-cylinder 2.0 litre petrol engine isn’t exactly the last word in frugality, but in 1957, it was decent. The 60 was very much the baby of the range with that engine. However, it was still the same body as the bigger engine versions, so it still had the requisite presence.
Being a 1957 model, this 60 shares the same upgrades afforded to the rest of the range in 1954. This means a bigger boot, a wider rear window for better visibility, and flashing indicators. Very modern indeed. Buyers were given the option of a bench front seat, or two individual seats. This car had the former, meaning it can seat three up front. But, given it’s floor-mounted manual, your middle passenger might not thank you!
Why is it a project?
The seller seems to be somewhat optimistic in describing it as a car you can use and improve, and while it does seem to be a running and driving car, we would suggest busting out the spanners before covering any significant mileage. You know, just to be safe. That said, the seller does say that Reginald, as the car is known, starts on the button and ticks along without question. Those old four-cylinder engines are hardy little units, as long as they stay in regular use.
Looking at the ca… sorry, Reginald, it seems he is a bit down at heel. Largely complete, but a bit battered and threadbare. The interior has definitely had a life, but is still very comfortable according to the seller. The body has its fair share of scrapes and imperfections, but they’re all small. There seems to be no significant rust, which is the main thing. The aesthetic of old Reg is actually very charming. A bit ‘knockabout’ but still completely functional. It’s the kind of patina people on any one of Quest’s reality shows would pay big money for. You could restore and repaint, but it would have to be for you. The 60 will never offend wallets, so painting it won’t suddenly make it far more valuable.
There are some spares in the boot, we’re told everything works, we’re told Reginald’s undercarriage is in good order (insert Sid James laugh here) and that he’s good to go on whatever adventure you so choose. Were it our money, we’d go for a full mechanical overhaul, new rubber, new brakes, maybe give the interior a spruce up, and that would be about it. We like that Reginald is a bit dog-eared, bless him.
Five things to look for:
Old British steel loves nothing more than to corrode, and the metal employed in the construction of the P4 was no exception. The seller says that it’s pretty solid, and it does look to be, but check it thoroughly all the same.
British vehicle electronics have never been the best. Add fifty-plus years into the mix, and there is potential for failure. Check the loom as best you can, make sure everything works or if it doesn’t, is easily explainable. Rewiring isn’t a massive job should it need it, so don’t let it be a deal breaker.
As we mentioned earlier, the engine in this 60 is a hardy little unit. The seller says it runs well, so just do the basic checks of looking for leaks, making sure it doesn’t get hot, listening for any curious noises, checking fluids etc.
The P4 isn’t a monocoque – it’s a body on chassis design. As such, you need to check underneath to make sure the chassis is solid. The seller says it just needs a clean up and some protection. If that’s the case, happy days.
The P4 is a big old machine, so you need to be sure the brakes are in good order. Look for any leaks, check for decent pedal feel, inspect the lines as best you can. It was reported in the MOT history that it had a brake binding issue in the past, so well worth checking.
What should you do with it?
You could go down the full restoration route, but you need to do it for you. You could spend £15,000 on making it a really nice £7,500 car. If you can do the bulk of the work yourself, that would certainly make things a bit more logical. But ultimately, if you’re going to restore it how it once was, you need to do it for the love of tinkering, not for profit.
If it were us, we would get the interior mint. As in, good as new mint. We’d underseal it and give it a thorough mechanical overhaul, then we’d just use it. This is the sort of thing you could burble about locally and really enjoy. It’s cool, it’s got some serious road presence and you just know it would put a smile on your face every time you drove it. Plus, if it’s a bit rough and ready, you’ll be more inclined to use it often. Less fear of something happening to it. Go on, you know you want to.