Rover 100 P 4: The Bentley for citizens

Reinhard Schmid
Rover 100 P 4 in the driving report
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W How do you ruin a good name? Exactly, follow Rover's example. Lousy quality, mismanagement, fraudulent labeling, wrong model policy, changing owners - the list of offenses against this once proud British brand is longer than a speech from the Queen.

The honor of the Rover brand - heyday in the 1950s

No wonder that now only a few have something suspect of the former glory of these five letters - so a little tutoring can't hurt. Let's start in the fifties. Under the aegis of Maurice Wilks, Rover then its heyday. The P4 series, to which the Rover 100 presented here also belongs, developed into the preferred vehicle of the upper middle class in Britain's society.

The style, the dignified appearance, the high-quality but traditional technology fit into the leafy ones Streets of the finer outskirts like the ham on the sandwich. Best of British was the statement that a Rover P4 levy - bankers, doctors, lawyers, the bowler-armed pillars of society felt themselves dressed appropriately. The jaguar was better left to the notorious sports cap wearers - too conspicuous, too boastful, too little serious. And Mercedes? Not wearable so soon after the war. When parking, the curtains would have moved in the street.

'We prefer to build inconspicuous cars that go unnoticed,' said Rover boss Wilks. That was still going on at the time, but in 1949, on the occasion of the premiere of the P4, there was initially no talk of understatement. 'English aristocrat slips into American clothes,' said the indignant Daily Express. 'Radical, revolutionary, sensational' sounded parts of the trade press, while others thought Rover had fallen into the whims of fashion.

Copyists at work: The Roverbaker is modeled on the Studebaker Champion

In fact, they followed without shame the US trend towards integrated fenders and headlights - pretty shocking, especially since the running boards fell victim to the new design. That the P4 looks suspiciousreminiscent of the 1947 Studebaker Champion is no coincidence: Wilks had previously organized one of the specimens styled by Raymond Loewy and Virgil Exner and had it sent to the factory in Solihull. The 'Roverbaker', as the pattern was called, served Wilks and his house designer Harry Loker not only as a template, but also as a mobile base for many years. Over time, however, the imitation mutated into a real British. The face with the third headlight in the middle, which earned the early models the nickname Cyclops, gave way in 1952 to a more respectable face with a traditional grill 'Autocar' the plump, cozy vehicle that nickname that made any US genes finally forgotten and that still adheres to the P4 generation today: Auntie (in German Auntie). Numerous variations, which differ mainly in engine size and horsepower, kept Auntie alive in the fifties. There were four-cylinder models (Rover 60 and 80) and various six-cylinder models (Rover 75, 95, 100, 105 and 110), with the last versions (95 and 110) holding out until 1964. 130,342 copies left the factory, 16,521 of which were labeled '100' like the piece of jewelery on these pages. From autumn 1959 to autumn 1962, the Rover 100 functioned as the top model in the series.

Powerful and confident: 104 PS for the Rover 100 P4

In numbers, that means 2.6 liter displacement distributed over six cylinders that produce 104 hp - brave, even in comparison with the much more modern contemporary tail fin, which was content with 95 hp as 220. The lavishly dimensioned displacement guaranteed full torque, the crankshaft with seven bearings for the best running smoothness, a four-speed gearbox with overdrive for relaxed speeds. The fact that the Rover engine with its vertically arranged exhaust valves is a little difficult to breathe at full throttle is hardly significant 19 seconds - not bad at all, considering the weight (1.5 tons), which was leaden for the time, and the air resistance of a wall unit. As with all P4s, the body sits on a mighty frame. Because steel was scarce in post-war England, hoods and doors were pressed out of aluminum.

The chassis is classic: at the rear, a rigid axle sparks on leaf springs, at least reassured by telescopic dampers. The disc brakes at the front, however, are ahead of their time. But technical subtleties such as these are unlikely to have been of any concern to customers. Instead, the Rover buyer attached great importance to style, paired with honest quality and a high wellness factor. And Auntie is exactly the right place for you. You climb a P4 like a train compartment. The rear doors are hinged at the back (that's right, just like the new Rolls-Royce Phantom),no annoying contortions when closing the doors. Inside, the passenger is greeted by a heavy leather suite - two sofas with fat armrests. The atmosphere breathes dim solidity, from a lofty position the gaze falls on a well-ordered instrument panel that is reminiscent of an antique chest of drawers - everything is extremely inviting, nothing fluffy, instead serious quality.

Rover 100 P4 - The Bentley for Citizens

A Bentley for citizens - the car has undoubtedly earned the reputation that once preceded the P4. The driving impression doesn't change that either. The message from the rover: Drive properly here, because excessive haste is bad for digestion. As a result, you do not accelerate, but pick up speed while the six-cylinder is mumbling about. Noise was anathema to the Rover engineers at the time. Accordingly, the P4 puts little strain on the ears. Traveling in the fifties couldn't be more pleasant, at least not in this price range (Jaguar 2.4 level). What you touch works with oiled precision. Little things, such as the shift lever that can be moved towards the driver or the tool drawer under the glove compartment, reveal great attention to detail. Preferred gait: majestic, sometimes also nautical, because a P4 with a strong list of corners circles around, whereby the servo-free steering saves the owner the dumbbell training.

However, it is nice how the suspension cushions unevenness while you are in the wood-paneled interior 'Pipe-and-slipper' comfort is enjoyed - at the most, it can be increased with an open fireplace and leaded windows. If you add the rover's deeply rooted solidity and proven reliability to these virtues, it's no wonder that it has a loyal following on the island to this day - people like computer expert John Gibson, for example, who owns a P4 as a company car and thus unwound 582,000 kilometers in twelve years. 'Everyone has a BMW,' he says, 'just boring - no class, no character, uninteresting.' But we also have P4 connoisseurs. For Markus-Peter Dürkes, owner of the example shown here, Auntie's special charms are irresistible. In contrast, even a Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3, the other classic in the business economist's stable, is on the losing side.


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