“Earl’s Court 1957. Rover 105s Chassis. Stanley Baker with Ann Hayward”
The following summary of P4 production and special models has been written by the Guild's President, Stan Johnstone, in January 2021:
The Rover P4 Saloon car was introduced to the public in September 1949 and caused quite a stir with its breaks from tradition in its styling. It had an American look about it with its central pass lamp in the middle of its grille and its bright body colours. Rovers up to now tended to be grey or black. The Rover “75” soon became known as the “Cyclops” because of the central pass lamp. Rover devotees were rather shocked to see such a “modern” looking car, so different from the pre-war shapes that Rover had been producing. The dashboard had rectangular dials , shock horror! Within a few months these were changed to the round ones and the chrome surrounds of the headlights were quickly changed to body colour to please the customers. Once inside though it was a different story. The interior was very smart and comfortable and once driving began the super smooth and quiet six-cylinder engine of 2,103 cc. with twin carburettors was amazing. Rover stalwarts were soon impressed with the new car and the body styling shock was soon forgotten. The new car was in fact a great success.
In 1952 the rather complicated grille with its pass lamp were removed and a new smarter looking grille was fitted. The ventilation was altered, and an air flap was fitted at the rear of the bonnet which freed up a bit of space in the engine compartment.
In 1954 two new engines were introduced, a more powerful six cylinder of 2,638 cc called the “90” and a four-cylinder engine of 1,997 cc called the “60” denoting their BHP approximately.
In 1955 a large wrap-around rear windscreen was fitted and the bootlid, along with the rear wings were raised to improve luggage space. Late in 1956 two more models were introduced, the “105R” which had automatic transmission, known as “Roverdrive” and the “105S”, for synchromesh, which had manual transmission. The engines were the same as the “90” engine but with twin carburettors. In 1959 when the “105R” ceased production the model was known as the “105”, this model had a padded dash top for safety concerns. Externally, the P4 was updated to reflect design aspects of the recently introduced P5 to create a family of cars of similar appearance. Front and rear bumpers were revised along with the overriders. Additionally, the front grille was updated and a rear number plate shroud was added.
In September 1959 all models were replaced with two new models, the “80” with a 2,286cc 4 cylinder engine and the “100” with a 2,625cc engine. These models introduced front disc brakes to the P4 range. The “80” was basically a Land Rover engine car and the “100” had the P5 seven bearing crankshaft engine. Both models had overdrive fitted as standard.
In September 1962 the “95” and the “110” models were introduced using variations of the "100" engine. The “95” did not have overdrive but had a 3.9 differential and not the usual 4.3 differential which the “110” had fitted. The “110” had a Weslake cylinder head fitted giving the P4 the most potent engine of 121 BHP.
In May 1964 P4 production ceased to allow space to produce the P6 cars.
In 1950 The Rover Company decided it wanted to produce a four-light drophead version of the P4 “75” “cyclops”. It commissioned the Tickford Coachbuilding Company to build two cars with convertible style bodies using the “75”. It was a two-door car, but the doors were much longer than the standard car so looked like a sports car with a fabric roof. To make it sportier they did not use the column gear change but a short gear-lever on the gearbox tunnel. The gear change modification was made by a company called Gethins. the cars were stunning and would easily have sold well but Rover never put them into production. After being used by Rover directors for a while they were sold to private ownership. Both cars were originally in black.
One of the cars still exists today but no history of the second car is known. The remaining car , LOK 918, is now painted pastel blue and looks superb.
The Marauder sports car was built by three Rover Company engineers, Peter Wilks, George Mackie and Spen King who left the company to produce the cars which were built onto P4 “75” chassis. They moved just down the road from the Rover factory in a village called Dorridge. They tuned the “75” IOE engine to get more BHP using modified carburettors and higher compressions. The bodies were very sleek with longer front wings and two doors. One fixed-head coupe bodied car was built. Fifteen Marauders were built, most of which still exist. Unfortunately, in April 1951 a Special Purchase Tax was introduced of over 66% which made the car far too expensive compared to its rivals and production stopped. The three engineers went back to The Rover Company.
The Pininfarina P4
In 1952 The Rover Company, Spencer and Maurice Wilks, not having a styling department at that time, consulted the Farina Company in Turin as to styling a two-door four-light drop-head coupe on a P4 “75” chassis.
The result was a very attractive car, very advanced, for 1952, a real head turner. Unfortunately the car never went into production because Rover never had the capacity or floor space, the wherewithal and cost of tooling stopped it getting into production , such a shame, as it would definitely have been a big seller. Meanwhile the Rover Company commissioned The Mulliner Company of Birmingham to build a similar car based on a P4 Rover “90” and one car was produced which still exists today. However the project never went ahead.
Rover P4 Drivers' Guild President