The Rover Car Company has an innovative history and in the early 1950s their range of vehicles comprised the P4 and the Land Rover. During this time the company began to consider a new type of vehicle to appeal to the middle ground of these diverse models, a less utilitarian vehicle that would still offer some off-road capability. The project started in 1952 and Gordon Bashford came up with the design of a vehicle that today we would consider to be a “soft roader”. The company called the project “Road Rover”.
The Road Rover used a modified P4 chassis, a Land Rover 4 cylinder 1997cc 52 bhp engine and several internal components from the P4, e.g. dashboard items, door and window handles. The plan was for a 4wd vehicle but the majority of the 12 prototypes were only rear wheel drive. The appearance of the Road Rover is clearly fashioned on the Land Rover but the wheels look to be the same as the P4s and the bright aluminium trim under the side windows looks similar to the type of trim fitted at the bottom of P4 doors. The body panels are made of aluminium as for the P4 and Land Rover. It was very clearly a Rover product of the time.
In 1955 Rover commenced work on the series 2 prototypes which took design cues from American station wagons. Work carried on until 1959 when the Road Rover project was terminated. However, a few years later, Rover resurrected the idea that they had come up with in the early 1950s and started working on another 4wd vehicle which was more comfortable than the Land Rover. This activity culminated in 1967 with the first prototype Range Rover being made and successive pre-production models called Velar, a name which was subsequently used for the launch of a new type of Range Rover in 2017. The Range Rover was announced to the public in 1970 to great applause and significant sales, a design masterpiece.
It is very interesting and heartening to think that the P4 played a key role in the early development of what ultimately became the world class Range Rover and its associated models. The pictures in the slideshow were taken at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon where the Road Rover is proudly displayed alongside other key Rover prototypes. All of this shows Rover at its very best and creating a significant part of our British motoring history to be proud of.
Rover P4 Drivers' Guild Chairman and Webmaster