In the mid 1960s, when Rover discovered that Buick had developed a compact V8 which proved unsuitable for their own, US Interstate-cruising sized saloons, they bought it. The small-block, aluminium 3.5 litre engine generated some 50% more power than Rover’s existing staple.
Proudly, after improving the engine in house, and successfully testing it in their P5 model, the company spelled out its new P6 version as the Three Thousand Five in 1968. By 1970, the year Rover re-vamped its entire P6 range as the Mark II, or ‘B’ (officially — but it’s often known as the Series II) it was plain 3500; and in 1971, the addition of a four-speed manual version was designated the Rover P6B 3500S.
Everything came together. The P6 had been designed from scratch in 1963. It had de Dion tube suspension at the back, four wheel disc brakes, full synchromesh, and a unitary construction inspired’ by the Citroen DS. It also had a clutch of industry safety awards. A fortuitous feature was the front suspension, designed among other things to maximize the space in the engine compartment.
The Buick V8, when it arrived, squeezed in — but the Mark II upgrades included reshaping the hood to improve the fit and the air intake, and a new radiator grille. Inside, 1971 brought smart piping to the leather trim and a plethora of circular gauges and rotary switches (for Rover at the time, ‘old’ was linear, and old-style circular was ‘new’). The lighter (than the P5B), more powerful and faster P6B 3500S was now top of the Rover range. Police forces loved it.
With a top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h), Rover hoped the car’s otherwise adult solidity would entice drivers as an alternative to BMWs and Alfa Romeos. But for the unreliable gearbox, it was a worthy ambition.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1971 (until 1977)
3,528 cc V8
Top speed of 124 mph (200 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Often called the P6 NADA (‘North American Dollar Area’ — an acronym dropped officially in 1967), the left-hand drive Federal 3500S combined Mark I and II features, and was the best of the lot. Alas! Wraparound bumpers, air scoops on the hood, air-conditioning and ‘Icelert’ sensors on the grille (to warn you of falling outside temperatures) didn’t compensate for unreliability.