They might share the same engine, but the pair of Rover V8s for sale at this weekend’s Historics at Brooklands sale couldn’t be more different.
Rover P5B or P6 3500: Big Cheese or Big Chris. Harold Wilson or Vinnie Jones. Single smoking pipe or two smoking barrels. Downing Street or the mean streets of London. What kind of power are you after?
— Historics Auctions (@Historics) July 3, 2018
As Big Chris might have said: “All right, son. Roll them guns up, count the money, and put your seatbelt on. We’re gonna find out which Rover is right for you.”
Big Cheese: Rover P5B
Launched in 1958, the P5 was the flagship of the Rover range and the quintessential British luxury car. It oozed presence, stemming from a time when Rover could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the world’s elite.
The P5B arrived in 1967, just as the original 3.0-litre straight-six P5 was beginning to show its age. Rover developed the Buick V8 to create a car with a real sense of pomp and circumstance, with the ‘B’ in P5B a direct reference to the American car company.
Finally, the big Rover had an engine to match its wood panelling, sumptuous leather and supreme comfort. As former Rover chairman Spencer Wilks said after his first experience with the engine, “What have we got here? This is the very first Rover I have ever driven which isn’t underpowered!”
Harold Wilson was the first Prime Minister to use a Rover P5B for ministerial duties, and he had a pipe ashtray and matchbox holder installed in the back. It was a familiar sight outside Number 10, with successive PMs falling for the charms of the graceful Rover. Margaret Thatcher was the last Prime Minister to enjoy life with a P5B.
Given the mileage and condition, the Rover P5B on offer at the Historics of Brooklands sale would be fit for a King or Queen, let alone a Prime Minister. Registered in August 1969, the car was purchased by a Mr Freeman in Leicester, who used the Bordeaux Red car sparingly until his death in 1985.
Its current owner purchased the car in 1986 and, due to what Historics calls “an exceptional level of care”, the P5B is almost as new. There are just 10,424 miles on the clock, and the factory panel work remains in excellent order. Estimate: £19,000 – £25,000
Big Chris: Rover P6 3500
Unveiled at the 1963 Earls Court motor show, the Rover P6 was a monumental leap forward for the company. It’s hard to believe that, for a year at least, the old and dependable P4 was sold alongside the P6 in Rover showrooms.
In common with the P5B, the arrival of the 3500 V8 in April 1968 finally delivered the performance to match the styling and refinement. It was not an out-and-out sports saloon, like say a contemporary Jaguar, but the smooth and relaxed performance was most welcome.
Little wonder, then, that the THREE THOUSAND FIVE became a firm favourite of the police, not to mention those who were determined to live on the wrong side of the law. A Rover P6 and Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels was a match made in Bethnal Green.
A facelifted Series II model was unveiled at the 1970 Paris motor show, which makes the Historics car one of the first examples to benefit from the new styling. Registered in June 1971, the Rover was sold to a Mr Edgar Morris of Bootle, who used the car for high days and holidays.
When Mr Morris died 25 years later, the car had covered just 3,200 miles, with the second owner adding only 124 miles in eight years. In 2004, the car was purchased and recommissioned, with the owner stating that everything was original.
According to Historics, this is “possibly the best P6 you will ever find”, not least because it has just 9,900 miles on the clock. Estimate: £10,000 – £15,000.
P5 or P6: whichever one you prefer, it’s been emotional.
The Historics at Brooklands sale takes place on Saturday 7 July 2018 at the Brooklands Museum, Surrey.
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