The P4 comes from an era when the Rover badge really stood for something and it oozes quality in a very restrained way. Unlike a contemporary Jaguar, which looked and felt good where it mattered but was built down to a cost behind the scenes, the Rover is very much a car designed and built by engineers for bank managers and solicitors, people who didn’t want to flaunt their success like the driver of a MkII.
This P4 was restored some nine years ago with as much of the original metal as possible being retained and the car being resprayed in the correct cellulose paint, which has now mellowed nicely. The work was obviously done very well as it still looks perfectly solid but was also done with a good deal of sympathy – rather than a too-obviously restored show queen it retains the kind of patina that at first glance makes you think it might be an amazingly original survivor. The brakes, steering and suspension were also overhauled at the same time, while the engine received a rebuild.
The interior of these cars is a lovely place to be and this example is no exception. The carpeting was replaced during the restoration but the headlining and wood are original and very nice they are too. The dash also features a superb period piece in the shape of a fitted ‘His Master’s Voice’ radio, which must have been a seriously costly accessory back in 1957.
ON THE ROAD
The Rover straight-six bursts into life with a brief prod of the starter button above the key and as soon as the intricate ball-and-socket gearlever mechanism is eased into first and the judder-free clutch engaged, it’s obvious that the six-pot P4s have much more get up and go than their four-cylinder counterparts. No, it’s no sports car but the 2.6-litre 90 feels torquey and capable – and much smoother than the smaller engines too.
Once on the move the non-assisted steering lightens up and the 90 glides along really rather nicely, with the optional overdrive being a useful feature for owners tackling motorways. It’s certainly a very usable classic and it’s easy to see why the P4 is so popular. With a bench front seat, it can easily accommodate six people.
If your idea of classic Rovers is that of the BL-era cars then the P4 will surprise and delight you. This one is absolutely on the button and if we’d been asked to drive it to Aberdeen we wouldn’t have been disappointed. The restoration work has clearly been done very well and the P4 is one of those cars where it pays to buy a good one in the first place, since interior renovation can be just as costly as more exotic classics. And this one was certainly good enough to surprise me.
Top speed: 90mph
0-50 mph: 18.9 secs
Fuel consumption: 21mpg
Gearbox: 4-sp man o/d