The Rover P5 series is a group of large saloon and coupéautomobiles that were produced by Rover from 1958 until 1973. Models were marketed under the names Rover 3 Litre, Rover 3.5 Litre and Rover 3½ Litre.
The P5 was a larger car than the P4 which in some respects it replaced. 69,141 units were built.
The P5 appeared in September 1958, badged as the "3-litre". It was powered by a 2,995-cubic-centimetre (182.8 cu in) engine. This straight-6IOE engine used an overhead intake valve and side exhaust valve, an unusual arrangement inherited from the Rover P4. In this form, output of 115 brake horsepower (86 kW) was claimed. An automatic transmission, overdrive on the manual, and Burman power steering were optional with overdrive becoming standard from May 1960.
Stopping power came originally from a Girling brake system that employed 11-inch (280 mm) drums all round, but this was a heavy car and by the time of the London Motor Show in October 1959 Girling front power discs brakes were fitted.
The suspension was independent at the front using wishbones and torsion bars and at the rear had a live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs.
A Mark I-A line, introduced in September 1961, featured a minor restyle with added front quarter windows, intended to "assist the dashboard ventilation". Under the metal, the 1A featured modifications to the engine mountings and the automatic transmission and hydrosteer variable ratio power steering as an option.
By 1962, when production of the original Mark I series ended, 20,963 had been produced.
An automatic version tested by The Motor magazine in 1960 had a top speed of 95.0 miles per hour (152.9 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 miles per hour (0–97 km/h) in 17.1 seconds. A fuel consumption of 20.5 miles per imperial gallon (13.8 L/100 km; 17.1 mpg‑US) was recorded. The test car cost £1864 including taxes.
The Mark II version of the P5 was introduced in 1962. It featured more power, 129 horsepower (96 kW), from the same 3-litre engine and an improved suspension, while dropping the glass wind deflectors from the top of the window openings which also, on the front doors, now featured "quarterlight" windows.
The most notable addition to the range was the option of the Coupé body style launched in autumn 1962. Unlike most coupés, which tend to be two-door versions of four-door saloons, this retained the four doors and was of the same width and length as the saloon, but featured a roofline lowered by two and a half inches (6.4 cm) along with thinner b-pillars, giving it the look of a hardtop. Hydrosteer was standard on the coupé and optional on the saloon.
Production of the Mark II ended in 1965, by which time 5,482 coupés and 15,676 saloons had been produced.
The Mark III was presented at the London Motor Show in October 1965, described at the time as "even more luxuriously trimmed and furnished". It was again available in two 4-door body styles, coupé and saloon. The Mark III used the same engine as its predecessor, but it now produced 134 horsepower (100 kW). Externally it could be distinguished by the full-length trim strip along the body and Mark III badging; internally it replaced the rear bench seat with two individually moulded rear seats, making it more comfortable to ride in for four occupants but less so for five.
A total of 3,919 saloons and 2,501 coupés had been sold by the time production ended in 1967.
The final iteration of the P5 appeared in September 1967. Now powered by the 3,528-cubic-centimetre (215.3 cu in) RoverV8 engine also used in the 3500, the car was badged as the "3.5 Litre", and commonly known as the 3½ Litre. The final letter in the "P5B" model name came from Buick, the engine's originator. Rover did not have the budget to develop a new engine, hence they chose to redevelop the lightweight aluminium engine available from Buick. They made it considerably stronger, which added some weight but still maintained the engine's light and compact features. The Borg Warner Type-35 automatic transmission, hydrosteer variable ratio power steering and front Lucas fog lights were now standard.
Output of 160 metric horsepower (120 kW) was claimed along with improved torque. When introduced in 1967 the Buick designed V8 produced 160 PS (118 kW; 158 hp) at 5,200 rpm and 210 lb⋅ft (280 N⋅m) of torque at 2,600 rpm, the new engine provided improved performance and fuel economy resulting both from the greater power and the lower weight of the power unit.
The exterior was mostly unchanged, apart from bold '3.5 Litre' badging, a pair of fog lights which were added below the head lights, creating a striking 4 light array, and the fitting of chrome Rostyle wheels with black painted inserts. The P5B existed as both the 4-door coupé and saloon body style until end of production. Production ended in 1973, by when 9,099 coupés and 11,501 saloons had been built.
1971 Rover P5B owned by Queen Elizabeth II
The 3½ Litre saloon variant was a favourite of high-ranking Government Ministers, and served as Prime Ministerial transport for Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher. As testament to their suitability, the last batch of P5Bs to roll off the Rover line in June 1973 was purchased by the British government and placed in storage, to be released for government use as required: subsequently registered relatively new looking P5s were therefore still familiar sights in Westminster for more than a decade after production had ended.
When Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street in 1979 after her election victory, she was driven in a 1972 model. It was during Thatcher's eleven-year tenure that the P5 was eventually phased out as a Prime-Ministerial car, in favour of the Jaguar XJ.
The coupé version featured a lowered roof line, shown is a P5B coupé
Rover 3.5 Litre – saloon vs. coupé
Note differences in roofline, windows, and B- and C- pillars
The Rover P5 is sturdy enough to be a popular choice for banger racing.
A Rover P5 3-litre was the seventh of the "Magnificent Seven" finishers in the 1963 Safari Rally. One theory is that the car was so heavy that it sank through the mud until it found bedrock.
In the film Performance (1970) John Bindon's character (Moody) drives a P5 Coupé
In the film The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) Roger Moore plays character Harold Pelham who is seen driving a maroon-coloured P5B at speeds well in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h) before crashing in a serious accident. Later in the film a replacement car is involved in a pursuit before being forced to crash through a bridge into a river.
The British gangster film Villain (1971) saw the car as the vehicle of choice for Richard Burton in the title role.
The lead character in the Dutch film Turkish Delight (1973) has an accident in a P5 Coupe.
In the 2007–2010 BBC detective series Inspector George Gently, Inspector George Gently (played by Martin Shaw) drives a Rover P5 Mark II and a Mark III. The quarterlight windows are used when flicking cigarette ash out of the car.
^New 3-Litre Rover Luxurious Interior And Panoramic Windscreen FROM OUR MOTORING CORRESPONDENT. The Times, Tuesday, Sep 23, 1958; pg. 13; Issue 54263; col A, "The panoramic windscreen gives a space between the screen and the seats which is reminiscent of the large American saloon."
^ abcdefg"Used Cars on Test: 1962 Rover 3-litre". Autocar. 124. Vol. (nbr 2651). 4 February 1966. pp. 240–241.