HOW THE V8 WON THE BRITISH OVER
The Rover V8 began life across the Atlantic as the Buick 215, a compact all-aluminium over-square V8, in 1961. It was incredibly light for its size ( just 144kg) but, not being made from iron, was expensive to produce – a primary reason for parent GM shelving it in 1964. With some 750,000 produced in three years, though, it can hardly be considered a failure in American hands.
Rover bought the design and tooling in 1965, an initiative spearheaded by J Bruce McWilliams, Rover’s head of American operations. The first Rover V8-engined car arrive two years later – the 3.5-Litre or P5B. The first Morgan Plus 8 followed a mere year later, with Malvern’s love affair with the Rover V8 enduring until 2004.
The Rover engine was slightly heavier than Buick’s (at 170kg) but was considered to be far stronger. For the first 14 years of its life the Rover V8 ran on twin SU carburettors, followed briefly by twin Strombergs before the move to fuel injection, starting with the Bosch L-Jetronic system. Displacement was originally 3.5 litres, but grew over the years to five litres, the latter powering most notably the TVR Griffith 500 and TVR Chimaera 500, each with a thumping 340bhp and sub-fivesecond 0-60mph acceleration time.
The last Rover to be powered by the Rover V8 was the SD1 Vitesse, ending production in 1986, whereas Land Rover continued with the powerplant up until 2005 for the 4.6-litre North American market Discovery. This was the same year V8 production came to a halt, with Land Rover and Morgan turning to newer units.
The last production car to be fitted with the Rover V8 engine (or at least that engine as its basis) is the Westfield SEight – a sports car which pays homage to Colin Chapman’s Lotus Seven concept. The SEight ended production in 2010.
Including its time with Buick, the V8 that became a Rover engine had a production life of 49 years. Impressive stuff.