HOW THE V8 WON THE BRI­TISH OVER

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Classic Anniversaries -

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.

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