Rover P5B Guide What you need to know before buying the best of British.
Stylish, imposing and powerful, it’s no wonder the P5 got a royal seal of approval
There aren’t many cars stately enough to be able to claim that they’re fit for the Queen, but the Rover P5 is one of them. HRH has owned four of them, including the last P5B made. Various British prime ministers also loved the P5’s luxurious drawing room-inspired interior, cossetting ride and fabulous build quality.
From the interior swathed in teak and leather to the very substantially-built bodyshell, the P5 oozes quality from every pore. Despite this, you can buy a good one for under £10,000, while running costs can be slashed if you’re mechanically minded.
The obvious answer is a P5B Coupé, as that’s what everyone wants. It’s the fastest and most stylish of the breed, but V8 cars came only with an auto gearbox, and the Coupé has a roofline two inches lower than the saloon – the back seat was lowered, so those in the back might feel claustrophobic on a long journey. You’ll pay less to buy a saloon, which offers the same driving experience as a coupé – and it’s more refined as there’s less wind noise.
You’ll also pay less for a 3.0-litre than for a V8, yet the smaller engine still provides ample performance. Whatever you buy, it will prove a surprisingly usable conveyance – these cars are so well engineered, and hence so capable, that they’re a genuine alternative to a modern car thanks to the refinement, pace and build quality.
Poor repairs are common because, as Rover’s first monocoque, the P5’s structure is large and complex. But it’s also a strong construction, so serious structural corrosion is rare. Your first check should be the three-piece sills, which can rot badly. You can inspect the outer sills by opening the doors; the inner sills can be checked from underneath. Rotten original metalwork can be fixed relatively easily; replacement sills that have been welded onto a car weakened by rot and twisted out of shape are more of an issue. Despite the unitary construction there are stout chassis legs that sprout from the sills. The metal is thick and durable, although of course it can rot, especially around the leaf spring mountings.
The outer panels tend to last well but the rear inner wings can rust out of sight. Peering behind the boot trim gives a good idea of whether there’s rust or not. Also check the rear valance and door bottoms; decent used doors are scarce. The original hinges must be kept, as they were set up to achieve the correct panel gaps. The bulkhead, sill and door post meet at the back
of the front wheelarches; there’s also a cavity where the wiper box drains, and mud can collect here, inducing corrosion. If left unchecked this can spread into the bulkhead; if so, the car is fit for parts only. If there’s evidence of corrosion or filler in the scuttle panel just walk away.
The 3.0-litre engine is a bored-out P4 2.6-litre straight six, and like a well-maintained V8 it will last at least 200,000 miles between rebuilds. Cylinder and valve guide wear will be evident on a neglected six-cylinder engine – oil is burned when the engine is started and under acceleration, producing blue exhaust smoke. Valves burn out and valve seals go hard, so a top-end overhaul may be needed, while on a high-mileage engine the cam followers will
Odd bod A one-off P5 MKI estate was built, but wasn’t put into production because demand was deemed to be too limited.
The P5 was the first Rover to feature the firm’s legendary V8 engine. Originally developed by Buick, the ‘B’ in P5B stands for Buick. Quote from Lancaster Insurance 45-year-old male, postcode SP2, 5000 miles per year, garaged, second car, club member. 1971 P5B Coupé valued at £12,000. £81.32 or £99.32 including AV. Brought to you by Lancaster Insurance. Call for a quote today on 01480 220071.