Sam Glover

Sam chooses a car for his pro­posed cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - SAM GLOVER

Round the world in 75… well, a Rover P4 75, thinks Sam.

Ire­cently mulled over the best Bri­tish car to use for a round-the-world road trip. My spec­i­fi­ca­tion was as fol­lows: good ground clear­ance; rugged and pli­able sus­pen­sion; min­i­mal weight; ease of re­pair with­out spe­cial­ist equip­ment; no non-userser­vice­able elec­tron­ics; 60mph cruis­ing speed; enough grunt to over­take trucks; sen­si­ble fuel con­sump­tion; de­cent ac­com­mo­da­tion. The best I came up with was a Mor­ris Mi­nor, but I re­ceived a gush of con­vinc­ing counter-sug­ges­tions.

Steve White, Dave Foskew and Jeremy Dew sen­si­bly rec­om­mended mov­ing up the Fifties BMC lad­der, re­spec­tively to the Mor­ris Ox­ford Se­ries 2 or 3, Ri­ley One-point-five or Wolse­ley 1500 and MG Mag­nette ZA or ZB. They pointed out that these 1.5-litre B-se­ries mod­els had all the Mi­nor’s virtues, but with added space and com­fort.

Chris Wright and Peter de Jong put for­ward the Tri­umph Toledo, trum­pet­ing its straight­for­ward com­bi­na­tion of some of Coventry's most de­pend­able driv­e­train com­po­nents and a sim­ple leaf-sprung live rear axle. Oth­ers rec­om­mended the Mor­ris Ma­rina and the Ford Es­cort MKI or MKII on sim­i­lar grounds. An in­ter­est­ing curve-ball came from Gary Ed­wards, who sug­gested that I look no fur­ther than my own Austin Ruby. He pointed out that you couldn’t get more tried-and-tested than a car ap­proach­ing its de­sign cen­te­nary and in­cluded a list up­grades to­talling £1500 to shift its com­fort and per­for­mance closer to my de­sired lev­els.

Brian Perkins and John Bar­ber ad­vo­cated the BMC 1100/1300 and Land­crab. I’d ruled these out the grounds of their Hy­dro­las­tic sus­pen­sion, which would be dif­fi­cult to bodge-re­pair if it cap­sized in the mid­dle of Siberia. Both Brian and John as­serted, how­ever, that there would be no rea­son to ex­pect any­thing to go wrong if the sys­tem was in good or­der to be­gin with – and that its func­tional ben­e­fits on rough roads would be enor­mous. Other fine sug­ges­tions in­cluded the Ford An­glia 105E, Hum­ber Scep­tre or Hill­man Su­per Minx, Vaux­hall FE Vic­tor, MGB GT and Tri­umph Vitesse.

I chose to ig­nore all this ex­cel­lent ad­vice and bought a 1953 Rover 75. It more-or-less fit­ted my spec­i­fi­ca­tion in a big, heavy, thirsty sort of way. More per­ti­nently, I wanted one. With its hand­some Art Deco front and its stream­lined Stude­baker pro­file yet to be adul­ter­ated by David Bache, I’d go as far as to opine that the Oc­to­ber 1952 to Oc­to­ber 1954 P4 is the best-look­ing post-war Bri­tish car not styled by Ger­ald Palmer. A P4 – al­beit a later Rover 80 – also stars in my favourite road movie, Ra­dio On.

En­ter the Rover­baker

This Rover 75 was even more de­sir­able than most. It was of­fered at a rea­son­able £1500 by Roger Davey – a Beaulieu Au­to­jum­ble friend and a part­ner in diesel-re­lated crime of PC’S Theodore J Gil­lam. Roger had con­verted it in the Nineties to ac­cept a 2.25-litre Land Rover diesel en­gine. While this of­fers a spe­cial­ist charm of its own, it’s not ide­ally suited to my needs. An ob­vi­ous swap, how­ever, is the 2.5-litre Land Rover petrol en­gine fit­ted to Nineties and One Tens from 1985 into the early Nineties. This would po­ten­tially of­fer a win­ning blend of the sheer sim­plic­ity of the over­head valve four-cylin­der 2.25-litre Rover 80 and the per­for­mance of the in­let-over-ex­haust six-cylin­der 2.6-litre Rover 90.

The Rover’s been stand­ing in­side-and-out since 2007, which is of lit­tle me­chan­i­cal rel­e­vance as cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion prepa­ra­tion will in­volve check­ing, over­hauled or re­plac­ing ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing. Ini­tial im­pres­sions are, nev­er­the­less, pos­i­tive. The en­gine gur­gles nicely, the col­umn gearchange is a plea­sure and the steer­ing and sus­pen­sion feel un­ex­pect­edly ship­shape. It lacks a few key parts of its shell – sills and front floor­pans be­ing the most trans­par­ently ob­vi­ous – but it should be pos­si­ble to ad­dress this with­out dis­turb­ing too much of its up­per body­work. Its charm­ing With­nail & I patina can there­fore be re­tained, which will make it all the more dig­ni­fied a car in which to pro­ceed around the globe. I’ll re­port back as the project un­folds.

Sam Glover spends his spare time break­ing down in ex­otic lo­ca­tions around the world. He also tries to main­tain a fleet of 50 ob­scure clas­sics, from Anadol to Žuk. ‘I chose to ig­nore all this ad­vice and bought a Rover 75’

The 75's good side. The other side is mostly ab­sent.

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