Practical Classics (UK)
THE P7 & P8 PROTOTYPES
Two cases of what could have been, had things been different…
‘P7 WAS DUE TO BE A P6 WITH A SIX-CYLINDER ENGINE’
Project P7 began life as a six-cylinder version of the P6, development starting a year before the latter’s launch as the Rover 2000. Early prototypes required a longer nose to accommodate the engine’s extra length, but a redesigned front suspension allowed this six-pot version of the 2000’s four cylinder to sit within the same overall length, this version known as P7A. It was a very heavy engine however, leading to experiments with a five-cylinder version, later abandoned because it was difficult to fuel. Some P7s were also built with the old six-cylinder from the P5, this a much cheaper solution because the engine already existed.
The P7 was abandoned as a potential production model when Rover bought the rights to the Buick V8, but some prototypes were used as suspension development cars that fed into the P8 programme.
An imposing car, the P8 was intended to simultaneously replace the smaller P6 and flagship P5. Showcasing Rover’s very considerable engineering talents was another aim of this 'Mercedes eater', anti-lock brakes, self-levelling suspension and in the early days, no-roll suspension all planned. The last of these was too complex to achieve in production, but the P8 would nevertheless have featured a pressurised hydraulic ring main, like a Citroën DS, that would have powered the brakes, the selflevelling suspension and the steering assistance.
This was a heavy, complex car but one that was being developed at speed after the Range Rover’s 1970 launch, its arrival eventually slated for 1972. But in spring 1971 the P8 was aborted, partly because British Leyland was struggling to find the money to productionise it and partly, some reckoned, because Jaguar saw it as a threat to the XJ6. But another source suggests it was the car’s unexpectedly terrible crash performance that signed its death warrant. ■