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Archive 24
Rover P4 Series


Few cars were as finely engineered, or as well
appointed, as the stately P4 Series that were built at
Rover's Solihull factory between 1949 and 1964.

These cars were as staid and conventional as the upper middle class who were the main customers at the time, although some people considered the design controversial in those early post-war years. Undoubtedly British to the core with their regal appearance and lots of polished walnut, Wilton carpets, leather covered seats, etc., the range was, nevertheless, closer in styling to some American autos of the mid 1940s.

   In fact, rumour at the time of the launch, was that Rover's technical director, Maurice Wilks, had brought two Studebakers over from the States and used these to help develop and loosely base their new saloon around. Certainly, the resemblance between the two marques were similar, with very few characteristics of the P3 (which itself perpetuated the body shape of the pre-war P2 model) introduced a year or so earlier.

   The pre-production P4 prototype even became known as the 'Roverbaker' to those in the know at the time. But without visible running boards its design was very different to most other British cars of the era, although the generous full width body did reveal a narrow step when the doors were opened.

   It also differed from most of its contemporaries by using a light-weight alloy known as Birmabright for the construction of the bonnet, doors and boot lid, although some later models in the early Sixties used pressed steel for these panels.

   A distinctive feature of the    early P4s was undoubtedly    the centrally-mounted fog    light, generally referred to as    the 'Cyclops eye', but this    concession to Americian    tastes was soon done away    with, as were the square-
   shaped instruments in favour    of round ones as shown.

   Over the next decade a number of fundamental changes were incorporated, including a wrap-round rear window, restyled boot and a floor mounted gear change lever to replace the steering column shift-change. At the same time new models sported different type designations, although the basic P4 shape remained true to the original. When the car finally bowed out in 1964 its ancestory to the early 75 was still clearly visible.

   In all some eight different versions were produced over the years ranging from a four-cylinder 60 to the powerful 1963 six-pot 110, although if you take account of the marginally different body shapes, then the number of variants are well over a dozen and this can be increased still further if account is taken of a few low volume models, such as the 1950 Cyclops-based 75 Drophead (of which only one remains), the 100 Woody Estate of 1960 or the P4-derived Marauder built by a company affiliated to Rover.

   Interestingly, Rover's experimental gas-turbined car JET 1, first seen by the public in 1950, was based on the model. This was the first attempt world-wide to use a gas-turbine power unit to propel the motor car, testomy, if it's needed, to the strength and structure of the P4 chassis and running gear.

   Affectionately known as 'Aunty' from an early age - its general air of respectability and gentility afflicted it with that nickname - over 130,000 examples were manufactured with a good few still going strong to this day, some as everyday transport.. Obviously quality construction, allied to an extremely robust chassis, contributed to their longevity. They just seem go on and on, like most old aunts!

   The P4 is extremely well catered for by enthusiasts such as members of the Rover P4 Drivers Guild. Formed in 1977, the organisation caters for all variants including the 60, 75, 80, 90, 95, 100, 105 and 110. Visit website  


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