There have been plenty of memorable British cars over the years, with the Rover P5 being a prime example. Thanks to its appearance and performance the P5 was the kind of vehicle that appealed to a mass audience. Created during the 1970s, the P5 became one of the most stylish cars of its generation. We’re looking into how it was designed and why it exemplifies Britishness.
Maurice Wilks, Chief Engineer of Rover, came to the conclusion that Jaguar and Mercedes were earning a lot of money from big cars, so he set out about developing a vehicle to compliment the small P4. David Bache was assigned to create the new car, though bosses were resistant to have it produced. They believed it was too outlandish and flashy, though it didn’t stop the car from being made.
The Mark I debuted at the 1958 Earls Court Motor Show. The car featured a rugged 2995 cc six-cylinder engine, limousine-like body and bright wheels. Only the Bentley was said to have a better interior, though Rover chose to distance itself from selling a car that was exclusively for older British men.
The Mark II came out in 1962, with the engine being updated to output 129 bhp. The roofline was lowered by 2 ½ inches for a more streamlined appearance. New features also included power steering and extra gauges on the dashboard.
The next update came in 1965, with the introduction of the Mark III. This model featured a lavish design, though it retained the same 3.0-litre block engine that was starting to become outdated.
The P5 was in need of another update and it was just around the corner. Rover MD, William Martin-Hurst, had been visiting Wisconsin when he ‘discovered’ a discarded Buick 3.5-litre engine. This led to the development of the 3.5-litre Rover V8 used in the P5B.
Made in 1967, the P5B was a speedy vehicle, able to reach a top speed of 110 mph and go from 0-60 in 11.7 seconds. The P5B proved to be very popular with British ministers, serving as transport for the likes of Edward Heath, James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher. The final batch of P5Bs were bought by the government and placed into storage, cementing their legacy as standard bearers for Britishness.
The P5 has been a mainstay in British pop culture for years, appearing in a range of TV shows and films like The Man Who Haunted Himself. This is further proof of the car’s importance, making it a good choice for classic car collectors.