While Triumph enjoyed considerable success with the estate version of the 2000 saloon, Rover seemed happy to leave that sector of the market entirely open to their old rival. However, Battersea-based coachbuilders FLM Panelcraft picked up Rover’s dropped ball and produced their own estate conversion of the highly successful P6. Around 160 examples were bult, and from 1970 onwards the car was marketed (with the factory’s blessing) by BL dealers HR Owen Limited, hence the registration number on the car depicted below.
According to P6 archivist John Windwood, Crayford’s involvement in the project was limited to the interior of the car, and the company had no bearing on the external design of the estate conversion: ‘These vehicles were designed and built by FLM Panelcraft. FLM converted the basic shells, and the interiors and cosmetics were then fitted by either Crayford, HR Owen or Hurst Park Motors. This explains the various internal and external differences between surviving examples. Crayford apparently began to badge their estates as Crayfords and implied that they built them. They were forced to stop when FLM threatened legal action.’
The name of the P6 estate has been quoted in various sources as, “Estourer”, “Estoura” and even “Estaura”. According to a published work by James Taylor, this confusion seemed to be prevalent even in the weeks following its 1969 launch: ‘By the end of the year, the prototype was ready and Autocar of 21 December carried an article, which described it as the Rover Estoura (the first sales catalogue, however, spelled the name as ‘Estourer’). The exact derivation of this rather unattractive name is unclear, but a reasonable guess is that it came from combining the words ‘estate’ and ‘tourer’.’
However, according to P6 Estate owner Mark Gray, there are no real grounds for confusion: ‘The cars were badged as ESTOURA in the early days and there was also a small bit on the badge which mentioned FLM PANELCRAFT. This was dropped from the back of the car sometime later around 1970/1. The original P6 Estate which was not given the go ahead by Rover, does actually date back to a 1966 car.’
In comparison with the Triumph 2000 estate, the Rover Estoura was of quite limited practicality. What’s more, the quality of the conversion also left a great deal to be desired. According to John Windwood: ‘Due to the sloping roofline, the rear door is very low and very small; I am 6ft 2in tall, and the tailgate is open fully at about the level of my chest!
‘Loadspace is also compromised for the same reason. And they were even more rot-prone than the standard P6 because the conversion was, quite frankly, a bit of a lash-up! The rear pod unit is basically held onto the base unit with pop rivets, and when the cars were cut for conversion, no paint or other rustproofing was applied to the bare edges. The rear pod was also fitted on top of the boot drain channels, effectively blocking them and redirecting the water to places it was never intended to go.’
Despite these fundamental flaws, the survival rate today remains surprisingly high.
ESTOURA badge – perhaps this picture finally clears up the confusion over the car’s name…
Thanks to John Windwood, Mark Gray and Leslie Button for additional information