The cars : Rover 2300 Series 1 (1977-1981)

Chris Cowin remembers the severely ‘de-contented’ four-speed base version of the acclaimed Rover SD1: the original 1977 Rover 2300 (which pre-dated the Series 2 Rover 2000 by four years).

Would its low price overcome the austerity equipment package to encourage you into your local Rover showroom?


Touching Base: the Rover 2300 Series 1

Rover 2300

The Rover 2300 had a very important job to do – it was priced aggressively in order to attract ex-Rover P6 or Triumph 2000-owning executive car buyers who may have been tempted to buy a Ford Granada 2.0-litre or Volvo 244DL rather than sticking with British Leyland.

It remained the entry-level Rover SD1 for over four years, until a four-cylinder Rover 2000 (with a specification in many ways superior) appeared as part of the Series 2 line-up in early 1982.

Late-comer

Though originally intended to be launched together with the Rover 3500 as a complete SD1 range (which is what Ford or Mercedes-Benz would do), the six-cylinder versions of the model came over a year later. They would arrive in the form of the Rover 2600 which was equipped to compare well with its V8 brother and the Rover 2300 – the new entry-level model which was rather spartan for a Rover.

British buyers – most of whom were companies – now had a choice of three Rovers with the new five-door body, and the old Rover 2200/3500 (P6) cars were definitively dropped, as was the Triumph 2000/2500 range.

While the 3500 had been unveiled in June 1976, the two new Rover models were unveiled to the press at Gosforth Park hotel, Newcastle in mid-October 1977, though very few of the 2300 variant were built before the spring of 1978.

Rover 2300 and 2600
The Rover 2300 was launched with the 2600 in late 1977. Technically speaking, your chances had tripled – as this duo joined the existing 3500

Developed within Triumph, the new PE146 and PE166 engines (six-cylinder in-line with an aluminium head) promised slightly better fuel economy than the V8 though they would suffer in service from camshaft and valve-gear failure and high oil consumption. In his look at both of the six-cylinder models Mike Humble reviews those engines in more detail.

Rover SD1 Six (PE146 and PE166)
The engine was new – though with Triumph roots

Mind the gaps

Though still a fairly expensive, six-cylinder executive car – the new Rover 2300 was ‘de-contented’ perhaps excessively, with a lot of specification gaps compared to its stablemates.

Drivers were faced with a shrunken version of the original instrument pod, which lacked a rev counter and oil pressure gauge, while a five-speed gearbox was an option as was power steering, and suspension was not self-levelling.

Rover SD1 2300
The Rover 2300 instrument binnacle and subtly quartic steering wheel

Consigning power steering to the options list (a deletion also applied to the 2600 at first) resulted in the new Rover combining a quartic steering wheel with low-geared steering, meaning a lot more wheel-twirling than drivers of a car equipped with power steering encountered.

This mix had provoked much criticism on the Austin Allegro, with Motor magazine for one savaging the ‘cam action’ of the quartic wheel when left to ‘spin back through your hands’. However, on the Rover 2300 such criticism was muted, perhaps because the shape of the steering wheel was much more subtle, and perhaps because press cars loaned to the motoring magazines came with the power steering option.

Rover 2300
A four-speed gearbox was standard on the Rover 2300. This was the same LT77 box as other SD1 Rovers, but with fifth blanked off and different ratios

The unpainted polycarbonate wheel trims on the 2300 looked cheaper than on the 2600 and 3500, being a simpler design. It was as if the Designer had been briefed to make them look inferior. They changed for 1981, but didn’t get much better. And if you wanted a passenger door mirror – it was an extra cost option.

A careful read of the equipment list would have left any middle manager allocated a Rover 2300 (the most common way to obtain one) in no doubt a lot of the luxury of the original award-winning Rover SD1 design had been stripped away.

Given that even the range-topping 3500 was attacked in some quarters as rather cheapened compared to older cars of the marque, the 2300 could only heighten the impression Leyland Cars were utilizing the brand new SD1 plant in Solihull to turn out cars that weren’t quite Rovers.

Rover SD1 production at Solihull

It wasn’t just the specification. The 2300, along with more expensive Rovers, wasn’t being built particularly well in the late 1970s. One issue was that bodies, manufactured remotely at Castle Bromwich, were transported unpainted to Solihull. Another was that the bean-counters had borne down on Leyland’s purchasing costs to the point where many parts that went into the cars were of poor quality.

Moreover, the vast new assembly hall built for the SD1 – and potentially other models – had become almost a byword for all that was wrong with the manufacturing sector in Britain in that era. Endless disputes, internal and external, got in the way of smooth production with at times a considerable number of unfinished cars surrounding the plant awaiting missing parts. Never utilized to the full, the assembly hall would be mothballed at the end of 1981 when SD1 production was transferred to Cowley.

As Mercedes-Benz demonstrated well, even a car with a very basic specification could command a premium price if the quality was seen to be irreproachable. Rover had once been bracketed alongside Mercedes, but been allowed to slip from that pedestal during the years of British Leyland stewardship. The 2300 was therefore always going to struggle.

Video: Two more for the road

This splendid video was produced to accompany the launch of the 2300 and 2600.

The Generation Game – in reverse

As well as the major items already mentioned, on the original Rover 2300 halogen headlights were replaced with tungsten, door warning lights became reflectors, seat trim was less plush than the 2600, carpets were thinner and didn’t cover the boot, there were no glovebox lights and an intermittent wipe was absent, while the colour co-ordination seen inside nobler models was lacking. Initially, the 2300 dashboard and minor trim was always black or, more accurately, Caviar.

It was like the conveyor belt of goodies on Saturday-night TV favourite The Generation Game – but in reverse.

Making power steering and five-speed optional on the Rover 2300 would have reduced the ‘entry price’ of Rover ownership to a point as low as possible for marketing purposes, and narrowed the gap with the Princess range, giving the company car market a well-spaced hierarchy of choices – in October 1978, a Princess 2200 HLS (with power steering standard) cost £4889 whereas the Rover 2300 cost £5909.

It’s unlikely that many cars left the factory without those two major options – though testimonies of the time are evidence some did. Automatic transmission was available (though for more of a mark-up than on the 2600, oddly), but there was no way a Rover 2300 buyer could obtain the excellent self-levelling system of the other Rovers.

And if you expected a Rover to have electric windows and central locking – well neither of those 3500 features were available on the 2300 in 1977. Nor were alloy wheels although Denovo run-flat wheels and tyres were.

Time passes

The introduction of the six-cylinder 2300 and 2600 combined with a general improvement in the UK economy after several bad years, and the resolution of some production bottlenecks, to make 1978 the peak year for SD1 production.

Over time the specification of the Rover 2300 was improved – and it came to look a little less of a poor relation. Colour co-ordination got better inside, and for 1980 the Rover Viking long-ship badge appeared on the bonnet of all Rovers (there were four that year) including the 2300. In 1980 the Rover SD1 range accounted for 15% of Britain’s executive car market with 75% of sales being to companies and, although production had declined since 1978, high hopes were still attached to them.

Unsurprisingly, the V8 proportion of sales shrank after fuel prices jumped during 1979, and that shift towards economy can help explain why a much better equipped 2300S appeared in the expanded five car Rover line-up for 1981 (introduced in late 1980) with power steering, a rev counter and the full-size instrument pod standard – but still a four-speed gearbox. The original and more basic 2300 remained alongside as Rover’s entry-level car.

Rover SD1
Rover buyers in 1981 had a choice of five models. The ‘base’ 2300 (yellow car) was supplemented by the 2300S (white)
Rover 2300
The interior of a 1981 Rover 2300. Dashboard and trim were now coloured to match the upholstery

In the more substantially revised Series 2 Rover range introduced in January 1982, the four-cylinder O-Series engine-powered Rover 2000 became the entry-level car, with the 2300 and 2300S now positioned mid-range and much better equipped than in 1977, as in the Series 2 range all manual models were five-speed. And before long (1983) they all came with power steering as standard, including the Rover 2000.

Buyers of the 1982 Series 2 Rover 2000 were also granted tinted glass, central locking, thick-pile carpets and a rev counter – though still no self-levelling, which the 2000 and 2300 never received. By this time BL Cars, (as it now called itself after a couple of re-organisations) recognised Rover buyers deserved and expected a little more, though the 2000 still looked a little stripped. However, that would be rectified during the Austin Rover era which began in the spring of 1982.

Rover 2000
The new Rover 2000 became the entry-level Rover in the Series 2 range introduced in January 1982. It looked a little stripped too at first – but that would soon change

A piece of the puzzle

The 1977 Rover 2300 had allowed Leyland Cars (as the car division was branded from mid 1975 to mid ’78) to offer a differentiated hierarchy of Rover models to Britain’s status-obsessed company car market – and, potentially, offer tax advantages over the 2600. But taken out of that context, it didn’t make a great deal of sense.

The slightly smaller capacity version of the six-cylinder engine would cost the company just as much to build, and didn’t offer significantly better fuel economy than the 2600 – in fact, on some measures, it was worse. The four-speed gearbox was a variant of the five-speed LT77 box built at Pengam in south Wales, but fitted with a blanking plate on fifth. Which again would have cost almost as much to build, so rather a tawdry example of reverse engineering.

Overseas

In some overseas markets the 2300 engine (in fact 2350cc) might have brought tax advantages compared with the 2600 – but it’s notable that in many European countries the Series 1 Rover 2300 did not always appear, even when the 2600 did. You had to search hard to find a 2300 on the continent in 1978 or 1979, despite the impression which the Rover 2300/2600 SD1 – Two More for The Road promotional film gives.

Italy was a displacement-sensitive market and it imported the Series 1 2300 for a short period during 1980/81, but in the Series 2 range the new Rover 2000 was a lot more fiscally advantageous, and the 2300 was dropped. Germany joined Italy in only importing the Series 1 2300 models from 1980, and then declining the Series 2 2300 cars.

Rover SD1
‘You can’t put a price on beauty’. The Series 1 Rover 2300 and 2300S were available in Italy for 1981 as mentioned in text, alongside the 2600S and 3500 Vanden Plas (pictured)

The Belgians and Dutch were offered the Series 1 Rover 2300 and 2300S. The French and Swiss apparently not, although France listed the Series 2 2300 briefly.  Even the Danes, normally partial to base versions of big cars, took a rain-check on the Rover 2300. So, although Leyland Cars had bold ambitions for the SD1 range in continental Europe – especially after the 3500 version was voted 1977 European Car of the Year – the 2300 didn’t help much, with a patchy presence.

Both the Series 1 Rover 2300 and 2300 S as pictured were marketed in the Netherlands. (Photograph courtesy of Serge Heitling)

Once the Series 2 models were launched in 1982, the range now including the new 2000 and 2400 SD Turbo Diesel, both of considerable appeal on the continent, the 2300 was rather squeezed out. There were only so many models of Rover continental dealers could stock.

However, back on the home market, the Rover 2300 replaced the old Rover 2200 models as well as the Triumph 2000 and 2500 cars, and perhaps it was felt asking that large customer base to move up to 2600cc was too much, in depressed late-1970s Britain.

The 2300 doesn’t appear to have travelled beyond Europe. It certainly wasn’t offered in Leyland’s major markets in the wider world: North America took only the V8 version of the SD1 (briefly), as did Australia which imported around four times as many.

New Zealand assembled only the V8 and 2600 models, as did South Africa, with higher local content including the South-African manufactured 2.6-litre variant of the E-Series engine for their Rover 2600.

In conclusion

The late 1970s was a period when State-backed Leyland Cars was still aspiring to be the national champion and market leader, with Ford identified as the principal competitor. Which was a pity, as pitching the Rover SD1 range as a Ford Granada rival inevitably led Leyland to build cars down to a price with the Rover 2300 perhaps being an extreme example of that.

In the good old days of the independent Rover company and Spencer Wilks, it was believed that good cars would sell themselves. Rover may have allowed itself a sideways glance at the Ford Zephyr when developing the (P6) Rover 2000 of 1963, but that didn’t allow the company’s design to be overtly compromised by a pressure to match Ford on costs – a fruitless exercise that George Harriman at BMC was also counselling against.

Sadly, 15 years later the Rover 2300 was allowed to emerge as a package that left many Rover customers frowning, even if it won approval among some company fleet managers. As a quick wander around any golf club car park in the late 1970s would attest, many traditional Rover buyers were left cold by the 2300 and traded in their old P6 Rover 2000 or 2200 for an Audi or Volvo.

Still, unlike many other base models over the years, it was possible to choose options to make your 1977 Rover 2300 appear a little less cheap.

A better stereo, leather seats, metallic paint, tinted glass, fog lights, halogen headlights, rear seat belts, Denovo run-flat tyres and a sunshine roof were all on the options list alongside the passenger side mirror, power steering and five-speed which are likely to have been most popular.

With all of that kit, you could end up with a Rover 2300 which only the most car-obsessed schoolboy could differentiate from the much admired, if rather mercurial, V8 3500. Until you fired up the engine, anyway.

With thanks to Serge Heitling and James Taylor (and his book Rover SD1 – The Full Story 1976-1986).

Chris Cowin

33 Comments

  1. Not just Rover who had penny pinching base level models to be fair. The base model Granada 2.0L was quite a joyless place to be with the sluggish Pinto engine to haul the large car along, while at least the Rover 2300 was a six cylinder and performed reasonably well for its size. Also there was the base model Mercedes 200 that didn’t have a radio as standard, and the diesel version, intended more for taxi owners, had vinyl trim and couldn’t beat 80 mph. Yet being a Mercedes with very high quality standards and the diesel being capable of enormous mileages, buyers didn’t mind.
    I suppose the reason why the Rover 2300 had a lukewarm reception was buyers still expected their Rovers to have leather seats and wood and chrome everywhere, and the stripped out interior and cheap looking plastic would have turned buyers away or have buyers fork out considerably more for PAS and automatic transmission. Also as the article pointed out, the base Rover was £1100 more than a Princess 2200 HLS that came with PAS as standard, a wood dashboard and nicer seats and had a near silent six that was quieter than the Rover engine and not much slower.

  2. At least The UK was spared the 1.7 Granada Mk1 sold in some markets, the Mk3 had a 1800 for motorists not in a hurry!

    The BMW 5 series needed the options list ticked to get a decent spec, I’ve seen a picture of a late 1970s example with only a driver’s side mirror.

  3. There was the BMW 518 that was the sort of car, like the Mercedes 200, for buyers that could say they had a BMW 5 series, even if it was the rock bottom model with a poverty spec and limited performance. I’d sooner have bought a nearly new 520 with fuel injection, options like electric windows and central locking as standard, and a good after market stereo. Never seen the point of buying poverty spec models as the resale is poorer and they used to be quite nasty inside with blanked off buttons and poor materials.

    • My mate’s dad had a 518,we at one point had an early (non injection) 528. I remember the 518 still felt smooth and good quality – the dash was still great looking even though it was under equipped. Back in 77,any BMW felt and looked premium

      • Cheaper Mercedes until perhaps the W124, used to be bulletproof but poorly equipped. You weren’t paying for gadgets or speed, but for quality engineering. Hence those 3rd world W123 taxis that seemed to go on forever.

        That type of car sadly no longer exists, as Mercedes switched to making lower quality, but “blingier” models.

  4. I always wonder about things like a four-speed gearbox created by fitting a five-speed gearbox and blanking off a gear!? Presumably cost just as much to produce (even if cheaper than sourcing a different 4-speed gearbox to fit the engine) but there to punish buyers of the lower spec model or persuade them to part with a bit more cash?

    • Is this the 70s equivalent of having to pay for heated seats on your BMW by subscription – the hardware is there it’s just software (in the 70s hardware) restricted. Some washing machines are the same – the cheaper models have the same motor but the electronics limits the spin speed

    • The 5th gear on the Rover ‘box is literally bolted on to the end of the layshaft so there may have been a small saving by leaving it and the meshing gear off but certainly not enough to justify the poorer customer offering. As an aside, “the add on” 5th gear could prove problematic on early Vitesse models as it would unbolt it’s self if the car was driven for long distances at very high speeds – v max. Conditions found on German autobahns!

  5. Fascinating how the black one in the Italian ad, with black bumper, black grille and yellow headlights, looks so much better than the cars we were offered in the UK.

    Colour co-ordination and deleting blingy chrome make it look really nice, almost sinister!!

    And I like black interior trim without wood or chrome too.

    • In fact the car pictured in that Italian advert was available in the UK, though few were sold. It’s the (rare) 1981 model year Rover 3500 Vanden Plas, which was the top of the line Rover between late 1980 and early 1982 (when it was replaced by the Rover Vanden Plas in the new Series 2 Rover SD1 range).
      That period corresponds with the trough of the early 1980s recession, when interest rates were sky-high, fuel was expensive and companies (the main customers for such cars) were either going bust or tightening their belts.
      So, unsurprisingly, customers for the top of the range V8 Rover were thin on the ground. They were thin on the ground in Italy too, but they had to try and shift them.
      Hence the advertising – though one imagines that though they might have chosen the 3500 Vanden Plas for the picture, Leyland Italia expected to sell mostly six-cylinder cars.

  6. My dad had a series 1 2300. No extras whatsoever. Nearly 40 years ago it was still a nice car however corrosion and engine problems saw it chopped in for a montego.We got a 2000 a few years later – this had five gears and a sunroof.

  7. I loved the 3500 V8 version znd had 2 of them which towed my caravan superbly without any issues. However i was running durability cars on the German Autobahns when we received the early 2.3 and 2.6 SDIs. The engines on the mainly lasted a couple of days before failing. We did a lot of engine changes and rebuilds.

  8. My father purchased a 2300 in 1979, it was a 5 speed in red. I remember it constantly overheating and it had extremely cheap beige seat facings and door coverings which felt like they’d break if you wiped them. It rusted badly too despite my father taking good care of the vehicle. He usually kept his cars for many years but traded the Rover in for a Triumph acclaim after only a couple of years.

  9. The Mark 2 models with the flush headlamps were better made and better specced. Even the 2000 had a rev counter, tinted glass, five speed transmission and velour seats, amd didn’t make the owner feel they’d been punished by buying the cheapest model. I supppose the country had been through a severe recession and an energy crisis, where petrol prices had doubled in two years, and fleets and private buyers were downtrading to smaller engined cars and Rover upspecced their base models to keep customers.
    While sometimes seen as a poor man’s Rover because of the O series engine from the Ambassador, the 2000 wasn’t a bad car at all and sold steadily. As well as a decent spec, the O series did have a reputation for being fairly reliable and had none of the issues of the six cylinder Rovers, although these were being addressed in the early eighties. Performance wise, 105 mph flat out was still acceptable in 1982, considering a 2 litre Ambassador was no faster, and the Rover was able to cope well with motorway journeys and was more economical than the 2300 due to being a four cylinder.

  10. The stripped out Rover 2300 seems pretty poor value at £5909 when compared to £4889 for a nicely equipped Princess 2200 HLS. Over than the prestige of driving a Rover, you’re getting an inferior car and paying a lot more money.

    The 2300 seems a pretty pointless base model engine size anyway, when 2000 was a common tax threshold. Maybe it would have been better to dump the 2300 engine, and instead offer a slant-4 Rover 2000 base model?

  11. We can mock the idea of a basic spec exec car now, but in 1977 that what the company car hierarchy demanded. This was in effect the Rover 2300 L to mirror what Ford was doing with the Granada. Of course and as noted above a 2 litre 4 cylinder would have made far more sense and Rover had one sitting there in the form of the Triumph slant 4! God knows what internal politics prevented that obvious decision from being made.

    • You’re right of course – though there was a time when a Rover would have been perceived as a more premium car than a Ford. But Leyland Cars had little choice but to deploy a variant of the SD1 in that role against the Fords and Vauxhalls in the 2 Litre-plus company car class given that the Princess 2200 seemed to leave such buyers cold.
      But the consequent de-contenting of the SD1 concept, combined with the troubles that afflicted the engine (as forensically analysed by Robert Leitch here: https://www.aronline.co.uk/engines/rover-sd1-six/ ), combined with the quality problems that all the early SD1 cars suffered, bad paint and the rest – resulted in a car that wasn’t really Rover’s finest hour.
      As I wrote (and sort of remember) a lot of the established Rover (& Triumph) retail customer base – the colonels and rotary club stalwarts of the land – who visited the Leyland Cars showroom in their market town to trade in their old P6 Rover 2000 or 2200 (or a Triumph) – found the SD1 2300 as presented in 1977 rather under-whelming and off-putting. And took their money elsewhere. A story mirrored in the export markets Leyland Cars was hoping to conquest with the SD1 range – positioned as premium cars which raised expectations …

  12. My dad worked for British Steel in the 1970s. In 1978 he got a promotion which came with a company car. He selected a then new mk11 Granada 2.3 GL. The Granada came with power steering, central locking and a sunroof, as well as plush trim. Unfortunately there was a six month waiting list too. Having sold his Mk111 Cortina in anticipation of the company car, Dad was having to use the pool car, a battered Maxi. When the fleet manager offered him a cancelled order 2300 SD1 he gladly accepted. Thus he became the soon to be disillusioned owner of XAO 336S, a very early 2300 in Avocado Green. It did have a 5 speed box, passenger mirror and fog lights, but lacked pas. Apparently the car was excessively heavy to steer and he developed tennis elbow. Being used in the corrosive environment of a Steel works the paint fell off in lumps. After 2 years he was glad to see the back of it. Presumably it must have cost about the same as the far better equipped Granada, as it was on the list of choices. Interestingly so was the Dolomite Sprint, which would have been an exciting choice. In the 80s he had a series 2 2600S, a far better and more luxurious car, still quite shoddily built though.

  13. The Series 2 SD1 was much better built and more reliable than the Series 1, but there were still some trim defects and niggling faults that would be absent in a German or Swedish rival. I do recall the local chemical company, Marchon, buying a batch of Rover 2600s for their managers in 1984 when their Princesses were up for renewal( the Montego was probably seen as too downmarket). One I knew said he loved the looks, driving abilities and comfort of the Rover, and it never broke down, but the interior quality wasn’t the best and the car developed a few rattles and the door trim could come adrift.

  14. The thing which never seems to be acknowledged is that the Triumph 2000 range of cars was rather cheaper priced than the P6 range. This must have given Leyland a challenge in replacing the two ranges with one because they would need (ideally) to price the 3500 comparably to the P6 3500 and the base model comparably to whatever the cheapest Triumph was priced at – which would have been a large bridge to gap with one model. I imagine this then gave them a serious problem because it would not have been possible to build a car of comparable quality to the outgoing Rover P6 2200 for the price of the Triumph 2000. Hence the 2300 was decontented to be built down to the Triumph 2000 price and anyone expecting something like a Rover 2200 would have been left feeling a bit cheated. Note also that no 4 cylinder P6 had PAS or a 5 speed gearbox either. Also, is that right about the gearboxes simply having 5th blanked off? I always assumed that the 4 speed SD1 boxes were built without the rear extension housing 5th like the 4 speed LT77 in the TR7? Hence there would have been a cost saving.

  15. Some good points there – thanks.
    Although by the mid 70s the gap between Triumph and Rover P6 prices had narrowed – In 1974 Audi jokingly ran an advert pointing out how their Audi 100 faced two rivals from British Leyland – the Rover 2200SC at £2933 and the Triumph 2500TC (not the base big Triumph saloon admittedly) at £2907. And of course from 1975 British Leyland also fielded the Princess in a range spanning 1800-2200cc which encroached into the same ‘junior executive’ field once occupied by the Triumph 2000 – all be it with front-wheel drive. (At launch they stated (a little optimistically) that Princess (or the Wolseley 2200 version as this was the initial 18/22 Series launch) could even substitute for the old Austin 3 Litre.
    On the gearbox thing – the Triumph TR7 when equipped with the LT77 gearbox was always five-speed, I’m pretty confident in stating. Earlier four-speed versions introduced in 1974 (for America) used a different gearbox. But I believe you’re right other vehicles (at Land Rover) used a 4 speed variant of the LT77. Not just the Rover SD1 2300.

    • Thanks Chris – sorry, should have added this was a good article and very thought provoking.

  16. Another classic example of BMC/BL fighting between themselves for market-share rather than taking the fight to other manufacturers…

    Personally I never saw the Princess as a competitor to the SD1, just as I never saw the earlier 1800/2200 as competitors for the Triumph/Rover twins (surely the Austin 3-Litre would have been the 2000/2200/2500/3500 competitor?)

    The PE engine *could* have been good if only they’d got the build quality right.

    I cou dee:

    A 2-litre [short stroke, high revving] version for tax-efficiency in those markets where you needed a just-under-2-litre car to be price competitive. And give BL something to field at the bottome end of the market against the Granada 2.0; also could have gone into the likes of the TR7 if fitted with a 24V head based on Dolomite Sprint technology.

    The 2.3 and 2.6 to be merged into a 2.5 – because Ford had a 2.5 V6 Granada.

    A ‘top end’ version bored out to 3 Litres and fitted with 4 valves per cylinder and fuel-injection/electronic ignition [Hello, Bosch K-Jetronic?] which would be turbine-smooth to 6000RPM and put out 180-200BHP with impressive fuel economy.

    Think of the BMW M20 engine and stretch it a bit.

    That old early-1960s pushrod V8 has just become obsolete! And no need for the poverty-spec O-series Rover-2000.

    One engine, in different capacities, across the range. Reducing production costs, streamlining spares-holding at dealers, and reducing service-costs for purchasers because the dealer technicians need less training.

    • It has been said that the PE engine was not a bad unit, just badly built and underdeveloped. There is a guy in YouTube has shown how good the engine is, and as we know it was detuned so not to impact on the v8 halo model. However by the second fuel crisis, should they have just unleashed the 6 properly?

  17. The simplest and cheapest option would be to use the E6 in the cheapest Sd1 and use an enlarged 2600cc version for the intermediate model, which occurred with the South African SD1. The E6 was known as a smooth and fairly reliable engine and was well liked by Wolseley Six and Princess 2200 owners. Also 2200 was the entry model engine size for the P6, although the engine used in the P6 was becoming dated, being an enlarged version of the 2000 introduced by Rover in 1963.
    However, the usual internal rivalries meant two new engines had to be developed for the SD1 at considerable cost and rushed into production, where problems with overheating, camshaft wear and oil leaks meant buyers were wary of buying a six cylinder Rover. Another factor typical of British Leyland was the Rover sixes weren’t used in other cars, adding to production costs. OTOH Ford’s 2.3 V6 was fitted to the Cortina and Granada and German market Capris, and the 2 litre Pinto was used in four models.

  18. Could the E6 have been taken out to something like 2.9 or 3.0 and fitted with fuel injection?

    From what I recall it had siamesed bores, which would have been a problem. Also it wasn’t crossflow so would have had thermal issues in a high output situation.

    It was also unfashionably long stroke, clearly designed to appeal to the sort of person who thinks an engine should pull from 30MPH in top gear, rather than those of us who expect to change down to 3rd at 70MPH and wind up to 6500RPM for a fast overtake.

    There’s a reason cars are fitted with rev limiters, it’s to tell you to change gear before the valve bounce gets you.

    • I think the E6 2.6 has had a bad reputation in Australia for head gasket issues. In theory using the E6 sounds like a good idea, but it was a compromised design because of Issigonis. In addition, the E6 was not exactly a powerful unit, with the 2.2 not really sprightly in the Princess. BL really should have had a joined up plan, but as we know Stokes kept many sides of the the business away from each other. The company had some very talented engineers, and they should have pulled those resources together to produce a new engine family for the whole company, or re-engineer what they had.

    • Whether as a compromised design as went into production (even if remedied) or basically a six-cylinder version of the sophisticated experimental rubber-belt crossflow 4-cylinder prototype, the E6 by virtue of being based on a small-block 4-cylinder was always going to play a supplementary 6-cylinder role to any big six capable of reaching / exceeding 3-litres.

  19. One issue with the first LT77 gearbox was that it had an oil pump driven by the intermediate shaft that pushed oil to the tailshaft bearing. The first versions of this used a Nylon quill shaft to drive the pump, if your car had a badly routed or otherwise stiff speedo cable it would strip the nylon drive gear, shedding bits of plastic swarf and trash into the gear oil, which then got minced by the gears and when the mess got into the oil pump it caused sufficient drag to shear the quill shaft, and the gearbox then had to try and get by on splash lubrication, which was not good for high loads.

    If you have a LT77 equipped car and the speedo needle starts twitching or falls to zero when driving, as well as fixing the obvious issue, do a proper cleanse of the gearbox oil as a matter of urgency!!

  20. It could be argued that Triumph’s engine designers ultimately played a bigger role in the ultimate demise of Austin Rover than many other better-known factors. First there was the Triumph Stag, which could have been a highly profitable success story if it had been launched with Triumph’s existing 2.5 litre straight-six initially and fitted with the Rover V8 as soon as sufficient supplies could be produced. Instead, despite the likely modest sales volume, money was spent developing a completely new 3 litre V8, more money was spent on tooling and a production line for it and then the engine’s appalling unreliability generated huge warranty costs and killed sales.
    Then came the Rover SD1, which (as has been argued ad infinitum) could have been launched with the Rover V8 and the existing E6 2200 and 2600 engines (as later fitted in South Africa). Instead, money was spent developing completely new 2300 and 2600 six-cylinder engines and more money was spent on tooling and a new production line for them. It is not clear why the 2300 was ever produced, as it was as expensive to make as the 2600. Then, just as with the Stag V8, once the cars were launched, these engines proved unreliable, generating huge warranty costs and killing sales.
    If the Triumph Stag had been fitted with reliable Triumph 2.5 litre sixes and then Rover V8 engines instead of the new 3 litre V8, its development and manufacturing would have cost less, its warranty costs would have been less and its sales would have been greater. If the Rover SD1 had been fitted with 2.2 and 2.6 litre E6 engines instead of developing the new Triumph engines, its development and manufacturing would have cost less, its warranty costs would have been much less and its sales would have been greater.
    Thus whatever their theoretical merits might have been, the new V8 for the Stag and the new 2300 and 2600 sixes for the SD1 were unnecessary engines which took a lot of money to develop and produce, which could have been spent on better development of the SD1 and other models. Their unreliability then went on to generate major warranty costs and severely damaged the reputation and sales of two cars which might otherwise have generated large profits at a critical time for the company. The decisions to produce these engines probably played a bigger role in the ultimate demise of the company than generally appreciated.

  21. The existence of the Rover 2300 had a lot to do with car tax bands in the UK and abroad, and also the need to give the UK company car sector (which bought most new Rovers) a “hierarchy” of models. – And of course when the 2300 was conceived in the early 70s they were looking to replace the Rover 2200 – some (retail market) owners of which (not to mention the preceding Rover 2000, and the Triumph 2000) – might have baulked at moving up to 2.6 litres (rightly or wrongly). The O Series powered Rover 2000 SD1 was conceived rather later.
    There certainly seem to have been issues with quality control in production, material specification and design with Triumph engines …. Spen King didn’t mince his words on that subject when interviewed by Keith Adams about 20 years ago:
    Keith asked: ‘I presume that the V8 Stag engine didn’t really come up with all those problems in testing anyway?’
    CSK: ‘No, a lot of the trouble was they were made wrong, I’m afraid. Which was down to the state of bloody mindedness in the workforce, which in Triumph was pretty serious.’
    There was clearly a specific problem on Stag engines with sand-casting of the block (and casting sand being left in the engine) which rival manufacturers would have identified earlier – but that’s just one thing.

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