Car of the Month : April 2021 – Adam Gompertz’s Rover P4 100

Former MG Rover Designer turned Pioneer Curate, Station Chaplain of Bicester Heritage and founder of the REVS ministry, Reverend  Adam Gompertz is one of the busiest – and nicest – car enthusiasts I’ve ever met.

Between pastoral duties, he’s often found penning beautiful motoring artwork or organising internet gatherings for good causes – and, this month, AROnline‘s paying tribute by featuring his wonderful Rover P4 100 as our Car of The Month.

Words and photography: Adam Gompertz

My car is a 1962 Rover P4 100, which I have owned for nearly four years, and is known as ‘Wilbur’. Bought from a chap in Dudley, it is two-tone grey with a blue interior. Being a 100, it is powered by a inline six-cylinder with the inlet valves over the exhaust ones – basically an ‘L’ shape head.

I have had a fair amount of mechanical work done, including new valves, a restored cylinder head, new gearbox mounts, a new uprated servo, an alternator replacement (I think from an original conversion some years ago) and, lately, two brand new kingpins for the front suspension.

The next big jobs will be the lower bodywork and sills. But my plan is not to have it as a concours car (I couldn’t afford to get it into that state anyway), it’s very much about using it. The interior is lovely, a little scruffy in places (the front seats could do with reupholstering), but it’s like a drawing room on wheels.

However, there is  a project I would love to do (if money were not an issue) – I would love to do a Rover Restomod: imagine a P4 Touring Racer (a Rover P4 Vitesse if you like) – very much in the mould of the 1960s Coombs Jaguars. I have got as far as some photoshop visuals (see bottom of the page) – but am still waiting for a lottery win (a miracle in itself as I don’t even do the Lottery!).

That’s why I love it – it is so comfortable, well made, and you never feel anything but special when you drive it. I was first interested in it because it was different, not the usual MGB or Mini (though I love both of those) – but it was slightly left field as a choice, and it seats all four of us in great comfort. Having worked for Rover as a Designer, there is also a bit of brand loyalty under the surface.

There are some great drives I have already done like an informal convoy with others heading down to the Goodwood Revival (I just happened to find myself following an Aston Martin DB6 – although struggled to keep up), numerous trips to Bicester Heritage.

I would still love to take the P4 over to Le Mans, and also to drive it to where I used to live in the Austrian Alps, then down to Italy to do a tour of the Alfa Romeo museum, throwing in a lap of the Nurburgring along the way – the P4 would be just about the most unlikely track car (and most likely the slowest)…

Keith Adams

21 Comments

  1. Blue is such a good interior colour. I wonder why Rover didn’t offer it on the P6 when they did on the P4 and P5?

  2. Nice piece of History. Not exactly L head because of the inlet valves angle with rockers. A kind of “V-head”. Cumbersome and not that efficient, strange idea but Rover have always pionneered the good or the wrong way !

  3. Great to hear that you don’t want it concours – you want to use it. Also love the idea of taking it out of it’s comfort zone to some of those tracks. They were always georgious cars – we never had a six but had a brace of 80’s with the LandRover 4 cylinder unit. As you say, a luxury drawing room on wheels. Beats Germanic dimple plastic any day!

  4. What a wonderful looking car. Love all that wood interior trim & door cappings. I was born in the late 50s and as a youngster, remember seeing quite a few P4’s – back in the mid 1960s. I recall it being sold as the R75 and R90 too.

    The P5 was my preferred Rover but the P4 still looks authoritive. Thanks for sharing this car’s story

  5. A lovely story and I’m glad to read you’re still flying the Rover flag with your car choice. I hear former Rover Cars designer Richard Woolley has also recently ‘returned to the fold’ and bought an early Rover 75, albeit an R40 not a P4.

    A P4 was the first Rover my late grandparents owner (a 1955 90) which they had for fifteen years before trading it in against a new P5B 3.5 Litre Coupe. I never saw P4 (I wasn’t born then), but the P5B certainly influenced my love of classic and modern Rovers and classic cars in general.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  6. The inlet-over-exhaust head was known as an F head, and in fact was surprisingly efficient because of the degree of “squish” which it produced . The really unusual feature is that the head/block split is at an angle of about 30 degrees to the horizontal . It also produced extreme refinement, ( although the 100 is perhaps not quite so silky as the 7 bearing engines of the 95/110/3 litre ) which perhaps explains why Rolls-Royce used it continuously from 1929 to 1959, when the V8 appeared, which like the Buick/Rover of the P5B was far less refined than its 6 cylinder predecessor . I was only thinking about this the other day when the Chrysler 300 / P5B comparison was made . The 6 cylinder coupes of 1962-67 , although not as powerful, were actually much nicer cars than my P5B coupe

  7. Interesting engine. Was much heavier than alloy V8 though.
    Not sure I understand about RR engines because 20/25 and Derby Bentley were OHV not F IMHO.
    F came after WW2 with the MkVI/Dawn and Wraith.
    Maybe with the MkV which was not much produced ?

    • The Phantom 1 and 2 were F head, as were all the large engined machines ( except the V12 Phantom III) including the Crewe Bentleys of 4257, 4566 and 4887 cc, and indeed the industrial/military B series engines – including the all alloy variant fitted to the Princess R – continued the line until 1967 ! I cannot remember whether the smaller engined cars followed the 20 in having all ohv in the 1931-1939 period

      • Yes that’s the point : the 1930-39 period for RR was 100% OHV, as well the sixes as the twelve. For sure the post-war six from 4 1/4 to 4.9 was F and all the B engines including the 4 Austin Champ and 6 (alloy) Vdp 4 litre R were F too. But there was neither angle nor rockers, the Rover F was very unique.

        • No it wasn’t. The Phantom II continued with the F head engine from the Phantom I

  8. I used to see a white 1960 Rover P4 every day when I was based in North Shields ten years ago. This was an immaculate car that was kept as original as possible, including a sixties Radiomobile radio. Kind of made you want to whistle God Save The Queen when you walked past it and wear a three piece suit,

  9. I remember driving my parents’ 105 with overdrive, in the 1960s. The power, the power…. And a caravan holiday that took us from Eastbourne to the West Country.

  10. Lovely cars. The first car I can remember my grandfather owning was a Rover P3, which was followed by a P4 I think in about 1955. He kept it until 1959 when it was written of by a Morris Minor hitting it from behind when he was turning right at a road junction. He followed this with a new 90, which he drove until his death in 1965. He left the car to my father who to my regret sold it.

  11. I had a childhood friend who’s father was the deputy manager of a local coal mine, or pit as we used call them. Just around the time we first met, his dad bought a P4 110. This was a replacement for his 90. They lived adjacent to the entrance to the pit, a road which crossed the fields on an embankment from the main road to the pit itself. My friend’s older brother had been learning to drive and either took the 90 without permission or was having an impromptu lesson on NCB property(can’t remember which now), and contrived to steer the car off road, down the embankment(a drop of about 6 feet), into the field. Didn’t do the 90 much good.

  12. In the late 80’s my late husband and I were invited to a service to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Peterborough Cathedral at which HMQ was present. Whilst queueing for the carpark, with our vicar and a neighbour, we were behind an immaculate 90, and we all agreed that it was the ideal vehicle in which to see our Monarch in a provincial cathedral.

  13. The P4 and P5 were the last of the traditional Rovers, conservative, durable and well made cars that were well loved by their owners and which survived far better than their contemporaries. I can well believe it when this generation of Rovers was referred to as the poor man’s Rolls Royce as they had fittings like a Rolls Royce and were nearly as well made, but considerably cheaper to buy and own.

  14. As mentioned in previous aronline posts, in 1976 I saw an immaculate Rover P5 3500 in a used car showroom (Zircon blue with cream leather trim) priced at only £795. At around the same time I paid £600 for a humble K reg Viva HC

  15. @KC… those were the days! My Viva was an X14 limited edition with fabric trim, Rostyle wheels and metallic paint. A decent car overall that I kept for 3 years but not in the same league as a Rover P5.

  16. Great article. The Rover P4 is a splendid range of cars, I might be biased though as I own one 🙂 Interestingly, an increasing number of younger folk are buying them and thereby securing the P4’s future.

  17. I’m showing my age here. In the 1950s/early 60s Wiltshire Police used P4s as patrol cars. I can picture them now, black, with a large insulator in the middle of the roof, with a vertical aerial stuck up out of the top of it. what they hoped to catch with them I don’t know, as with the best will in the world you couldn’t call them a rapid car. I seem to remember they replaced them with Ford Zephyrs

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