Engines : Rover V8

The Rover V8 engine might have started life in the USA, but thanks to some creative thinking at Rover, it became a British institution, powering some of the country’s most iconic cars…

The Rover V8 engine

The Rover V8 engine had a very interesting life. During the late 1950s, the US car industry turned to aluminium as a material to build their engines from. The reasons for this have been well documented, but primarily it was the quest for lighter weight and greater efficiency that led the producers to choose this route.

One of the manufacturers to embrace aluminium with both arms was General Motors (GM) which developed a compact V8 for their Buick range of cars. The engine displaced 3528cc and, because of its compact size and low weight, proved very easy to package. Of course, the late-1950s were not a time for the Americans to be countering profligacy, and this resulted in these benefits being largely overlooked by GM – that fact made them susceptible to persuasion.

An engine born in a crisis

Within two years the American steel industry fought back: in the American ‘system’, the steel industry wielded enormous influence within governmental circles and, thanks in part to this ‘unfair advantage’, along with improved casting technology and the emergence of thin wall casting techniques, many of the advantages of aluminium as a base material for engines were negated.

As a result, General Motors reversed its policy of using aluminium in their new engines – returning to cast iron. Whether this was a good thing or a bad thing for GM in the USA was not paramount in the minds of Rover Executives and their Engineers in the mid-1960s.

For several years, Spen King and Gordon Bashford had been investigating alternative power units to power their top-of-the range cars; the 3-litre straight-six engine found in the Rover P5 was, by this time, well past its sell-by date, being heavy and uneconomical.

Trying new engine options

Various engines were tried with little success, not least the gas turbine, which managed to absorb much in the way of resources before finally being discarded. Because of this development blind alley and the now pressing need to upgrade its existing 3-litre engine, the company decided to look outwards to find something suitable.

It was Rover’s Managing Director, William Martin-Hurst, who secured the use of the 3.5-litre V8 engine, having cast far and wide for something suitable – and decided upon the Buick 215. Knowing that the engine had recently been phased out by General Motors, he approached the company, offering to buy the rights to build it and all the tooling.

The deal was certainly an audacious one because of the fact that it involved an outright payment to the American multi-national, thereby avoiding further royalty payments in the future. The deal was hammered out during the winter months of 1964 and, by the following January, the engine was the property of Rover.

Moving GM’s V8 to Solihull

The 3500 unit, installed in an early Rover SD1. The Rover V8 engine

Within months, the production of the engine was transferred to Solihull and the creation of the P5B soon followed. The next recipient for the compact and powerful engine was the Rover P6 – and, in the process, a minor British legend was created. It did not end there though; Spen King worked on a couple of projects, which were based around the new engine – one being the sadly stillborn Rover P6BS, the other being the Range Rover.

Like the P5B, the V8 engine was the making of the Range Rover; somehow it seems hard to imagine that car enjoying the success that it did without the smooth and powerful V8 engine under the bonnet. In an off-road vehicle, the stump-pulling torque produced by the ex-Buick engine had found perhaps its perfect role in life.

Or so it would seem…

In 1981, TVR in Blackpool had met problems with the export of its Tasmin model to the Middle East. The reason for this was that the V6 models, which the company was producing at the time, were powered by the 2.8-litre Ford Granada/Capri engine – and the produce of Ford were very much unwelcome in Saudi Arabia during the early Eighties.

Sports car potential: unlocked

As a result, TVR searched around for an alternative that they could use. The search did not last long – and the company went knocking at BL’s door. With Rover SD1 production running at worryingly low levels and the Triumph TR8 having just gone out of production, the company were more than willing to supply TVR with the engines they needed.

The Rover V8-engined TVR Tasmin (the Ford V6-powered version of which was already a good car) was now an excellent, seriously quick performance car, and it seemed illogical to continue using the V8 in export markets, whilst continuing to use the Ford unit in the UK – TVR therefore got its Tasmin V8 model type-approved for the UK and, in so doing, created a legend.

When the rest of the specialist car industry in the UK saw how good the TVR Tasmin was, they were keen to jump onto the bandwagon – and, in short shrift, Ginetta and Marcos were also producing muscle cars of the same ilk. Britain’s low-volume sports car manufacturers now had an engine that they could call their own.

BL tried, but…

BL had attempted to make proper use of the engine themselves, slotting it into the MGB GT V8 and Triumph TR8. However, in both cases and for different reasons, the two models failed to live up to the promise that they had initially shown.

The Range Rover continued to use the V8 engine throughout its life, yet this never really proved to be a barrier to sales, even during the Second Fuel Crisis of 1979 and the ensuing world recession. Even when the 1994 remake of the Range Rover (codenamed Pegasus or P38) appeared, it continued to use the venerable engine in the Land Rover Discovery.

Why did the Rover V8 live such a long life? Unlike the A-Series engine, which was successful despite its shortcomings, the ex-Buick unit did not really have any. It was light, it was compact, it was powerful – and, most importantly, it was exceptionally under stressed, which meant it had an almost infinite potential for tuning.

The Rover V8 engine: An unlikely hero

That endeared it with the performance car fraternity, but it also meant that BL and, following that, Rover were able to keep the engine in production by merely tinkering with the details to make sure that it remained competitive.

That, by any stretch of the imagination makes the V8 a hero.

Were there any downsides to the Rover V8? Yes: only that no one within Leyland was forceful enough to make sure that it was used in the Triumph Stag. With it, the Stag would have undoubtedly caused its maker a whole lot less grief and, therefore, remained in production for a lot longer. That, though, is no fault of the engine – only the company’s shortsighted and partisan management.

The Rover V8 story

Philip Turner, Motor magazine, 1974

The Rover V8 engine would revolutionise the P6

It was pure chance that William Martin-Hurst’s eye happened to light on the compact little aluminium V8 on the floor of the Mercury Marine company’s experimental department at Wisconsin. Martin-Hurst, who had joined Rover in 1960 from the aircraft industry as Executive Director for Production and by January 1962 was Managing Director, was visiting Carl Kiekhaefer, head of the Mercury concern to discuss the production of a marine version of the Land-Rover diesel engine for use in fishing boats in the Far East.

And there on the 
floor of the experimental department was this little light alloy V8. Sitting in the sun on the terrace of his lovely 16th century house looking out over the valley of the River Usk, Martin-Hurst told me that the V8 immediately aroused his interest because he was uneasy about the six-cylinder P7 (below) version of the four-cylinder 2000 P6 (above) which were then under development at Rover.

The Rover Sales Department had not been too happy about putting a largish four-cylinder engine into the 2000, as they thought it would not have that smoothness which was so much a part of the Rover image. It was agreed that a six-cylinder three-litre version should be developed from the four.

Why eight cylinders are better than four

The Rover V8 engine put an end to the P7 programme
The Rover V8 engine put an end to the P7 programme

However, the six-cylinder version of the overhead camshaft four-cylinder 2000 was a long engine, and this meant that a longer base unit would be required to house it, which seemed hardly worthwhile for the small number of sixes that were to be produced. ‘Moreover,’ said Martin-Hurst, ‘although the six went very well, my personal feeling was that it didn’t handle in anything like the same way as the four. It was too heavy at the front.

‘This wasn’t an insurmountable problem, and there was a suggestion we should go to an entirely different suspension at the front using normal wishbone links to put this right.’ This, however, would mean the six and the four base units would differ to an even greater extent.

When, therefore, Martin-Hurst spotted this compact little V8 of about the same overall length as the 2000 engine he was immediately interested. Carl told him it was not a Mercury engine but had been made by General Motors to power their two 1960 compact cars, the Buick Special and the Oldsmobile F85. Some million 3.5-litre aluminium engines were produced, followed by a similar number of 5.0-litre cast iron engines of the same design but with increased bore and no liners.

Dip in US demand benefits the UK

However, after two or three years the American demand for compact cars waned, both the Buick and the Oldsmobile were increased in size and eventually the engine in either form was no longer needed and GM dropped it, so that when Martin Hurst saw it the engine had just ceased production. He asked for the engine to be weighed, and it were just 12lb heavier than the Rover 2000 engine, while a tape measure showed it to be within half an inch of the same length.

Remembering how much more the new Rover six weighed, and how it was eight inches longer than the four, Martin-Hurst immediately saw that this little V8 could solve all their production and handling problems. Moreover, he believed a V8 would have much more prestige on the English market than a six. Carl, seeing his interest in the engine, offered to put it in a box, parcel it up and send it to England by air, which he did. But before Rover could use it, they had to get a licence from GM.

Negotiating with the General

Martin-Hurst hurried off to the New York Motor Show then in progress to try to make contact with GM, but he found the only man who could talk about it was Buick Executive Vice-President Ed Rollert. Martin-Hurst finally met him over breakfast and Rollert told him the engine had been developed by GM Central Research and was GM’s first attempt at making an engine with the pistons working direct in a cast aluminium bore.

This was not a success and they, therefore, decided to put in cylinder liners and to cast them in, which after an enormous amount of research they succeeded in doing. The engine was then given to Buick and Oldsmobile for production but, at this time, it had a Heron head with the combustion chambers in the pistons and a flat cylinder head.

Neither Buick nor Oldsmobile liked this arrangement, because they felt it made a high-octane fuel necessary which the engine would not receive from the average American motorist. They therefore each designed their own head for the engine, the two heads being almost identical except that the Oldsmobile head had more studs holding it down than the Buick one.

Setbacks and problems…

Negotiations then bogged down for a time, which Martin-Hurst found was due to a certain incredulity at a higher level in GM that Rover could really want to take a cast off engine from GM. He pointed out that this engine was the X100th V8 that GM had designed and it was quite obvious that GM Research had put all they knew into it to make it a star engine from the first.

If Rover had to start from scratch to design its own V8, it would not be so simple and it probably wouldn’t even work well until a great deal of time and money had been spent on it. GM saw the truth of this argument, negotiations were happily concluded, and they agreed to grant Rover a licence. Rover was offered all the GM planning sheets, any of the still-available machinery developed to make the engine and later scrapped, and all their service records right from the word go.

Plus all the drawings and the 39 new aluminium engines they had left, which meant that Rover could at once get on with evaluating the engine in a chassis without first having to make any of their own engines.

Some resistance at the Rover

The Rover V8 engine did not immediately endear itself to Peter WIlks

Peter Wilks (above) at first was very unenthusiastic about the project, but he eventually had an engine installed in a 2000, into which it went without any major changes other than a new exhaust manifold. It did, however, entail a very long prop shaft which vibrated badly. Even so, when Spencer Wilks drove the test car he was immensely enthusiastic and soon got everybody else really wound up about it.

To make sure the smooth passage into production of the engine in England, Rover brought over Buick’s Chief Engine Designer, Joe Turlay, who had been with the company for 40 years, and as he then was within two years of retirement, had not become involved in any new engines and was therefore at somewhat of a loose end. Buick agreed to release Turlay and Rover installed him and his wife in a furnished flat at Solihull.

He then checked all the Rover drawings and, more important, was able to tell the Rover engineers the background to the engine and the reason certain things had been incorporated to overcome previous troubles that had shown up during the engine’s production run. A major change to the British engine is that the cylinder blocks are no longer gravity cast from metal dies with the liners cast in place, but are sand cast by the Birmingham Aluminium Casting Company Limited in a special foundry built for their production, and the simple centrifugal cast cylinder liners are pressed into place.

And on to the production line in the UK

The machining of some parts of the new engine was carried out at the Alvis plant which was a Rolls-Royce subsidiary and where car production had just ceased, and the assembly of the engine took place at the Rover Acocks Green works, an ex-Shadow factory which had built the Hercules engine and the Meteor version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin for powering tanks. ‘All the engine people at Rover say this engine is the easiest engine to put together that Rover have ever had.’

The first Rover to be powered by the V8 was the 3.5, an uprated version of the P5 three-litre, and was announced in October, 1967. The V8 version of the Rover 2000, the Three Thousand Five, was introduced in April, 1968, for it had been found that the same hull could be used for both the 2000 and the Three Thousand Five, with only a change in engine mountings being required at a certain point on the production line.

Since then, the V8 has appeared in the Range Rover, originally intended to be powered by a four-cylinder engine but transformed into its present greatness by the V8. So popular is the Range Rover it has become almost an embarrassment, for the demand for V8 engines now far exceeds the supply, a situation which is being very actively dealt with.

End of the road is near for well-travelled V8

Richard Truett, Automotive News, November 2003

Welcome to the automotive version of What’s My Line and guess today’s mystery guest…

I was born small and light, just 215 cubic inches and 318 pounds, in 1961 in Flint, Mich. I was raised in Europe. My corporate parents were General Motors, British Leyland/Rover Group, BMW AG and Ford Motor Co. I have worked for Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Rover, Land Rover, MG, Triumph, Morgan, Marcos, TVR and others.

Who – rather, what – am I?

If you said the venerable all-aluminium Fireball V8 engine that first saw duty in the 1961 Buick Special, you win. The lightweight V8, which GM ended up selling to Rover, turned out to be one of the industry’s longest-running and most versatile workhorses. But the end is near.

When the redesigned Land Rover Discovery comes to the US market next year, it will be powered by an overhead-cam Jaguar engine, not the aluminium V8 that Land Rover has used since 1970. Production of the V8 ends next summer, just shy of one million units, says Land Rover employee Roger Crathorne.

Conceived in the 1950s

Development work on the engine started in 1958. It was the first mass-produced, all-aluminum, American-made engine, according to Buick: A Complete History by Larry Gustin and Terry Dunham. Cliff Studaker, 81, a retired Buick Senior Project Engineer, who oversaw development of the Fireball V8, says GM had no idea that the engine would be so versatile, flexible and tunable. The job was to design a lightweight engine for Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac compacts.

With a two-barrel carburettor, the engine made 155hp. With a four-barrel it was rated at 185. Engineers at Oldsmobile tweaked their version, adding special heads and an optional turbocharger. The turbo Olds 215 Rockette engine cranked out 215hp.

‘We knew it was setting the stage for things to come,’ Studaker recalls. ‘It took some special development work on bolt engagements and torques so as not to strip out aluminum threads, matching the cast iron main bearing caps to regular production blocks.’

After building about 750,000 of the engines, GM decided to drop it at the end of the 1963 model year. Studaker says that, although the engine got great reviews for power and smoothness, cost was an issue. So GM abandoned it for Buick’s first V6. The V6 was based on the aluminum V8 but was made of cast iron.

‘The reason we stopped using [the V8] is that the economy took a turn,’ Studaker says. ‘It was an expensive engine to build, a lot more than cast iron – close to 50 per cent more.’

According to The Rover V8 Engine by David Hardcastle, a Rover official spotted an unused Buick V8 engine at a boat engine factory while visiting the United States in 1966 and learned that the engine was out of production. That year, Rover struck a deal with GM. Rover bought the blueprints and all the production tooling for an undisclosed sum and began producing the engines in England.

The Rover V8 engine: Gone to England

Buick’s Chief Engineer, Joe Turlay, retired and moved to England to work for Rover. Turlay helped Rover set up the engine’s production lines and make improvements in casting the aluminum block, pistons and heads.

Throughout the years, the Rover company, which became part of British Leyland in 1968, and its successor companies constantly improved the engine. Rover tried three times without success to sell the engine in the United States before it finally became a hit in the 1986 Range Rover.

The ill-fated Rover 3500S of 1970, the NAS Rover 3500 SD1 five-door of 1980 and the 1979-81 Triumph TR8 sports car all used versions of the Buick-designed engine. Also, the engine was used with success in the low-volume Morgan Plus 8 roadster for more than 20 years.

It helped the Range Rover bear fruit

Bill Baker, Land Rover’s longtime public relations chief, credited the aluminium V8 with helping the Range Rover get off to a good start in the United States in 1986.

‘It was ideally suited to the Range Rover because of its compactness and torque,’ said Baker. ‘Other SUVs had V8s, but our’s had a certain élan to it because it was the only all-aluminum one.’ When the engine re-entered the American market in 1986, it had undergone a major transformation. Modern electronic fuel injection and an electronic ignition system combined with a stiffer block and other internal upgrades turned the little engine into a powerful charmer.

Place a 2004 Rover engine next to the original Buick-built version, and you would never know the two are related. The valve covers, ignition system, water pump and fuel system were improved over the years. The displacement grew from 3.5-litres (215 cubic inches) to 4.6-litres (288 cubic inches).

Specifications & applications

Capacity Bore Stroke Max. Power Max. Torque Applications
3528cc 88.9mm 71.12mm 91bhp @ 3500rpm 166lb ft @ 2000rpm 1979-82: Land Rover 109
125bhp @ 4000rpm 185lb ft @ 2500rpm 1981-86: Range Rover
127bhp @ 4000rpm 194lb ft @ 2500rpm 1970-71: Range Rover
130bhp @ 5000rpm 185lb ft @ 2500rpm 1971-77: Range Rover
132bhp @ 5000rpm 186lb ft @ 2500rpm 1977-86: Range Rover
132bhp @ 5000rpm 1980-82: Triumph TR8
1980-81: Rover SD1 (US-spec)
134bhp @ 5000rpm 187lb ft @ 2500rpm 1986-xx: Range Rover
135bhp @ 4750rpm 185lb ft @ 2500rpm 1970-71: Range Rover
135bhp @ 4750rpm 205lb ft @ 3000rpm 1970-xx: Range Rover
1975-78: Land Rover 101 (military)
137bhp @ xx00rpm 193lb ft @ 2900rpm 1974-77: MGB GT V8
143bhp @ 5000rpm 202lb ft @ 2700rpm 19xx-76: Rover P6 V8
144bhp @ 5000rpm 197lb ft @ 2700rpm 1968-xx: Rover P6 V8
150bhp @ 5000rpm 204lb ft @ 2700rpm 19xx-76: Rover P6 V8S
151bhp @ 5200rpm 201lb ft @ 2750rpm 1967-73: Rover P5 3.5-litre / 3½-litre
155bhp @ 5250rpm 198lb ft @ 2500rpm 1976-86: Rover SD1
165bhp @ 4750rpm 206lb ft @ 3200rpm 19xx-xx: Range Rover
190bhp @ 5280rpm 220lb ft @ 4000rpm 1982-86: Rover SD1 Vitesse
3948cc 164bhp @ 4750rpm 212lb ft @ 2600rpm 1989-date: Land Rover Discovery
178bhp @ 4750rpm 220lb ft @ 3250rpm 19xx-xx: Range Rover
185bhp @ 4750rpm 235lb ft @ 2600rpm 19xx-xx: Range Rover
3948cc 190bhp @ 4750rpm 236lb ft @ 3000rpm 1994-2001: Range Rover
4278cc 200bhp @ 4850rpm 250lb ft @ 3250rpm 1994-96: Range Rover
4554cc 225bhp @ 4750rpm 277lb ft @ 3000rpm 1994-2001: Range Rover

Keith Adams


  1. I would have loved to have seen one of these shoehorned into an MG ZS in the spirit of the Rover 75/MG ZT V8.

  2. So let me get this straight…this was an afterthought of an engine to GM, yet 750,000 units were produced by them in a mere 3-4 years? And it took the english 40 years to produce a million? Sheer ineptitude…GM gave up on this engine way too soon.

    • GM Management and Engineering over reached in the late fifties and early sixties. They were building rear engined cars with flat sixes and normal cars with straight sixes and V8s. They were playing with Fuel Injection, turbo-charging and plastic bodies (Corvette).

      I think they had a change of heart around ’62 and decided to revert to Detroit orthodoxy. In a panic sale the Buick V8 was sold off, as was the V6 development which was later repurchased!!!

      Considering that Holden bought out a brand new in-line six in late ’63 and a brand new 4.2 litre V8 in 1967 you really have to wonder why GM didn’t just ship the Buick V8 215 and V6 tooling to Australia for use in the Holden. The yanks would then have been able to use these engines in low (by their standards)volume cars by shipping them to the US in the ships that carried Chevs and Pontiacs to Australia.

      We could have even shipped them to England in return for Vivas.

  3. A few years ago I bought two Rover – v8 – engines.
    Those are SD1 – V8 – engines.
    In september we started a project in the school of Bokrijk, a few miles from here.Together with two students we are taking the whole engine apart, we examine the parts and next month we put everything back together again
    At the moment the cilinderheads are disassembled. Next week we will disassemble the valves, the pistons, pistonrods and crankcase.
    We are already looking forward for the mechanical adventures of next week.
    It’s a nice engine to work with

    Greetings, the Belgium Rover V8 – team

  4. A couple of points

    While TVR made great use of the engine, the real pioneer was Morgan, with the Plus 8 coming out in 1968.

    The other, is the 4.4L version fitted to the P76, which sadly saw no further use.

  5. The GM V8’s were also the basis of the Repco Formula 1 engines, which Brabham used to great effect in 1966 & 67.

    A 32 valve version in 1968 couldn’t really compete with the Cosworth DFV.

    Were the GM units used in any Holdens, or did the bare blocks find their way to Australia by other means?

    • No Holden ever used this motor. The blocks were imported. Just to be clear:

      In 1964, Australian/New Zealander Tasman Series was born with 2500cc capacity limit. Jack Brabham approached Repco to develop a suitable engine, and they decided to base the SOHC design on the Oldsmobile Jetfire 215 ci block with 6 cylinder-head-stud per cylinder. Combined with a short stroke flat-plane crankshaft, Repco designed cylinder heads, camshafts and two-stage chain/gear cam drive; a 2.5L engine was built in 1965 with its cylinder head cast by Commonwealth Aircraft Ltd.
      In 1963 the FIA, announced that the maximum engine capacity for the Formula One category would be three litres from 1966. Jack Brabham exploited his existing relationship. He proposed they design and build a 3L version by lengthening the stroke of the 2.5L
      The Repco board agreed in light of the rival Coventry Climax ‘FPF’ DOHC engine being of 4 cylinder configuration, and the plan to build Cosworth DFV (revealed at the end of 1965 by Ford, its sponsor) was not known yet. A small team developed the F1 engine, fitted with 2-valve per-cylinder SOHC heads from the 2.5L version.
      This engine WAS NOT based on the Rover V8 /Buick 215 block. The Rover/Buick V8, although quite similar in appearance and size, had 5 cylinder-head-studs per cylinder (14 studs per head with 6 shared studs in-between-cylinders) configuration that cannot accommodate the 6 stud (18 studs per head with 6 shared studs in-between-cylinders) Repco RB620 heads.
      The difference in block design originated in Oldsmobile’s intention to produce the higher power, turbo-charged Jetfire version. GM’s later use of parts diagrams drawn for Oldsmobile in Buick parts catalog showing a 6 stud cylinder block further fueled the confusion.

  6. I am the proud owner of a complete Rover 3.5 V8 engine, ex military, never been fitted in any vehicle and still in its test cradle awaiting World War 3.

    I was going to build a V8 kit car but I bought mentally fast bikes instead.

    I have hung on to this engine for twelve years knowing that one day someone would want something special for a project. It has everything carbs, manifold, clutch plate, even the original plug leads.

    If someone has a special use for it I would let it go. Leave me a message if interested

  7. @ Nate:

    I don’t know whether it was a 4.6-litre, but I have heard that a 32-valve version of the Land Rover V8 engine was considered in about the time period you mention. Sadly I do not know how far the project progressed, although would imagine it was canned because of the huge investment needed and the relatively low numbers that would have been built compared to other Rover Group engines. Clearly its use was limited to the Range Rover and Land Rover Discovery, an even smaller badge of Defenders and also for low volume sports car manufacturers such as TVR, Morgan, Marcos and Ginetta. There was no prospect of using it in a Rover passenger car, so there was clearly not a strong enough business case to proceed with the project.

  8. A couple more bits of information for the list:

    The Land Rover Discovery used the carburettor-fed 3528cc V8 from September 1989 until September 1990. It was replaced by the fuel-injected version (identified by the ‘V8i’ badging) from September 1990, which ran until October 1993. From October 1993 this engine was replaced by the 182bhp 3947cc version, which remained in service in the first generation model until August 1998. This continued to use the ‘V8i’ identifying badging on the rear door.

    In the second generation Range Rover (September 1994 onwards), the 3947cc was given the new displacement size of 3950cc, which enabled Land Rover to market it as a 4.0-litre engine to compete head-on with the 4-litre six-cylinder Jeep Grand Cherokee.

    The new 4-litre (3950cc) engine size designation was only applied to the Discovery when the Series II range was announced in September 1998. It carried a ‘V8’ badge located on the offside edge of the rear door.

    The 200bhp 4278cc (known as a 4.2-litre) was used from September 1992 until December 1994 in the first generation Range Rover, predominantly in long-wheelbase Vogue LSE form. The first generation Range Rover (known as the ‘Classic’ from September 1994) continued to use the 3947cc engine right up until the last example left the assembly line in February 1996.

    The 4554cc (4.6-litre) V8 engine was also fitted in the facelifted Land Rover Discovery Series II in 2002 and offered as the sole engine option for the North American market.

    The last Land Rover V8-powered Land Rover Discovery Series II came off the assembly line in May 2004, although the last V8 engine was actually completed the previous month.

    I hope this helps.

  9. Interestingly, TVR produced the TVR 2-litre V8S, a one-off 2 litre supercharged version of the V8S – this was created for the Italian market to overcome their strict taxation based on engine capacity.

    The engine was a modified 3.5 litre Rover V8 fitted with a smaller-throw crank to reduce the engine capacity, retaining the 88.9 mm bore but with a short stroke of 40.25 mm. This meant a displacement of 1,998 cc (2.0 L), with a compression rate of 8.0:1. Lucas electronic fuel injection was fitted, along with an intercooled Eaton supercharger.

    All of this produced 233 PS (171 kW; 230 bhp) at 6,200 rpm and 266 N·m (196 lb·ft) at 3,700 rpm.


  10. One thing I don’t quite understand is why did GM try to buy back the rights to the Buick / Rover V8, when GM could have simply used Oldsmobile’s similar yet not identical version of the all-aluminum 215 engine (that also formed the basis of the Repco V8)?

    • Because Rover had bought all the intellectual property associated with the engine and its tooling . The Olds was merely a variant of that , and hence was the property of Rover from 1965 onwards

      • That may be the case yet a revived all-alloy V8 derived from the 215 Oldsmobile V8 for non-European markets should have still been relatively feasible.

        The same can be said for the 2966-3791/4128cc Buick V6 spawning a non-alloy version of the 215 Buick V8 (possibly derived from the 215 Oldsmobile V8) with roughly similar displacement to the all-alloy Rover V8 at around to 3.5-4-litres up to 4.5-litres with scope for displacements beyond 5-litres.

  11. IIRC GM sold some V6 tooling to Kaiser Jeep in 1967, but managed to buy them back in 1974 when they needed some smaller engines.

    Not sure if the were related to the Rover unit, which did have some V6 versions never sold to Rover.

    • I believe that the V6 engines were thinwall cast iron, but of course being 90 degree blocks, they were very unsatisfactory with peculiar firing intervals ( rather the obverse face of the problem Jaguar had when it tried to make a 60 degree V8 out of two-thirds of the V12 , which was reportedly coarse and sounded a bit like 2 4 cylinder engines bolted together )

      • Since the Buick V6 was offered to Rover along with the aluminum Buick V8, could Rover have potentially benefited from learning about building thin-wall cast iron engines?

        It is my admittingly limited understanding Europe did not learn about how to build engines with the thin-wall casting technique until years if not a decade or few later as it remained a secret among the US Big Four.

        • I’m not sure it was a secret. The technique was developed by the steel industry in the US, not the car giants, as they wanted to make sure that it was steel not aluminium that engines were made of. I think Europe did not look at this as it was invented in America, and Europeans looked down on American engineering as cheap and rubbish. My Uncle worked in detriot in the 90s, and the Europeans there, and there was a lot, did not have a good opinion of their American counterparts.

          • What interests me about the high-precision thin-wall casting technique from 1960s onward (that apparently Volvo used in the B18) would be its potential applicability in the likes of the revised C-Series, Rover P6-based inline-6 prototype engine (that was 50% heavier than the P6 OHC) as well as helping to reduce the weight of the B-Series and A-Series engines to some extent (assuming such a technique was not later used in A+) or be utilized on the E-Series.

            Know Austin/BMC looked at all-alloy versions of the A-Series engine more than one (though cannot say the same for the B-Series or C-Series beyond motorsport MGC versions in case of latter) as well as alloy-head versions, yet there must of been some way the technique could have proved beneficial to updating the existing engines at BMC.

    • The Kaiser-Jeep “Dauntless” V6 WAS the thin wall cast iron development of the Rover/Buick 3500/215.

      Buick sold the design and tooling to Kaiser in 1967. Kaiser stopped building it in 1971. The Toledo Ohio factory lay dormant until the mid seventies when GM realised that it needed a V6 to fit under the smaller bonnets of it’s new designs.

      GM tried to buy complete motors from Kaiser but they wanted too much money per unit…..nearly as much as it cost GM to build it’s own 455cubic inch V8!!!!

      After much negotiation GM bought the whole plant. They ripped up the new concrete floor of the original V6 factory in Flint and bolted the production line back into the original 1960s mountings.

  12. I’ve heard at low revs the engine note of the V6’s had a slight pause where the firings of the 2 missing cylinders would have been.

  13. This V6 has a 90° bank between cylinders; the firing order is 1-6-5-4-3-2. The crankshaft has only three crank pins set at 120° apart, with opposing cylinders (1-2, 3-4 and 5-6) sharing a crank pin in, as do many V8 engines.

    The uneven firing pattern was often perceived as roughness, leading a former American Motors engineer to complain that “It was rougher than a cob.” Kaiser/American Motors fitted a much heavier flywheel to act as a vibration dampener.

    In 1977, Buick redesigned the crankshaft to a “split-pin” configuration to create an “even-firing” version. The crank pins associated with the opposing cylinders were offset from each other by 30°. The relatively small offset did not require flying arms to be incorporated, however a 3.0 mm thick flange was built in between the offset crank pins to prevent the connecting rod big-ends from “walking” off the crank pin bearing journal and interfering with the adjacent big end. The 3.0 mm thick flange effectively caused the connecting rods on the left-hand bank of cylinders to move 3.0 mm forward relative to the right-hand bank, but the engine block remained unchanged compared to the odd-fire engine””. Since the cylinders center-lines were no longer centralized over the crank pin bearing journals, the connecting rods were re-designed with the big-ends offset from the piston pin ends by 1.5 mm. The engine in this configuration became known to have “off-center bore spacing”.

    This off-center design continued up until the 1988 LN3 version of the engine, when the left-hand bank of cylinders was moved forward relative to the right-hand bank. Although the actual bore spacing between cylinders on the same bank remained unchanged at 107.7 mm (4.240″), the LN3 and later engines became known to have “on-center bore spacing”.

    So, yes…….and no!

    • Mentioned within the following link about a stillborn 186 Holden Red motor diesel engine project. There was said to have been a highly secret project at the GM technical center in Detroit to make an experimental diesel version of the 3.8-litre Buick V6 using Ricardo Comet Mk 5 combustion chamber, which is surprising considering GM would opt for a V6 version of the Oldsmobile Diesel.


    • Engine number, Mike. I’m no Rover V8 anorak, but if you log into the Rover V8 appreciation group on Facebook they’ll soon have it identified for you.

  14. An interesting variant is the 145-170 hp 2.2 16v Twin-Cam fuel-injected Rover Slant-4 prototype engine that was derived from the Rover V8.

    • Any links for this engine Nate? Fascinating. Why did BL act like they had a shortage of suitable engines to replace the heavier A and B-series when they could have used this half V8? Hopefully a more reliable engine than the K-series 😉

      • My bad, the engine in question was in fact the Rover P10 Twin-Cam 16-valve fuel-injected engine that was derived from the Rover P6 OHC.

        However some like to cite there being a relation between the 2.2-litre P10 engine and the 4.4-litre Rover V8 considered for the P8 then the Leyland P76 or that Rover planned to at least develop a V8 from the 2.2-litre P10 engine, along the lines of other carmakers who developed similar 4-cylinder / V8 engine families though it is not known to what extent they were to be related.

        Another confusing aspect would be James Taylor’s book on Land Rover making mention of the latter looking at experimental slant-4 petrol and diesel engines (presumably related to the Rover V8).

  15. Currently completing a 4.0 Rover to replace the original 3.5 in my TR8. The only thing I had to do differently was switch the oil pan (and pick-up) and the front cover, since the 4.0 did not have place for a distributor. Some other minor alternations were needed, but there are plenty of aftermarket sources for these. Hoping to get the car back on the road this Summer.

  16. One little detail I recall from a visit to Morgan was an operative using a bit of wood to put a neat dent in the transverse air cleaner to allow for the bonnet hinge!

  17. Some adventurous chap decided to fit a transverse Rover V8 into a Norton motorbike. Primary drive to the transmission was by a toothed belt. A journalist rode it, and stripped the belt within seconds, which did not impress the owner/builder.
    Another interesting application was in LDV ambulances and minibuses.
    All applications share a very meaty, and distinctive, exhaust note – quite unnerving when it comes from a BMW 5 series, which I have heard and seen as a one-off conversion.

  18. It is worth noting that the horsepower numbers for the original GM version (presumably) are SAE gross horsepower.

  19. Has anything been said about the aborted Perkins V8 dieselisation project which was done at Land Rover?

    Another reason why the V8 was successful was that certain parts still came from the original US suppliers and were remarkably cheap compared to equivalent UK suppliers on other engines.

  20. I once had a well-used P6 3500 in the mid-80s and a lovely car it was too. Unfortunately I had a head gasket go and then did a top-end overhaul. One of the rocker shafts was so worn it looked like Desperate Dan’s toothpick! I soon found out that British Leyland shafts were very expensive, and was able to buy one for about 1/3rd the price from a spares dealer near London Airport that specialised in US engine parts. So it would seem that this rocker shaft was used in other GM engines. I did wonder if there was any other commonality of parts. I was sorry to see it go, but I had completed my rebuild of a Mark 2 Jaguar and couldn’t afford to keep the car.

  21. On the Project Iceberg diesel V8 with Perkins, why do some claim the turbodiesel version put out 125 hp while others claim it puts out 150 hp?

    Also is it known how much power was put out by the Eaton supercharged 4-litre V8 prototype engine developed during the Range Rover P38 project? Makes one wonder whether in better circumstances the Rover V8 in both supercharged and twin-turbocharged forms could have ended up being the Rover equivalent of the twin-turbocharged Rolls-Bentley V8 engine, though certain Eaton superchargers can apparently ruin the engines.

    Along with 4-valves and twin/quad-cams plus fuel-injection, it also seems there were plans to produce a 2.8-litre version of the Rover V8 for both the P10 (later SD1) as well as Land / Range Rovers. Which is interesting given the all-alloy Buick V8 was initially conceived as a 180 cubic inch / 2950cc prior to being enlarged to 215 cubic inches / 3.5-litres.

    • Iceberg engines – 2 can be seen in the Coventry Motor Museum – one with turbo – one without, apparently block flexing was the main problem & lack of funds to fix it !

    • the difference in horsepower depends on the application it was planned for, Rover quoted “up to 150hp” for turbocharged versions which was probably ambitious given the engineering issues with such a short-stroke diesel engine. Perkins’ version definitely produced 125hp as it was claimed as such in print advertising produced before the project was aborted. I assume this lower output version was less temperamental as Perkins were ready to go to market with it but were unable to do so without Rover’s licensing of the basic engine and supply of V8 blocks. The Perkins brochure can be seen in this forum about half way down https://frenchcarforum.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=61099&start=45

      • Sounds like Perkins attempted to salvage Iceberg after Rover aborted it in favour of VM Motori and their own diesel designs, even though Iceberg needed more development and probably should not have been limited by the project’s imposed constraints.

        Similar to the equally ambitious Oldsmobile Diesel engines that included an experimental Oldsmobile V5 diesel, even so can only wonder what a better capitalised company could have achieved with the engine.

        Also recall reading in the Land Rover books by James Taylor on experiments with Rover V8 derived slant four petrol and diesel engines around the early 1980s.

        • A slant 4 might be useful in some ways, but Austin Rover already had B, E & O series engines (not to mention the Triumph 1.8) around the size of the 1764cc capacity it would have had!

          • It likely existed only on paper as part of the stillborn Adventurer project of the early-1980s (as was the 2.8-litre V8 even though its genesis IIRC was a decade prior) and was conceived as a 2.2-litre or one half of the Australian 4.4-litre V8 in about two states of tune.

            However a 2.2-litre slant four was said to have been planned for the Leyland P82, that like above was a V8 block that was produced and hot-run by Kjel Erikson.

            A needless duplication at BL which in a non-BL scenario (e.g. BMC+Rover) would have been a useful way to prune the number of engine families down to say about 2-3.

  22. An Austin 1800 was built by Leyland Australia as an engineering exercise, read about in-
    then go to
    A1`800 archives
    Archives-newsletters and open #2 and#6
    The V8 and BW auto trans were very impressive.

  23. What about the development of the larger engine sizes, 3.9, 4.3 and 5.0l? I heard that NCK / TVR Power developed and enlarged the engine capacities initially, then BL took the development back in-house to turn out the 4.6l for the Rangey.

    I have a 4.0l NCK engine in my supercharged Tasmin – and it’s still going strong!

    • There’s a V8 Morris Minor somewhere in London it was used to burn off Porsches etc at the lights – it had shortened Jag back axle – it was kept very plain looking – so to be a Real Woolf in Sheep’s Clothing !!!

  24. Axing the engine was not a mistake by GM.
    They upsized to the 5 liter (300 cid) with thinwall casting in high nickel iron and only a 9/16″ taller deck, and most importantly, with the alloy heads used in the first year it weighed only 80 lbs more than the 215. (Which turns out to be about 50 lbs more than the later Rover V8) So they had a good, dependable engine with many advantages over the alloy V8 which went on to reap great acclaim as one of the very most durable engines of the era. Yes, many mistakes were made but this was certainly not one of them.


  25. I have purchased a Triumph Stag with the Rover V8 3.5 engine. The engine number is 1120449. Can anyone tell me what the horse power and compression ratio would have been when it left the factory. It currently has a twin barrel Holly carb and tubular manifolds, so am guessing there may have been an uplift in its origonal output.

  26. I never owned a Rover 3500, but I did have the Olds 215 swapped into a 1973 Vega GT.
    Never did find the cornering limits on that car (I bought it used from an SCCA autocrosser), as the national 55 was in force at the time, and I did NOT have to slow down for 25 MPH “rated” interstate corkscrews.
    Perfect match for the Vega – which is the car GM *WANTED TO BUY THE 215 BACK FROM ROVER FOR*.

  27. It has been an ambition of mine to put a 3500 v8 into a Triumph GT6 to replace the 6 cy maybe get it done on day.

  28. Properly reworked in the early-90s, the ‘Rover’ V8 could have beecome a good engine.

    Quad belt-driven camshafts, 32 valves, a variable-geometry intake tract, maybe a balance-shaft… and you’d potentially have a small-block challenger to the nice Lexus V8.

    I wonder if a destroked 3-litre version (for tax reasons) could have been used instead of the KV6, and also found a home in supercharged form in smaller Jaguars/Range Rovers.

    Freelander2 V8, anybody?

  29. GM, after buying back the Buick V6 engine from AMC, developed the engine into a reasonably good unit that powered a whole range or rwd/fwd cars, including Holden with some of the things you mentioned. The V6 was developed from what became the Rover V8 so it is not that farfetched.

  30. Of the impression the plan was for the Rover V8 to either carry over the multi-cam, multi-valve fuel-injected features from the Rover P10 slant four or be replaced by an all-new V8 design with said features, whatever the case it seems there was to be a degree of commonality between the two engines (adding the V6 into the equation though not without its flaws would have given Rover a more complete family of engines).

    Seem to recall of short-lived plans to make use of at least some of the above features on what became the 4.6-litre V8

    Speaking of the Buick V6, it is known to have featured turbocharged and supercharged variations, however lesser known is that GM also looked at a diesel version at one point (page 6 below).


  31. Of course there was also the 1980s 3-litre V64V engine [as used in the Metro] which – in early versions – had a *lot* of Rover V8 heritage… [and a wobbly firing-order due to the ‘missing’ two cylinders and non-ideal-for-a-six-cylinder vee-angle].

    4 valves per cylinder, DOHC… could have been fun in a road-car.

    • Understand it did initially before featuring some Cosworth DFV V8 elements.

      It also makes one think of how the Maserati V6 was developed from the Maserati V8 under Citroen, only for the V6 to be developed into a newer 4-litre V8 design tested in the Citroen SM for use the Quattroporte II when Citroen was bankrupt and De Tomaso killed the V8 off.

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