Your Cars : Peter Godfrey’s Rover P5B

Reader's restoration

‘Two Rovers Pete’ wanted a good Rover P5B, and accidentally ended up with a late model Rover 75 as well!

You can’t help but admire his taste in cars, or his commitment.

A tale of two Rovers…

Peter Godfrey is 81 years of age, and you could say that he has always had an interest in cars, especially ones from his younger days. After the recent and unexpected death of his wife in 2020, he decided to fulfil his ambition to purchase a Rover P5B 3.5 litre Saloon and, since then, he has also acquired one of the last Rover 75s , a 2.5 KV6 auto Connoisseur SE in Wedgewood Blue.

Peter has owned a number of BLMC cars over the years including an early Morris Mini 850, an Austin 1100, a Morris Marina 1.3 Super, a Morris 1800, a Rover 2600, an Austin Ambassador 1.7L and an Austin Maestro Special, five-speed, not to mention several Cortina Mark 1, 2 and 3s, and a Citroën CX Safari. Not being able to restore either Rover himself, he has nevertheless found a number of great restorers to bring both cars up to a high standard.

The Rover P5B

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging and Peter having recently lost his beloved wife to cancer, he decided to look for a reasonable P5B. Unfortunately, he soon discovered that most of the ones he found online were well out of his price range. He found out that really good ones were priced from £20,000 to £25,000 which were way out of his price range.

He had all but given up when he spotted a Rolls-Royce dealer in Greater Manchester selling a 1971 P5B 3.5 saloon, which was claimed to be in good condition, for £9000 to £10,000. It turned out that the dealer was selling the P5B for a customer and, after some negotiation and discussion, a price of £8,400 was agreed, with the promise that the car was solid, well maintained, but by no means perfect, especially the paint and interior trim which needed work.

The previous owner had worked as a mechanic for a bus company and had owned the P5B for over 43 years, and was the second owner, so mechanically the car was very well maintained. As promised, when the car was delivered to near Bath in early 2021, Peter found that the car needed a full respray and the leather trim needed quite a lot of work to bring it back to the ‘poor man’s Rolls-Royce’ that it should be. Mechanically, it was as described, but Peter still wanted it to be serviced and checked out to make sure it didn’t need anything doing.

Rover P5B chosen: work needed

Despite the work that needed doing Peter was over the moon. The car was everything he hoped it would be. The 3.5-litre engine gave the car a good turn of speed, it was quiet and very refined, and the ride and comfort was sublime, everything a traditional Rover should be.

However, Peter knew that he wanted the car to be as good as it could be within reason. He started making enquiries locally as to who he could use to respray the exterior, undertake the leather refurbishment and work on the car mechanically. Originally, he hoped to have just the bonnet and front wings resprayed in Admiralty Blue, but once the bodyshop checked the car out it was decided to have a complete respray in the same colour.

The bodyshop was recommended to him and was situated just five miles away on the outskirts of Bristol. It was agreed that the bodyshop would keep the car a few months and fit the work in around other jobs to keep the prices low. Peter was reassured by the fact that his chosen bodyshop had recently completed a respray of a 1979 Silver Shadow belonging to Noel Edmonds’ mother.

As luck would have it the bodyshop recommended an old-established leather trim shop in the same vicinity and it was agreed that that seats and door trims would be removed when the car was being painted and sent to them for refurbishing and replacing of leather where appropriate.

At the same time Peter’s son-in-law, John, sourced on eBay front and rear headrests in a different colour that were recovered to match the biscuit trim of his car and finished the luxury ‘poor man’s Rolls-Royce’ interior. It was then a waiting game with many trips to see the car as it was transformed before the car was eventually returned after a five-month wait. The carpets just needed a good clean so, when the car was returned with new paint and the refreshed interior, it looked much closer to as new than it did before the restoration.

Mechanically, the car was in good shape and the steering which can be very vague on many P5’s was quite sharp and satisfying to drive. However, Peter had the car MoT’d by a specialist who deals in Land Rovers and Range Rovers, especially the V8s which share the engine in the P5. It was decided that the twin SUs needed rebuilding or replacing so Peter on the advice of the owner of the garage has opted for an Edelbrock carburettor from the USA which adds to performance and reliability.

It was then found that the fusebox was completely on its last legs, as was some of the wiring, and more worrying the front off side inner wheel arch needed considerable welding to make good. These later two jobs are still being completed and the car will be ready for the summer show season.

Without breaking the bank too much Peter now has a very nice P5B saloon that the Rover Sports Register has valued at £23,000, making it one of the better ones left on Britain’s roads. It has been insured with Peter Best on a 3000 mile classic car policy and will be used for visiting classic car shows and high days and holidays. It is also going to be used in a starring role at the wedding of Peter’s granddaughter in September this year.

By a strange coincidence, Peter’s car had a set of lambs wool car covers on the front seats, and he decided to sell them on eBay. He eventually sold them for £40 to a 1970s pop star with a P5B by the name of Rivers Donovan Greval. It’s funny who you meet along the way when getting involved in the classic car world!

As Peter says ‘I always wanted a P5B but never thought I’d get one, and when I saw how much they had gone up in value I had all but given up looking and then this one just came along at the right time and the right price. I didn’t want or expect a concours car, but a car I could use when I wanted to with a certain level of reliability and take to shows for others to admire. My P5B achieves all of that and more. Every time I get behind the wheel it brings a smile to my face and the comfort, quietness and performance is beyond what I was expecting for a 51-year-old car.

‘One of my highlights so far has been to take it out for a luncheon with Austin Rover’s former Chairman, Harold Musgrove, in November of last year, and I hope to do some UK touring holidays in her in the coming months and years.’

Pete’s accidental Rover 75 Connoisseur

The Rover 75 came to Peter purely by chance, and thanks to his good friend Simon Weakley, an ex-Austin Rover Marketing employee. ‘I had always admired the 75 from when it was launched in 1999, and very nearly bought a brand new 1.8 Connoisseur in Wedgewood Blue in 2003 from Welpton’s MG Rover in Hull,’ says Peter.

‘When Simon sent me some photos of a 2.5 KV6 Auto also in Wedgewood Blue and also to Connoisseur specification, saying that he had bought the car to save it frombeing scrapped, I said, if you don’t want it, I will have it, so the deal was done with Simon kindly saying he would sort out a light restoration and get the car MoT’d ready for many more years of driving.’

The lady who sold the 75 was called Soturia and she loved her car, but it had needed a complete belt change which is involved on the 75 V6 and she had been quoted £1000. Her friends had advised her to change the car for a newer one so – very reluctantly – she bought a Volvo and was two days away from scrapping the car for £300 when Simon stepped in and said he would buy it for £400 with the promise of saving it and changing the belts, getting it MoT’d and carrying out a light restoration.

The former owner was so pleased to have found someone who was going to cherish the car and save it that she asked to see the car once it had been refurbished. After 19 years Peter had got his wish of owning a Rover 75 Connoisseur – not, though, the 1.8-litre but the much better KV6 auto, and a very late March 2005 registered car with the Peter Stevens facelift.

Getting it MoT’d

The first job was to get the car MoT’d as it only had three weeks left on its ticket. The car failed on just one item, the off-side rear suspension arm, and luckily Simon’s mechanic had a scrapped 75 and simply took the suspension arm off the scrapped car and swapped it over. £140 changed hands and the 75 now had a fresh MoT.

Now to the cambelts, water pump and ancillary belts, an involved job. Simon’s mechanic, Paul, farmed the job out to a local friend in Thornton Curtis, North Lincolnshire, who had the necessary equipment, and it was also decided to change the long-life spark plugs at the same time, a much more reasonable price of £860 was agreed and the work was completed within two weeks.

Now the car was mechanically sound, the cosmetics needed some attention. Worse were the alloy wheels which were pitted and showing signs of corrosion. Simon’s trusted bodyshop, A1 in Hull, was chosen to shot blast the alloys and respray them at a cost of £125 per wheel, and a full car valet completed the work. The driver’s seat was showing a little wear on the side bolster and that has just been refurbished by a leather restorer for £150 so, for a total outlay of £1800, the Rover 75 is now ready for many more years of motoring.

They are starting to get quite scarce now and it won’t be long before the 75 is sought after as a classic and the last Rover produced after a distinguished line of quality cars. The 75 really does live up to the promise made by Rover, ‘Relax it’s a Rover’ just as BMW intended. Peter has recently decided to have a full respray of the car from the same bodyshop that tackled his P5, for a very reasonable £2000 – he had been quoted £1200 plus VAT just to fix some minor localised rust spots on the bonnet and offside rear wheel arch by another local bodyshop.

This might be seen as an indulgence bringing the total spend to £3800, but as Peter says, ‘this is a car that I use regularly, is super smooth and refined and has every modern convenience including the optional sat nav, and I have noticed that really good 75s are now fetching £4,000 and upwards so. in the long run, it will hold its value compared to what I have spent.’

It’s just a shame that so many quality cars are scrapped these days for relatively minor repairs, and this shows that, with a bit of perseverance, a car can be saved for the classic car community of the future. It’s also great to see that enthusiasts are now starting to cherish Rover 75s and spend money on them to keep them on the road for future enthusiasts to enjoy and admire.

The P5, of course, reached the status of one of Britain’s favourite classic cars long ago, but it is only recently that well restored or original P5B coupes have broken the £30,000 mark and, if anything, will keep rising in value. Queen Elizabeth had the last one off the production line in August 1973 and it joined the Royal fleet in April 1974 so a better endorsement a car can’t have, and then of course the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously carried on using her P5B beyond when it should have been replaced with a Jaguar XJ6 because she liked it so much.

So, why does Pete love Rovers?

What makes a ‘Rover man’? It was a question Austin Rover and then Rover Group asked many times in the 1980s and 1990s. The advertising agency Dorlands tried to sum up the conundrum around the time BMW acquired the company. They reckoned that the Rover buyer was almost the exact opposite of the BMW buyer.

They might both have similar incomes and wealth, a middle class, middle management life style, but whereas the BMW driver drove ‘the ultimate driving machine’ was younger and had a certain thrusting arrogance and ego, the Rover owner was more understated, more traditional, valued comfort, quality, interior finish and reliability, usually an older customer who valued their British background and heritage.

Hence the strap line in the 1990s of ‘Relax it’s a Rover’. This, of course, fitted in with BMW’s view of Rover as the company did not want its new brand to compete or dilute its carefully crafted sporting image. There was never going to be a Rover 75 Vitesse, or an MG ZT until MG Rover became independent once more. The 75, with its retro looks and interior, harked back to the P4 and P5 before Rover had been Britain’s BMW with the P6, SD1 and Rover 800.

Peter is a former Sales Director and a steady family man who long admired the Rover P5B and P6 and later the SD1 – in short, he typifies the characteristics of the Rover owner as identified by Dorlands back in the day. The two Rovers which he now owns provide elegant evidence of that…

List of Suppliers who have helped with both cars restoration

Many thanks to:

  1. James Kennedy at JK4x4 Services Limited, Unit 10, Clutton Hill Industrial Estate, Clutton, Bristol BS39 5QQ
  2. Chris Hawkins at Hawkins Paint Solutions, Bonville Road, Brislington, Bristol BS4 5QR
  3. The Trim Shop, Bonnymount Farm, Siston Hill, Bristol BS30 5LT
  4. A1 Bodycare, 69, Off Lime St, Cleveland St, Hull HU8 7AP

3 Comments

  1. “A tale of two Rovers”… Thanks for a marvellous story of Peter’s cars. The P5B was always one of my favourites and his looks wonderful inside and out. Peter has been wise and fortunate in his choice of restorers.

    In 1976 (age 21) I had the chance to buy an H Reg P5B in Zircon blue for £795 but the insurance and running costs would be too much. The P5B still looks authoritive to this day. Good to see the R75 has also been saved – it still looks good compared to offerings from current manufacturers.

    Long may these two cars survive!

  2. Whenever I see a picture of a Rover P5B I think it’s the pinnacle of what Rover made so good. OK, the P6 was another very fine car. But a P5B Coupe with the 3.5 litre V8? A classy car, if there ever was one. It also makes me kind of sad that Rover is no longer among us, just like Saab.

  3. Lovely story. PS Rover couldn’t spell Wedgwood – it only has one E! (former employee)

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