This is a 1972 Rover P6 3500S. The car, that is, not the boat. However the boat does serve an ulterior and illustrative purpose by revealing that we are now, in fact, in Amsterdam. Yes, the Netherlands: mecca of waffle connoisseurs, stoners, prostitution enthusiasts and people who weirdly insist on reading a Jewish girl’s diary without her permission. I happen to love it. Amsterdam also, it seems, is a home to some rather lovely cars. And I’m going to talk about this one.
Plans of a replacement for the dated Rover P4 can be traced back as early as 1956, but the vehicle that eventually became the P6 didn’t see the light of day until 1963 (at that point it was called the 2000). Why the long gestation period? Well, the Rover P6 started life- unusually for a British car, it must be said- as a completely new, ground-up proposition. First and foremost, it was very cleverly built: it featured what’s called a monocoque frame, which effectively acted as a skeleton to which all the exterior body panels were bolted (as opposed to the body panels making up the structural integrity of the car). This meant that the P6 was very safe if you were in a crash. Then again, P6s were so slow that most of the time, you were never going fast enough to have a crash in the first place. But the point stands if you were to, say, bolt jet engines to it or something. Which almost happened, incidentally.
The monocoque served other purposes too, thankfully. In theory, if a panel were to begin to rust, as was the case with pretty much anything that came out of a British factory in the 1970s (except for Cadbury Cream Eggs), then the owner could just unbolt it and pop on a new one. The suspension is also a big topic of discussion. Effectively, though very complicated and boring means that I do not fully understand, the weight that the front suspension carries primarily rests upon the bulkhead, the strongest part of the car. According to Rover, this was to cure the phenomenon known as lift-off oversteer, but in reality it was to allow room for a gas turbine engine, such as the ones you usually find attached to the wings of jet aircrafts. Unfortunately, the turbine engine never made it past the prototype phase, and the P6 was fitted with 2 liter four cylinder.
This particular P6 doesn’t have that miserly, pathetic power source designed to appeal to “the poors.” Oh no, this Rover has a 3.5 liter, rip-snorting, aluminum V8 out of a Buick Special. Now we’re speaking my language. According to the company, this engine weighed nearly the same as the four cylinder unit, and was capable of 114 miles per hour. Which wasn’t bad in 1972. In fact, for the time, there wasn’t much else in Britain that offered more power and more space for less money. This is the 3500S model too, and that S is important, because it means that this P6 has a manual transmission. And manual transmissions are the best transmissions.
People from Amsterdam have a word that they use to describe their city to those who have never been there. “Gezellig” roughly translates to coziness or conviviality, but for the most part it is left undefined. Because behind all the plastic girls under red lights and college students in the throes of legalized marijuana, Amsterdam is a very special place. It’s tough to pin down. It’s something that you have to experience yourself to truly get. The Rover P6 3500S is a muscle car. But like that Rolls Royce from a couple weeks ago, it doesn’t go about it’s job in the American way. It’s not as shouty. It’s more paired down. More Gezellig. In many ways, this is a car perfectly at home here in Amsterdam.
- The P6 is art! Some lucky P6 donated one of its seats to be the first piece of furniture by designer Ron Arad.
- The P6 was one of the first cars to feature column stalks to operate things like the turn signals and the windshield wipers.
- The hubcaps and vinyl roof on 3500S models featured a stylized Viking warship as a… I don’t know why they did it, actually.
- This car was voted European Car of the Year in 1964. It was voted Worst New Car in England in 1975. Tough to pin down, indeed.