As well as many other automobile companies, the Rover which was founded in 1887 by John Kemp Starley and William Sutton, started with manufacturing of bicycles. The first car was created in 1889 and it was a common carriage with 8HP engine. Due to a whole number of smart technical solutions, the company managed to enter the middle class car market with production of such attractive and improved models as Rover Twelve Sedan (1911). Being equipped with a 28 HP engine the car could reach up to 80 km/h.
In 1918 the company introduced its Rover 14 model. Later a Norwegian engineer Peter Poppe developed a new Rover 14/45 which was fitted with a revolutionary overhead camshaft engine with hemispherical combustion chamber, but in 1925 it was replaced with a new 16/50 model, which was fitted with a revised 2,4L engine. In 1928 a 9/20 model, that hadn’t got much success, was also revised and got a new Rover Ten name alongside with a new engine.
In that same year of 1928 the world saw a legendary Rover 16hp Light Six model, which was equipped with a 6-cylinder engine, developed by Peter Poppe again. This time the car had got a much better engine and it even managed to give the dust to the legendary high-speed train - Blue Express, which at that time was plying across France – from Côte d'Azur to La Manche. The Rover was enjoying its fame!
In the 1930s the company tried to enter the upper middle class car market and stay there for some time. In 1932 a high-speed Rover 14 Speed made its debut. The car reached up to 130 km/h. It was a trendy model with soft leather upholstery, polished veneer inserts and luxurious decorative finishing. Due to this car the company gained the reputation of manufacturer of high-speed elegant cars with splendid interior. In 1934 the company upgraded its line-up. The 10,12 and 14 models got revised engines (1,4; 1,5 and 1,6 L correspondingly) and new design, all completed in one style. This series went down in history as P1 series.
Starting from 1939 the company had to manufacture products for military purposes. During the World War II the company delivered engines, aluminum airfoils for aircraft fleets and engine units for the English army. They also distinguished themselves for the deliveries of aircraft reaction turbines for the British Gloster fighters.
After the war the Rover launched P2 model into production, which was developed as early as in the early 40-s. So that to be able to survive in the hard post-war environment, they manufactured the first in company’s history left drive P2 car. As a result in 1946 almost 50% of all the cars produced were exported and in the next year the car export reached 75%.
In the late 1940s the Rover placed their bets on upper middle class cars. A new P3 model was finally equipped with fully metal body and independent front suspension as well as a hydromechanical drive for the front brake. The engine, that P3 was equipped with, was exactly the kind of an engine that those years were in need of. There were two car versions called according to their engines’ powers: Rover 60 and Rover 75 with 60 and 75 HP respectively. P3 model was in fact an interim model and it had been manufactured until the end of 1949, when it became clear that the car was out of date.
In 1949 the Rover turned out to be the leader of automobile design in Europe. It was aided by the Rover P4 which had been designed by a famous designer Maurice Wilks. A 75HP version of Rover 75 was fitted with a 6-cylinder engine that was taken from the previous model. In 1950 the hydromechanical brake drive inherited from P3 was replaced with fully hydraulic brake system.
In 1953 the versions of P4 60 with 4-cylinder engine and P4 90 with 6-cylinder engines appeared and by 1955 the exterior of the car had also changed greatly. In 1956 the car got a brake booster and a new more powerful version P4 105, which came both with a common manual transmission (P4 105S) and original Roverdrive automatic transmission (P4 105R). The latter one was the first model in company’s history to be fitted with automatic transmission. Pover P4 had been manufactured until 1964 and over its 15-year production it gained the reputation of a very quiet technically perfect and reliable model.
When Rover P5 saw the light in 1958, it was absolutely clear that it was a response to Jaguar’s more than successful Mk VIII. The P5’s design was created by David Buch and the car got a very modern and stylish look. The luxurious P5 was created for long-distance high-speed travelling with much comfort. In 1962 the P5 Coupe was first introduced to the market. In 1963 the engine got 134 HP and in 1966 the model was again revised. When in 1968 a new P5 with licensed Buick V8 engine saw the light, everybody was really amused and shocked. This engine had solved all the problems concerning the car performance! P5B modification (B stands for Buick) with 160 HP monster under the jacket could easily compete with any of Jaguar models. In general this model came out to be so successful that its production was stopped only in 1973 with almost 70 000 cars manufactured. Another evidence to the exceptional nature of this car model was that even the Queen drove these cars.
A new Rover P6 was introduced to the public in 1963. It was a good combination of a well-thought-out construction and high quality assembly that made this car a perfect example of an executive class car. The audience and mass-media couldn’t stop admiring the car and as early as in the year of its production the car won the first place at the first-ever-held Car of the Year competition. The exterior of Rover P6 3500S (the name of the version with V8 engine that was P6 equipped with in 1971) featured the increased diameter brake rotors and wider tires.
In 1966 the Rover joined the Leyland. Soon after, it was renamed as the British Leyland.
Rover SD1, which replaced two models at once (Rover P5 and Rover P6) and had the design that couldn’t but resemble of Ferrari Daytona’s design, was first introduced to the public in 1976 as an unusual hatchback with 3,5L V8 155 HP engine. Innovative design, upgraded interior and perfect road behavior helped it to win the Car of the Year prize in 1977 in Europe. The same year was marked with SD1 versions with 6-cylinder 2,4L and 2,6L models.
Alec Issigonis designed a Mini Rover for the company to come over the economic crisis of the 70-s. The car had been manufactured up to the year 2000.
The technical regulations of the British Body Championship that changed in 1983, made the Rover sports business unit design a new model which turned out to be incredibly fast. This car won a few competitions during its first year and the Championship of 1984 was won without scoring a point. The Rover car gained the same success at the German DTM of 1986 when it smashed BMW and Mercedes at their own field. For the new race car to pass through homologation, the company had to produce a loaded version of Rover SD1 Vitesse. The car lost some of its comfort but it showed excellent behavior on the road and reached 100 km/h in 7,5 seconds!
In 1984 the first fruit of cooperation with the Honda came to light and it was a compact front drive Rover 200, being a revised model of Honda Civic. The program of cooperation included the co-development of a conventional for the Rover company large sedan. Rover 800 Sedan rolled of the production line in 1986 and it was either fitted with 2,0 L Rover engine or V6 Honda engine. In 1989 Rover 200 was upgraded and the production of Rover 400 started, being the extension of the 200-series.
In the 1980s another very popular Rover model was produced – an amazing all-wheel-drive Rover Metro 6R4 with V 6-cylinder engine installed in the middle. In 1986 the automobile showroom in Turin saw the turbomotor 2,4 L version.
The Rover 600 produced in 1993 filled the gap between Rover 400 and Rover 800.
When in 1994 the Rover company got under control of the BMW, it then completely renewed its line-up: new models of 200 and 400 series were produced and company’s flagship was mounted with a pulling 2,5L K-series engine in 1996. Such an engine replaced the high-speed Honda V6 which didn’t match the style of the car any longer.
At the end of the year 1998 Rover 75 came into existence.
The beginning of the 21st century (in 2000 – 2005) was hard times for the Rover. BMW threw the company to the winds and the Rover shut down. Today the former pride of Great Britain – the Rover brand is owned by the Chinese SAIC.