The History of the Rover V8 Engine

The Aluminium V8 was first created to fit into a new style of "compact" American car to counter the threat of increased imports of small cars from Europe. In the late 1950’s Buick and Oldsmobile, using the general design criteria for an aluminium V6 of their parent company General Motors, gave birth to the V8. Although the basic blocks were the same, the two companies made detail changes to both the heads and piston shapes. Production began in 1961 and continued until 1963, by which time over three quarters of a million engines had been produced. Unfortunately, the power output in production form could not match their cast iron counterparts so production was discontinued.

Luckily for us the story did not end there. During the latter part of 1963 the then M.D. of the Rover Car Co., William Martin-Hurst, was on a sales tour of the USA. Whilst in the workshops of Mercury Marine, he spotted the Buick V8 lying in a corner. After comparing its weight, dimensions and power output with that of the Rover 2000 four cylinder engine, he decided to have it sent back to the Solihull factory for further tests.

After a great deal of scepticism the engine was finally installed in a Rover 2000 by the company’s Competitions Dept. The results of testing this prototype were sufficiently significant for Rover to apply to G.M. for the rights to begin producing the engine in the U.K. This was finally granted in 1965 and the "Rover" V8 was born.

It was not until 1967, after a number of design changes, that the engine was first shown to the British public. The first body to receive the engine was the old Rover P5 saloon which was renamed the Rover 3.5Litre. Available in both Saloon and Coupe form, it was fitted with a three speed automatic gearbox and remained unchanged until production ceased in 1973.

From 1968 the engine was also fitted into what was known as the Rover Three Thousand Five, using the Rover 2000 or P6 bodyshell and continuing with the three speed automatic gearbox. In 1970 it was redesignated the Rover 3500 and in 1971 the Rover 3500S was introduced with a four speed all synchromesh gearbox. Both remained in production until 1976 when they were replaced by the "new 3500" or what is now known as the SD1.

Meanwhile, in 1970, whilst all this was happening in the private sector, a new upmarket workhorse had been launched. It was the now world acclaimed Range Rover which, from its inception, was destined to be fitted with the V8. Although detuned to meet the harsh demands of farm and military life, it proved to be more than adequate for the job.