LightAuto

Rover Lightweight Cars 1904 to 2004.

Those of you who's interest in British cars pre-date's the 1980's may consider the smaller cars produced in the twenty first century with a Rover badge not in true tradition of the marque. But during hundred years that Rover cars have been produced, lightweight cars were produced for sixty-five of those years.
It was during the period from 1949 to 1984 when the smallest Rover car produced was at least 2 litre that their image of being exclusively a large car manufacturer was formed. For the first forty years of the company's car producing history a lightweight car was always in the catalogue alongside the larger more expensive models.
It was in 1904 after sixteen successful years of bicycle manufacture in Coventry that The Rover Cycle Company Ltd produced their first car the first Rover EIGHT. The name was changed to Rover Company Ltd in 1905. It was of unusual design for the period, that consisted of the 1,327cc single cylinder water-cooled engine, the three speed gearbox and the propeller shaft in a large steel tube, the whole forming a backbone chassis that terminated in an un-sprung rear axle. The EIGHT was followed a year later by the SIX, with a 780cc engine, (later of 802cc.) also a water-cooled single, but the chassis was of a more conventional design for the period with a steel plated wooden frame. The front beam and rear live axles were sprung on 1/2 elliptic springs. Both models were produced until 1912.

For a year between 1911 and 1912, Rover produced a car fitted with a 1,052cc single cylinder engine with patented "Knight", sleeve valve gear normally found in expensive Daimlers. The English Daimler Company held the European patents for a valve system devised by an American Charles Y. Knight that used two sleeves that moved, one inside the other inside cylinder covering and uncovering the ports. The great drawback of this type of engine was the high rate of oil consumption and the resultant smoky exhaust. The Knight-Rover EIGHT, cost £250 complete in 1911. It had a wheelbase of 7 feet and a track of 4 foot 1 inch and a chassis weight of 11cwt.
It wasn't until 1919 that Rover again produced a lightweight car, this was also named a Rover EIGHT.  All the previous Rover cars had manufactured at their New Meteor Works in Coventry. This model would be made in a factory Rover purchased at Tyseley in Birmingham, minus the bodies; the bare chassis then were driven to Coventry for these to be fitted. The Rover management recruited a young engineer Jack Sangster that brought with him his design for a two seat ultra light car. This had a 998cc air-cooled side-valve flat twin engine that produced 13bhp. The engine size was increased to 1135cc in 1923.  It was a proper light car with a chassis frame of channel section steel, with 1/4 elliptic spring's front and rear. The engine was mounted in the front with three-speed gearbox and a propeller shaft to a worm gear rear axle. It had a reasonable performance with a top speed around 45mpg with fuel consumption of 45 mpg. Originally priced at £250, this was down to £139 by 1925 the last year of production when a total of 17,700 had been made.

The model that was to supersede the Eight the 9/20 was introduced in 1924 and was virtually an Eight but fitted with a 1075cc water-cooled OHV four cylinder engine that produced 20bhp at 3,000rpm. Rovers answer to the Austin SEVEN and priced at £175, thirteen thousand were made by 1927 and the arrival of its replacement the 10/25. The 9/20 had  evolved during its years of production with chassis and engine changes and with an engine of 1185cc, the 10/25 was the outcome. In 1930 the EIGHT chassis was replaced by a wider and lower frame and the car was available with an all steel body produced complete, painted and trimmed by Pressed Steel of Cowley. The car was completely assembled at Tyseley. Between 1929 and 1931 Rover had been working on a radical light car design the Scarab, but that didn't reach production. A Simple History 

For 1932 there were three lightweight Rover models, the Family 10 which was the 10/35 with a new radiator shell, the 10 Special that had the same body and engine as the family 10 but had a new chassis frame with 1/2 elliptic springs front and rear, a four-speed constant mesh gearbox that included a free wheel. The engine was rubber mounted and a spiral bevel rear axle. These models were the last to be assembled at Tyseley, the factory being used for component production after 1933.
The third lightweight car was the PILOT, fitted with a fashionable six-cylinder engine of 1,410cc in a 10/25 chassis. This was replaced with a 10 SPECIAL chassis the following year and the engine size increased to 1577cc.  This model was short lived, only available between 1932 and 1933 and was assembled at Rovers Helen Street Coventry, where Rover's larger models were made.
For the 1934 season the P1 10 and P1 12 models were introduced. They were fitted with a 1,389cc and 1,496cc version of a new four-cylinder OHV engine. In a chassis evolved from that of the SPEED PILOT model 1931/32. The SPEED PILOT was a tuned version of the PILOT. Its importance feature was its chassis, this incorporated all the advanced features of the 10 SPECIAL and PILOT model chassis but utilised a new frame that went under rather than over the rear axle. There was also the P1 14 using the 1,577cc six.

The model range was updated to become the P2 models for 1937 and apart from the P1 14 six, dropped in 1938 it was Rovers lightweight line up until 1948. The term lightweight, could only refer to engine sizes, the cars themselves were by then no lightweights weighing 1270kg. By then Rover cars were being assembled at Solihull Birmingham.
The only post war Rover Company Ltd models that approached the extreme limit of the definition of a lightweight car were the P3 60 of 1948/49 and the SERIES 1 LANDROVER of 1948/52. The P3 60 used a similar body to the P2 models but there were a couple of major changes to the specification. It was the first Rover model to be sold with independent front suspension and the first to be fitted with a version of what was to become the legendary sloping head I.O.E valve engine, in this case with a capacity of 1,595cc. This model was even heavier than the P2 models and was soon dropped due to poor performance. Rover had designed and developed a true lightweight car in period 1945 to 1947 the M Type. It was of conventional layout with a 699cc water-cooled inline four cylinder engine with their inlet over exhaust valve layout, producing 28 BHP. With an light alloy platform chassis,coil spring and wishbone I.F.s and a live axle with coils spring, panard rod and radius rod rear suspension. The project was dropped in favous of the LANDROVER and didn't get past the prototype stage.
The SERIES 1 LANDROVER the first of the breed was Rovers rendering of a Jeep replacement for Britain and mirrored the Jeep's dimensions and general layout with a weight of 1176Kg. For the first few years of production it was fitted with a 1,595cc engine related to that used in the P3 60.
The Rover Company Ltd never again produced lightweight cars and it was only after absorption by Leyland Motors and the formation of the British Leyland Motor Corporation, that in 1984 BL Cars Austin-Rover division used the Rover name on a lightweight car. This was the first Rover 200 series saloon; it was assembled at Longbridge the long-term home of Austin cars. The 200 was an adaptation of the Honda Ballade with a 1342cc (213) or 1598cc (216) SOHC Honda engine and 408,521 were produced by 1989 when it was replaced by the second 200 series now a hatchback model also based on a Honda design, by then the companies name had changed to Rover Group. It was joined by the Rover 400 a saloon version of the 200 in 1990. The new 200 series and 400 series cars reflected the latest trend in straddling the light/medium car range by being fitted with engines from 1396cc to 1994cc.  To accommodate these engines, where as the first 200 series car weighted 859kg, the lightest of the new 200 series weighted 1025kg. And the 400 1044kg.
Also in 1990 another lightcar was produced bearing the Rover badge. The Austin METRO had been in production since 1984. The Rover METRO was a much Revised Version of that model and was fitted with the Rover Groups K Series engine (In 1.1 litre and 1.4 litre form.) and revised from suspension. In 1994 it had another name change to the Rover 100. The Rover 100 was produced until 1998.
The Rover 400 were again revised in 1995 was an updated version of the design shared with Honda. The new 200 hatchback of 1995 was on the other hand; of Rover design throughout and with some styling changes was renames Rover 25 in 1999. Also in 1999 the 400 had the same styling changes and was renamed the Rover 45.

Despite many changes in ownership of the company, all the Rover Group light cars had been produced in one place, Longbridge, Birmingham, England for the last twenty years. In 2004 Rover Group began marketing the CITYROVER, produced by Tata Indica in India adding a new dimension to the story.
 

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