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Articles By Mike Rooth

The Civilized Rover

Another irrelevancy, this, in a way, but if anyone objects, just say and I'll stop it. Father had a Rover 14. Its not the first car I can remember him having, that was an SS1, the precursor to the Jaguar. It had, as I recall, a loooong bonnet, but when you opened it there was a tiny four cyl sode valve Standard eight engine completely lost inside it. It also had leather gaiters on the brake lever, and when he went through a puddle, you got water straight up you trouser leg on the passenger side. It was a rakish car, but a wimp. All piss and vinegar.
The Rover was, well, dignified. Sober. I don't know when it was built, just pre-war I should think, but it was equipped with every comfort that the price would allow(and I don't think they were cheap when new). This wasn't new of course. It was a "six light saloon", ie you counted the windows down the side and multiplied by two. Front door, one, back door, one, and a little 'un behind that. Four light saloons were considered "sporty", like the Rover 75. Not *quite* the sort of thing a civil servant would drive. The 14 was RAC horse power rating, which was a formula picked, it seemed, out of thin air, and which buggered up engine design for donkeys years, because it was used as a road tax basis. This car was leather seated(of course), and had real wood everywhere. It sported a free wheel feature, a three inch diameter handwheel under the dash (walnut) on the driver's side. Operating this enable the car to free wheel downhill, and without effort from the driver, it would motor uphill, when the road speed fell below the relevant engine speed. If this sounds familiar, it should, because it was used on the early Series One, which had permanent 4WD. Unfortunately the only time father used this, he came home without the car. *It* was in a local village garage having broken a half shaft on taking up the strain. Relations were a little strained, I remember, and the free wheel was *never* again used. If you switched on the ignition, but didn't start the engine, and pressed a little button below the fuel gauge, the fuel gauge would register the oil level in the sump. Wouldn't this be a nice addition to the Range Rover? I know it used to fascinate me, but I really got a thick ear when I tried it with the engine running, and told him he was out of oil. Every three thousand miles or so, when out for a spin(one did, you know) another button, when pushed, would lubricate the chassis for you with engine oil. At your leisure, you could then top up the sump.

The feature I *really* liked, and which could with advantage be used on Defender models, was the drivers side window winder. As you know, the trafficators of the time were semaphore arms with a little light inside. In theory, you flicked the switch over on the steering wheel boss, and the little arm would pop out of the door pillar all lit up. Centralize it and the arm re housed itself with a solid clunk. In practice you operated the switch, turned round in the seat, and gave the door pillar a good thump. The arm would crawl into the horizontal. Cancel, and the light would go out, and the arm would droop. You then opened the window and recovered it. This gave rise to the need for hand signals. If it was raining you got wet, furiously twiddling the winder. Rover solved this by having, instead of a crank handle, an arm, about a foot long, if memory serves, all nicely chrome plated. With the window up, the arm was horizontal. Push the arm down 45 degrees, and the window was down. I *wish* this feature was available on modern cars. Electric windows take an age to open and shut, and crank winders are as bad, but more reliable. I reverse vehicles with my head out of the window, which, with the Land Rover, is just a matter of sliding the glass forward, poking my head out, do the biz, head in, shut window. Damp, but not drowned. You cant do that in a coil sprung, so you get wet through. That pre-war Rover's driver side winder mechanism would be a boon.

One last thing and you can all wake up. At the time of the Coronation, father, feeling patriotic, made a little flagpole which he mounted on the radiator cap(external in those days you remember). It was always a great sadness to him that he couldn't get a radiator cap incorporating the wonderful Vikings head mascot that Rovers used on cars slightly older than his. He then bought a little Union Flag, and drove around with it fluttering in the breeze. The nature of his work took him to a good many RAF and USAF stations in his area. The problem was that when he drove up in this car with flag flying they *would* turn out the guard, present arms, the lot. Even when he covered the flag in a little bag, an eagle eyed gate guard would think here was an officer trying to catch him out, and the whole palaver was gone through again. The final embarrassment was in the street;where he thought himself safe. A column of troops, marching the other way, gave him a smart eyes right on command and the officer in charge saluted. He was so embarrassed that he didn't go back to that town for a year. The flag, and the pole went in the bin.


Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2010. Last modified April 30, 2005.
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