The Rover P4


Let us get our priorities right. The vehicle for a gentleman must be British. Secondly, to drive a car without a walnut fascia is unthinkable. Ideally, the seats should be of leather, together producing that intoxicating fragrance of old wood and leather that proclaims, as one gets in, that one is driving a "motor car" and not merely a "car".

The Rover P4 is the ultimate Chap's car. It was designed by, well, chaps, in the late 1940s, modern but not too modern, streamlined but with a hint of memory of what had been the running board of previous models. It offered luxurious leather seats with pull-down arms for comfort on long drives, a modern valve radio, a built-in tool kit and, naturally, a range of conveniently placed ash-trays. The general effect was as if a St. James's Gentleman's Club had sprouted wheels.

The whole thing was sturdily built and supported by a proper chassis (thus weighing over 1.5 tons and, as I have discovered, making the P4 impervious to inferior drivers backing into one), something now long forgotten in car design. The P4's chassis is made of H-section girders! Indeed, some unkind people have described the Rover P4 as a Sherman tank with the gun turret removed. Then there's that extra tool, also now long forgotten, the invaluable starting handle!

Of-course, those Rover boffins were no stick-in-the-mud types. It is the body of the P4, cut off at the windows, which houses Great Britain's only jet motor-car. It never really took off (excuse me), but the prototype can still be seen at the Science Museum.

My current motor car is a 1963 Rover 95. A few years ago, I performed for the late lamented Rover company and in return they offered to make my car look like new, re-spraying it in royal blue and silver and re-upholstering the interior, though not, as if in expectation of their demise, in leather, but only in rich velour. Even so, the car looks stunning. Pre-1965, it has no seat belts, and an extra pleasure is frustrating policemen who can do nothing about this, since it is totally legal and, oh yes, it also attracts no car tax!

My Rover is obviously a magnet for the ladies, but it also attracts admiration from unexpected sources. Waiting at a red light on Shepherd's Bush roundabout recently, I found myself next to one of those tiny black cars with smoked windows, shaking to the bass line of some "music" pumped out of speakers which were probably larger than its engine. The window wound down to reveal a very young man of West Indian origin wearing sun glasses. He beckoned that he wanted to converse with me, so I lowered my window. His rather sullen expression was suddenly wreathed in a smile as he indicated my Rover P4. He said but one word: "Cool!" For that moment, as I returned the smile, we were, to coin

Call me reckless, but I think that this young man could be on the way, despite his odd apparel, to becoming a true Chap. Only time will tell, but the Rover P4 could have been the first step towards his salvation! He may be pleased to learn that there are many examples of the Rover P4 still on the road, because of their stout, British construction and, possibly for the same reason, they are not all that expensive to buy. I can highly recommend them to all of you!