• Inexpensive alternative to a Thirties original
• Modified, tuned engine spec
• Very individual
Although the Rover 10 designation had first appeared in 1929, the ‘Ten’ of 1933 was a new car rather than a development of the previous Nine.
It was the first models built after the firm was taken over by Wilks brothers, with the model being aimed squarely at the quality end of the market. It featured a pressed steel four-door saloon body, while the chassis itself was also made available to coachbuilders.
The underslung chassis itself was a new design, as was the 1389cc straight four-cylinder engine coupled to a four-speed manual gearbox.
Manufactured in 1938, this car spent its early life in Australia, before being repatriated to the UK in 1980.
At that time it was still wearing its standard steel four-door body. However, both body and mechanicals were in decidedly poor condition, so, with some fairly extensive chopping and trimming, the car was converted into a racing-style ‘special’ after the manner of a Brooklands Riley.
The car was built using MCC classifications and guidelines for hill climbing. It has never been raced and would require the wire wheels to be changed to competition specification. The car is fully road legal
The car is fully road legal.
There is no record, photographic or otherwise for the conversion/construction of the bodywork, but there are extensive bills – over £6000-worth – in (mainly) parts and labour for the mechanicals and running gear.
The rebuild covers a period from around 2004 to 2016, with further improvements undertaken from the present owner.
In bare aluminium with a blue fabric rear section, this Rover Special has quite an authentic period look. The body was built to incorporate a Riley Brooklands style grill, and the dimensions of the car are somewhat tailored that model.
The engine cover, valance and cycle wings are made from aluminium. They are nicely fashioned and fit well, with the both sides of the engine cover opening and closing smoothly.
The fabric-covered rear section is constructed of timber and fiberglass. Again, fit and finish are good and there are only lights signs of wear around the fabric, predictably at some of the edges. Again, the rear lid fits nicely with smoothly working catches.
The chrome around the car is generally excellent; especially the wire wheels, which sport very clean, straight spokes, and show no sign of discolouration. The headlights are pretty good, but the cycle wing-mounted side lights are somewhat tarnished. By the way; the latter use LEDs, which also act as indicators using amber/white bulbs. The grill is generally very good – bright, with a clean mesh, however the radiator cap is showing pitting.
The Special’s bodywork has an all-round authentic feel and look.
With this cockpit space, what you see is very much what you get. The custom-made interior is ‘workmanlike’ shall we say – it is after all a ‘special’ – so don’t expect too many (any) creature comforts. The utilitarian dash features a useful range of instruments, including speedometer, ammeter, oil and water gauges and clock (no tacho), all are working except the speedometer.
The floor is rudimentary wooden boarding and the transmission tunnel is aluminium.
The custom-made seats are in decent condition. That on the passenger side is adjustable for rake, though the driver’s is fixed. Pilots of six foot or under should be fine.
Gear stick and (quick release) steering wheel don’t particularly carry on the Thirties vibe, but are up to their task, and a thoroughly modern fire extinguisher is easily to hand if you need it.
Everything appears competently put together, with nothing rattling or badly fitting.
Things get quite interesting under the bonnet.
The engine is an Austin Rover A+, of around 1972 vintage, bored out from 1.3-litres to 1.4 litres. It boasts light alloy racing pistons, a balanced crank and fast road cam, titan rockers, as well as a lightened flywheel and a tooth belt timing chain conversion. It’s highly likely that the cylinder head is from a Sixties Mini Cooper.
The four-cylinder is fed via a Weber 40 DCOE Carburettor and runs through a Ford four-speed gearbox. With quick, modern-style starting in mind, the Rover has recently been fitted with a ‘Powerlite’ reduction starter and new alternator, both of which are designed to work well with the new, lightweight lithium battery. The motor and its ancillaries all look to be in very good shape, with healthy-looking hoses, leads and wiring, and no signs of leaks.
Underpinning this, the chassis has been strengthened and boxed. The steering and front axle have been taken from a Forties Ford Y-Type, while the disc brakes are from a Triumph Spitfire. Those at the rear are from a Healey Sprite, as is the axle. The exhaust is stainless steel and features a very period-looking Brooklands silencer.
Again, everything looks to be in very good shape, with no signs of significant wear, and only the odd brush of surface corrosion along some edges. Suspension and steering look to be very sound.
Pre-war cars in all their many forms are actually often far more fun and far more involving to drive than modern machines. And they have such character, even more so in the form of a stripped-down special like this.
And don’t forget, someone has really gone out of their way to give this roadster quite a pokey engine (and the car weighs not more than a shoe box) – so you can expect more than your fair share of wind through the hair. Remember to add the price of a pair of goggles to your bid.
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