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Rover is a British automobile company that has been acquired by Indian Tata Motors since 2008. At the moment, Rover doesn’t produce any vehicles.

Bicycles, Motorcycles, and the First Car

As many automakers who pioneered in the automobile industry, the Rover Company didn’t intend to produce cars from the very beginning. Originally, the company was established by John Kemp Starley and William Sutton in 1887 to make bicycles.

Their first car, equipped with an eight horsepower engine, was produced only in two years, in 1889. At the same time, John Starley worked on another vehicle. With a Peugeot motorcycle taken as an example, he tried to equip one of his bicycles with an engine.

The Rover Imperial motorcycle was launched in 1902. It was well constructed, with many innovative features applied here for the first time. In particular, the Imperial was a diamond-framed motorcycle, with a 3.5 horsepower bottom-bracket engine, mechanical valve, and a spray carburettor. It was very popular. By 1904, more than a thousand of Imperials was sold.

Let’s go back to Rover cars. Although the first auto was built in 1889, mass production started only in 1904. Those were two-seat cars, powered by an eight horsepower water-cooled engine. However, this model could hardly be called comfortable as it almost didn’t have rear suspension (rear axle was attached directly to the frame).

A year later, Rover launched a new model, the Rover 6. It was powered by the same engine as its precursor except for smaller capacity (0.8 litre). The Rover 6 was produced till 1913.

The First Huge Success

A designer Owen Clegg, who joined the company in 1910, introduced the Rover 12 in 1912. The car had a four-cylinder 12 hp engine with 2.3-litre capacity equipped with an oil pump. The company used such an engine for the first time. Besides, the Rover 12 had electric headlights. The model was so successful that till 1914, when it was discontinued, Rover didn’t make others.

During the WWI, Rover switched to progressive assembly instead of manual. The company started to produce military equipment. In particular, mighty motorcycles, three-ton trucks, and ambulance cars for the British and Russian armies.

Rover adjusted to a particular epoch and tried to understand what people needed at that moment. Thus, when the war was over, Rover represented the efficient Rover 8 with a one-litre two-cylinder 8 hp engine under the bonnet. The car could speed up to 60 km/h.

In 1932, the Rover 14 Speed, which accelerated to 130 km/h, was rolled out. This very model earned Rover a reputation of a company that makes elegant and fast autos.

When the WWII began, Rover paused civilian cars manufacture and resumed military production. This time, the company made aircraft engines and aluminium wings, power units, and reactive turbines for British fighters.

The Rover P Models

After the war, the company concentrated on making cars for export. By 1947, about 75% of the P2 models were sold abroad.

The P3 model was considered for middle-class clients. It got a completely metal body, independent front suspension, and hydromechanical front brake drive.

However, it wasn’t as successful as the Rover P4, which became a leader of the European automotive industry in early 50s. The P4 was built on the basis of the American Studebaker Champion, which bonnet and fenders constituted a whole.

In 1956, the Roverdrive was launched. This model was the first one with an automatic gearbox in Rover’s history.

The Rover P5 was turned out in 1958. As for design, the auto resembled Jaguar cars of the time – the P5 became wider, lower, with a smoother body contour. The car had an independent forward torsion suspension and dependent spring suspension behind that ensured easy car handling.

In 1963, the Rover P6 was launched. It had a monocoque body, disc brake, and a 4-cylinder engine, which sped a car up to 100 km/h in 14 seconds.

From 1970s till 2000s

The Rover SD1, which substituted the P5 and the P6, was awarded the Auto of the Year title in Europe in 1977.

Collaboration with Honda resulted in production of the Rover 200 (1984) on the basis of the Honda Civic, the Rover 800 (1986), and the Rover 400 on the basis of the Honda Accord (1995).

After Rover was purchased by BMW in 1994, its line-up was completely updated. Consequently, the Rover 25, the 45, and the 75 models saw the world.

They were followed by the Rover 75 Tourer estate car; hatchbacks the Streetwise and the CityRover, co-development with Indian Tata Motors; and the Rover 75 V8 saloon and the Rover 75 Limousine.

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