After a bit of a hiatus a Photo for Sunday returns with an old favourite of Driven To Write, the Rover V8 engine in its original UK application, the Rover 3.5 Litre.
This one was not seen in my local neighbourhood, but in the midlands of Ireland. Normally I do as little editing as possible with these images. As there was a person sitting in this car I promised to anonymise the photos. Hence the blockular incongruities.
The Rover isn’t relatively big compared to most modern cars. It’s probably smaller than a VW Polo. You can measure it and yet still not believe your eyes. It still looks enormous and incredibly imposing without having the massive, stately-home inertia of a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow which manages to pull off the same trick. The tiny glass house is part of the secret. The proportions are perfect. You wonder why they really bothered with the saloon version, much as the VW Passat CC should make the ordinary Passat redundant (but doesn’t: why do people buy the saloon when the CC looks so very much better? VW is responsible for the price difference being what it is. If the Passat saloon didn’t exist then people would just buy the CC, wouldn’t they?)
I wish I had more time to look at the car in the photos. Alas, there were people in the car when I went to photograph it. I decided it would be unnerving for me to peer at the fit and finish of this venerable monument to extinct British values while people were inside chatting. Rain poured quite steadily and wind lashed. Those factors also propelled me back to nearby shelter.
Look at that grille. It’s so huge it’s almost the same size as the one on today’s Mercedes S-class. It would have been good to look at the pressings around the headlamps. I bet they were complex and expensive to make.
Even with the windows up and the doors closed I detected the characteristic aroma of old car. This is a smell that maybe is not the same as old car smell on the continent. Ireland and the UK have a damp climate. A car interior made of horsehair, glue, leather and wood is simply a rolling banquet for microbial lifeforms. That generates a symphony of sweet, biscuity, mulchy notes with after-smells of molasses and caramel and Parmesan.
I also detected the slightly stunning smell of petrol and the richer, thicker, saccharine perfume characteristic of engine oil. Smell is so evocative. It sends signals directly to the oldest and most primitive part of the brain. Why do you think we wear aftershave and perfume? Only colour gets close to creating strong feelings. The strong feelings these smells generated were that I am very glad I don’t own a classic car in Ireland, where these photos were taken. Petrol: carburettors; oil: leaks. Imagine if your car was not only under assault from microbes but also incessant damp conditions and astonishingly badly laid and poorly maintained roads?
In that context I salute the driver of this car for keeping it on the road against the odds. The Rover 3.5 litre is a magnificent car and driving one in a country where the average age of the car is about 32 months must give a remarkable feeling of distinction.