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Both were victims of politics, poor crash testing and internal rivalries with Jaguar.In 1966, the Rover car company literally had the world at its feet – in the shape of the Design Team led by David Bache and Engineering Department headed up by Spen King, the company had arguably the strongest development team of any British car company in post-war automotive history.Denis Chick, a former Rover Apprentice, tells the story of the anti-roll P7 and its involvement in the Rover P8 programme.

Straight-line performance was ample, but the handling balance of the car was upset by heaviness of the engine – giving a bias towards understeer.

The problem was that the six-cylinder engine was physically a long engine and there were considerable problems in installing the unit in the P6 bodyshell without resorting to changes to the bodywork to accommodate it.

Rover was riding high on the success of the Rover P6, introduced in 1963 and new models were in the pipeline.

The success of the P6 had completed the rejuvenation of the Rover image, which had begun with the highly publicised outings of the gas turbine-powered Rover JET1 and then the success at Le Mans of the jet-powered Rover-BRM.

King had not wanted a larger car, and the wish to make it bigger came from above: ‘I had a lot to do with the machine that went into P8 before it ever happened, and I didn’t ever want it to be as big a car as P8.

The thing is that in P6 we had straight window glasses and curved side windows were just coming in and you could make a P6-sized motor car with a lot more space in it quite easily without making a bloody great lump of a thing like a Jaguar.’ Various mules were concocted – all based around the P6 base unit – in which to test new engine and suspension configurations.

P7 proved that the P6 could be re-engineered to take a straight-six, but the sensible option was always going to be to start from scratch.

The cost was one consideration, but the lack of space granted by the P6 body was a major one, given Rover’s intention of using this car to replace the P5.

In a move pre-dating Audi by a decade, the Research Department, run by Brian Sylvester, actually engineered a 2.5-litre five-cylinder version of the engine to get over these problems.

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