James Shaw III

From Lode Lane to Lake Marathon

A Report of a Test Drive of Rover P6B TXC 730F To Athens, Greece in September 1967

Rover P6B TXC 730F at Marathon Lake, Greece
Rover P6B TXC 730F at Marathon Lake, Greece


In the 1960s the Rover Company carried out test drive programmes on its own Lode Lane test track, the MIRA proving ground at Nuneaton and on specific circuits of public roads, conducted by drivers employed for that purpose. However, as an engineer-led company it was not uncommon for the design and development engineers to carry out their own trials, as opposed to what might be called life or endurance testing.

As Rover's Brake Project engineer, my father, James Shaw, took part in cold weather testing in Canada and Sweden, hot weather testing in Greece and Kenya as well as brake performance tests on the Stelvio Pass between Switzerland and Italy.

The following is based on a report describing a run to Athens, Greece to assess high-speed running, brake performance and hot weather operation of the V-8 variant of the Rover '2000'-style car.

Note to restoration enthusiasts: Some development vehicles started off life as standard cars 'off-the-line' but they were 'used and abused' to the extent that they often became quite different vehicles. The only time they were in 'concours condition' (if ever) was the day they were handed over to the development department.

The opening lines of the report are revealing:

"... This was the third journey for the car, the second for the engine/transmission unit and the first for the tyres, brake pads, brake discs and brake master cylinder."

That is the sort of statement that could be made of most of the development vehicles and demonstrates the impossibility of restoring them to 'original condition'.

The Route

Athens, Greece Ionina, Greece Salonika, Greece Skopje, Yugoslavia Titograd, Yugoslavia Belgrade, Yugoslavia Split, Yugoslavia Krompendorf, Austria Santa Maria, Switzerland Würzburg, Germany Limburg, Germany Ostend, Belgium Southend, UK Lode Lane, Solihull, UK
Route Map

The Report

[Transcript of Report JS/PJT/P6.16.F.1 dated 16th of October 1967 from Mr. J. Shaw to Mr. G.R. Hills copied to Mr. R.N. Oxley, Mr. R. Nash & Mr. C. Horne]

P6B Mk.1 Solihull - Athens - Solihull.

11th to 28th of September 1967. [Vehicle TXC730F]

The objects of this test were:-

1. To add a nominal 5,000 miles [8,000 km] by a journey to Athens and return, some of this mileage to be over some of the rougher sections available. This was the third journey for the car, the second for the engine/transmission unit and the first for the tyres, brake pads, brake discs and brake master cylinder.

2. To observe and comment on the car and its components.

3. To observe and comment on the Ferodo 2430 brake linings fitted for comparison with the Ferodo 2424F specified and used on the earlier runs.

Odometer Out 11254 Trip mileage 5,516 [8,877 km]

Odometer In    16770

Overall:  Average Speed 44.7 mph [71.9 km/]

Average Fuel Consumption 22.1 mpg [12.8 l/100km]

The journey to Athens (Glyfada) was made directly over the better roads and was completed by the 16th at an average speed of 52.7 mph  but with only 2123 miles covered.

A 200 mile circuit based on Glyfada incorporated 50 miles of rough road and together with the Greek, Yugoslav and Swiss rough road parts of the return journey and a circuit based on Split gave an estimated total of about 300 miles of rough road.

In a 40 minute crawl-stall-crawl traffic state in Athens the engine coolant temperature rose to 212°F in 92°F  ambient air. Out of town the ambient was about 12°F lower.

The rear dampers usually knocked from 'cold' but there were two mornings when this was not observed.

There was tyre whine especially on smooth surfaces, wet or dry, and this might be found objectionable by some people. Tyre squeal was not readily induced.

Straight line running in the first few hundred miles was criticised but it was realised during the latter part of the return journey that this was no longer objected to.

Three possible explanations for this change are offered:-

1. Driver familiarity.

2. 'Machining' or 'bedding' of the tyres changing the shape and or position of the contact patch.

3. Initially the pressures were 'as set' at Solihull, but on the 17th they were reset to 30 lb/in2 all-round (in the absence of information).

An annular crack was observed inside and out, high on the buttresses of the right rear tyre, at Santa Maria 15819 odometer. The other tyres did not show this.

The ride was, of course, good under all conditions and although less well-controlled after the rough work was still of good standard.

The garage check at Santa Maria disclosed that the rear dampers appeared to be pumping air and that the rear exhaust mounting rubber had failed in tension across the lower fixing holes before 15819 odometer.

The bonnet to wing gap viewed in the wing mirror was disconcerting to the vehicle occupants especially the front passenger and most of all at speed when it appeared to increase and also to flutter. It is suspected that headlight flashing and gesticulations by oncoming lorry drivers were intended to draw attention to the apparent insecurity of the bonnet.

It should be noted that the right side bonnet/wing gap is now greater than when built due to jostling by a herd of cows when the car was held up in a line of cars in an Austrian township. This same incident was responsible for the loss of the side lamp tell-tale.

The spare wheel mounting, blanking motif was stolen during the overnight stop in Southend.

Window whistle was heard from the left front vent window.

Top speed was disappointing at 115 mph. usually (120 mph on one downhill, wind-assisted occasion) 5000 engine rpm giving 108 mph.

Acceleration was likewise not as sparkling as might have been expected. The erratically delayed gear changing some accelerator kickdown and the D1 to L lever movement did nothing to brighten the impression. The 'greasy haired foreigners' (R. Glenton) were not as easily discomforted as recollected from my last year's P5B trip (BXC 620B). The gate-type gearchange on this latter helped by reducing the driver/gearbox signalling time. The gearchange slide buzzed from time to time.

At maximum speed there was a heavy heterodyned vibration and at lower speed, about 80 mph, there was shake with some torsional oscillation of the steering wheel. No balance weights appear to have been shed, but by 13408 odometer the left wheel trims had rotated (D.O.R.) hard enough against the valves to angle them from normal. These were reset with a reverse bias but was soon fouling hard again. The right rear joined the defaulters at 14947 odometer but the right front did not capitulate until 15819 miles. The rims, once moving appear to require resetting more and more frequently. On the Stelvio day, only 71 miles with perhaps only 5 miles of Umbrail rough was sufficient to move the front left and right rear trims against the valves and the left rear also, but not against the valve.

It was observed that the wheel trims fitted into the wheels so deeply that it was difficult to engage the prising end of a wheel brace.

The unsteadied rear view mirror vibrated. Indicator flashing rate was illegally high (aprox. 150 cpm). The interior light switch failed at 15780 odometer. The boot lid plastic dome was found to have melted at 158190 odometer and shortly afterwards the lamp failed to light.

On the rough sections to Titograd the (almost full) fuel gauge needle was vibrating severely as also was the tachometer needle. These vibrations looked destructive and expensive but both units continue to function.

The tachometer was frequently erratic around 2000 rpm.

When the engine oil was drained it was found that only 1 US gallon (6.7 Imp. pt) was necessary to reach the level mark. The following day (200 miles later) the dip stick showed that more oil was needed, but an extra quarter US gallon (2.1 Imp. pt) to make 8.8 Imp. pt (9 Imp. pt called for in Owners Maintenance Manual p.52) gave an overfull indication.

Apart from the oil change, no oil was required. This is pointed out only because the dip stick warns against overfilling.

The engine required choke to start from 'cold' and the choke could not be dispensed with completely, immediately after starting or even after the warning light showed.

On a few occasions after having run 100 or more miles the engine stopped when the vehicle stopped, not after high decel stops. Sometimes a knock was observed from the engine at about 2000 rpm.

Pinking was occasionally observed, probably due to variations in the quality of the Super petrol used.

On one occasion 6 gallons of Regular had to be used rather than risk running out. Light throttles were then used and the earliest top up with Super made. The tank was then run as low as possible to get a fullest fresh fill with the minimum residual contaminant.

Within 3 miles of leaving Santa Maria on a rising piece of road the engine appeared to lose torque for a few seconds, recover, fade, recover, fade and finally recover. Nothing was done to the engine and the phenomenon never reappeared.

Dust entered the boot to a great extent and hoteliers sometimes looked a bit sideways at the state of the luggage.

Dust entered the interior of the car, not through the open front windows but past the seals. The loss of pressurisation is due to open windows undoubtedly reduces the effectiveness of the seals. The driver's door was found to have dropped by 136170 odometer. Since the wiper blades were not performing too well at 14790 odometer they were exchanged for the spares carried in the car. However, one replacement was found to leave an unwiped area of some 15 in.2 in the centre of its sweep, it was discarded in favour of the old one.

The defective blade appeared to have a slight kink partway along its length. About 14396 odometer the clock, which had been losing about 10 minutes per day, was losing two minutes per day. Later in the trip it was gaining several minutes per day.

On the Belgian motorway on return journey 115 mph was sustained for about 10 minutes the engine oil temperature reached 235°F with a coolant temperature of 85°C.

The brakes with Ferodo 2430 were light-application-squeaky throughout and on occasion were very scroopy1. Soon after reaching the German Autobahn I, as passenger, observed the onset of the judder phenomenon which heretofore has afflicted mainly the Chekko SCK 173 installations and within a half an hour full violent judder was produced in 110 to 40 mph (say .4g) pull down. Surprisingly this never recurred at this severity or as frequently as might have been expected. Examination of the discs showed no blue spotting. The brakes although requiring less effort due to the change from 1" to 7/8" master cylinder still tended to attract the 'heavy effort' complaint for light check braking due to change the lower friction linings.

Squeal occurred on isolated occasions in Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy (Stelvio) but was never as worthy of note is on the North Circular Road on the return journey. The brake pedal rubber just 'fell off' on return to Solihull.

The discs and pads will be examined and pad wear assessed.

The attached sheet gives the daily and cumulative data.

The fuel and oil costs/mile was 2.78 pence [1.15p].

Overall, the car was comfortable and quiet (except for the high-speed noise) and might be described as a 'quiet 2000 TC automatic with 2000 TC manual performance'.


J. Shaw

Brake Project Engineer

1 Scroopy - Scots dialect: The sound of new boots when walking into kirk (church).

Odometer Daily miles Cum. miles Day Daily running time Cum. running time Daily average speed Cum. average speed Notes
11254       h:m h:m     Out
11285 31 31           Initial
11448 163 194 Mo. 11th 3:15 3:15     to Southend
11844 396 590 Tu.   12th 6:45 10:00 59 55.9 to Würzburg, Germany
12260 416 1006 We. 13th 8:09 18:09 50 57 to Krumpendorf, Austria
12648 388 1394 Th. 14th 8:00 26:09 47.5 52 To Belgrade, Yugoslavia
13074 46 1820 Fr. 15th 7:28 33:37 57.5 53 To Salonika, Greece
13408 334 2154 Sa. 16th 6:54 40:31 48.5 52.7 To Glyfada, Greece
13417 9 2163 Su. 17th 0:20 40:51 27 52.5 Rest day
13617 200 2363 Mo. 18th 5:37 46:28 35.5 50.5 Circuit circa Athens
14003 386 2749 Tu. 19th 9:00 55:28 43 49.5 To Ionina
14396 393 3142 We. 20th 9:00 64:28 43.5 48.5 to Skopje, Yugoslavia
14673 277 3419 Th. 21st 8:20 72:48 33.5 46.5 to Titograd, Yugoslavia
14947 274 3693 Fr. 22nd 7:10 79:58 38.5 45.8 to Split, Yugoslavia
15102 155 3848 Sa. 23rd 5:05 85:03 31 45 Circuit circa Split, Yugoslavia
15476 374 4222 Su. 24th 8:45 93:48 43 44.5 to Krumpendorf, Austria
15819 343 4565 Mo. 25th 9:15 103:03 37.5 44 to Santa Maria, Switzerland
15890 71 4636 Tu. 26th 2:36 105:39 27.4 43.5 Garage check. Stelvio View
16298 408 5044 We. 27th 8:50 114:29 46 44 To Limburg/Lahn,  Germany
16759 461 5505 Th. 28th 7:48 122:17 59.2 44.8 To Ostend to Solihull
16770 11 5516 Fr. 29th         Concluding.