The Rover V8 engine has led an interesting life. The compact aluminium block started life as a Buick engine under General Motors in 1961, weighing just 144kg and delivering up to 200hp at its most powerful, though it was withdrawn just three years later in favour of cheaper alternatives.
Initially shared with American automakers Oldsmobile and Pontiac, the engine, which had a reputation for being reliable and easy to work on, was shipped across the Atlantic in the mid-1960s. According to an Autocar article from November 1976, Rover managing director Bill Martin-Hurst stumbled across this compact V8 lying on the floor of a Wisconsin Mercury Marine shop. Realising that here was a potential solution to the heavy 3.0L six cylinder engine being used in the prototype Rover 2000, which was proving quite heavy in the nose, he began the long process of taking the V8 home.
A license was secured from GM International and (after quite a bit of work) Rover began producing the engine in the UK, which would power a generation of Rover/British Leyland vehicles, and was used by Rover until 2006. It has also found use in sports and kit cars through the years, including the Formula One-winning Brabhams car (in Repco form) in 1966 and 1967.
The story behind this transatlantic V8 is charted in an interesting new book by James Taylor, Rover V8 – the Story of the Engine. The book covers the engine’s origins in the US through to its development by Rover, power and torque comparison figures, and an up-to-date history of Rover V8 engine production.
If you’re got a birthday coming up for a petrolhead, you’re sorted.