1906 Rover

A guide to 6HP Rover cars


Six sixes in 06

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

An account of a gathering of 6hp Rover cars in what was for some of them, their centenary year

Six sixes

A gathering of 6hp Rovers was held at the beginning of July in Elmbridge, Worcestershire, organised by Robin Wilson.  We first met Robin in 1999, when we took our Rover to the VSCC New Year meet at the Verzon Arms near Ledbury.  He introduced himself and told us that he had a 1906 6hp, but it was a non-runner due to a cracked cylinder block.  It turned out he lived close to my wife’s parents so we have visited him on a number of occasions since then.  Eventually he started to make a determined effort to get his car on the road for its centenary year.  He needed a new cylinder block, and I was able to lend him a scrap one to get patterns for casting a new block.  This proved to be a very slow process but he was fairly confident that the car would be running this year, and came up with the idea of getting at least six of these cars together in 2006, even if they were not all runners

I let him have all the names and addresses of owners I knew and, using a rather out of date list from the Rover Sports Register and information from the VCC Handbook, he began his search.  Over the next few weeks, like a bloodhound on the scent, he updated the lists tracing changes of ownership both here and abroad.  He tracked down some long-forgotten cars, one of these has not been run in at least fifty years.  It looked as though there were a dozen ‘possibles’ for the proposed event, and a date was decided upon.  In the mean time Robin was not having any luck with his cylinder block, there were various delays and then the first run of castings had problems of porosity in the metal.  However, he continued arrangements for the gathering as enough people had indicated definite interest.  In June Robin got his car ‘on the road’ in spite of the cracked cylinder and hoped to be able to drive it on the event.

Finally it looked as if there would be seven cars at the weekend plus an eighth just on the Sunday.  There were though, inevitably, some last minute problems.  Chris Bratcher had bought a 6hp from America, which should have arrived months ago.  He hoped it would be arriving a few days before the event, but no such luck.  Being without a car he only came along on the Sunday, to meet and chat to everyone. (He told me that, before being shipped to America, his car had been restored many years ago somewhere near me.  A little while ago I was given some parts left over from a restoration done some years ago, It will be interesting to see if these parts match the car.)  Robin’s cracked block became much worse, so his car was not useable.  David Lyne had to pull out at the last minute, due to illness in the family, but, hearing of Robin’s plight, generously offered him the use of his car, even though he had only driven it a short distance himself since buying it.  Robin made a 50-mile dash to collect the car.

We travelled down early on the Friday so that we could help get things set up for the next day.  We were accompanied by our daughter, Nicky, and her friend, Russell, who had been volunteered to be the photographers for the weekend.  We all got busy that afternoon setting up displays in the village hall, and arranging the tables for the dinner on Saturday evening. Robin had a set of engineering drawings from 1907.  It was very interesting to see from these that Rover had made the same modifications that I had found it necessary to make during the restoration of my car, but made me wonder why Rover had not done a complete redesign since they were not constrained, as I had been, by the need to preserve parts weakened or damaged over time. Robin and I had each gathered together some ‘Odd Old Objects’ and devised quizzes about them; a collection of interesting objects (fossils, coins etc.) found in our garden and fields was also put on display in the hall plus awards I have won for some bits of engineering and design..  In addition, I had taken along a collection of specialized tools that I have made for working on the 6hp, patterns I had used for casting some parts that were beyond repair and a some 6hp parts that showed a little of the evolution of the model over the years.  These items were arranged in Robin’s large garage/workshop, a converted piggery.

Driving test in costume

Saturday was to start with driving tests in Robin’s field, and six 6hp cars gathered there, joined by a couple of more modern Rovers. The weather was fine, rather too warm in fact, and we were all very grateful for the plentiful and varied supply of drinks that were on hand.  Robin had suggested that Edwardian costumes would be good, and some participants did make the effort, but they must have been extremely hot in their outfits.  The test included a timed slalom course and an accuracy test, which included driving keeping one wheel on a narrow board, judging your car’s width and judging your car’s turning circle.  I set out the cones for the slalom and then watched proceedings from a distance.  It was very amusing.  Firstly, each owner had a different method for starting his car.  Jim Robinson’s car gave several loud peeps on being turned over, rather like a curlew, he made some adjustments then put the starting handle at the top and kick-started the car.  Others twiddled levers, flooded carburettors and cranked with looks of increasing desperation (putting me in mind of bomb disposal experts faced with a bomb that has just started ticking).  Even Robin’s car, with its badly cracked block started after he filled the water jacket with expanding foam to give it some compression!  Well, it ran for a short distance, perhaps a first in motoring history.  I had set the distance between the cones by eye, so they looked reasonable to me.  It turned out that these cars, which should have been almost the same, had widely differing steering locks.  My car turned out to have the sharpest turning circle, Robin Morrison’s car is on smaller wheels but could not turn as sharply, perhaps there are fewer teeth on the steering rack: David Fletcher’s car has good steering lock, but the dumb-irons had been bent to overcome sagging springs and over-size tyres meant that the tyres rubbed on the mudguards restricting full lock.  Jim Robinson achieved a time of 15 seconds on the outward leg of the slalom and 45 minutes on the return, giving us a timed strip, clean and rebuild of a carburettor, followed by ‘peep, peep’, kick, pop, pop, pop …  Robin Morrison managed an unbelievably accurate estimate of his turning circle; I am not disclosing my discrepancy, even if it was only by a small number (in feet).  Nicky was persuaded to try the driving test and did a flying start for the slalom, no doubt a technique learned while canoe racing (highly frowned upon if caught).

Driving through Shell Ford

Following an excellent picnic lunch, laid on by Robin’s wife, Cheryl, we set off for a short run along the lanes of Worcestershire.  David Fletcher was first to leave, as his car lacks power but gets there eventually the rest of us followed at random intervals.  I decided to leave last as I thought I would probably catch up with most of the others before too long.  Nicky and Russell had set off with their cameras to catch the action as the cars splashed through Shell ford, near Droitwich. We had driven through this ford only three weeks earlier, when we had been staying with Elaine’s parents before going on to the Hereford event.  It had been shallow then and the weather had been pretty dry so I approached the ford enthusiastically, intent on making an impressive splash for the cameras, but as I came out the other side I hit a bump in the road; there was a sound like a rifle crack, and we pulled in to the small car park to discover that the left front top leaf spring had snapped.  Fortunately the axle had not slid back, which would have allowed the tyre to catch the mudguard, but, for the first time on any run, I had to be trailered back.  I had intended to replace the front top leaves this autumn, as I thought they were getting to the end of their useful lives.  The rest of the cars continued their journey, visiting the Jinney Ring Craft Centre before returning to have tea and cake, again supplied by Cheryl, to chat and try to identify those odd old objects in the quizzes.  Nicky and Russell worked on their laptops to produce a slideshow of the best photos they had taken.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the sweltering heat inside Robin’s workshop.  Robin suggested I used a spring off his car to be road-worthy for Sunday, but his springs were a slightly later design; he had an extra leaf and the rivet hole, where mine had snapped, was about four inches nearer the end (which would reduce the stress at that point).  A spring cannot be repaired simply by electric welding it together, so in the end I decided to ‘repair’ my spring by welding a plate on the top to strengthen the but-weld.  This was good enough to allow me to drive carefully for a short distance and to transport the car home without fear of the axle moving, but my daughter’s comment was that the welding wasn’t up to my usual standard!  Just at the end of the run David Lyne’s car developed a nasty noise in the back axle, which put it out of action for the rest of the weekend.  (On later investigation this proved relatively easy to remedy, my initial diagnosis by ear had been correct, the problem being a lack of shims, thrust bearings and careful thought prior to reassembly.  This sort of workmanship is all too common in ‘restorations’; I am still living with irreversible ‘nasties’ done to my car before I bought it, so I am only too pleased to give people advice before they do irreversible damage.)  I finished my repair just in time to get cleaned up and changed ready for dinner.

We gathered in the Elmbridge village hall for the meal, together with several guests including Rob Oldaker (former Engineering Director of Rover), Mike Maher (RSR Chairman) and Ian Elliott (RSR Editor).  There was time before dinner to have another go at those mystifying objects and to watch the slideshow. RSR membership forms and magazines were being handed out too!  We enjoyed a delicious meal and this was followed by a talk by Rod Oldaker about the efforts to develop new Rover models and to find new partner to give Rover a future.  The results of the quizzes surprised me, Jim and Sue Robinson won mine with 3 out of 20, Elaine and I won the other with 12 out of 20, nobody else admitting their score, oh dear! I used the same items in a quiz for the Bungay Car Club once before.  The top score was 15, evidently flintlock pistols and nasty-looking instruments used in animal husbandry have been in use more recently in Norfolk!  It had been an exhausting but enjoyable day.

A 'friendly alien' joins in

Sunday was another scorching hot day.  Chris Bratcher joined us for the day, still with no idea when his car would finally be delivered.  The run started a bit late, so it was late morning before we all reached the coffee stop.  Martyn Hudson and his family joined us there, having encountered delays on the motorway.  His car was looking very smart with new upholstery and freshly painted wings, he told me that the newness had worn off after doing the 1000 mile trial.  We were also joined by a ‘friendly alien’, Ian Kerr’s Oldsmobile  The plan was to go to Longbridge Q gate for a group photo between the coffee and lunch stops, so three cars, mine Robin’s and David’s had been trailered.  After some discussion it was decide to change plans and have lunch at the coffee stop before going on to Q gate.  I decided that my spring repair would cope with the short drive to Q gate so I got it off the truck and took Chris Bratcher for his first drive in a 6hp.  In the end we had seven 6’s lined up for the photo.  Ian Elliot, the RSR ‘Freewheel’ editor, commented in the magazine that ‘Seven times six is 42 – the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything?’

Lined up at Q Gate, Longbridge

Only two cars continued on the afternoon route, the Robinsons’ and the Morrisons’, but it had been a good weekend.  It had been great to get so many of the same model together. Perhaps another year we will be able to have an even larger gathering, I am certainly hopeful that we will see more 6’s appearing on VCC runs in the future.

One Response to “Six sixes in 06”

  1. Robin Wilson says:

    David & family

    What a great account of this event !
    I sincerely hope you (all) can join us in June for this years event.

    Robin W

Leave a Reply

Leave a reply