Rover V8 engine

Rover V8 engine

Infobox Automobile engine
name=Rover V8

aka=Buick 215 V8
manufacturer=General Motors
Land Rover
predecessor=BMC C-Series engine
successor=Jaguar AJ-V8
related=Buick 215 V8
:The Rover V8 engine is a compact V8 internal combustion engine with aluminium cylinder heads and cylinder block, originally designed by General Motors and later re-designed and produced by Rover in the United Kingdom.


The Rover V8 began life as the Buick 215, an all-aluminium engine introduced for the 1961 model year. The compact engine was lightweight, at just 144 kg (318 lb), and capable of high power outputs: the most powerful Buick version of this engine rated 200 hp (149 kW), and the very similar Oldsmobile "Jetfire" turbocharged version made 215 hp (160 kW) (both numbers SAE gross). Based on sales volume and press reports, the engine was a success. Buick produced 376,799 cars with this engine in just three years. A comparable number of Oldsmobile 215 engines were produced. The aluminium engine was relatively expensive to produce, however, and it suffered problems with oil and coolant sealing, as well as with radiator clogging from use of antifreeze incompatible with aluminium. As a result, GM ceased production of the all-aluminium engine after 1963, although Buick retained a similar iron engine [1964-1980] , as well as a V6 derivative [1962-2008] prove to have a very long and successful life.

In January 1964 Rover gave American operations head J. Bruce McWilliams permission to investigate the possible purchase of an American V8 engine for Rover cars. It is usually said that McWilliams first saw the Buick V8 at the works of Mercury Marine, where he was discussing the sale of Rover gas turbines and diesel engines to the company (Mercury did indeed use the Land Rover diesel engine in marinised form). However, it seems unlikely that McWilliams was unaware of the Buick engine before this. In any case, McWilliams realised that the lightweight Buick V8 would be ideal for smaller British cars (indeed, it weighed less than many straight-4 engines it would replace. Stock engines in a lighter car can give better fuel economy of approximately 30-35MPG). McWilliams and William Martin-Hurst began an aggressive campaign to convince GM to sell the tooling, which they finally agreed to do in January 1965. Retiring Buick engineer Joe Turley moved to the UK to act as a consultant.

As well as appearing in Rover cars, the engine was widely sold by Rover to small car builders, and has appeared in a wide variety of vehicles. Rover V8s feature in some models from Morgan, TVR, Triumph, Land Rover and MG, among many others.

The Rover V8 has long been virtually the standard engine for hot rod use in Britain, much as the Chevrolet small-block V8 is for American builders. Even in the US there is a strong contingent of builders who select the Buick or Rover aluminium V8 engine for use in small sporty cars like the MG MGB and the Chevy Vega. (Note also that the 1964 Buick iron-block 300cid engine had aluminium cylinder heads and a longer stroke crankshaft which with minor modifications can be used with the Buick 215 or Rover engine blocks to produce a high output, very light weight V8 with displacement of up to about 300cid.)

The demise of the MG Rover Group in 2005 led to a halt in production of the famed "name" Rover V8 after 40 years. The last Rover to have a real Rover V8 was the Rover SD1 Vitesse which was replaced by the Rover 827 Vitesse with a 2.7 Honda V6 unit, The Rover V8 remained with Land Rover until being sold to Ford by BMW. However, Land Rover desired for production of the engine to continue, and they arranged for production to restart in Weston-super-Mare under MCT, an engineering and manufacturing company. Although Land Rover has switched to the Jaguar AJ-V8 engine for new applications, MCT will continue limited production of the engine for the indeterminate future, supplying engines for aftermarket and replacement use. [cite web|url=|title=The Rover V8 Will Burble Again: Famous torquey powerplant rumbles on||accessmonthday=February 23 |accessyear=2006]


As the aluminium block made this engine one of the lightest stock V8s built, it was an obvious choice for use in racing. Mickey Thompson entered a car powered by this engine in the 1962 Indianapolis 500. From 1946 to 1962 there hadn't been a single stock-block car entered in this famous race. In 1962 the Buick 215 was the only non-Offenhauser powered entry in the field of 33 cars. Rookie driver Dan Gurney qualified eighth and raced well for 92 laps before retiring with transmission problems.

The Australian firm Repco converted this engine for Formula One by reducing it to 3 L and fitting a single overhead camshaft per bank rather than the shared pushrod arrangement. Repco-powered Brabhams won the F1 championship twice, in 1966 and 1967.cite book | title = How to Power Tune Rover V8 Engines for Road and Track | last = Hammill | first = Des | isbn = 1-903-706-173 | year = 2004 | publisher = Veloce Publishing | page = p. 11] For the 1968 season, the Repco engine was fitted with new four-valve, dual overhead camshaft heads. This made the engine roughly as powerful as the Cosworth DFV, but proved to be too much for the stock block, which broke on many occasions. Repco also experimented with 4.2 L derivatives of the Rover V8, to some success despite problems with massive vibration. [Hammill, p. 13.]

The Rover version of this engine was extensively developed and used for rally racing, especially in Triumph TR8 sports cars.

3.5 L

The initial Rover version of the engine had a displacement of 3528 cc. It used a sand-cast (rather than pressure die-cast) block, pressed-in iron cylinder liners, and a new intake manifold with two SU carburetors. The Rover engine was heavier but stronger than the Buick engine, with a dry weight of about 170 kg (375 lb). It was first offered in the 1965 Rover P5B saloon, initially making 160 hp (DIN) (118 kW) @ 5200 rpm and 210 ft·lbf (285 N·m) of torque @ 2600 rpm on 10.5:1 compression.

* 1967-1973 Rover P5
* 1968-2003 Morgan Plus 8
* 1968-1976 Rover P6
* 1970-1989 Land Rover Range Rover
* 1973-1976 MGB GT V8
* 1975-1978 Land Rover 101 Forward Control military vehicle
* 1979-1981/2 Triumph TR8
* 1978-1985 Land Rover Series III "Stage One"
* 1976-1987 Rover SD1
* 1976-1990 Argyll
* 1980-1990 TVR 350i
* 1989-2004 Land Rover Discovery
* 1983-1994 Land Rover 90/110/Defender
* 1986-1991 Sisu NA-140 BT all-terrain transport vehicle

Project Iceberg

In the late 1970s, British Leyland became aware of the increasing importance of diesel engined cars to the British and European markets in the wake of the 1979 energy crisis. It was decided that a new series of diesel engines powerful, refined and economical enough for use in BL cars was needed. However, with development funding tight, it was necessary to use existing BL petrol engines as a base. This included a diesel version of the 3.5-litre V8, the development project for which was code-named 'Iceberg'. BL collaborated with Perkins Engines of Peterborough to develop a turbocharged unit using a Stanadyne rotary mechanical fuel injection system. Power outputs of around 100-130 horsepower were achieved. The Iceberg engine was slated for fitment in the Range Rover and the Rover SD1, but the project encountered problems with failure of the alloy cylinder heads and internal cooling. They were limited by the need to use the same basic block casting as the petrol engine to allow the Iceberg engine to be produced on the same production line to reduce costs. BL finally pulled out of the project in 1983. Perkins initially decided to pursue the project alone, and even produced advertising brochures for the engine as an industrial power unit, but BL withdrew all technical support and Project Iceberg was wrapped up in late 1983. BL's other collaboration with Perkins (producing a diesel version of the O-Series engine) produced the highly successful 'Prima' unit. BL (and its Rover Group successor) bought in 2.5-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel units from VM Motori to use in the SD1 and Range Rover.


Land Rover used a 3.9 L (3946 cc) version of the Rover V8 through the 1990s. Revised in 1995 (and thereafter referred to as a 4.0 to differentiate it from the earlier version, although displacement remained the same at 3946cc) with a new intake and exhaust system, extra block ribbing, revised pistons, and larger cross-bolted main-bearings. The 1995 4.0 produced 190 hp (142 kW) and 236 ft·lbf (320 N·m).

Production of the 4.0 ended in 2001. The final version of the engine, used in the Land Rover Discovery, produced 188 hp (140 kW) at 4750 rpm and 250 ft·lbf (339 N·m) at 2600 rpm.

* 1992-1996 MG RV8
* 1986-1993 TVR S Series
* 1989-1995 Land Rover Range Rover (known as a 3.9 in this application)
* 1992-2001 TVR Chimaera
* 1992-2000 TVR Griffith
* 1995-2002 Land Rover Range Rover in SE trim
* 1994-1998 Land Rover Defender (only used as standard on USA-spec vehicles- available only to special order in other markets.)
* 1986-1991 Sisu NA-140 BT all-terrain transport vehicle


Land Rover extended the 3946 cc engine for the top LSE [Or "County LWB" in the United States.] specification of the Classic Range Rover. The 4.2 L engine had a displacement of 4197 cc, and used the crankshaft castings from the failed "Iceberg" diesel engine project. [Hammill, p. 12.]

* 1992-1995 Land Rover Range Rover


For the Griffith and Chimaera, TVR Power, a Coventry-based subsidiary of sportscar maker TVR, built a Rover V8-version with a 4280 cc displacement using the 77 mm stroke crankshaft as per the Land Rover 4.2 engine, but with a 94 mm bore size. The so-called 'pre-cat' versions of the Griffith predominantly used this engine, although a 4.0 litre version was also available. The Chimaera was introduced with choice of 4.0 and 4.3 litre engines. A small number of 'Big Valve' versions, sporting modified cylinder heads with 43 mm intake and 37 mm exhaust valves and a more radical camshaft profile, found their way to early Griffiths and Chimaeras.

Around 1993, a number of Westfield SEight models were equipped with a John Eales-built 4.3 litre engine.

* 1992-1993 TVR Griffith
* 1993-1994 TVR Chimaera
* 1993 Westfield SEight


Leyland of Australia produced a special 4.4 L (4416 cc) version of the aluminium V8 for their Australia-only 1973 Leyland P76.The bore was 88.9mm and the stroke was 88.9mm made it a square engine.The block deck height was extended and longer conrods were fitted 158.75mm between centres. This rare engine produced 200 hp (149 kW) and 280 ft·lbf (380 N·m) and although export (to the UK) versions were planned, the failure of British Leyland's Australian operations in 1975 precluded the widespread application of this engine.

* 1973-1975 Leyland P76
* Leyland Terrier truck


Not to be confused with the later 4.6 litre engine which TVR badged as a '4.5' for the Chimaera, there also existed a version with an 80 mm crank and 94 mm bore giving 4444 cc capacity, which was used by TVR in the low-volume special 450 SEAC, the race version thereof and the subsequent Tuscan Challenge racers. A tiny number of Griffith and Chimaera road cars were built with a version of this engine, known as the '450 BV' (Big Valve).


In 1996, Land Rover enlarged the Rover V8 to 4.6 L (4552 cc or 281 in³). The bore remained the same size as the previous 4.0, but the engine was stroked by 10.9 mm giving 82 mm in total. Output was 225 hp (168 kW) and 280 ft·lbf (380 N·m).

Production of the 4.6 ended at Solihull, UK, in 2002. The final version, used in the Range Rover, produced 222 hp (166 kW) at 4750 rpm and 300 ft·lbf (407 N·m) at 2600 rpm.

The last mass-produced application of the Rover V8 was the Land Rover Discovery, up until the vehicle was redesigned in 2005. It is still used by some hand-built sports cars built by some independent manufacturers.

* 1995-2002 Land Rover Range Rover in the HSE trim
* 2003-2004 Land Rover Discovery
* 1996-2002 TVR Chimaera


A 5 litre variant of the Rover V8 was used in two models by British sportscar manufacturer TVR. These models, the TVR Griffith and TVR Chimaera used the 5 litre unit in their top-end specifications. The factory quotes up to Auto bhp|340|0 and Auto ft.lbf|350|0 of torque.

* 1992-2001 TVR Chimaera
* 1992-2000 TVR Griffith
* 2002-2006 Bowler Wildcat- this used a hybrid 5.0-litre V8 with Land Rover cylinder heads and a TVR block and piston assembly.


* [ Rover V8 history on Austin-Rover site]

* Heath, Steve: (2002) The TVR Griffith And Chimaera, 2nd edition; Steve Heath Publications, ISBN 0 9530335 0 4

External links

*commonscat-inline|Rover V8 engine
* [ The Rover V8 American Connection] Rover V8 World
* [ The Rover V8 ] The Unofficial Austin-Rover Web Resource
* [ Jetfire History] Olds FAQ
* [ The British V8 Newsletter (this website features a large searchable archive of Rover V8 related articles)]
* [ TVR Griffith Owners Register, History, Mods and Maintenance, V8 ECU /Engine Upgrades]

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