Rover Company, United Kingdom

Rover Company, United Kingdom

Rover Company, U.K.


John Kemp Starley & William Sutton

Longbridge, West Midlands


Rover is a British Vehicle manufacturing company Ltd established since 1878 by John Kemp Starley and William Sutton. It is the direct forefather of the present day Land Rover marque, which is now a brand of Jaguar Land Rover, in turn owned by the Tata Group. The company traded as Rover, manufacturing cars between 1904 and 1967, when it was sold to Leyland Motor Corporation, becoming the Rover marque. After developing the template for the modern bicycle with its Rover Safety Bicycle of 1885, the company moved into the automotive industry. It started building motorcycles and Rover cars, using their established marque with the iconic Viking Longship, from 1904 onwards. Land Rover vehicles were added from 1948 onwards, with all production moving to the Solihull plant after World War II.



Before cars

The first Rover was a tricycle produced by Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry, England, in 1883. The company was created by John Kemp Starley and William Sutton in 1878. In the early 1880s, the cycles available were the comparatively dangerous penny-farthings and high-wheel tricycles. J.K. Starley made history in 1885 by producing the Rover Safety Bicycle-a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, making it more stable than the previous high-wheel designs.


Rover motorcycles

In 1899 John Starley imported some of the early Peugeot motorcycles from France in for experimental establishment. His first project was to fit an engine to one of his Rover bicycles. Starley died early in October 1901 aged 46 and the business was taken over by entrepreneur H. J. Lawson. In November 1902, the company created and produced the Rover Imperial motorcycle. This was a 3.5 hp diamond-framed motorcycle with the engine in the centre and 'springer' front forks which was ahead of its time. In 1913 a 'TT' model was launched with a shorter wheelbase and sports handlebars. The 'works team' of Dudley Noble and Chris Newsome had some success and won the works team award.


Early Rover cars

The Starley build an electric car in 1888, but it never was put into production. Three years after Starley's death in 1901, and H. J. Lawson's following takeover, the Rover Company starts producing automobiles with the two-seater Rover Eight to the designs of Edmund Lewis, who came from Lawson's Daimler. Lewis left the company to join Deasy in late 1905.


Experimental cars

In spite of the difficulties experienced with the jet engine project, Rover was interested in the establishment of the gas turbine engine to power vehicles. In 1945, Rover hired engineers Frank Bell and Spen King away from Rolls-Royce to assist Maurice Wilks in the development of automotive gas turbines. By 1949, the team developed a turbine that ran at 55,000 rpm, generated more than 100 hp (75 kW), and could run on petrol, paraffin, or diesel oil. The Rover showed the JET1 model, the first car power-driven with a gas turbine engine in March 1950, to the public. JET1, an open two-seat tourer, had the engine positioned behind the seats, air intake grilles on either side of the car. JET1 was further established, and was subjected to speed trials on the Jabbeke highway in Belgium in June 1952, where it exceeded 150 miles per hour (240 km/h). JET1 at this time was on display at the London Science Museum. Four further prototypes were created, the P4-based front-engined T2 and rear-engined T2A saloons, the rear-engined four-wheel-drive T3 coupe and the front-engined front-wheel drive T4 saloon.


Golden years

The 1950s and '60s were profitable years for the company, the useful Land Rover was in fact the company's main seller throughout the 1950s, '60s, and '70s), as well as the P5 and P6 saloons outfitted with a 3.5L (215ci) aluminum V8 (the design and tooling of which was bought from Buick) and new research into gas turbine-fueled vehicles. Rover continued to establish its '100-inch Station Wagon', which became the ground-breaking Range Rover, appeared in 1970. This also used the ex-Buick V8 engine as well as the P6's innovative safety-frame body structure design and features such as permanent 4-wheel drive and all-round disc brakes.


Current Status

Lawfully the Rover marque is the assets of Land Rover in the terms of Ford's purchase of the name in 2006. The company is now known as Jaguar Land Rover Limited, Land Rover having been sold by Ford to Tata Motors in 2008. As part of the deal with Tata the Rover marque had to remain as property of Land Rover.




  • Rover 8 (1904 to 1912)
  • Rover 20 (1906 to 1910)
  • Rover 12 sleeve-valve (1910 to 1912)
  • Rover Meteor 16HP/20HP (1932 to 1934)
  • Rover 12 (1934 to 1947)
  • Rover P6 (2000/2200/3500) (1963 to 1976)
  • Rover 200-Series (SD3) (1984 to 1989)
  • Rover 800-series & Sterling (1986 to 1998)
  • Rover 200/400-Series (R8) (1989 to 1995)
  • Land Rover Freelander (1998 to 2004)
  • Rover Streetwise (2003 to 2005)


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