Rover P4 105S

14th April 2000 at 01:00
What does you car say about you? Dr Peter Marsh, co-director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford and author of Driving Passions - the psychology of the car, analyses the modes of transport found in school car parks.

"This represents all the qualities of middle England in the late Fifties and early Sixties and the solidity of the post-war bourgeoisie. It's a heavy, lumpy, genderless car.

"It is a very conservative, conventional kind of car driven by classic stiff-upper-lip kind of people. It's even got an RAC badge but it's a sign of respectability, not a sign to show that you can call for help if you break down.

"In a way Rover has continued to symbolise a rather dull kind of car and that has been one of their problems. The new Rover is a well-made car, but it doesn't make the earth move. It doesn't make you think 'phwooargh, I'll have one of those'. But the image of Rover as upper middle class and respectable has disintegrated. Jaguar, for example, has never gone down the line of producing cheaper, smaller, family saloons. They just make sports saloons or sports cars.

"Back in the days when this car was built, Rover had a very clear niche in the upper end of the car-buying public. It was for people who didn't want a flash car, just something dependable with a bit of luxury thrown in, probably reflecting their mock Tudor houses.

"It would be easy to identify the kind of person who drove it then. Although the person who drives this is a teacher they could never have affoded it then unless they were head of a private school. It was driven by accountants and bank managers.

"Whether they have restored it or not, to have gone for this kind of classic car does express some affinity with those kind of values. The person that drives this would be aware of the kind of imagery associated with it in its day - I would say they were into nostalgia.

"I would assume the owner is male - because you need a lot of muscle to turn the steering wheel - and not that young. It could be somebody in his 50s."

The car belongs to Jonathan Mann, 43, a music teacher at Tavistock college in Devon.

"I'm only its third owner from new - I bought it in 1992. I had another old Rover before this but it needed a lot of welding. I saw this advertised through the owners' club, and my wife said, 'Now that's what I call a car!' She drives a 1954 Morris Minor split screen and we've got a 1947 Rover as well. Some people call it the poor man's Rolls-Royce, but image has nothing to do with it.

"What I like about them is they are roomy - I'm 6ft 2in and I can't sit up straight in modern cars. These are solid and mendable. I drive steam engines on a railway in mid-Wales and I have got some engineering skills so old cars are something I can tackle. I like the old-fashioned values of making things myself and mending things rather than throwing them away. It's an awful shame what's happened to Rover."

Next week's Wheels is the last in the series. Many thanks for all your e-mails

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