Of the 2,776 Rover 14/45 models built in 1925, only one exists in North America today.
According to Walnut Creek resident Ken Gundry, his grandfather, a retired British Army officer, was the original owner. It has been in the family ever since.
While Rover cars are not exactly a household word, Land Rover is. The company's history dates to 1877, when John Kemp Starley and William Sutton built strange looking adult tricycles. Later, the company made bicycles, motorcycles, and then cars. The first Land Rover was built in 1948. The company has had numerous owners, including British Leyland, BMW, Ford, and currently, Tata Motors, an Indian manufacturer.
The 1925 Rover 14/45 was a heavy, luxury touring car with a fold-down top and side curtains. It was powered by a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine and a four-speed transmission, the combination requiring 5 gallons (not quarts) of oil. It was the second year of a new model introduced the previous year by The Rover Motor Company (RMC).
Gundry said the model designation, 14/45, actually has a meaning unlike model designations in today's cars. "The 14 represented an outdated government formula determining the horsepower as well as the annual registration fee of 14 British pounds. The 45 number was the actual horsepower as determined by RMC." Therefore, we all should know the license fee and true horsepower of the successor model, 16/50.
"My grandfather had inherited a large house with quite a bit of land in rural England," Gundry said. "Come the Second World War, because of the lack of fuel for private use, the Rover was put on wooden blocks in a building that had once been stables."
It stayed on blocks until about 1950, when Gundry's father inherited the vehicle and decided to put it back on the road.
"During the 1950s, the family used the Rover for camping trips in the summer," he said.
By 1960, the family had grown tired of the camping vacations, so the Rover went back up on the wooden blocks. When Gundry's father died in 1994, Gundry and his sister inherited the Rover, but neither one was interested in being a car collector. By that time, Gundry was living in San Francisco, and his sister was living in Wales. A cousin assumed custody of the vehicle and did a huge amount of work on the car.
"He rebuilt the engine, repainted the body in the original factory colors of dark green fenders and running boards with a lighter green body. A new soft top was installed. About 2001, my cousin wanted to move to France and not take the Rover with him.
"My sister and I decided that we can't let it leave the family."
Gundry became the designated keeper.
"It arrived in San Francisco in 2002, and, surprisingly, the car started upon being unloaded."
Gundry had to learn to drive the Rover. Of course, it is right-hand drive, and, somewhat surprisingly, the four-speed gearbox is on the right side of the driver instead of in the center.
"I'm extremely inexpert with the gearbox," he said.
"One cool thing is, the Rover has two horns. The country horn is a traditional horn with the button in the center of the steering wheel. The town horn is like a king-size bicycle horn. The driver squeezes a huge rubber bulb to make it honk," he said.
There are no mechanics experienced with old Rovers, so Gundry has done some of the mechanical work himself. He specified, ordered and installed exhaust valves and has rewired the entire car.
"There are no fuses with this car," he told me. "So if the wiring insulation had rotted completely, there would have been a fire."
Gundry offered me a ride (well, I begged him really). The seats are soft and comfortable. The car started right up, and we drove through the Walnut Creek hills. As we were descending a hill, he informed me: "I had to have the brake linings renewed. The brakes are now just poor. They were very poor."
Shifting is a bit challenging, but the owner did pretty well. The top folded down much more easily than I would have expected. The weight of the car and the 600x22-inch tires make steering a task, especially when standing or in slow driving.
Unusual for the day, the Rover has four-wheel mechanical brakes that use rods instead of cables. Apparently, they were so superior to vehicles with two-wheel brakes that the Rover has a red safety triangle surrounding the rear tail light with a printed warning that the Rover has "FOUR-WHEEL BRAKES." The cautionary is for following vehicles to be extra careful as the Rover could stop more quickly.
One minor detail: By the time one was close enough to read the lettering, a collision would have occurred.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com