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Your Original Federal 3500S Automatic

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

You have one of the 2043 made 433 prefix Federal 3500S' made, what does make your car original? What are the features which set it apart from the Home Market or other Export models? Well, it’s quite a list but here is the walk around.


The grille is painted matt black, with polished vertical leading edges of the vanes. The headlamp surrounds, incorporated in the grille are finished in the same matt black colour. Furthermore, the Icelert is mounted on the fourth vane counted from the top on the nearside, and acts as a low-temperature warning device with a warning light next to the dashboard.

Your car should have twin lashing eyes poking through the front valance. They are an integral part of the two centre bumper mounts, and are secured on the outrigger in the inner wheel arch. These were originally used for lashing the cars down during their Atlantic crossing, and should not be used for towing the vehicle, as you should tow a 3500S anyway according to the Owners Manual. At the back, there are two similar eyes, which are also attached to the bumper mounts. These inward angled mounts were also used for lashing during the crossing, but have often been removed. Continuing at the back, there are red trapezoidal reflectors on the side, with the widest end facing down, and a side marker unit. This side marker unit could be wired as a side indicator on Canadian cars. The same applies to the front side markers.

Other exterior features are wrap around bumpers, with extra mounts for the rear bumper through the rear wing. These bumpers, unlike Home Market and Export cars, had fixed positions for the overriders. The smaller number plate plinth at the front is mounted at an ever so slight angle, and the same rubber between the surface of the bumper and the overriders is used as protection. Originally, they had a matt black finish. The front bumper features underslung indicators, similar in design to those found on the contemporary MGs and Aston DBS. Both lenses should be Amber. However, later cars were fitted with a single piece lense. Because of these underslung indicators, it means that on the side light, the top fitting is blanked off, and the lower is used as a sidelight. Again, both lenses are Amber. The rear units, however, are standard. The reflector at the back was fitted underneath the rear unit, instead of the corners used on the contemporary standard cars. This is because of the badge positions.

The side trim and ‘S’ hubcaps are a little different as found on Home and Export market cars, as they have a deeper shine and are more polished than the standard items. These are incredibly difficult to obtain, but set the cars of nicely. The pinstripe is abt. a quarter of an inch above the side trim, and is painted in a contrasting colour to the main colour. Most often, they are an off white, on Corsica, Tobacco, Arden, Brigade and other dark coloured cars. On Davos White cars, the pinstripe is Black.

All 3500S badges were engraved, rather than printed and they have a distinctive, matt, unpolished finished.

Blacked out sills were standardized for the 3500S. Moreover, on the lower edge of the front wing there should be an aluminium plate, which acts as an optical extension of the matt black sill. These plates weren’t fitted on any other cars, as Rover just painted the lower edge of the front wing black as a cost saving measure. Rover used a paint containing poly-urethane, which guarded against stone chipping. Mudflaps were a dealer fitment.

Whether door mirrors are original is very hard to determine, as they were usually dealer fitted and therefore you can encounter all sorts of types.


Rover had the boot fully carpeted, in quite a deep pile kind. Even the panels on either side of the boot were some type of Hadura with carpet fitted to it, and they clip on using the same fasteners as standard cars. Because of the standardized boot mounted spare, there is always a bootlid support rod.


The 3500S had Ambla upholstery as a standard feature, but the steering wheel cover and the centre console, as well as the handbrake gaiter, were trimmed in leather corresponding with the ordered colour. Only a few choices were available, and they are Buckskin (a dark Beige), Sandalwood (medium dark Beige), Toledo Red and Ebony. Leather was optional, but very few owners ticked the box. The Ambla has proven to age much better, with little or no wear or creasing. The outer edge should not swirl, and the Boxpleated sections usually retain their shape well. These seats, unlike later seats, had the thick seat backs and no provision for Inertia seatbelts. If seatbelts were ordered, they were always the static Findlay-Irvine type with the Rover badge embossed in them. All faux wood trim in the car is dubbed Rosewood by Rover, and features on all contemporary P6s. Very late cars with chassis numbers above 43302000A seem to have the Mahogany faux wood trim, which was standard at the time on the contemporary S2 models introduced with the B-suffix on the Home Market.

The 3500S also has, as only the P6 model, door pockets mounted below the armrest. These doorpockets are lined with the same material as the door cars, and inside they are lined, too, albeit in a different material. They act via a spring loaded clip in the doorcard, and two pieces of iron wire tied to each other, which hold it in position, and determine the maximum opening. The armrest were later standardized for all V8 engined P6s.

On the dashboard parcel shelf, the anti-slip mat should be of a mild carpet like texture, to prevent glare on the gauges in a matching colour. On Toledo Red cars, however, this should be black. On cars with lighter interiors, it should be a mild Beige. Other non-glare features was the front ashtray lid, which should be matt black.

The dashboard itself is a five-dial unit, and it was on the 3500S that this unit debuted. The oil/amp gauge is slightly different, as the indication bar has a red/green area opposed to the fully white bar on standard cars. The finisher on the leading edge should be brushed stainless steel, instead of black, which incorporates the trip reset and the interior light dimmer. On the drivers’ side, there should be a neat Icelert indication panel with a test button, the indication light and a separate dimmer.

On the main switch rail, there should be the air-conditioning and heated rear window master switches next to each other (if ordered!). The air-conditioning has a blue indication light, and the heated rear window a red one. Next to this is the electric window master switch, which has the traditional British way of up being off, and down being on! All these switches have roundals behind them, stating their use. On the ignition switch, there should be an electromagnetic switch which activates the buzzer if the keys are still in it the ignition when the door is open. The striker for it is on the drivers’ door, and very far down. The buzzer itself, which squeals horribly, is located behind the drivers’ shin bin, on the inner A-post. Don’t confuse it with the indicator unit, which is awfully similarly shaped!

Beneath the centre stack of switches, which include the side- and headlight controls, variable speed wipers, hazard warning and interior lights, there should be either a Motorola, with ‘ROVER’ script on it, or a Radiomobile unit. Both types were used, and it is not clear whether one type succeeded the other. The Motorola unit is certainly more common on later cars. If air-conditioning was ordered, the main vent is above the radio.

Further down there are the electric window controls, which feature a switch from the contemporary GM range, and they control 4 AC Delco window motors on bespoke frames, with the bespoke lifting arrangements. All four doors feature side impact bars, which are about 2 inches in diameter and mounted near the top of the doors. The frames are tailored to the electric window arrangement, and cannot be swapped for the standard frame. The front windows feature quarterlight ventilation, but the chrome finisher of the adjustment knob lies a lot deeper, and isn’t flush with the knob as on the later Series 2 cars. Cars above 43302000A seem to have flat knobs, as standard on contemporary Home Market cars. The rear quarterlights are sealed, as air is extracted through vents behind the D post quarter panel. If air-conditioning was ticked on the order form, the windows would have been Triplex Sundym, with a deep green tint. The tint looks much deeper than on the standard cars.

The air-conditioning itself is controlled via two vacuum switches, with variable control for speed and temperature, a very novel item back then! The whole panel is similarly illuminated as the rest of the interior, with again, a green tint. These also act on the main dimmer, with two bulbs accessible with the fascia panel removed.

Another novelty is the floor-mounted dipswitch, for the main beams. This is located on a special bracket just in front of the normal resting position for the drivers’ left foot. The accelerator pedal is bespoke, and features a floor mount too.


The 3500S uses a pretty standard unit, with a 10.5;1 compression ratio. However, the top end is completely different. The carburetors are different, featuring different needles, jets and float chamber insulation. They have different SU body numbers too. This is because of the down-throttle valve vacuum connection for the distributor vacuum switch, and arrangement for the throttle damper switch. The throttle damper eases the sudden drop in vacuum, and thus, eases the amount of retarding on the ignition when the drivers lifts off the accelerator. This helps in preventing the emission of unburnt hydro-carbons. Furthermore, the inlet manifold differs too, in having no Otter switch, a more vacuum connection for the air-cleaner and air-conditioning. It provides mounting for the AED, as well. The AED, or Automatic Enrichment Device, regulates an additional amount of fuel being added after the carburettors during cold starts, it acting with a bi-metal regulated by heat from the exhaust manifold.

Further additions include, of course, the aforementioned air-cleaner. This has a vacuum switch, which operates the flap for the direct intake of hot air from the heatshield located on the offside exhaust manifold. The normal setting uses the direct ‘ram’ type intake through the centre scoop. At the back, there’s a provision for the crankcase ventilation, similar to that seen on standard air-cleaners.

The waterpump is inherently different, using a plastic fan and a Holset viscous unit. If air-conditioning is fitted, the receiver-dryer, condensator and other ancillaries are fitted on the offside, next to the relocated windscreen washer bottle. The coil is always mounted on a bracket, rather than directly to the inner wing and the engine tie-rod is relocated to the slam panel as well. On non-aircon cars, this is as standard.

Of course, the 3500S had power steering as standard, but the system is completely as seen on later models. The rubber sleeve, fitted near the pump to protect the hose from touching the exhaust manifold and rubbing on the various ancillaries is a good indication of mileage, as they tend to melt a little due to heat. Under 50.000 miles, it’s usually sound or partially sound, but above they’re usually knackered.

The air-conditioned cars also had a large foam shield in front of the heater box, a bespoke front scuttle panel and a completely different air-box. The air-box, of course, being more aimed a recirculating air through the large intake in the bulkhead behind the passenger side shin bin.

Other oddities include a B-suffix differential, the electric fuel pump to minimize risk of vapour lock a full fuel recirculation system. The fuel tank itself has a separate, smaller tank for fuel vapours, which are being sucked out through a long hose, running underneath the roof and A-pillar, towards a carbon canister mounted near the radiator filler cap.

As a measure imposed upon Rover, the 3500S had dual line brakes as standard. The dual line braking system was forced upon Rover by US legislation and would never have been in the specification originally if it were up to Rover. Peter Wilks, then Technical Director, was once quoted in saying that dual line brakes were inherently unsafe, as he reasoned that having no braking was more controlled than having two-wheel braking which might cause a car to invert and consequently roll over. Therefore, Rover opted to mirror the system with a front and rear split. The brake master operates the rear brakes via the servo & the front brakes are operated via the slave piston in the servo.

Every owner, upon reception of their new 3500S, got a literature pack. This includes the Owners Manual, the Supplement to the Owners Manual, a set of points and a condenser for the 10.000 mile service and the Passport to Service, which had a metal plate inside with the owners' name and the chassisnumber printed into it. Nowadays, very few cars have them a most of the original owners seem to have discarded the plate when they sold the car! Furthermore an Owners Maintenance Schedule was included, with rip-off type pages for every scheduled service interval.

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