Devotees of that most British of bygone brands, Rover, are quietly sipping champagne and munching on cucumber sandwiches (without crusts, of course) to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the P4 — or “75” if you want to be precise.

You know the P4, surely?

It’s the one with the “Cyclops eye” centre headlight that was driven by your local doctor when you were young and the medical profession still made house calls.

The P4 has a special place in British culture and is known as “Auntie”.

And it is easy to see why.

When it was released at the British Motor Show on September 28, 1949 it was the first UK built car to throw off pre World War II styling ideas and fully embrace modern design trends.

And it proved to be a glittering sensation in a dowdy and dismal Great Britain still weighed down by war debt and rationing.

Gone was the traditional upright grille, separate fenders and running boards.

In their place was a chromed grille, recessed headlamps and a streamlined body.

From most angles it looked like the ground breaking 1947 Studebaker, and that’s what Rover’s design team intended.

Indeed, they had shipped a Studebaker to the UK and used it as a test car for the P4 mechanicals.

The P4 had a separate chassis with coil springs at the front and a live axle with leaf springs at the rear.

The early production cars traversed the quite country lanes of the green and pleasant land with a hybrid hydro-mechanical braking system.

This rather fraught arrangement was replaced by full hydraulics in 1950.

The engine was a 2.1-litre six.

The P4 was aimed at an affluent class of car buyer who demanded understated style and comfort.

Road and Track magazine tested a P4 in 1952 and said it was almost as good as a Rolls Royce.

The centre headlight was eliminated in that same year, which is why they are now highly prized classics.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au

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Burrell

David Burrell is founder and editor of Retroautos.com.au, a free online classic cars magazine. Dave has a passion for cars and car design. He's also into speedway, which he's been writing about since 1981. His first car was a rusted-out 1961 Vauxhall Velox. His daily driver is a Pontiac Firebird. Prior to starting Retroautos, David was an executive in a Fortune 500 company, working and living in Australia, NZ, Asia, Latin America and the UK.