The Rover SD1, the last (sle) Real Rover

The models from before 1982 were rust sensitive '(er) r

The Rover SD1 so. Designed and made by Rover.

Entirely in-house. In the aftermath of the British auto empire. Within the Austin Rover Group, part of the once infamous British Leyland, a successor was needed for the Rover P6 and the Triumph 2000/2500. The SD (Special Division) 1 was very nice and had a V8. What else do you want? Guaranteed success! However? And there should have been SD2s, SD3s and so on. Can come.

That Special Division event was the collaboration of Triumph and Rover within British Leyland.

The approach in 1971 was the design of a 'large' car with a large tailgate

The head of the design department, David Bache, was not inspired by a small example: The SD1 envisioned the Ferrari Daytona and a study model by Pininfarina. That study model would later also form the basis for the Citroën CX are, even though such a beautifully lined, stretched automobile.

Better be basic

The novice would, of course, have to compete, which is why the people in the design team refrained from being technical. Technically, the SD1 therefore became simpler than its complicated predecessor the Rover P6. This was mainly reflected in a fairly simple chassis. But whether a rigid rear axle and drum brakes were appropriate for such a chic car that had to make life difficult for BMWs and Mercedes? Smart: Because the rest of the world outside the United Kingdom continued to drive stubbornly on the wrong side of the road, the newcomer got a symmetrical dashboard where the steering wheel - and the controls in the footwell - could be mounted on the left or right as desired.

In 1976 I went into military service and the production-ready SD1 was presented

For both of them that was not the start of a successful process. The Rover had an 156 horsepower strong 3,5 liter V8 with an electronic Lucas ignition. What the Kiss of Death was for many cars also happened with the Rover SD1: The Rover was voted the car of the year in 1977. But the production quality at the factory in Solihull was of the level that our Eastern neighbors called 'British Leyland' as 'British Elend'. Misery so ... Everything you could think of was broken, wrong or wrong with the new Rovers. No matter how beautiful they were. The dream of recapturing the American market stopped under the 800 specimens. It may be said that later copies were (much) better. But then the reputation damage had already done its job ...,

From 1981, the SD1 was built in the Morris plant in Cowley

The home base Solihull was then used for the profitable production for Land Rover. In that year there was also a facelift. The car got some external adjustments and a different dashboard. In addition, the 2,0-liter four-cylinder with 101 hp and the 91 hp 2,4-liter turbo diesel from the Italian VM Motori, a company that supplied 'convection diesels' to many manufacturers, appeared. The sporty V8-S was replaced by the Vitesse with 190+ hp, the luxurious V8 variant was named 'Vandenplas EFi'. In the autumn of 1986, after production of approximately 1 units, the SD295.000 was succeeded by the Rover 800 series with subcutaneous Honda technology.

Fortunately, Rover SD1s have remained in the meantime

The cars that are still driving are usually much better than they ever came from the factory and have a circle of passionate enthusiasts. One of the driving forces in that world is René Winters, the man behind - among other things - the Dutch Rover SD1 Website. And Within the enthusiastic collective there is a lot of knowledge, components and shared passion.

A good Rover SD1 is a desirable classic

But only buy one that is really good. Preferably take a specialist with you and / or have a purchase inspection carried out. And of course an SD1 with a V8 is the best ...

Yet the six spitters were not wrong either


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  1. Well, Lucas threw a lot of misery into the mix with that inferior mess. In principle, the SD1 was, like so many other English cars from the 60s and 70s, a great concept with beautiful lines. I'd be more than happy to trade in my 40 mint XJ1988 for a solid Vitesse EFi. But yes, it was never officially implemented in the US so that dream remains a dream (and no, no appetite for “Federalizing” or making something worthless of something good.

  2. As mentioned, the surviving SD1s are now largely free of teething problems. The remaining copies have become the cars they should have been: beautiful, extremely characteristic and perfectly usable, as the story of reader Oscar reports. But many owners who once took their pride new from the showroom have experienced the other side of the coin. By the way: any imperfections in classics do not have to detract from their charm. (Thus spoke the happy Ural rider)

    • I think it was mainly the six-cylinder that were unreliable I regularly hear from older gentlemen who once bought a new 2300 or 2600.
      I myself have had a 10 1981 vandenplas for 3500 years, (just a series I) and it has never left me alone, even in the 90s I had one that we just used daily, and we never have bad luck with it, the only problem was the rust and that's why we got rid of it after a few years.

      Of course with such an older car you have to do regular preventive maintenance or have it done, my car goes every two years for a check-up and the MOT to a specialist in Wormer, the older mechanic there really knows everything about the SD1.

    • By the way, there is a nice video on youtube of a race with various SD1 's, look at: goodwood 73rd members meeting part 2 - chris harris on cars, beautiful images!

  3. As the owner of a Rover Sd1 vanden Plas Efi I can completely invalidate most of these doom senarios. Meanwhile 255000km driven and start and go. Of course there are sometimes malfunctions but do not all 30 + year cars suffer from this?

    The design was revolutionary and if you put the sd1 in a parking lot these days, you don't say it is an old car. The lines have been taken over by the modern (electric) powered cars. A hatchback with 5 doors and a cargo area that can accommodate a complete bike, try it in a modern car! The rounded handlebars were a curious thing at the time. Now you come across that rounded steering wheel in modern cars like Vw Golf and Audi. And the latter are stolen because of the large “have” factor. Rover was apparently more progressive than we all thought in the 70s and 80s.

  4. Was that also the SD1 which, due to a design error, was slightly longer on one side than on the other?

    Nice car that should not be inferior to the CX

  5. The SD1 was indeed not the best car. But we are used to some British cars. In fact, the British should have been forbidden to build cars. The wiring was an unimportant affair, as a result of which people simply threw a bunch of wires into the car and tinkered together, often without adequate fuses. It was therefore necessary to install a main switch because before you knew it your car flared off spontaneously. The British were fortunately handy with large hammers so that the not really fitting sheet metal could still get a bit in shape.
    But oh oh, how nice some British cars were because they did have character. If only because they often smoke stale to leather and damp cardboard. And although the parts that were just replaced were immediately defective, the cars were often very beautiful.
    Although it seemed as if they had managed to push all plastic parts into shape with the help of a hair dryer, it was always an experience.
    But you also learned to live with it. Giving and releasing gas gave a completely different direction to such an SD1. And it was quite handy for a Jaguar that it had two tanks with two fuel pumps. There was usually one defect.
    In any case, I have good memories of my SD1 with which I could scrub very hard on circuit Assen

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