By 2 September 2015 29 Comments Read More →

Advert of the week : Rover SD1

Keith Adams

Monegasque registered SD1 for that international feel

Monegasque registered SD1 for that international feel

In 1976, the Rover SD1 was the pride of the British car industry. It was great to look at, excellent value, and stacked up well against all comers. It proved so good that it convinced the panel of the European car of the year to vote it their favourite car – awarding it the prize against strong opposition such as the Ford Fiesta.

The company launched it on a huge budget to complement the development and production resources that were poured into it. This advert typifies the mood of optimism within British Leyland at the time, showing off its newest product in a European setting, and in a most elegant way.

Enjoy the advert…


Posted in: Advert of the week, SD1
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

29 Comments on "Advert of the week : Rover SD1"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Simon Hodgetts says:

    Still one of the best looking cars ever designed….was listening to Deodato whilst watching – very apt!:D

  2. Two R8s says:

    My brother in-law was once escorted along the road by four Hells-Angels whilst driving his Morgan. Their idea of a joke, but he was quite frightened.

  3. ian says:

    I hadn’t realised that this had been Stevie Wonder’s inspiration.

  4. Magnus says:

    Isn’t she lovely, indeed

    How could you part with OEG, Mister Adams, how could you…? *sniffs*

  5. The Rockabilly Red says:

    Sadly, a major contributor to the collapse of BL. A tribute to the lack of foresight, business sense, and engineering skill, that were hallmarks of Bache and King. The wrong car, at the wrong time, built in a plant that was a byword for some of the worst build quality in the industry.

    • christopher storey says:

      I think your comment requires explanation/amplification . The motoring press certainly didn’t think it was the wrong car at the wrong time, and my extensive experience of two of them was that it was infinitely superior in build quality to the 4.2 XJ6 which preceded them ( not, unfortunately, that that was saying much ) . It was also, in manual form anyway, a really super drive

  6. Keith Adams Keith Adams says:

    Good point.

    Many people point at the Stag as being typical of BL’s failure – beautiful, and a world-beater, but tragically flawed… but the Rover SD1’s failure will have had far more commercial and cultural significance. It’s been said before, but had the company built the SD1 to Mercedes-Benz quality levels, then we’d still have a strong Rover today…


  7. David Tucker says:

    why is there only one door mirror?

  8. bangernomics says:

    SD1s might have been flawed and beautiful, but did BL really have to skimp on a passenger wing mirror. Oh and when it does the U-turn it looks like it’s suspended on marshmallows.

    I’m not sure the MB W123 is really a good comparison for build quality it ended up heavy and none too quick despite cutting edge engines, and what car company really wants to see their wares still working as taxis 30 years on.

  9. Will M says:

    Does this mean then, that given Mercedes’ recent disastrous build quality (see late 90s rust, premature engine failures and the M-class SUV) that they will be a failing manufacturer in a few years?

    Or maybe they were sick of being used as taxis, and will up the quality now that they’re all on Skodas?

    • Rich says:

      this is what I don’t understand. If you read HJ it contains endless stories about people with self destructing French cars, especially diesels. Yet they still have a car industry – three marques, no less! Why is that?

      On a similar note my wife’s 2008 BMW 328 feels unbelievably lightweight, plasticky and poorly made, has already had a couple of thousands spent on it and I am aware that at 70,000 miles we are rapidly approaching total engine and gearbox failure country. I recently test drove a $46,000 X3 that had an unbelievably rough sounding high stressed 4 pot. It felt more like a $20,000 car. Yet people continue to pay massively over the odds for these vehicles. Again, why?

  10. Hilton Davis says:

    Great to see this advert (shot on “proper film”) before the days of video tape and digital productions. Showing my age when I say that, as I started my career in Industrial film production.

    Re: the one mirror, I recall in the mid/late 70s many cars were fitted with a drivers door mirror only and the passenger side was an option. Shame if this was the case on early Rover SD1’s

  11. Two R8s says:

    Nearside door mirrors weren’t very common in those days.

  12. Simon Hodgetts says:

    Finally listened to it with the ‘original’ music – man! that’s the worst version of ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ I’ve ever heard – couldn’t BL afford Stevie Wonder?

  13. Mikey C says:

    Well Mercedes sold a staggering 2.7m W123s, which suggests they got something right and BL got something wrong!

    When I look at SD1, I can’t help thinking it would have been a better Triumph, in an ideal world 2 cars could have been spun off the same platform, a racy Triumph hatchback, and a sober Rover saloon, as SD1 put off many buyers looking for something more conventional looking, who boughts Grandads and especially Volvo 244s instead.

  14. JH Gillson says:

    That would have been a pretty sensible way of going about things, Mikey C. BL lost the rather good Triumph 2000/2500 and the SD1’s being available as a hatchback only must have cost sales.

    BL might have been able to have pursued that kind of strategy if they’d never built the Princess. An interesting car in its own way, but I can’t help feel that we were robbed of a big Triumph in favour of a FWD Austin that nobody really wanted.

  15. Collywobs says:

    Ah,the SD1.Fond memories as I was a working for an AR dealership during the 80’s.Snapped cambelts on 2300/2600 as oil gallery in head had blocked up.Also,why did they enlarge the tailgate window for increased visibility when the wiper they fitted parked downwards across the lower dip ?.The wipers were also far too slow for the performance of the car.Talking of performance,the best drive I had was in a twin plenum Vitesse with the windows down driving through Leicester after I had dropped the customer off home in it !.

  16. David 3500 says:

    @ Rockabilly Red

    The Solihull plant where the early Rover SD1 was built was actually noted for its quality of build of previous generation Rovers and Land Rovers.

    However, you have to remember that many of those employed at Solihull for the assembly of the SD1 were not old skool Rover assembly workers who cared about what they were building, but had been brought in from other British Leyland assembly plants.

    The SD1 shows how good Bache and King were, but how bad senior managers and workers from other volume assembly plants had become. The Austin Morris way of doing things clearly was not the right way for Rover to go.

    It was a crying shame that the Rover SD1 (and Speke built Triumph Stag) were allowed to suffer such indignity.

  17. Mike C says:

    JH, I agree about the Princess, a car without a market. It wasn’t a Cortina rival, being too unconventional, it wasn’t a prestige executive car, as it was too slow and had the wrong badge.

    I can visualise a car range in 1977
    Marina replacement (RWD, ADO 77)
    Triumph SD2 on same platform
    Triumph SD1 hatch
    Rover SD1 saloon

  18. The Rockabilly Red says:

    David3500, I was there. The place was awful. Whatever Solihull may or may not have been in the distant past, by the 70’s, the quality of product being built there was shocking – even by the standards of the time. On internal quality surveys, the plant ranked alongside Speke – and that took some doing. The SD1 did not achieve even industry average quality standards until production moved to Cowley North Works.

    I’m afraid that, for the company, the SD1 was a low volume, high cost, distraction. It was the wrong car, at the wrong time.

    If you want to see the true ‘genius’ of King, take a look at the beauty that was Maestro.

  19. francis brett francis brett says:

    SD1 was a nearly car,now in the present tense i work on mercedes benz audi and ford vehicles for a national hire company and we are dealer accredited for warranty work and boy do we work!biblical levels of unreliabilty with cdi engines due to emissions equipment same for audi DPF failures ago go etc etc etc count yourselves lucky with an SDI your biggest worry was a glovie full of water!to name some of the faults.

  20. David Dawson says:

    Still a stunner the SD1 and, as I so very often think, the original looks better than the facelift (including the dash in the case of the SD1)

  21. Adam says:

    Hi there!

    Lovely old cars, still one of the better classic cars around!

    My grandad saw this in a clay model in its early designs and he worked for the ICI which supplied the materials for the interior like cloth leather etc


  22. Tigger says:

    Right now, I’m choosing to forget what a badly built car this was and even how agricultural the live rear made the handling and ride, but simply enjoy looking at what was a stunning car then and a stunning car now.

    The film makes me feel both happy and sad in equal measure.

  23. The Wolseley Man says:

    I have read so much about the workmanship standards that prevailed in BMC and BLMH and BL over the years. I have read books by the higher echelons – the excellent Bank from the Brink by Michael Edwards, the Leyland Papers and many others. I have read books by the workforce and my father was final inspector on the Barb at Swindon for many years.
    YET – no one has explained to me why the workforce were so reluctant to do a good job – or could not do a good job even if they wanted to.
    Any bloggers who have real experience – were really involved and have a meaningful comment, please help. If your just a ‘pub expert’ can we just listen. Please.

  24. Demetris says:

    For those blaming Bache and King for the problems of the SD1, they easily forget their work (P6, Range Rover) in the old Rover company under the Wilks brothers.

    When the uncompetent higher mangement and politics make the industry a right mess, surely the engineers are not the ones to blame.

  25. Glenn Aylett says:

    Rover had to bring in a new car in 1976 as the P6 was 13 years old and starting to look old fashioned. The SD1 was a massive leap forward with its hatchback and Ferrari like styling and V8 engine. Had it been better built, it probably would have wiped the floor with its rivals across Europe. Yet even with poor quality and faults on early cars, it was still a big seller in Britain and improvements in 1982 saw sales remain high until it was cancelled in 1986.

  26. Hilton D says:

    Most of the first SD1’s (3500) I saw in showrooms were in a chocolate brown colour. Nicer colours and metallics came later on and White always suited it.

    The SD1 looked big & prestigous in those days – and I think still does now.

Have your say...