Rover SD1 : A handsome beast (bar none)

Mike Humble 

Taken last summer - the Polski-Rover's substantial but ugly towbar and horrible exhaust trim

Slowly, but surely, I’m getting through the list of jobs one by one. I’ve almost cracked the gearlever problems, there’s fresh oil in the sump, eight new NGK plugs in the creamy smooth engine and the Polski-Rover no longer sounds like a NASCAR racecar. I simply ADORE working on a proper motor because it’s such a refreshing change from the plug ‘n play diagnostics of modern motoring – it’s all hands on and fault diagnosis relying on experience, skill and a good ear. 

Keith was in two minds about keeping the Heath Robinson towbar but, after a sneaky text an hour after leaving my house last weekend, I was instructed to ‘get rid of the bloody thing.’ Thank god because, unless you are an avid caravanner or regular towing person, a towbar can blight the look of a car, especially something as iconic in shape as the Rover SD1.

Right from the first time I saw the car at Longbridge last year, I thought the towbar spoilt what I truly believe to be British Leyland’s best offering of the 1970s this side of the classic Range Rover. 

When it hit the ground a reading of 6.1 was measured on the Richter scale in nearby Dorking!

Today, then, I ventured outside in the strong winds armed with my sockets and wire cutters to relieve the Rover of its rear end wart. The towbar had, in fact, been fitted properly and I was chuffed to bits to find that the rear bumper did not have to be removed. After an hour, the car once again looked as mean and moody from the rear as it does from the front.

Carefully tracing the wiring loom into the rear lights, I set about removing the plethora of horrible scotch locks and carefully insulating any exposed wire. Driving at night brought up an earth problem in the rear light units which has also been dealt with by nipping up the earth terminals and cleaning up the spade connectors on the bulb holders – all relevant stuff as I hope to MoT the car in the very near future. 

Well, that’s where we are at the moment – the only remaining issues include a weepy power steering system, one dodgy tyre and a damn good pre-MoT inspection. Everything else from the never-ending list of bodges and nasties I attended to last year seems to be holding together, so I’m quietly confident the MoT won’t throw up anything naughty – I hope!

The end result - a sleek, iconic shape unspoilt

Mike Humble

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
Mike Humble
Mike Humble

About the Author:

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade. Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

17 Comments on "Rover SD1 : A handsome beast (bar none)"

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  1. Ianto says:

    Wow! What a difference… Good work, Mike – the SD1 is really starting to look the part.

  2. Andrew McCheyne says:

    Congratulations on a beautiful car. Well done to Keith and Mike.

  3. Will says:

    The Rover SD1 always was a great looking car – like a 4-door Ferrari Daytona.

    No other manufacturer has managed anything like it since. Peugeot tried a Ferrari grille but failed to catch the elegance.

    I think that the closest in spirit were probably the V6-engined Alfa Romeo 166 and 159 but certainly not the Audi A5 Sportback as some have suggested. It is too much of a clinical design – an iPod against a good quality turntable.

  4. Hilton Davis says:

    The Rover SD1 looks better and better and better! Good luck Keith and Mike – the car now looks as good as in its 1970’s heyday…

  5. Andrew McCheyne says:

    Are those MG Rover clothes you are wearing in the photograph of you accompanying your Pipes of Peace (at last) article?

  6. Stewart says:

    The SD1’s not a 4 door Ferrari Daytona – it’s a 5 door Maserati Indy in every respect other than the front indicators!!! It even has the high-lipped rear tailgate of the Maser, the same roofline and a very similar wing profile…

  7. Simon Woodward says:

    That’s something that has always nagged me since the 1970s – the ‘Brewer’s Droop’ exhaust pipe! Why was it just hanging there when the rest of the car inside and out was stunning?

    I thought Stewart’s reference to Maserati Indy was spot on – especially if compared it to a US-spec SD1 with the twin front lights. That’s not a bad thing – the Indy was gorgeous.

  8. The removal of that towbar was a small change which has made a big difference to the lovingly-restored Polski-Rover – and the car already looked great.

    Personally, I think that towbars should only be fitted to Estates and 4x4s.

  9. Marty B says:

    Methinks that, when his Royal Keithyness gets back behind the wheel with everything fettled up, somehow he will fall in love with the Polski-Rover again…

  10. Andrew Elphick says:

    I liked the towbar!

  11. Mike Humble Mike Humble says:

    @Marty B
    He bloody better had do!

    Oh god, that reads so Northern!

  12. David 3500 says:

    Simon Woodward :
    That’s something that has always nagged me since the 1970s – the ‘Brewer’s Droop’ exhaust pipe! Why was it just hanging there when the rest of the car inside and out was stunning?

    I thought Stewart’s reference to Maserati Indy was spot on – especially if compared it to a US-spec SD1 with the twin front lights. That’s not a bad thing – the Indy was gorgeous.

    The Maserati Indy was, apparently, one of the cars that inspired David Bache when he was designing the SD1 in the early 1970s. A story I have heard from a reliable source who knew Mr Bache suggests that he borrowed a friend’s Maserati Indy for a weekend and that played an influential part in the SD1’s final surface form. The other car to do so was, of course, the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’.

    Incidentally, Keith, the SD1 looks far more handsome without the towbar and its removal has really accentuated the flowing profile of the tailpipe.

  13. Angus says:

    I have to admit that, although it looks so much better without it, having a towbar has saved many a Series 1 rear bumper from the inevitable dings as people reverse and can’t judge the rear end.

    I learned to reverse by mirrors on the SD1 and have never lost the skill – I still use it in my MINI when I can almost touch the back wall with my hand out the window!

  14. Dave says:

    Hi there i have just finished all the mechanical work on a mk 1 3500 sdi and it sailed through the M.O.T with no adviser, is it is white like yours and never bean wielded anywhere,the only thing it neads now is a respray , but will have to wait untill i can aford to pay out £3.000 for a bair metle one, now a penshioner so have to watch the money a bit , hope all gose well with the reast of your work take care ,Dave

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