The Rover SD1 was the final car designed, engineered and styled by the dream team that brought us the P5, P6 and Range Rover, Spen King, Gordon Bashford and David Bache. The SD1 was another revolutionary Rover with daring fastback styling, and a lightweight unstressed V8 up-front.
Initially it sold extremely well, but tales of poor quality circulated in the press, and buyers started shopping elsewhere. The car was improved constantly during its life, so the final models were fast, appealing and genuinely desirable. Range was extended first by the six-cylinder SD1s, then by the four-pot, diesel and the Vitesse. Of the non-V8 cars, the six-cylinder is the most desirable, but a reputation for unreliability from their Triumph-designed engines still haunts them.
The O-series-powered 2000 appeared in 1982 with the Series 2 facelift, and goes better than you might imagine, too. There’s also enough room in the engine bay to climb in while servicing – and like all SD1s, that’s still facilitated by plentiful parts supply.
The best came last though. Once referred to as ‘the poor man’s Aston Martin’ by Motor magazine, the 1983 Vitesse remains a fast and effective bruiser of a sports saloon, despite the relatively paltry horsepower figure. Extrovert spoilers and racy trim completed the Vitesse’s transformation, and, despite the SD1 having been around for six years when it first appeared, it was a surprise success for Rover.
Later twin-plenum version homologation special, developed with help from Lotus, was more powerful, while TWR-prepared touring car racers won at international level.
Reviews, blogs and news stories
Featuring five-door supercar styling, and some of the nicest engine notes to grace an executive car, the Rover SD1 has a place in the hearts of many car enthusiasts today. However, when it was new, poor build quality, flaky paint, and the poor image of its builder meant that its sales potential went unfulfilled in […]
Ever wanted a full breakdown of BMC>MGR production figures, but didn’t know where to go? Fear not – AROnline has all the numbers you’ll ever need.
Igor Spajic When my stepfather bought a new Rover SD1 3500SE in 1982 (among the last Series 1s), it was still car-of-the-future stuff – alloy V8, EFI, hatchback, etc. It was impressive, but I couldn’t help wondering why the auto was only a three-speed, when those backward Americans all had four-speed autos (with overdrive) by […]
Although it has received a bit rap in the trade thanks to its well-documented problems, the SD1 Six is a very capable engine. However, it could have been so much more had it been given the start it so richly deserved. On its 35th birthday, Robert Leitch casts an analytical eye over this oft-maligned engine […]
The full story of the Rover V8 – and how it found its way from the USA to Solihull, and then become an unlikely hero…
Keith Adams A rare, South African-specification, CKD-built Rover 2600 SDX has been offered on eBay. The car, which was built in Leyland South Africa‘s Blackheath plant, is freshly imported and ready to go. It’s a Midas Gold example and was registered in 1980 – it differs from the UK version by being powered by the stretched […]
As part of our Rover SD1 at 40 special, here’s what Leyland Cars boss, Derek Whittaker had to say on the subject. This article is taken from the British Leyland Mirror, 30 June 1976. In common with his senior executives Derek Whittaker, Managing Director of Leyland Cars, is filled with enthusiasm for the new Rover. He feels […]
As part of our Rover SD1 at 40 special, here’s what Leyland Cars’ Director of Engineering and Product Planning, Spen King, had to say on the subject. This article is taken from the British Leyland Mirror, 30 June 1976. Spen King (second from left) outlines the engineering philosophy behind the Rover 3500 The one word, simplicity, encapsulates the […]
As part of our Rover SD1 at 40 special, here’s why Leyland Cars’ Sales and Marketing Director, Keith Hopkins, thought his new car had the beating of the opposition. This article is taken from the British Leyland Mirror, 30 June 1976. Trading on the magical combination of tradition and advanced design and engineering, the Rover 3500 […]
Tomorrow’s car today… Ian Nicholls reminds us just how important the Rover SD1 was at launch, 40 years ago – not just for its maker, but for the economy as a whole. Many British Leyland cars had the term ‘make or break’ applied to them, but perhaps it only really applied to two vehicles, the […]
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.
Craig Cheetham A TWIN-TURBO Rover SD1 V8, believed to be one of only two survivors, has been unearthed in Lancashire. Currently offered for sale via eBay by a classic car dealer in Bolton, the 34,000-mile from new car can be viewed here. It has spent the past 25 years in a private garage after the […]
Craig Cheetham A rare Rover SD1 specially commissioned by Grampian Police has returned home after selling at auction for £9,750 – a figure which is believed to be a world record for a roadgoing variant of the model. The 190bhp SD1 pursuit car was bought new by the force in 1985 and, unlike many Police SD1s, […]
The SD1 was sold to the Indian sub-continent’s Standard car company for production as the company’s new entry into the executive car market. Sales were dismal due to the high price of the car, and it lasted only three seasons. The story behind the Rover’s SD1’s short-lived rebirth in India was down to a relaxation […]
Some images from the projects that produced the Rover SD1… Once the decision was made to go with Solihull, instead of Canley design for the new Rover-Triumph car, Bache pressed ahead with his five-door designs. These came down to three basic shapes: First Proposal This version was blessed with a rather formulaic ‘seventies front-end style […]
Some images from the projects that produced the Rover SD1… Second Proposal A sleeker version of the first idea, this time with a tapered nose and lower bonnet line. The top picture shows the initial scale model in clay, whereas below is the full-size version. In its own right, this car could have been developed […]
Some images from the projects that produced the Rover SD1… The winning proposal The winning proposal – the SD1 as we know it today. This version managed to maintain the five-door layout of the others, but with the extra dimension of genuine style. The character clearly comes from the details: sweeping side indicators, side swage […]
Keith Adams In the dying days of Rover-Triumph as a separate entity within the company, in the lead-up to the association with Honda, BL’s prestige car division looked like it was fighting for its very existence. In 1979, in the months following Sir Michael Edwardes’ appointment as Chairman and Chief Executive of BL and prior […]
The cars that form the backbone of AROnline are some of the fastest disappearing motors on British roads. New research into the top British family cars by Honest John Classics reveals that many of UK’s once-popular family cars are on the most endangered.
Mike Humble once again, casts a spotlight onto the many cars that seemed commonplace on the UK roads in this ever popular section. The Rover 3500 SD1 is without a doubt, a legend and even today, still held in high regard, but what about the six pot siblings of the 2300 and 2600? has time been a healer for the lesser […]
Borrowing its name from the Citroën CX, the Rover Prestige was Wood & Pickett’s luxury version of the SD1… WITH Minis and Range Rovers already under their belt, Wood & Pickett next added the Rover SD1 to their range of conversions. In the now-familiar W&P tradition, customers would start by choosing their base model (usually […]
BMC 1800/Rover SD1: separated at birth? David Bache is today considered to be one of the finest post-war British car designers – and I certainly back that opinion. His SD1 was certainly inspired by the creations of Pininfarina, though – and although the SD1 was a finely balanced, beautiful design, I present some pictures that […]