Spent the weekend getting re-aquainted with my 1978 Rover 3500. As you may or may not know, this car spent most of the 1980s and 1990s lying in a barn, before being thoroughly recommissioned back in 2000. I bought it from journalist David Price back in 2002, and it has been criminally under-utilized since then. This weekend changed all of that…
In the space of two days, my faithful old bus racked up 500-miles, many of which, were driven hard and as it should be. It all looked so different, as a week previously, it stuttered and coughed all the way back from Devon, thanks to its dying Lucas Opus distributor. Thanks to Brian Gunn, this has been changed to a Mallory system, supplied by RPi Engineering, which has had the effect of restoring the SD1 into a dependable barnstorming motorway bruiser of the old-school.
And perform it did… It happily handled a trip to Gaydon, followed by a high-speed dash to Snetterton race track at speeds which cannot be mentioned here. High speed stability is still good, and although 1970s aerodynamics lessen its effortlessness at speed, it is still more than capable. Unlike modern cars, it is not saddled with ultra-low profile tyres, which allows it to remain undisturbed by motorway ruts and changes in camber, whilst maintaining a soft and compliant ride. Soft ride? Yes. Although it was considered sporty enough back in 1976, to drive one now, the overriding impression is one of well damped, ride compliance – chassis set-up the Spen King way.
Accelerating away, you cannot
help but notice that deep V8
rumble, which still sounds
melodious and soulful…
We have not touched on the engine yet: it starts-up with that typical V8 “bark”, but soon settles to an even and quiet idle. Yes, the V8 engine that powered the nation’s specialist industry, is actually quiet and reasonably refined when installed in the SD1. Accelerating away, you cannot help but notice that deep V8 rumble, which still sounds melodious and soulful, but once cruising, it remains quiet. In fact, all of the noise put out by the car seems to come from the tailpipe – an odd situation given that most cars produce their din up front. This was also borne out when standing by the side of the road watching it pass: you see it coming, but all you hear is the rushing of air and tyre noise. As it passes, there is not so much a Doppler effect, but a transformation: the rush of air is transformed into the soft rumble of V8. Lovely.
So, thanks to Brian Gunn’s engineering skills, and John Capon’s spraying skills, the 3500 not only performed well, but turned heads wherever it went. Was it reliable? Yes. In a way.
When I say “in a way”, I mean that at the end of the weekend, as I pulled into my home village, the water pump cried enough. Do I care? No. Why? Because it’ll be changed, and then I have one less thing to worry about. Yes, the SD1 reminded me of why I love it this weeekend, and never, ever, ever could I be parted from it… So don’t even try, as refusal often offends.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.