The cars : Standard 2000 (née Rover SD1)

The Rover SD1 was sold in India as the Standard 2000 and was that company’s new entry into the executive car market. There were one or two changes which rather diluted its appeal.

Sales were dismal due to the high price of the car, and it remained on sale for just three years.

Standard 2000: Lost in translation

Standard 2000

The story behind the Rover’s SD1‘s short-lived rebirth in India was down to a relaxation of the Indian Government’s policy on carmaking – if the Government’s intention was to inject some life into the car market, it succeeded, because it encouraged the Managing Director of Standard Motor Products of India, C.V. Karthik Narayanan, to approach Austin Rover in the UK about the possibility of producing one of its cars.

Even though Standard was an independent company, C.V. Karthik Narayanan was keen to do a deal with the British. Initial contact was made during 1981, but it was not until March 1984 that C.V. Karthik Narayanan and Mark Snowdon hammered out a deal, which involved supplying 12,000 sets of SD1 body panels. The intention was to use the 2.5-litre Standard diesel and 2.0-litre petrol engine. The production capacity of the Madras factory was 16 cars per day (roughly 4,000 cars per year), although this target was never reached during its all-too-short production run.

At the time of the Standard 2000’s launch in April 1985, there were only eight million cars on India’s roads – out of a total population of 800 million people. The new car was to enter a flourishing market and, although total sales were still relatively small, they were increasing at an enormous rate. The Standard 2000 was conceived to sit at the head of this market, and its price of 212,000 Rupees (c. £12,000) ensured its exclusivity.

Moving SD1 assembly to India

Standard 2000 - in profile view, almost indistinguishable from the Rover 2000. Only the ride height gives the game away - and the under bonnet view (below)
Standard 2000 – in profile view, almost indistinguishable from the Rover 2000. Only the ride height gives the game away – and the under bonnet view (below)

Shortly after its introduction, the production of body panels was transferred to India, as there was no need for this facility to remain in the UK following the launch of the Rover 800 in July 1986. Indeed, by 1988, the factory started to export the panels back to the UK for Unipart to sell in the replacement parts market.

Technically, the Standard 2000 differed in many ways from its European progenitor. Suspension was the same in its make-up, but ride height was raised by an inch at the front and rear. The engine was unique to the Standard 2000 – and was described by Narayanan, ‘as a cross between the Triumph TR4 and Rover 2000’.

This Standard engine first appeared in the Vanguard model of 1948 (and the UK version was also used in the TR4) and was used in the Standard 20 commercial vehicle range after that. Twin SU carburettors were used in the 2000 and the cylinder head was re-designed to resemble the Heron unit found in the P6. The four-speed gearbox was locally-designed and replaced the excellent LT77 unit of the original.

Equipment levels were generous enough – electric windows were featured, but most importantly it came with the option of air conditioning… not a luxury in India.

Standard 2000

What the Standard 2000 was like to drive

Build quality of the Standard 2000 was reported to be more than acceptable, but the driving experience was not. In his amusing website, G. Harindra Kumar summed it up succinctly: ‘I had the privilege and pleasure of driving one of these clankers; the gearbox in particular was screaming for help; the less said about the transmission the better – the sounds emanating from it was like a music score right out of a Wes Craven horror flick.’

A world removed from the European Rover 3500, then.

Standard 2000 specifications

Kerb weight: 1335kg
Cylinders: 4, in-line
Engine capacity: 1991cc
Bore x Stroke: 83 x 92mm
Compression ratio: 8.0:1
Maximum power: 83bhp at 4250rpm
Gearbox: 4-speed, manual
Fuel capacity: 69 litres
Tyres/wheels: 175 SR14/5J
Top speed: 145 km/h (91 mph)
Mph/1,000rpm in 4th: 21.9 km/h (14 mph)
Fuel consumption: 8-13 l/100km (22-35.7 mpg)

Some pictures of the Standard 2000, as taken on India’s mean streets in 2003 (Pictures supplied by Karl Bhote)

Specifications are reproduced from Automobile Revue, and were supplied by Matthias Jost.

Keith Adams
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  1. please inform me if any standard 2000 comes for sale in bangalore and surrounding areas love the car …..dr thomas 7411340128

  2. We too had a car in the 90’s with Nissan engine mounted. I’m also waiting to get hold of a standard 2000 and remodel it. do email me at if someone wants to sell their car (doesn’t matter what condition it is currently, as im going to remodel it anyways.)

  3. As Jeremy Clarkson once said about this Indian car, comparing it to the game of cricket, tedious, slow and stopped in the rain.

  4. If Jeremy would be a cook, the best he could do ist offering a Mc Donalds Burger. That man has destroyed Top Gear!
    It was once one of the best television series for cars. Today Top Gear is only a series for people with an IQ less than 10.
    I am sorry, but that guy is responsible for the end of some car manufacturers in GB.

  5. Back on subject – you really need some insider information from India on this one, The story that came back to the UK was that Standards’s rivals sabotaged the 2000 project by various ‘dirty tricks’, including some claims that the car did not meet Indian regulations. By the time all that had been sorted out, it was too late.
    Never mind, it means that Rimmers can supply oodles of SD1 panels etc…

  6. had one couple of years ago…great car with lot of electricals…a poor combination of engine bgearbox to a competent body styling..average was 3kmpl..

  7. being completely bowled out by this Rover SD1,when it was launched in our country i was studying in my high school.This car was indeed a head turner and had its own ardent followers right from the start and as everyone knows due to the sluggish vangaurd engine’s sluggish performance and other factors curtailed the show of this machine too early.Even today there are many fans scouting for this car and in counterpart are the owners who are unwilling to part with this thing.Sad part is that a few were used in the bollywood movies for dummy purposes thus reducing their numbers.Honestly even today if it is re-launched by the present Owners in our country no wonder there are many buyers just for its streamline design and the superb eye catching stance.

  8. Interesting car for all the wrong reasons. It’s a shame that the SD1, usually perceived as an upmarket car in the UK, ended up being bodged together with an ancient engine in India. No wonder it failed, but that’s how car production was in India back then. How times have changed.

    I still think the SD1 styling looks great (even in “Standard” form)

  9. I was in India putting these cars together for launch back in the mid 80’s, still got some photos of the first cars built, somewhere. Engine and transmission were not very good (BL supplied Carbs & pistons if I recall, rest was locally produced), project went wrong very quickly, shame, great cars

  10. Yes i am also trying to buy one since it was the car which mesmerized us like anything . There are few one in Bangalore bearing the registration number CYT 8282 white which is in mint condition. The sad part is that after the company seized the production , how the left over machines were handled and maintained was just annoying because the owners never gazed the importance or the value of the car which was a legend by itself. worst when it featured in many hindi and telugu movies for bombing or tossing up in the air.And the exposure of world class automobiles was not seen so it was just wrong timing which impeded the early exit of this most beutiful car from Indian arena.

  11. £ 12,000 for a new car in India in 1985 would mean the Standard 2000 could only be bought by the very wealthy, as the average wage was probably well under £ 1000 a year. Those who could afford cars in India most likely would have bought the Hindustan Ambassador, a simple, proven design that again was based on elderly British technology.

  12. The diesel may have been built by Standard in India, yet originally it was the same 59 hp 2520cc Austin D-Series diesel that was used by the Austin FX4 Black Cab and would actually be reimported back to the UK to be used in the Austin FX4Q after BL sold it off to Standard.

    It is not clear if the 2000 diesel was uprated for passenger car use or remained at 59 hp.

    • BL only supplied pistons and a carburettor, the rest of the power unit were locally manufactured, don’t know the design details

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