Rover SD1 timeline

The Rover SD1 saw many detailed changes during its life – and here, we catalogue them for your enjoyment.

This timeline, compiled by Chris Bird, has put the car’s production history in the UK into factual order.

Year Month Details
1976 June 3500 introduced with 3528cc V8 engine, electronic ignition, 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission, independent front and self-levelling rear suspension, power steering and servo-assisted front disc brakes and rear drum. (The Rover SD1 3500 replaced the Rover P6 3500 saloon.)
1977 October 2300 and 2600 introduced (replacing Rover P6 2200 and Triumph 2000/2500 saloons). 2300 has 2350cc 6-cylinder engine and 4-speed gearbox (or optional 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission). 2600 has 2597cc 6-cylinder engine and 5-speed gearbox (or optional 3-speed automatic).
1978 October 2600 now has standard power steering. 3500 now has rear seat belts.
1979 July 3500 V8-S introduced, mechanically similar to 3500 but with sunroof, tinted band on windscreen, gold-finish alloy wheels, headlamp wash/wipe, air conditioning and headrests front and rear.
1980 September Revised range consisting of 2300, 2300 S, 2600 S, 3500 SE and 3500 Vanden Plas (V8-S discontinued). All models have improved trim. New door mirrors, revised heating/ventilation etc. 2300 S has power steering, central locking and velvet upholstery; 2600 S has sunroof, electric windows, central locking, self-levelling rear suspension and revised 5th gear ratio (also revised on manual V8 models); 3500 SE has alloy wheels, twin halogen foglamps and front and rear inertia reel seat belts; Vanden Plas has luxury specification including leather upholstery, cruise control, electric sunroof, electric door mirrors, headlamp washers and bronze tinted glass.
1982 January Restyled bodies have deeper rear screen (with wash/wipe), full width grille and flush-fitting headlamps. New instrument binnacle. 2000 model introduced with twin carburettor 1994cc 4-cylinder O-series engine and most features of the new 2300. Other models mechanically similar to previous range, but with revised carburation on V8 engine. All models except Vanden Plas have 5-speed manual gearbox or optional 3-speed automatic transmission. Vanden Plas has standard automatic transmission with manual option to order. 2000 and 2300 have black bumpers and velour trim. 2300 S, 2600 S and 3500 SE have steel sunroof, deeper front spoiler and central locking. 2600 S and 3500 SE have walnut veneer interior. 3500 SE now has electric door mirrors. Vanden Plas specification similar to that of previous model with detailed trim improvements; trip computer now standard.
June 2400 SD Diesel Turbo introduced with Italian 2393cc 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, 5-speed gearbox and equipment similar to 2600 S.
September 2600 SE launched in UK, mechanically similar to 2600 S but with equipment specification similar to revised 3500 SE including headlamp washers, trip computer, foglamps, alloy wheels and velour upholstery. All models now have tinted glass. 2000 and 2300 now have central locking. 2300 S now has electric windows, electric mirrors and radio/cassette unit. 2400 SD and 2600 S now have electric mirrors and twin-speaker radio/stereo cassette. 3500 SE and Vanden Plas available with manual or automatic transmission at same price.
October Vitesse introduced with 3528cc fuel injection engine (190 bhp), 5-speed manual gearbox, lower sports suspension, variable-rate power steering and ventilated front disc brakes. Based on 3500 SE, equipment includes tailgate spoiler, rear wheel arch fairings, tinted glass, electric windows, central locking, trip computer, sunroof, sports seats and stereo radio/cassette player.
1983 August Automatic transmission standard on 2300 S with 5-speed gearbox optional.
October Automatic transmission now available on Vitesse.
1984 July Revised 2600 and 3500 Vanden Plas introduced to replace previous SE models. 3500 Vanden Plas EFi introduced with similar mechanical specification to Vitesse but with automatic transmission only and normal ride height. Equipment includes electric sunroof, cruise control, leather upholstery and electronic stereo system. Revisions to other models include: electric windows, radio/stereo cassette player, new velvet seat trim, adjustable front seat lumbar support, walnut veneer door trim inserts, passenger grab handles and extra stainless steel exterior trim on 2000 and 2300; alloy wheels, twin coachlines, hairline velvet upholstery, burr walnut door trim inserts, two band radio/stereo cassette player and underbonnet lamps on 2300 S, 2400 SD and 2600 S; and trip computer, headlamp washers, improved stereo system, rear head restraints and extra walnut trim on revised 2600 and 3500 Vanden Plas. Vitesse continues unchanged except that polished burr walnut door/facia inserts replaces existing veneer.
October All models now have electronic fuel control system (automatic choke is replaced by micro-processor controlled carburettor for improved fuel economy). 2000 and 2300 have heated electric door mirrors, manual sliding sunroof, intermittent screen wipe and improved 4-speaker stereo system (2-band electronic radio/cassette including rear speakers). 2300 S, 2400 SD and 2600 S have electric sunroof, electronic stereo radio/cassette with rear speakers, shadowstripe and plain velvet trim set. Vanden Plas models have same improvements as S models plus 3-band electronic stereo radio/cassette and Box and plain velvet trim set. Vanden Plas EFi available with Box Velvet (plain) trim set at no extra cost. Vitesse has electric sunroof, new deep front spoiler, bodyside mouldings and revised lower body paint finish (side decals are deleted).
1986 February Continued unchanged except for new Philips in car entertainment.
July Range reduced to 2300, 2600 Vanden Plas and Vitesse (introduction of new Rover 800 Series saloons).
1987 February All models discontinued.


Just a few models to begin with (2300, 2600 and 3500) but the range grew in the 1980s with the trim levels identified by the letters after the engine size. The absence of letters denoted the basic version, then there was S (for Special, I think) and SE (Special Equipment), and at the top of the tree stood Vanden Plas. (While many other British models went from Basic-L-GL-GLS/CD/Ghia, Rover preferred the sequence Basic-S-SE-VDP at the time. Even its closest relative Austin used Basic/City-L-HL-HLS/Mayfair-VDP, so Rover could have used L-HL-HLS-VDP for instance!) Thus, while the 2300 stayed the 2300, the 2600 became the 2600 S, the 3500 became the 3500 SE and the 3500 V8-S became the 3500 VDP in order to provide some engine options within each trim level (or trim options for each engine option) – starting with the 2300 S (2300 engine with 2600 S interior). In 1982, the basic 2000, 2400 SD Diesel Turbo, 2600 SE and the high performance fuel-injected 3500 Vitesse were all launched. The SE later got swallowed up by the VDP and an even more luxurious VDP EFi entered the fray (wonder why? – rather like Ford killing the GL or GLX and introducing the Ghia Si or Ghia X alongside the Ghia in the 1990s). I noticed that air con became an option on the top models again (after being standard on the V8-S in 1979)! In 1986, Rover made the curious thing of rationalising the old SD1 when the replacement 800 Series was coming onstream, and not actually killing off the SD1 until some time afterwards (Rover did this with many of their other models, including the replacement of the P6 by the SD1).

As you can see, there was a steep gradient between engine size and trim level in the case of the Rover SD1 – the basic models made do with only the 2300cc engine (with a smaller 2000cc option later) while the most luxurious version was only available with the 3500 V8 engine (the fuel injected VDP EFi from 1984-86). This is rather like the Ford Capri (from basic 1300 to 3000E – later the 2.8i) or Vauxhall Victor/Ventora FD/FE Series (basic 1600 – later 1800 to 3.3 litre only Ventora) – my other favourite makes of car are Ford and Vauxhall. Very much the opposite of today’s Rover 75 when the same engines seem to be shared across all trim variants – a big difference in marketing strategy. Perhaps one needs a maths degree to find the optimum range layout – in the days of the SD1, the men in charge confidently predicted that a basic 3500 or 2000 VDP would have sold pretty poorly in comparison with the ‘zig-zag’ range of 2000, 2300, 2300 S, 2400 SD Turbo, 2600 S, 2600 SE, 3500 SE and 3500 VDP (crowned by the Vitesse) which prevailed in 1982-84.

Materials Used: Parker’s Car Price Guide (July 1987), Motorists Guide (August 1987).

Keith Adams


  1. @ Dominic

    July 84 was A reg. B came on 1st August 1984. I know- I took delivery of my Mini 25 on that day!

  2. Sorry, I hadn’t finished my comment, I was going on to say that this VP EFi was registered in Dec 1983 about 8 months prior to the model’s launch..
    A24 WOE, a green VP EFi was registered on the same day..

  3. The last SD1’s have a different heater to earlier models, using a maestro heater matrix and were pretty weak. If one should fail you could not replace it with an earlier heater as the connection pipes were totally different. While it would fit, you would not be able to get any heat from it!

    It was also pretty poor at heating the inside of the car as well, unlike the earlier ones. D and E registered cars all have these, as do some later C registered cars.

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