The cars : Standard 2000

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 4000 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/1000rpm 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

12 Comments

  1. Looks vaguely like two HS6 carbs behind a plenum chamber. 83hp flat out – bet that was a real revelation – and 4 speed too.
    In fact I can tell you what it’s like because it’s almost identical to the Wolseley landcrab in performance (apart from the horrible top gear ratio) so surprisingly unbad – just not very quick.
    Wonder why the gearbox was so bad? Out of alignment or worn out?

  2. On further examination that cylinder head looks curiously B series & with a low CR of 8.0 and the supercharger kits from hi-flow & Moss – might have made for an interesting car. 120-130hp compared to 83 makes a lot of difference.

  3. The engine shown in the picture is IMO the diesel . I also would discount the alleged mph/1000 rpm because no wet-liner Vanguard/TR2,3,4,or 4A that I have come across would ever go near the 6500rpm necessary with that ratio to give a top speed of 91mph . 5000 rpm was the red line on those which I had

    • How can that image be “the diesel”. There are two very obvious SU carburettors on the intake side of the engine.

      • Where does it say the image is the diesel? Yes it has twin SU cars which means it was the standard 2000 engine which was fitted

      • David : I’ve looked at the image currently there, which definitely has an SU to be seen, and from it’s position I would guess it is the front one of a pair. So what is shown now is not a diesel, but I have a feeling the original image was different

  4. Was the 2.5-litre diesel engine derived from an existing Standard engine or sourced from outside such as Isuzu?

  5. The car looks Ok in the photos, but very crude mechanically. A shame the SD1 went downmarket in this way… but at least the availability of spare panels and parts would help Rover enthusiasts.

  6. We had one when we briefly lived in India in the early 1990s. Dreadful panel gaps and underpowered. Only a masochist would have loved one.

  7. A brave attempt to create an Indian executive car and a more modern alternative to the Hindustans that dominated the Indian car market at the time. A shame the Standard 2000 didn’t come with a more modern engine as otherwise the car was a huge leap forward for India.

  8. Looking further into the 2.5 diesel version, it appears to have been abandoned leaving only the 2.0 petrol though some owners did fit large 2.5+ Nissan 4-cylinder diesels.

    It seems the 2.5 diesel was used in an Indian built Leyland 15/20 / Twenty version of the Standard Atlas van suggesting it was indeed derived from the Standard wet-liner 4-cylinder diesel though cannot find any specs / figures for the engine, aside from the possibly it was similar to or even derived from a stillborn 2446cc petrol dry-liner version of the engine featuring a 92mm bore and stroke.

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