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
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
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.
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
|Bore x Stroke:||83 x 92mm|
|Maximum power:||83bhp at 4250rpm|
|Fuel capacity:||69 litres|
|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.
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