Unsung Heroes : Rover 2300 and 2600

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble once again, casts a spotlight onto the many cars that seemed commonplace on the UK roads in this ever popular section.

The Rover 3500 SD1 is without a doubt, a legend and even today, still held in high regard, but what about the six pot siblings of the 2300 and 2600? has time been a healer for the lesser SD1?


Always the bridesmaid?

Rover 2300 & 2600 - The latter could give the V8 a good fight.

The Rover with six appeal:

The Rover SD1 maybe symbolised more about British Leyland than the Allegro or Marina ever could. You can forgive the latter two, simply because they were the early panic built fruitions of the sprawling empire that formed as a result of merging Leyland Motors with BMC. But the big hatchback Rover deserved to do well on so many levels, and came so close to automotive perfection. Thanks to unforgivable senior management meddling, shocking early quality and union bloody mindedness, the words sung by the late Billy Fury are quite fitting: halfway to paradise… so near, yet so far away.

But just for a moment – let’s forget about the laughable reliability, the flaking paint, or workforce on strike for 53 weeks of the year. Who could deny that the SD1 back in `76 looked amazing and in 2012 still gains an admiring stare? In my own opinion, the Rover SD1 casts one of those legendary silhouettes along with the Esprit, Jaguar XJ or Mini; it’s a unique style which just like Twiggy – seems ageless. When Keith Adams’ own SD1 was snoozing on my drive recently, the view after drawing the curtains would make even the dankest of mornings, seem like a summer evening.

The 2300 and 2600 sadly never enjoyed the same legend status of the big V8, which I think is unfair. Yes the Triumph designed straight six was at best tolerable in reliability terms, but anyone who has tried a nice healthy two six, will know the potential was there to give the three five a good scrap. Rumour has it that engineers made sure the engine was held back in terms of power owing to running prototypes almost eclipsing the V8. Pop the bonnet and the long block lacks the imposing view of the eight, rather like your Nan’s old stereogram, nothing flash to look at, but boy what a sound when you switched on and turned up the music.

The smooth but badly flawed Triumph designed Six - Sadly never reaching its full potential.

Fitted with a five-speed manual box, the in line sixes could effortlessly swallow the mileage and burble away in top showing three figures all day long and many a Police Constabulary preferred the 2600 to the 3500. My own mind rewinds to the days of my late teens when an old friend, Nigel Ripley, bought a rusty, beaten up W plate 2600 manual with a shoestring MoT. The rear dampers were shot and one of the SUs had a float problem, resulting in the fuel overflow pipe having to empty into a milk bottle. After an hour of cruising, you would have to tip the full of petrol back into the tank, but as they say – waste not want not!

The nearside brake calliper was part seized too, making the car lurch violently towards the kerb in anything but the lightest of anchoring. So there we were, both smokers, clunking around in a big manual Rover 2600 with no brakes and a massive fuel leak, I can tell you now – I’ve rarely had so much fun behind the wheel since. Shove the stumpy stick into third at a walking pace, plant your size 9 onto the distortion pedal and watch the twitching needle of the speedometer almost nudge a ton – oh such happy days. The smaller 2300 was not quite so strong, partly hamstrung by leggy gearing, but compared to an equivalent Granada, the SD 2300 was ultra hushed.

In post 1982 form the SD1 had vastly improved build quality, a more inviting interior and wore its years well.
Of course, the six was lacking in development, and a whole raft of horror stories regarding camshafts seizing thanks to oil starvation or overheating problems owing to dicky viscous fans did the reputation to the SD1 no favours. Yet if you get the chance to try a straight six in the modern world that has been sorted out, which to be fair those remaining have been, they are surprisingly good. Performance is only a cat’s whisker behind a carb engine V8 on the 2600, lower insurance costs and better fuel returns mid range  too – the six potter could have been an equally praised car to the V8 if only blessed with that much needed development the car so badly deserved.

Smart and slightly intimidating looks with a bold interior that doffed it’s cap to no other Rover before it, the SD1 makes a smart choice as the first foothold on the classic car ladder. The later models after 1982 had many of wrinkles ironed out with far better build quality and paint application, comfy seats and long travel suspension cushioned out the road while long gearing took away the urgency of progress. Such a shame that the 800 series that replaced the SD1 lacked so much style and pedigree, but after saying that, I am starting the view the earliest of the Rover 800 range with great fondness too!

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

86 Comments

  1. I still remember with much fondness the 1981 Rover 2600 finished in Pharoah Gold that was used in the Human League alongside the black Saab 99 Turbo.

    Examples such as the rather brief 2600 Vanden Plas introduced in 1984 were always more understated than the 3500 Vanden Plas EFi or Vitesse variants, which some buyers preferred.

    Nice to see something rather positive written about the PE146 (2300cc) and PE 166 (2600cc) engines.

  2. My Dad had a T reg 2300 in the mid 1980s. Anything that could fall off it did – including the paint – and I remember the hydrualic clutch being a recurrent problem Scrapped at seven years old. In fairness no worse than the Renault Fuego I had at the time. Shouldn’t have listened to the motoring press of the time. Should have bought a ‘boring’ Jap – or the ‘T’ reg Allegro 1500 I bought in 1997. Most of them had gone by this time but still looked smart and had the most comfortable seats of any car I remember. Went well on the motorway with five speed box too.

  3. My Dad had 2 – both post 1982. Autos

    Both ate their camshafts.

    But what a great drive! Smooth with a distinctive soundtrack when you pressed the loud pedal. Cars with real soul and character and great when sorted. Like the article says, “half way to paradise”

  4. Isn’t that Human League Rover still knocking about? These cars should have been world beaters, so forward thinking and modern, imagine, a Rover without any wood on the dash and nothing to do with Project Drive!

    If only BMW had thought in this progressive way with the 75

    With such weak management and weak employees the poor thing never stood a chance.

  5. Of course I’m biased, but we’ve had our 2300 (the Grove2Gibraltar car featured elsewhere on this site) in the family since 1994 for a reason.

    The main one is because it’s a really comfortable motorway cruiser and that’s what we needed when my dad bought it. He has a small car for shopping now but his SD1 comes out for the long journeys. Tall gearing and a feeling of it being “de-tuned” means it’s not as quick as the 2600 or 3500 to 80 but once there it will cruise happily (and faster) all day long.

    The 2300 at 75-80 sounds fantastic. It has a real growl to it that’s miles away from the (comparatively) silky smooth quiet of the V8.

  6. I test drove a brown V-reg 2600 in the late ’80s. The car was old and bodywork was as the proverbial pear but the engine was silky-smooth and the slush-box worked well too. Enough to make one consider just what a fine car this would have been when new!

  7. The 6 cylinder SD1s may have been a great idea on paper but they were flawed in execution with terrible build quality. The way the 2300 was shamelessly de-contented compared to the 2600 was almost a crime. Just take a look at that tiny, sad, instrument panel.

    My father had two 2600s in the 70s & 80s, original and facelift. They were good cruisers but rather crude in every respect. I remember the rust bubbling through the paint on the first one after only a couple of years and the engine self-destructing on the second after only 40k miles. These cars belong in the “Not their finest hour” series not “Unsung heroes”.

  8. My father had a very early (1977) 2600 as his long-term test car when he worked for “Motor” magazine. Always said it felt more like a Triumph thatn a Rover to drive and it was certainly quick – after some fettlng before his final 24,000 mile report, it was apparently showing a steady 130+ on the reasonably accurate speedometer around the Millbrook bowl. But ater just 2 years, the rear arches were already looking very frilly. Such a shame.

  9. Tony Turner
    Good to hear about your father – I got on well with him as a Leyland Cars PRO at the time – he was a true gentleman, unlike certain other journalists I had to deal with!
    It is absolutely true that we were concerned about the 2600 being nearly as quick as the V8 – I wrote the 2300/2600 launch press pack, having also done the 3500 item the year before, and some of the provisional 2600 performance figures coming through from Engineering were almost on parity with the 3500. By the time we got to launch, they seem to have been ‘adjusted’ a little! I ran several 2600 models as company cars, and liked them all, though one had HGF at 10,000 miles, making the K Series look like a paragon of durability! Because of the friction-reducing 4 bearing crank , this engine was never as smooth as the old Triumph 2500 unit, as I noted on changing from a 2500 to a 2600. But the SD1 had a much sharper chassis than the rather soggy Innsbruck. Having said that, the first time I drove a Mk I 825 (Honda V6) for a day, the 2600 felt afterwards like a truck in comparison. There are always generational differences like this.

  10. I always thought the R2300 & 2600 were good additions to the SD1 range – giving exec car size and style at a cheaper price and as stated the 2600 wasnt far off the 3500 V8 in performance stakes. I recall a later SD1 2000cc model but guess that would be underpowered compared to the rest?

  11. @ Hilton D

    The O-series 2 litre isn’t too bad. It has a different rear axle (3.90 to 1) to compensate for the weight. It had a max speed of 102mph and 0-60 in 12.4 seconds (vs the 2300 being 111mph and 0-60 in 11.9 seconds)

  12. Takes me back,the old MOTOR magazine reports.I remember the long lists of faults the staff encountered with their cars especially the Rovers,Princess,Ital and Metros.Did like the SDI range though,even though the early basic 2000 and 2300 looked god awful with the plastic wheel trims.

  13. I did wonder why the 2.3 & 2.6 units (based on Triumph engines) were used rather than the 2.2 & 2.6 E series, especially as the engine plant was often underproducing.

  14. I absolutely love these views back in time.

    I remember my best friend’s Dad had a 2600 in the mid-Eighties (I can only have been 10 or 11).

    We at the time had an early MkIII Cortina, so this really was like a massive jump into the future with its all-round eletric windows, computer and sunroof.

    Loved it, and obviously I had no concept of how reliable (or otherwise) it was, only that it looked great, was super-comfortable, and incredibly fast.

    He got a Vauxhall Carlton after that which was okay, but simply not as good.

  15. I have a soft spot for the SD1, going back to the red SD1 V8 that dad brought home in 1976! What a crowd stopping car it was! Just a shame about the build quality and the paint; who would have imagined proper rust on a car that was only two years old when it left us in 1978…

    I finally got to drive a 1985 (B reg) VDP V8 for myself, over a period of about 6 months, around 1989. The build quality had not improved one jot, although at least the paint stayed on the car. What was most disappointing of all was the sloppy drive and the shocking ride quality. I remember a dealer offering us £2000 for it against an immaculate D reg, £3,000, MG Maestro EFi in 1990 and we simply bit his hand off! The Maestro stayed in the family until it was finally scrapped many, many years later.

    The only really happy memory of that SD1 (apart from getting shot of it) was taking it to the exhaust shop to get a new exhaust down pipe fitted. With a completely rusted through down pipe it sounded absolutely glorious!

    When lamenting the failure of the stunningly beautiful SD1, it’s important to remember just how archaic the suspension set up was and how horribly flexible the bodyshell was, as well as how badly they were built and finished. Such a shame.

  16. When i was 21 in 1991 i part exchanged a W reg 1980 mk3 escort 1.6 ghia + £300 for a 1979 V reg 2600 auto with genuine 55000 miles on clock in pacific blue. I went up to scotland in it on the M6, had it flatout at 108 mph could not go any faster when a 1.3 mk3 escort passed me in the outside lane,several months later the viscous fan went, soon followed by the big end. Will never forget the growl when you kicked down to overtake, brilliant!!!!.

  17. There was also a diesel SD1 – the 2400 SD Turbo, with about 90 bhp I think. Maybe a candidate for ‘not their finest hour’?

  18. A friend had a B reg 2600VP example in 1995. Lovely car, incredibly comfy and also a great handler. It had a fancy computer thing in the centre console if I remember rightly, with loads of buttons. He paid the same insurance as I did on an Escort 1.3 Bonus!

  19. Absolutely beautiful cars.
    Uncle had a 1979 2600, and grandfather an ’82 2000.
    The 2600 was almost faultless, but the 2000 was a very early example and suffered diff trouble?

    Was the lower speed back axle of the 2000 a Rover unit or did it originate elsewhere in the BL empire?

    My only fault with the SD1 range- was the lack of space inside the cabin.
    Up front was ok, but rear seat space was minimal especially with a 6′ father driving!

    ]

  20. The SD1, the only car my Mrs recognises courtesy of the film Rita, Sue and Bob Too…

    Saw a couple of nice examples (one 23 or 2600 can’t remember and a V8) at a summer show a few years back and I just heard a startled “that’s Bobs car!”. Great stuff.

    Sadly I’ve never had the pleasure of a drive in any derivative SD1 but it’s on the wish list.

  21. @ Jonathan Carling

    The Rover SD Turbo was at the time one of the fastest diesel cars on the market and sold well throughout diesel loving Europe. We only disliked it here because it was slow and noisy!

  22. If the 2600 V6 was originally close to the 155 bhp Rover V8 in terms of power, then how close in power would the 2600 Turbo (from Janspeed) have been to the 190 bhp Rover V8 from the SD1 Vitesse?

  23. Great feature, am sure the Met had 3500 specially for Traffic and for Area cars, am not sure if the 2600 were used, its a known fact that MRD at Northolt done lots of mods to SD1 to beef it up for police use, and as a result the BL made the Vitesse model. Regaards Mark

  24. @ Bob M

    Did you notice anything odd about the car used in that film?

    How did Bob get the seats to recline back in a flash?…

    Simple, because the car was fitted with MK1 front seats with a reclining handle, whereby it should have had the later seats with the reclining wheel!

    Some of us should really get out more!

  25. The Met Police certainly had some 2600 automatics, they also used 3500 manuals (like the one used in ‘The Liver Run’ documentary. The Police spec cars were quite different to their civilian counterparts.

    I had a Police spec 3500 manual, it was the facelifted 1983 model on an ‘A’ plate. Not even three years old when I bought it it already had nearly 150,000 miles on the clock, it was an ex Avon and Somerset car so spent all its life on the M4 and M5 I guess! Notable differences from civilian spec included:

    No PAS
    Uprated discs and calipers – I think they were XJ12 ones
    Different suspension geometry and much higher spring rates
    Aluminium bonnet to improve weight distribution
    Uprated clutch
    No electric toys at all, wind up windows, manual locking

    The engine was standard tune with carbs and the 5 speed ‘box, I think the diff may have been a higher ratio as the gearing was very tall, it would do 75+ in second and 110 in third, at 70mph in top it was only doing 2000rpm.

    It went, stopped and handled beautifully, with tenacious grip from it’s Michelin MXV tyres. I could easily outrun my mate in his Golf GTI even on the twisty lanes. The lack of PAS gave it great steering feel too. It wasn’t so much fun around town though, the clutch was very heavy, so much so that the bulkhead eventually split where the master cylinder sat and had to be welded. Apart from this it was utterly reliable over the 3 years and further 40,000 miles I added to it. The syncromesh was getting rather worn in the gearbox though!

    My neighbour had a 2300S of the same vintage, that was just so much softer and slower in comparison, he did have a lot of problems with it though. Police vehicles were maintained regardless of cost and mine was pretty well looked after during it’s life in the force.

  26. Ian Elliott

    Thanks for the kind comments about my Dad, much appreciated. Agree about the relative (lack of)smoothness of the 2600 vs the Triumph 2500 – I had a (tweaked) 2000 and then a PI soon after the paternal Rover moved on and both felt almost turbine-like in comparison (much better traction on snow, too!). Then again, neither could match the silkiness of the E-series six in the Austin 2200 wedge that came before the Rover (just a pity it didn’t seem to produce that much power when asked).

  27. I had a 1978 Tumeric yellow 2600 in 1980 when i was 19 and all my mates had either 1100s or Escort Mk1s so i felt the dogs #######!. A couple of years later followed by a black 2600 VDP and even a champagne beige 2000!.
    A friend who worked for a Rover company had a convertible version that had a T bar like a Triumph Stag and a two part hood roof mechanism, this car was written off during the bad winter of 2001 on an icy rd.

  28. Everyone needs to watch both parts of the BL Video “Two more for the Road”, as linked at the top of the comments. I now will have this song in my head for at least a couple of weeks, ‘Two more for the road, do do do de de de’. …and I wondered who that scruffy git was in the video, bugger me its the late Anton Rogers from Fresh/French Fields, surely a dark moment in the history of Thames Television.

  29. Tony Turner
    Interesting, your comment about the ADO71 Wedge 2200. Totally agree about the smoothness, but the ones I had were pretty quick, as well. I followed a colleague in a Rover P6B down the M1 to London once, and he was quite miffed that my mere Austin 2200 could readily hold station with him. I will be pilloried for saying this, but in very many respects the Princess 2200 was a better car than the 2600, (for example, ride quality, braking spec. and better traction in snow!) The South African SD1 2600 actually had a long-stroke version of the E Series engine. One of my Longbridge Engineering friends went out to SA for the launch and he found that the E Series 2600 was much sweeter running than the UK job.

    One thing that stays in my memory about your father was that, when he had a Princess 2 long term test car, it was actually fairly reliable and trouble-free , and I had the pleasure of telling the Austin Morris Board about his forthcoming report in Motor – a welcome change from all the previous reports!

  30. Ian Eliott
    Terrible danger of thread drift here, and/or turning it into a private chat . I suppose the difference was that the 2200 wedge never FELT very quick, just made a slightly louder whine when given more beans, whereas the 2600 (from memory) was much more ‘up and at ’em’. But yes, the wedge was supremely relaxed and sufficiently swift on a motorway. especially considering it was in the days before 5-speed boxes became the norm. And you’re right, it was very well-behaved in terms of reliability – very different from the early 1800 Landcrab (B reg – 1965?) that my father took over from George Bishop for tis second 12,000 miles. Just the three engine blow-ups, I think. Someone else join in, please!

  31. @ Spud

    I won’t have you knocking Fresh / French Fields. Yorkshire Televisions Duty FREE made eating sand seem like a pleasure!

    Thames were indeed, A Talent For Television

  32. @15 Gareth… thanks for the performance data on the R2000 SD1. Yes, it doesn’t sound much different to a 2300 and one wasn’t likely to be driving at up to 100mph daily! I guess Rover saw the SD1/2000 as a spiritual replacement for the P6 2000 cars.

  33. 40 Hilton D:

    I remember the Rover adverts at the time, flogging the “Rover 2000” name for all it was worth. Even highlighting the “100 bhp” (gosh!) figure in the vain hope that the market would take it seriously.

    In fact, all they were getting was an upmarket alternative to the Ambassador with one of the roughest engines then available. I drove a lot of O Series engines cars when they were new and, much as I loved the cars they sat in (and even the engine itself), I am under no illusions about how utterly archaic it was! I certainly remember the way the steering column used to shake up in down as soon as the engine fired up, even when the car was still running in!

  34. 43 Ianto:

    Strangely, the Rover 2300 / 2600 really, really sounded like a Triumph 2000 to me (a nice sound all by itself), while a Rover simply had to burble away with the Buick V8. Lovely 😀

  35. Got to add to this column!

    The only brand new car that my father ever had was an ’81 2600SE manual in brown (which looked good!). I felt so posh being wafted around in it (I was 6 when he got it) and had so much more presence than all the other cars. It’s been indelibly imprinted on my mind ever since.
    Silly thing is at first, before he got his, I didn’t like them. There was a gold one down the road which didn’t suite it , a belief I still hold to now. It was only when the demonstrator turned up in a different colour that I started to change my mind. What really clinched it was that huge dashboard with all of those dials!
    I really must get one!

  36. I had a 2400 diesel and it was very slow and noisy! I spent a fortune restoring it. Although it was slow, it pulled like a train. I used it to tow a p5 3 litre over 250 miles and couldn’t feel it. Really miss it! I have a vitesse now, awaiting Restoration. Does anyone know what model the pictured dash is from? It’s got a manual enrichment knob like the diesel but is redlined at 5500 rpm so it’s not a diesel. As far as I know all series 2 cars had the FASD (fully automatic starting device) so wouldn’t have a choke. The only reason I ask is because it also has an interesting switch or something to the left of the face level vents. Never seen it before. Sd1s are fabulous cars and can’t wait to start restoring the vit!

  37. @Spud and Mike Humble

    The late Anton Rodgers used to support Rover everytime he did something on TV. SD1s in ‘Fresh/French Fields’. 800s in ‘May to December’ and a Range Rover in ‘The Fourth Protocol’. I bet had he driven in his last works he would have blagged a 75!

  38. Tony

    By co-incidence I have a copy of MOTOR from June 1983 in front of me with an article by Philip Turner which I am in the process of transcribing for the archive .

    Regards

    Ian

  39. I fully agree with the article from experience with several 2600’s. Lovely engine as long as the oil circulation was alright, nice soundtrack and almost as fast as the V8.

    @48: I was wondering about this second switch as well. As Mike confirmed, this is a SA spec dash and I didn’t have any idea what the switch could be for. I’ve seen a similarly strange switch in the same place in an Italian Series 2 brochure before. And South African Series 1’s had another unique switch as well (http://roversd1australia.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/dsc_0005-rover-sd1-south-africa-page-5.jpg). But further search unearthed this picture (http://roversd1australia.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/dsc_0003-rover-vanden-plas-south-africa-1982-page-2.jpg) and magnifying it seems to reveal that it is a switch to regulate the fresh air circulation

  40. These were terrible cars.
    The only great bit was the styling – it was a car that flattered to decieve.
    Terrible quality, terrible 6 cyl engine design…typical paucity of main bearings as per usual Triumph practise, 4 mains on a “new” 6 cyl engine….
    So, the bad engine design lead to many, many failures, seized cams, failed cranks….the list goes on.
    Apart from that, the rust was beyond funny, the electrical failures random. How do I know? We had the misfortune to buy a 12 month old 2600 in 1981.
    But hey, it looked nice……..
    I got a company car Cavalier 1.8 SRI in 1984 which actually worked for 115,000miles – and even looked like a scaled down SD1.

  41. What memories, I was a Rover mechanic when the 23 and 26 were launched and mechanically they were poor. I loved the looks of the SD1 and carried out the first PDI on the then new SD1 V8 in our Garage but the sixes just didn’t seem finished. The top end was always a week point (literally if anyone out there had reset the tappets whist trying to stop the cam carrier from flexing), I changed endless head Gaskets (got it down to just over 2 hours) and heater matrix dozens of them!

    In its favour the ride was good as I remember it, the quality improved but the car never encouraged the affection the 3.5 did. However Rover did eclipse the 23/26 with the truly awful VM diesel and the O Series 2.0, what were they thinking?

  42. Got better with age and the 2600 was a popular car for management at local companies like Marchon and Matthew Brown, who liked to buy British( they realised the Granada was German by the early 80s). I do remember one of my friend’s parents having a lovely metallic blue 2600 on an A plate in the mid eighties and loved the dark blue upholstery and the quality of the fittings, it looked far nicer and futuristic inside than the stark BMWs of the era. Also the quietness and power of the car impressed me and fuel consumption in the mid twenties was acceptable for a six cylinder then.
    Any problems, I asked, recalling the awful early six cylinder cars from the seventies, only a couple of electrical faults, I was told, and the car always started. No mention of engine failures, overheating and rust, I was relieved to be told, which was a sign Rover had more or less sorted the SD1.
    Six months later this distincive and sorted big Rover was replaced by a Montego on steroids lookalike that did away with the legendary V8 and the big six. Things were never the same.

  43. @57
    Were there any changes to the 6 cyl engines from 1980 onwards?
    Ours (1980)seized its cam at 38,000 miles in 1982. A replacement engine was fitted, this 1982 engine developed a bottom end knock after 30,000 miles. Both engines were serviced by the book.
    That was on top of the rust….

  44. I learnt to drive on a 2600 SD1, and we had about 5 or so over time mostly V8s of some descrition. But I remember teh silver 2600 with a lot of affection.

  45. Ive just showed this page to my mate who was an apprentice at the local BL dealer. He sort of went into a Herbert Lom mode from pink panther! (Nervous twitch & asked to be taken back to his room 🙂 )
    Seriuosly he says V8’s were ok, the 6 cylinder cars should not of been even written off the drawing board! He said he had one with engine sieze whilst on PDI!
    Even the 4 cyl 2L cars were more reliable

  46. hi guys, a work colleague had a 2600 that he bought cheap due to cam failure. he had a new head supplied by rover (mid 90’s) and had it ported and polised. he fitted a higer lift cam from kent cams, and fitted triple webers and a tubular manifold he made from a triumph vitesse iirc. the thing would outrun my then bosses carlton gsi3000, and had the legs of a sierra cosworth to 100… he saw 145mph on the m1. sadly the car passed to a local lad who slid it through a busstop. fond memories.

    • Street furniture is often unforgiving to car bodywork.

      A friend of the family slid a Talbot Solara into an old red Telephone kiosk in the snow sometime in the mid 80`s. Wrote the car off but diddnt even crack the concrete base the box was planted in, funniest bit was the fact a semi drunk man was inside trying to order a taxi too.

      I`ll bet that loosened his bowels eh?

  47. @Mike Humble

    Given the minicabbing fate of many a Solara, I’ll bet the man on the phone was going “That was quick!” 😉

  48. Next door neighbour had an ’82 base model 2300 when I was young (mid 80s) and I never forget the beautiful drone of a straight six every morning. Sounded like a supercar at the age of ten!

  49. @sloth, I think you may be decorating a story there a bit, even a 3500 v8 vitesse would lag behind a Cosworth of any description on the 0-60 drag….

  50. SD1 met area cars .carsick stinking of petrol.2.6 auto obligatory dent in the rear bumper trim falling off.We did an emergency call that was about5 miles and arrived with total brake failure due to fade.The job changed the calipers to range rover 4 pots and double vented discs bought minilite wheels tyres came from Germany in a container and I think lasted a couple of months,one tyre went they changed the lot.I recall a figure of £2000 as being mentioned for the modifications. Traffic had the V8s.They also had an unmarked car (colour car) with twin turbo for the M11 but flat out the steering was so light it was scary.I thought the SD stood for sad dog.Early ones had the micky mouse lights on the roof but apparently it made them unstable

  51. The six cylinders had a bad start, like the V8, due to the factory they were made in , but by the time the mark 2 versions came out in January 1982, most of the problems had been sorted and they made a more economical and acceptably powerful alternative to the V8. As I pointed out earlier, when Marchon Chemicals deal with Ambassadors ended, many of the management types moved over to Rover SD1s and most seemed to like them.
    OTOH the 2000 wasn’t really up to the job and was best avoided.

  52. When these were launched, the only real competition was the Mark 2 Granada and the Volvo 240, BMWs and Mercedes were still rare and expensive in 1977. Really the original 2300/2600 should have cleaned up, but terrible quality on 1977-80 cars saw buyers defect to the two main rivals and by 1980 the Audi 100, Saab 900, BMW 5 series and Mercedes W123 were taking sales. Sad thing is when the quality was improved on the second generation of cars, a lot of buyers still weren’t convinced and growing affluence among better off car buyers in the Maggie years saw people abandon Rover for their more desirable German and Swedish competitors.

  53. To be really fair Glenn….

    The revamp for 82 moved the build quality from dismal to just about acceptable.

    BL cars top brass should have received custodial sentences for cocking up the SD1.

    Potentially not just a good car… but a world beater!

  54. I agree. Even with the facelift cars, those cheap millboard backed door trim panels, instant warp instrument cluster cover and instant rip D post trim were not doing a good job to convince anyone that this was a quality product. And the boot and windscreens STILL leaked like a sieve. I owned six SD1s and they were all afflicted by the same problems. Weirdly, I never had a moments trouble with the six pot engines. It’s such a shame as it was a fantastic design let down in implementation.

  55. I owned a 3.5 V8 Vanden Plas. It was the none eFi version with twin Strombergs. The electrics on it were awful.The car was kept in a garage joined to the house, in the middle of the night we could hear a clunking noise from the garage. Anyway, some of the Magneti Morelli relays were self-operating without any keys. The head gasket had gone on one of the heads whilst under 3 years old. At my company, friends owned 2.0, 2.3, 2.4 D, and 2.6. Out of the bunch, the most reliable was the Diesel 2.4 fitted as I understand a Peugeot engine ?. I bought a new Cavalier 1.8, and dropped the SD1 at the car auctions. It was bought for £150 by a fellow who wanted the V8 for a kit car. Last time I saw the ” Demon ” it was on it’s side in a scrapyard in Saltley, Birmingham. Perhaps if it had gone directly from Solihull to Saltley it would have saved us some severe financial hardship and grief.

  56. The 2400TD had a VM engine imported from Italy, and was also used in the Range Rover for a while, could be a fragile engine if not maintained but was generally ok.

  57. The sad thing is, as has been pointed out many times, if Rover had got the quality right first time round, the SD1 would have probably wiped out the opposition as it was otherwise such a good car. Yet who in 1980 would really want to buy a so called quality car which was badly made, rusted quickly, in six cylinder form was often totally unreliable and leaked in water. Things got better with the move to Cowley at the end of 1981, and reliablility and rust proofing improved, but the SD1’s quality was never quite up there with the Germans and the damage was done by the late seventies cars.

    • What so many people forget is that at launch, there was simply no real market for the SD1. That remained the case throughout it’s life. The ‘executive’ market didn’t buy hatchbacks. It still doesn’t. This market wanted 3-box sedans and estates (now SUV’s). Whatever else it was, the SD1 was a product that should never have got near production. At best, it was a huge folly.

  58. I guess as the trend for small hatchbacks & executive estates in the early 1970s a large hatchback seemed the logical conclusion.

    Renault also too a leap of faith with the 30 so Rover weren’t alone.

    At least it explains why Citroen didn’t turn the CX into a hatchback, at least they could explain it away as a typical “quirk” of theirs.

    • In addition there was Audi with the rather handsame Audi 100 Avant, which disappointed in sales compared to the saloon. Mercedes even contemplated seriously to make the W126 S-class a hatchback at an early design stage. It seemed logical, but the amount of ‘false’ hatchbacks was large at the same time: You already mentioned the CX, but there was also the GS, the Alfasud, the Kadett D (Vauxhall Astra), the VW Passat, Austin Allegro and Princess, Lancia Gamma. Some of these later emerged with a proper rear door as an option or standard after a face lift. Putting a large hatch into a classic fast-back body was certainly not considered as given in the 70s.

  59. For those lamenting the absence of quality on the SD1, you should remember that it was actually the BL management that decided that the P6 successor should be a “cheaper” car, in order not to compete with Jaguar and all that nonsence.
    By the way, during the 1960’s, Jaguar wasn’t known for its quality. Rover was.

    • Ironically Rover, which was seen as the poor man’s Jaguar, had much better quality and their cars lasted longer due to better rust protection. It was still common in the mid seventies to see Rover P4s, which were at least 13 years old then. When Rover launched the P6 and Triumph the 2000( with six cylinder engine for refinement), they stole plenty of sales from Jaguar, whose 2.4 litre cars offered nothing over them.

      • Maybe you meant to say that Rover was seen as the poor man’s Rolls Royce, certainly not Jaguar.
        In the early 1960’s, the traditional Rover’s customers were mostly “old money”, whereas people that bought Jaguar were mainly “nouveau riche”.

        • I always thought it was Jaguar, but I know the image Rover had until the P6 was of very conservative, durable cars that appealed to cabinet ministers and older professionals. The P5, familiar transport for Prime Ministers in the sixties and seventies, was such a good car( and the SD1 that was supposed to replace it for ministerial use was so unreliable) Mrs Thatcher insisted on keeping hers until 1982.

  60. I was fortunate enough to have a 2300 for many years, before it was vandalised and I replaced it with a 3500 VDP EFi. I have to disagree with you on the reliability of the inline 6 – as long as you kept it full of water and fresh oil, you had no problems at all. The police didn’t have many problems with them I believe. The 2300 was a lovely engine ; much smoother than the 2000 or 2500 that Triumph had !

  61. Clearly the Africans and Australians chose the better engine in the E6-series. Yet another case where BL wasted money on an engine not needed. My SD1 experience was the 2000, brought second-hand, which I actually liked. Base spec meant less to go wrong and it served me well for over 40,000 miles. Sold at same price I brought it at. But in the land of dreams imagine if it had the Sprint 2.0 engine xx

    • I’ve always thought the same. British Leyland should have bored out the E6 to 2.3 and 2.6 litres and saved a packet in developing two troublesome engines. The E6 had proved itself in the Wolseley Six and Princess 2200 as a fairly reliable, very smooth and powerful engine. Also the O series used in the 2000 was a straightforward and dependable engine if maintained correctly. Mind you, rather than a Sprint engine, how about turbocharging the O series like on the M cars and give the entry Rover a real burst of power.

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