Concepts : Triumph SD2 – the prototype Citroen BX

The Anadol-Reliant FW11 prototype and its similarity with the Triumph SD2 serves to remind us that nothing’s completely new in the car world.

Words: Keith Adams Photography: Sporting Reliants/Anadol Fan Club

Denied Turkish Delight

Triumph SD2 prototype
1974: Triumph SD2 prototype
Reliant/Anandol FW11 prototype
1977: Bertone-Anadol FW11 prototype
Bertone Tundra concept car
1979: Bertone Tundra concept car
Citroen BX
1982: Citroen BX

It started with a simple statement by regular Facebook contributor John Barber: ‘Who said that the Triumph SD2 never saw production?’ Above it was a picture of the blue Reliant-built FW11 prototype, which you can see for yourself, second from the top.

It was an interesting point, and one that set me thinking – not so much about the SD2, but about the FW11 itself and how it encapsulated yet another of those frustrating might-have-beens that litter the British motor industry and this site in particular.

From Cortina to Reliant

The FW11 came about following Turkish car company Otosan’s desire to replace its impressive Ford-based Anadol A1/A2. The A1 was the first car to built by Otosan and had been developed by Reliant under the codename FW5. This model married Ford Cortina running gear with an attractive Ogle-styled body. However, in 1977, the Turkish company decided to do the same thing, commissioning Reliant to develop a new car, based on Ford running gear, this time codenamed FW11.

The resulting rear-wheel-drive five-door hatchback was styled by Bertone and was developed specifically for ease of production (like the light commercial Fox) and could powered by a range of engines spanning 1.3- to 2.8-litres. Gandini ensured that the FW11 showcased a generic and stylish Bertone origami look, and one that looked fresh and modern in the late-197os.

Four prototypes were built by Reliant, with two being shipped out to Turkey for further evaluation. The other two remained with Reliant, and it was considered for UK production under the ‘Scimitar SE7’ moniker. Showing it at the NEC Motor Show in Birmingham proved to be a bit of a PR disaster, though – Reliant didn’t get a look in at the show where the Austin Metro and Ford Escort MkIII were launched.

Soon abandoned

By that time, Otosan had already abandoned the idea, instead choosing to facelift the A1/A2 into the ‘interestingly’ styled A8-16/16 SL before taking on production of the Taunus/Cortina ’80, which would end up living on until 1994.

But what of the FW11 design? Bertone certainly succumbed to the temptation of recycling it (as it had done many times before with a variety of other styling schemes). When Citroën approached the Italian design house to come up with a concept for its upcoming mid-sized car Projet XB  it did a swift re-work, combining elements of its 1979 Volvo Tundra concept car – the results were plain to see in 1982’s Citroën BX.

That, in turn, raises all manner of questions – could Reliant have made a success out of the FW11? More relevantly, could Rover-Triumph’s similar concept – the SD2 – have done well? Considering that Citroën built over two million BXs, it’s a fair likelihood that, with a little more refining for the showroom and an appealing range of engine options, BL’s original could have done very well indeed, had the company – and its Government paymasters – kept the faith.



Keith Adams


  1. Look at the Anodol from the rear three quarters and its a golf/passat hommage, especially the way the rear glass sits.

    I allways thought the SD2 would have had a Renault 16 likeness if it had a 3 light body side too.

  2. I always wanted a BX19GT I liked the looks. but I was still a bit shy of Citroen after I had parted with my troublesome DS20. at the time the BX’s were new and expensive. Now they are rotten and few and far between in good condition. And who(J Clarkson) said Rover was bad. My wife and I did look atto buy) a BX about 10 years ago about 1/2 way inbetween them being new and rotten, and the seat positioning designed for 6 giants, we couldnt get the seat forward enough for a women who I wouldnt exactly call short. alx

  3. The SD2 is a bit too curvy to compare with the FW11/BX, Gandini was always one of my least favoured designers, far too many straight lines for my liking!

  4. Must admit i can’t remember seeing a rotten BX, being mostly plastic and ally. I think even the roof was plastic. Most went off the road because the interior fell to bits or the suspension pipes rusted, it was seldom economical to replace all the suspension pipes. Paint also went dull and flaked off the plastic with age, pushing them into banger territory fairly early on.

    Lets be honest though, pre-1990 Austin-Rovers ‘were’ bad when it came to rust, most 1980’s cars were. But Montego’s must be just as scarce as BX’s these days.

    Always liked the BX styling though, they lost their mojo a lot with the replacement Xantia. I loved the ‘rising bar’ instruments on the early BX’s, faux digital created with cylindrical mechanisms, worked a treat though.

    As i understand it Bertone designed the Tundra for Volvo, but they decided not to take up their option on the design, so Bertone offered it around and Citroen snapped it up, selling several million of them.

    It’s not unusual or surprising that cars from the same design house look similar though, it’s just a question of house style and they way a particular designer thinks. It’s a lot like handwriting, no matter which language a given person writes in their handwriting will always look the same. (providing its in latin script, rather than japanese or something obviously!) Farina has to have been the worst at it though, selling Peugeot and BMC basically the same car!

  5. I’ve always wondered if the Triumph SD2 would have had an engine range as wide as the FW11 prototypes? from a 1.3 as in the Dolomite 1300 to a 3.0 V6 based on the SD1-Six.

    Btw, where does it say that the Reliant FW11 was RWD? I thought the FW11 was FWD?

  6. Never been sure about the SD2. The concept was spot on, and the idea of producing a Morris version (short-lived TM1) to replace the Marina made complete sense. Keith’s interview with Spen King ( ) is interesting on this, as King suggests there are three reasons why it would have failed : poor quality, poor styling, and strange alignment / competition with the rest of the BL range. Apparently management prefered this design over two nicer ones!

    Nice to track the Bertone design trends. The same kind of story could apply to other design houses. Giugiaro’s Medusa and Orca from the early 80s influenced a host of swoopy aerodynamic family hatchbacks in that decade.

    The Facebook page is great by the way!

  7. I can’t believe anyone can think that blue thing (FW11) is attractive, it’s the most awkward looking, angular mess I think I’ve ever seen!!! URGHHH!

  8. Nate: look at the link – there’s a lot more info and pictures of the beige prototype I mentioned, clearly RWD.

    Dennis: repiping a BX is easy, and the pipes rarely rusted – however the plastic pipes degrade, split and crack. BXs themselves definitely rust – the bodies are steel, the bonnet on some models is plastic, the tailgate and C-pillar trim, and estate roof but not the hatchback. No aluminium panels. Rotten BXs are quite common now :(. The rotating drum instruments weren’t faux-digital, they were also used on the GS and CX; the BX Digit had true digital instruments.

  9. The SD2 should have been more like the Michelotti proposal/Apache/Victoria. A natural progression of the original design. As stated elsewhere on this site, it had all the makings of a 3series competitor and could still have been with us today.

  10. I had a BX back in 1998 (a ten year old DTR Turbo in white, basically a GTi with the fantastic 90bhp turbo diesel engine). It did 40mpg all day long and went like a train. The ride and handling was truly sensational. However, in six months it needed a new turbo, two new speedo cables (a common problem, due to the tortuous route it took to exit the bulkhead on the LHD side), two suspension spheres, a clutch, a new turbo pipe and some suspension piping. Despite its numerous faults however (no doubt due to its dodgy 8 previous owner ten year past), I loved it to bits. It cost me a fortune in repairs and I sold it for a staggering loss, but I don’t regret it in the slightest, as it showed me how good cars could really be after years of driving Ford Escorts.

    I’d have another one tomorrow. That’s how fantastic it was to drive. Light, precise, smooth and powerful. Drive one and compare it to the Astras, Escorts and Golfs that it was competing with at the time and you’ll see what I mean. Way ahead of its time and, although it was a reasonable seller in the UK, it deserved far better.

    • Exactly. The BX succeeded because it had superb engineering under a tidy body. Had ARG attempted the same thing it would have been compromised to the point where it wouldn’t have driven or looked as it should. Let’s have a few more cars as individual as the BX, please. Incidentally I think the Tundra still looks fresh today.

  11. Unlike the SD1, the SD2 ends very badly. Far too arse-heavy.

    The lack of left foot-room is disturbing too.

    Yet another nearly but not quite design.

    I agree something rather more Trad (a la RT10?) would probably have made more sense.

  12. “Dennis: repiping a BX is easy, and the pipes rarely rusted – however the plastic pipes degrade, split and crack. BXs themselves definitely rust – the bodies are steel, the bonnet on some models is plastic, the tailgate and C-pillar trim, and estate roof but not the hatchback. No aluminium panels. Rotten BXs are quite common now . The rotating drum instruments weren’t faux-digital, they were also used on the GS and CX; the BX Digit had true digital instruments.”

    I agree it’s not hard, but there are a lot of pipes and replacing them was expensive if you paid someone to do it. As i remember there were a couple of bits where they passed through the body panels (under the rear seat i think was one) tended to go and were a fair bit of work to get at.

    Well by faux digital i meant they gave the impression of LCD graphic instruments with out using electronics.

  13. From the other SD2 concepts page ( ), the headlight treatment looks extremely BX-like, as does the interior/steering wheel.BX was a great car, the old man had 2 XUDs (back when the diesel pump was at the far end of the petrol station!), used them as workhorses and they never let him down. The last one in Meteor spec was well specced.A friend tried to convince me to buy his BX off him a couple of years ago, but it did need a lot of welding, rust had gotten to it.The Xantia was Citroen learning their lesson, these have aged very well.

  14. Why on earth didn’t Reliant go with the the FW11? I know what some have said, but it’s almost an exact clone of the later BX and with the right detailing (sill paint, trims and paint) it would have been a pretty advanced looking car. Anyone saying it looks like an FSO Polonez (when clearly it’s the BX prototype) must be looking at a different car. Imagine the turnaround in Reliant’s fortunes if they had managed to produce a car like this?

  15. The Anadol A8 1

    Any relation to the Volvo safety car?

    Incidentally, the VW ESV looks a bit before it’s time, like an early Saab 9000.

  16. @Keith B
    “The SD2 is a bit too curvy to compare with the FW11/BX, Gandini was always one of my least favoured designers, far too many straight lines for my liking!”

    One word.. Miura..

  17. @Keith,

    I have to say I really burst out laughing when I saw that horror!

    The plastic front bumpers and the leading edge of the bonnet kind of gives it a ‘beestung lips’ effect. If you saw this thing coming behind you in your mirrors, you wouldn’t know whether it was going to kiss your behind or take a bite out of your rear bumper.

    The FSO Polonez (by far the worst car I have ever owned) looks positively sleek and sexy by comparison…

  18. Years before the Chrysler tie-up, Fiat took a look at an AMC Pacer and thought “Ah-hah! What-a we need issa quattro porte Pacer! Bellissimo!”

  19. You could probably add the 1981 VW Passat and the Renault 20/30 as other cars that shared a similar style. Clearly the zeitgeist in the late 70s/early 80s. Shame BL didn’t make use of the SD2 style – conceptually at least – for the Maestro. It would have been bang on the button style wise at launch in 1983 but would have needed some tidying to make it more BX like.

  20. Rather than the SD2, the Reliant/Anadol FW11 prototype would appear to be very much where Chrysler UK went when it first drew up the Alpine.

    After the 1970 cull of projects like the V6 and the coupe Avenger and lift back (later rehashed and updated into the 424) following the massive cost overruns and missing productivity targets with the Avenger and transfer of Arrow production to Linwood, new more modest plans were prepared.

    One of these was to use a stretched and widened Avenger estate platform (the estate had a panard rod rear suspension to provide a lower floor) sitting under a smart looking 5 door body styled by Roy Axe to replace the Arrow, it was this car that was adopted and taken forward by Chrysler Europe to become the Alpine /1307. The original intention however was to pitch it above the Cortina by using a Twin OHC development of the Avenger large (Brazilian) block and 5 speed version of the alloy case Avenger gearbox. The move upmarket recognised the fact that they could not achieve the production / sales volumes to fight Ford head on, and instead look to cream off the premium end of mid-size market sector, which in many ways what Rootes and Simca had previously done.

    However the French side were clear that the car would need to be FWD to appeal to the wider European Market, Whitley then proposed a FWD evolution of the Avenger with a 5 speed gearbox designed to be built using the then fresh tooling for the Avenger alloy cased gearbox and dead beam axle with panard rod to replace the live axle. The Simca team proposed using the 1100 as a basis although they themselves had plans to pitch upmarket with gearbox improvements including a 5 speed and 160/180/2 litre engine. However Chrysler as ever struggling to make its European operation deliver a return went the cheapest route possible of using an 1100 oily bits with minimum enhancement.

    Certainly in the long term FWD can be seen as the right way, however when the Fiat 131 came along in 1974 with its twin cam engine and rear drive live axle there was some push back from Whitley that the Avenger based solution would have appealed to a wider European market.

    • SIMCA argued that FWD was the way forward, however in the early 70s this was really the domain of southern Europe, whilst northern Europe still preferred RWD. This is why FIAT went the RWD route with the 131 and had not gone all out FWD with it’s mid market battler. It was not until the late 70s and early 80s that FWD started to become the mainstream for most cars.

      • I agree

        Whitley argued that the UK and its key markets such as Scandinavia and Holland still wanted RWD, so for a time the Alpine would be RWD using Avenger underpinnings and 1307 will 1100 underpinnings. However with each round of cost savings, this then became using Avenger engines linked to the FWD Simca gear box and finally this was dropped to avoid the needs to engineer new engine mountings (also some investigation into using BLs E Series).

        We should also note that Simca kept its RWD 1500 Estate in production and the Peugeot 505 were all RWD although probably Ford made a mistake to stick with RWD for the Sierra.

        It is of course strange thinking back to the mid 80s when we all thought FWD was the way to go and that RWD was not, that BMW have turned that around so that to be a serious player in the “fleet car” sector you need not only a good badge but also RWD.

      • Many FWD cars in the 70s still had flaws such as terrible gear changes, heavy steering (before power steering became normal) and trickier maintenance (especially the BMC/Peugeot in sump layout)

        It was the Golf, and then the GM Astra/FWD Cavalier/Ascona and FWD Escort which solved many of these issues changed people’s attitudes

  21. One of my work colleagues had a Citroen BX as his company car. This was after his previous cars which were an MGB GT, a GT V8 and an Alfetta. Quite a change! The BX was kept longer than the others though.

  22. The SD2, compared to SD1 and the Dolomite/Toledo was an abomination! Hideous to say the least, was it a deliberate attempt to cancel the project at first sight?

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