News : Rover 2600 SDX offered on eBay UK

Keith Adams


A rare, South African-specification, CKD-built Rover 2600 SDX has been offered on eBay. The car, which was built in Leyland South Africa‘s Blackheath plant, is freshly imported and ready to go. It’s a Midas Gold example and was registered in 1980 – it differs from the UK version by being powered by the stretched version of the Princess and BMC 2200‘s E6 engine, as used in the Leyland P76 and Austin Kimberley.

The car is being offered by Dorset Classic Cars and the eBay auction ends on Friday 26 August. According to the seller, it has, ‘one owner since new. Never been painted, this car is in exceptional condition. There is not a blemish anywhere. The seats are as new and the interior is perfect. There is no rust anywhere to be found.’

We’ll keep a track of this curiosity, but it’s a great opportunity to own a one-off, unique-to-the-UK version of a great car. If you end up winning the auction, please get in touch – we’ll be very keen to have a very thorough look at this South African beauty.

Rover 2600 SDX (2)


Keith Adams


  1. If only the E6 had gone into Solihull built cars and the millions wasted on their low volume 6 cylinder motors had been ploughed into Maestro/Montego development instead…

    • The problem was the Unions would have blocked it, the Triumph engine was done to keep Canley onside, otherwise the Unions would have wrecked the launch. Noting that just a few years earlier Canley had gone on strike for no other reason but to give the management no option but to seek nationalisation.

  2. If I remember correctly the increase from 2.2 to 2.6 is as simple as using the E series 1750 bore and stroke set up instead of the 1500 one used in the normal version.

  3. The 2600cc engine was pratically the only choice of engine for the SD1 in Portugal. So much, that the SD1itself was known as the Rover 2600, nothing else. Also, a 2400turbo diesel version was available too. The v8 is extremely rare in there.

  4. The E6 looks really at home in there… How did it stack up reliability and preformance wise next to the Rover 2300/2600 six?

    • I have often seen it written that it was both smoother and a bit quicker (accepting that the 2600 was detuned so not to threaten the V8). But how close this was to reality I do not know.

  5. Over 6 days to go and there are already 43 bids and it’s passed £2,500!

    How is it possible to work out a fair price on this oddball?!

  6. As it is a private import from outside the UK the buyer will probably have to pay VAT on the purchase price to register it for use on the road here. I see it still has South African plates.

  7. The South African climate means rust won’t be a problem and the car is probably a bit more robust than the British version to cope with South African roads.

  8. Why is it called an SDX and not an SD1? I can’t find any info on the different name. Seems another good example of BL having too many engines of similar size – why bother developing an all new 2600 for the home market SD1 when this version of the E6 already existed overseas?

  9. “…why bother developing an all new 2600 for the home market SD1 when this version of the E6 already existed overseas?”

    Probably a result of cross-marque compartmentalisation, and the need to give the engineering department at Rover something to do.

    • The 2600 engine was Triumph project and done to keep the Unions at Canley on side about the SD1 and the ending of production of the Triumph 2000, 2500 range.

  10. I often wonder why, like the OP says, British Leyland wasted a shedload of money on unreliable six cylinder engines for the Rover SD1, when they could have expanded the E series, which was a fairly reliable engine and extremely smooth. South Africa seems to have shown the way with the SD1.

    • The E6 2.6 had a reputation for overheating and blowing head gaskets, in both Australia and South Africa. Leykore revised it as the R-series, improving it for use in the Series 3 Landrover and SDX.

      A common tweak for the Marina 6 was to fit the twin carbs and dual exhaust from the Austin Kimberley 2200, which gave 140bhp (same 54 bhp/litre as the twin carb 1750).

      • Is it a coincidence that this updated E6 was called the R-series, just like the updated E4 was in the UK? Would anybody know if these updates were related (other than having their origins in the E-series)?

  11. AS always with these sorts of questions, it’s not as simple as some folk seem to think. There are umpteen considerations in any given choice of a power unit, but often the most critical one is down to existing production capacity, in the UK and overseas. It made sense to use existing capacity in SA, it wouldn’t have been easy to just ramp up E Series production in the UK. On top of that, the initially pro-Triumph BLMC management probably had something of a blind spot when it came to anything developed by BMC during the Issigonis era! And it was Triumph engineers, in the main, who developed the OHC 2.3/2.6 eventually used in SD1. On paper, it was a much more modern design, with the hemi-head and Dolomite Sprint type valve gear. In practice, the E6 worked far better than it had any right to, and I remember one of the Longbridge engineers who went out to SA to support the SDX launch telling me that the seven-bearing E6 2600 was notably more refined than the somewhat ‘gravelly’ 4-bearing OHC 2600 unit.
    Before anybody asks – no, you couldn’t put the long-stroke E6 2600 engine in the Princess – there wasn’t enough clearance in the transverse gearbox to accommodate the extra crank swing. Sad that, could have been quite a Q-car…

    • Ian Elliott

      Would a 2600 E6 have worked with Princess, had it been conceived as a slightly larger car or used an end-on gearbox in place of the existing transmission-in-sump layout?

      • Nate
        An end-on gearbox wouldn’t have fitted the existing Princess, and it would have required a huge increase in front track to make it fit! Something clever might have have been possible by tilting the engine and packaging the transmission behind it, as proposed in some other Austin Morris experimental designs -but this would have been getting into fantasy land.
        Regarding comments from others about Product Planning being a joke and so on, I would only reiterate that it wasn’t as simple as some of you seem to think – in fact it was all fiendishly complicated. In terms of power unit planning, the BLMC merger happened at worst possible time, with E Series, Triumph slant four/Stag V8, and Rover V8 all recently tooled up at great expense, and a plethora of potential new designs being worked on all around the individual companies. The entire concept of the BLMC merger was wrong-headed, and a lot of very good people were run ragged trying to make it work.

        • Ian Elliot

          Not even if the Princess was conceived as a full Granada-sized car instead of straddling between the Cortina and Granada?

          • Nate
            No – Princess was about the same width as Granada anyway – it would have to balloon out tp MkX Jaguar girth or more to accommodate an end-on box. The whole architecture of the E Series was based on the need to get a straight six into the old Land Crab shell, originally with an end-on radiator. Subsequently the rad was moved to the front, so the engine designers could have had a slightly better valve disposition if they had known…

    • Actually the E6 could have found its way also into the series 2 Rover P6 giving the 4 cyl models a much needed refinement. Not to mention replacing the ancient IOE 6 cyl in various Land Rover applications.
      And of course, expansion capacity of a given engine plant, no matter how complicated, it cannot be more complicated or more costly than the developement of a new engine AND a new plant to build it.
      But as usual BL product planning those days was a joke, they couldn’t or didn’t want to recognise their assets and make use of them.

      • Demetris

        Not sure how an E6 could work when a 120-145+ hp 2.2 fuel-injected 16v Twin-Cam Slant-4 (derived from the Rover V8) was under consideration for the P6 around that time (as part of a wider engine family), prior to BL dropping the project and forcing Rover to over-bore the existing 2000cc unit to a 2200cc engine.

        Though could easily see the E6 utilized for Land Rovers, MGs (including the MGB and ADO21) and a properly designed Morris-badged RWD Cortina / Granada rival.

        • Nate,
          the Rover twin cam 16V fuel injected engine was to be developed from the existing 4 cyl engine, not the V8. Unfortunately all this was only exciting ideas, not even something on paper, and remained so when Rover was not allowed the funds for development. The only part of the project that came through eventualy was the block with the enlarged bore to accomodate the 4 valves per cylinder, hence the 2200 models after 1974.
          They even axed the fuel injected V8 that was in a much more advanced stage. There were development P6Bs that were running with the Brico electronic injection engine, they even reached the stage to print the service manual for injection system and created 3500EI badges.
          Anyway, what i wanted to say is that the advanced 4 cyl was considered in the era before the formation of BL. After the merger there was no more the DOHC 16V four, but the E6 was available almost right away. This is why i am saying that it made sense to use the E6 in the P6.
          What went down in history as a paradox, is that in the days of BL in order to improve the economic results they axed different models that could actualy generate sales volume, and they kept developing various (half baked) platforms and engines that cost money that the company did not actualy had available. In contrast, nowadays everybody tries to use the same engines and platforms even across different manufacturers in order to create as many different models as possible. You don’t really need a degree in economics to understand why the former practice failed and the later still succeeds, but as they say common sense is not really that common.

          One day though, i would like to try and transplant an E6 2600 into my P6 just to find out what it would be like to drive.

          • Nate

            Based on the James Taylor books on Rover and Land Rover, was under the impression it was a Slant-Four design that used the existing P6’s transfer line and was not only intended to form the basis of a new 32v Quad-Cam Fuel-Injected 4.4 V8 for the P8 project (with a remnant 4.4 V8 later appearing in the Leyland P76), but in the case of Land Rover also intended to spawn a dieselized version.

            Agree with the idea of cars using common componentry including engines, however given that the pre-BL Rover era was comparable to the over-engineered Volvo and Mercedes-Benz of the past prestige and in the case of the E6 (perhaps tuned 2.6 E6 and bored out 2.7-2.9 E6), power must also be taken into account.

          • Continuing from Land Rover am not only referring to Project Iceberg aka dieselized Rover V8, but also to a Dieselized 2.2 Slant-Four engine.

          • I felt that my memory might be failing me on the subject, so i had to revisit the James Taylor’s books, and indeed some of my scribblings above are not correct, so i apologise.

            To put thing in the correct perspective, i will quote directly James Taylor about the 2200 engine.

            ” In fact, work had begun as early as as June 1970 on a development of the 1,978cc four-cylinder engine intended for use in the forthcoming P6 replacement, then known as P10 but eventually remaned SD1. This heavily revised engine had twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, together with a redesigned lightweight block, and it was to be canted sideways to fit under the sloping bonnet of P10. In order to save costs, the cylinder blocks were to be machined on existing P6 transfer line tooling, suitably modified to accomodate an increase in the bore size to 90.5 mm, the largest which could safely be achieved.
            The main reason for this larger bore, according to the engine’s principal designer, Dave Wall, was to make room for the four valves per cylinder. Five or six prototypes of the 2,204cc engine had been built, and one, fitted with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, was developing 170bhp on the test bed when British Leyland brought the project to a halt. What had happened was simply the resolution of a potential clash between the new Rover and a planned new Triumph: British Leyland decided to cancel the Triumph and keep the riumph engineers busy by having them draw up a new six cylinder engine which Rover would use in the cheaper versions of their new car instead of their own twin-overhead-cam four-cylinder. Although the twin-cam engine engine might have made an excellent replacement for the 1,978cc power unit in the four cylinder P6 models, the car’s expected production life was too short to justify the cost of continuing development work, especially if there would be no chance that the engine might appear in another Rover later. So the twinoverhead-cam Rover engine was aborted in May 1971. In fact, it would be the last new engine ever designed by the old Rover company.
            Nevertheless, the work put in at Solihull was not wholly wasted because Jack Swaines’s engine designers decided to use the large bore size as the basis of an improved single-overhead-cam engine. The extra swept volume would give welcome improvements in both power and torque, and the enlarged bore meant that the cylinder head could be redesigned to accomodate larger exhaust valves.”

          • Demetris

            Thinking about it further if the all-alloy Twin-Cam 16v FI 2.2-litre project was indeed derived from the P6’s OHC engine then that also opens the possibility of viable Inline-5 and even Inline-6 variants.

            2.5-3.2-litre Inline-5/6 variants which unlike the previous P6 OHC-based P7 2.5-3.0-litre Inline-5/6 engines would not only be significantly lighter in the case of the P7 Inline-6 prototype, but also benefit from Fuel-Injection in the case of the P7 Inline-5 prototype (and that is not even mentioning the possibilities of dieselized 5/6-cylinder variants).

            It would also remove the need for an all-alloy V6 derived from the Rover V8.

            Guess my confusion stems from mistaking the Twin-Cam Inline-4 unit being canted sideways for a slant-4 layout, with another Rover V8-based slant-4 petrol / diesel project as well as the fact the P8’s 3.9-4.4+ Rover V8 was also intended to have quad-cams, multi-valves and fuel-injection (likely shared with the Twin-Cam 2.2 Inline-4 unit).

    • I believe very much that a key driver was to keep the Canley plant onside for the SD1 project. The Triumph engine was thrown to them to show that BL was still committed to Canley, no doubt remembering that it was a Canley strike which was called for no other reason than to be the final straw to force the company to accept nationalisation.

      Its very easy to say we could cut this or do that, but forget that factory closures and even product changes were hard fought battles.

      Also of course it would have taken until 74 for the reality to sink in that the Allegro was not going to take up all E series production. Not only because of the cars failings, but also because prior to the oil crisis recession the expectation had been that the centre of gravity for the range would be the 1500, however the effect of the UK economic problems was that it stayed at 1300.

    • Ian
      I wonder if clearance in the Maxi gearbox to accommodate crank swing may have forced the adoption of the 1748cc rather than 1797cc version of the E Series? I have the impression than even the former was difficult to arrange.

  12. The E6 was a seriously underrated engine, smooth and effortless in operation and apart from some issues with bearings, generally reliable. However, since it was an Austin Morris engine, and Rover was linked with Triumph in the mid seventies, it was decided to develop a new series of six cylinder engines for the SD1, which would replace the Rover 2200 and Triumph 2000/2500. These, as we know, were unreliable and offered nothing over the E6 in terms of refinement. Yet another case of British Leyland rivalries and engineers deciding everything that meant the SD1’s costs went ever higher while bread and butter cars were left to wither on the vine.

    • The Triumph design 6 cylinders may have not been as smooth as the E6 but could produce vastly more power tahn the E6.

      • While that is true, you are comparing a design form the 60’s with a design from the late 70’s/80’s if it couldn’t give more power than something was seriously wrong. Fairly minor revision to the E6 could have seen it matching the rover triumph engine fairly easily.

        • Apparently the E6 2600 produced 121bhp in the Australian Marina and the Triumph s6 2600 produced 136 bhp so yes more power, but I’d think that some development might have changed that. The R and S versions/development of the E4 show that there was significant potential in the engine. The S coincided with the use of E6 in the SD1

          • Leyland Australia were allegedly developing a more potent 2.6 E6 (either for the Marina or another car) capable of 150-160 hp, roughly the same as the de-restricted Triumph-developed 2.6 SD1-Six and regular non-Vitesse Rover SD1 3500 V8.

            Meanwhile there was also the 1.6 S-Series Turbo by Janspeed with 150 hp as well as the shelved 16v S-Series project, both of which give a rough idea as to the development potential of the related E/S-Series engines.

        • You have to take also into account atht the Triumph developed engine was kept deliberately soft because otherwise it would have threatened the V8 sales.

          The truth is that both engines were under developed a product of BMC / BL declining financial position and limited demand for such sized engines in late 70s and early 80s Britain.

          • Isn’t it really the case that, whilst E6 might have generated enough power to be competitive when SD1 was first launched, it would have been left behind by other maker’s engines fairly quickly, whilst the Triumph 6 had lots of room for further development? Unfortunately, with the financial shape of BL, that didn’t happen, so the 1986 2.6 litre engines produced no more power than the ’77 ones – but presumably the idea at their inception is that they would have been updated over the years, with fuel injection etc. It has to be remembered that, in terms of engines, SD1 was a complete outlier, with the biggest engines in the small 80s Mercs and BMW 5 series (at least excepting things like the M5) being 2.8 litre sixes. Ditto the Granada, come to think of it. As such, the SD1 six might have replaced the V8 in time. I understand it could also be bored out to 3 litres and I guess with FI would then have made 200bhp or therabouts – so quite competitive with other biggish engines into the nineties. Something I suspect the E6 could never have been.

          • Seem to the recall the 2.6 E6 being capable of being increased to as much as 3050cc or 3.1, whether that was actually possible is another matter though the E6 was more likely capable of being bored out to 2.7 at most via an 1797-1803cc E4.

            Perhaps the E6 would have been better off complimenting the SD1-Six below as a 2.4-2.6/2.7-lire engine, with the SD1-Six in turn being bored out from 2.6-litre to 3.0/3.2-litres?

  13. The E series engine line (Along with all the stuff for Marina’s) from Leyland Australia was shipped to South Africa after the closure of Australian plant . That probably explains the use of the E6 in the SD1, as the Ozzie Marina & P76 used this engine.

  14. Nate, The engine that Leyland was developing, was an Alloy V6…Basically the V8 with two cylinders off it. The test engine still exists in Sydney. Apparently it displaced 3.3 litres & was to replace the E6 in the P76 & was earmarked for the P82.

    • Jason Birmingham

      Though can sort of see why the all-alloy 3.3 Rover V6 would put out around 150 hp (given the 4.4 Rover V8 was putting out 200 hp), have been unable to find any sources as to how much power the 3.3 Rover V6 was putting out.

      Also seem to recall reading elsewhere about a high-performance 2.6 E6 Marina project with 150-160 hp.

  15. Fascinating that a 1.5litre fwd family hatchback 4-pot engine could transform into a 6-pot rwd luxury powerplant. With all the expertise available on this (great) site isn’t it time to delve into why BL had so many engine choices and why certain models didn’t appear. In my humble opinion BL spent too much on engines xx

    • Susan
      You don’t have to delve very deep to find out why BL had so many engine choices. It was simply because it had been formed by crudely hammering together several disparate companies, all with their own existing engine designs and manufacturing facilities, and all with a chronic lack of investment cash. A really bright idea by Tony Benn!

      • It is a shame that they couldn’t rationalise, I would have loved a 5 speed 1750 Princess having several B-series models.

      • To be fair the idea was probably right, it was the execution that was wrong. It you take VW / auto union, then there is a similar exercise going on and so too with FIAT SEAT Alfa and Lancia. What BL managed to do was to simultaneously merge but not rationalise and when they did rationalise, they threw the baby (x9) out with the bathwater.

        • If the E-series was modular I wonder if any thought was given to an Audi-style 5-cylinder variant. That would have been in the range of 1856/2185cc and most likely a cheaper option than O-series.

          • While E3-cylinder engines were looked at that even formed the basis of the engine found in the BL ECV3, little to no evidence exists as to whether the E-Series was capable of spawning E5-cylinder and E-V8 variants (latter not necessarily replacing the Rover V8 as to slot below allowing the Rover unit to remain more exclusive).

            Also an E5-cylinder would not likely have the same performance potential as the 2.0 O-Series (and related M/T-Series), though might prove to be a useful option in a Land Rover.

          • Rover had looked at 5 cylinder engines for the P6, but the problem was getting good fueling with carbs and given the problem Triumph had with Lucas’s early fuel injection, there was not a UK fuel injection solution available.

  16. As mentioned elsewhere 5 cylinder petrol engines are hard to make with carbs, I presume Audi’s first ones used injectors.

    • I’d assume the carb problem is if you need to have more than 1 or less than 5. With 1 carb per pot it should work fine or with only 1 carb overall it work work OK, but would restrict breathing, but would be torquey. Fuel injection would be fine as you say, and I think all the 5 cylinder Audis have used FI.

      The concept of modular engines really appeals to me as as way to keep costs down, as a change, say to emissions system or valve gear would be the same on all the same family of engines. Also the volume of components such as valves or con rods rises vastly. By the same means, the numbers of spares falls drastically.

      • Thanks for filling me in about 5 cylinder engines & carbs.

        Volvo had a good modular design of engine in the 1990s, with 4, 5 & 6 cylinder versions available.

      • The Audi five cylinder was available in carb form. Used one carb, producing 115bhp. FI version produced 136bhp.

        • Indeed: both the earlier 2.1 5S (as in 1978 Audi 100) and the later 1.9 5S (1980 Coupé) had 115 bhp carburettor engines. First Audi 5-cylinder (and I believe first petrol 5-cylinder in the world) was the 136 bhp 1977 Audi 100 5E. First ever five however was the 1975 MB 300D, engineering by one dr. F. Piech. No prizes for guessing who initiated the Audi fives…

  17. The E6 was the finest of British Leyland era engines and was underused, only being used in 2200 variants of the Landcrab and the Princess. It should have been bored out for the SD1, as in South Africa, and been fitted with fuel injection from the start. I’m sure this would have proved far more reliable and cheaper than the troublesome Rover six cylinder engines.

    • Have heard different accounts to how much the E6 was capable of being bored out beyond the 2622cc E6, from 2695-2704cc (derived from 1797-1803cc E4 prototype) and 2872cc (derived from 1915cc E4 used in Rally Allegro) up to as much as 3100cc (not sure of the source for latter E6 displacement).

  18. I’d love whoever buys this to tune it and put it on a rolling road, alongside a healthy British 2.6, then write it up on here.

  19. Bidding ended at £2950, 48 bids placed but reserve not met so car unsold. No doubt it will soon be offered again!

    • I would have thought three grand was a pretty decent price. Yes yes, one owner and interesting SA spec, but ultimately it’s just a non-V8 SD1 in a dull colour.

  20. Fascinating stuff as ever. Still think the SD1-six (btw: why doesn’t it even have an official codename??) was a waste of resources. In hindsight…:

    In 1968 the BL Board could and should have decided to further develop the E4-series as BL’s standard midsize fwd engine (enlarging to 1978 cc or more, adding an end-on gearbox (5-speed for both E4 adn E6) to reduce height -as eventually happened with R- and S-series-, perhaps dieselising, etc) and E6 as the six cylinder engine of choice in the SD1.

    Next, Triumph’s slant 4 could have acted as the company’s standard 4 cylinder engine in rdw applications.

    This combination would have saved the unnecessary development of the SD1 Six as well as the O-series, freeing resources to develop the Maxi into a decent car (without Those Doors!), that in 4-door form could have doubled as successor to the 1800, avoiding a separate Princess.
    A decent Maxi could even have have served as basis for an 1100/1300 successor: did any one ever notice The Maxi and the Allegro were of equal width? One “platform” in two lengths would have sufficed…

    BTW: all rwd cars (TR7/8/Lynx, SD1, SD2 and even the Marina) could have been even more related than they were: one common component set of engines, suspensions, gearboxes, brakes, steering, aircon, etc. would have realised even more savings without grave consequences.

    In the 1970’s, a completely new, interrelated mid/large V6 and L4 engine range could have been pulled off the Jaguar V12, as suggested by Keith Adams in his excellent review of the SD1 Six elsewhere on this site. BL could have gone the same route Renault and PSA did with their common PRV/Douvrin engines and later small XU-engine.

    I always wonder why all this (the rational things) didn’t happen. I suppose most people involved (management, unions and government) didn’t really realise the gravity of BL’s situation until too late…

  21. Sorry, enlarging E-series to 1798 cc, as in prototypes. 2 litre would have resulted in more than 100mm stroke, perhaps that would have been a bridge too far. Possibly, a 2 litre could have been developed as in the later S-type: with 400cc per cylinder , a modular series of 1.2l/3cyl, 1.6l/4cyl, 2,0l/5-cyl and 2.4l/6-cyl would have been a possibilty.
    Though ideaaly, by that time the new Jaguar V12-based engine family would have come available 🙂

    • 2.4 ltr EFi S6 has always been my feel for the right engine to have made………….. The S4 EFi has a quite outstanding power delivery. But – HGF…………

  22. Hi The E4 E6 engines as far as boring is concerned due to the Siamese bore configuration were not able to be bored larger than 30 thou so the capacity increased that some of you are saying (2.9 and 3.0) is impossible without a block re design which was not going to happen. In Australia we had a lot of issues moving into the leaded to unleaded fuel conversion (in 1986 well after Leyland Australia’s closure) that a lot of P76s, marinas, 2200 ftted to earlier Tasmans and Kimberly’s, which caused head gasket failures due to detonation.(people advancing the distributor timing to keep the performance at the old levels) This caused the majority of the old Marinas, P76 6 cylinders and even morris 1500’s to simply be scrapped when they used to blow head gaskets or burn out valves and the owners simply scrapped the cars, or converted the p76 6 cylinder s to v8’s (like I did to mine) to get an easy doubling of horsepower with the same economy . A friend of mine who owned about 6 P76 v8s wanted to persist with his six cylinder car and completely rebuilt the OHC E6 by boring it as much as it would go and then constantly kept blowing head gaskets, shaving the head, re setting the bucket shims (same design and very intensive labour as the DOHC jaguar), he gave up even after trying to run 2 head gaskets on 1 engine. The costs were prohibitive and he eventually converted it to a v8 motor after briefly running a 245 (4.0) Chrysler Valiant engine in the car which gave it the same o to 60 mph performance as the v8 P76 engine.

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