Well, I never thought I’d see the day! Above, you can see what happens when you take a really nice example of a Rover SD1 off the road, and leave it open to to the elements for around 15 years. This Midas Gold 1979 example has popped up on eBay, and is being offered by the seller for £5000.
Back in September 2002, I bought this car from fellow journalist David Price and, at the time, it was in amazing condition. I still remember the drive back to the East Midlands from his place in Cumbria, and absolutely fell in love with this fine example of the breed. I was so proud of it, I immediately made it the website’s Car of the Month. For the first few thousand miles in my care, it never missed a beat, but there were a few issues to be had, such as the troublesome transmission inhibitor switch (it’s an auto), which would often leave it difficult to start.
There was the time it blew its exhaust centre box on the M1 northbound while heading to the Classic Motor Show at the NEC in Birmingham… that made me chuckle. But its crowning glory in the unreliability stakes came when returning home from a trip in the West Country where it had been to get its door resprayed, as the paintwork was very dull indeed. Its Lucas Opus distributor was giving up the ghost, and it left me with a very ‘interesting’ stop-start journey home… You can read all about that here.
That journey was an important one because I needed to get the car ready for a starring appearance on Top Gear the following week. After being resprayed, my mate Brian Gunn was going to restick the headlining to the roof, but little did he know that he’d also end up putting on a new and uprated distributor to replace the Lucas unit.
But it worked a treat and, with the car fixed by Brian’s healing hands, it was off to Gaydon (below) for day one of TG filming before powering over to Snetterton for day two, with Richard Hammond taking the wheel. It was good fun, and a couple of long days, followed by a trip to Dunsfold, where the car appeared as a studio prop, and I did my best to hide from the studio cameras.
My favourite moment was while we at Dunsfold: I was supposed to drive it into the hangar, but the bloody thing threw a strop and refused to start – leaving Brian and I to push it in, just as Jeremy Clarkson appeared on the scene, and muttered something about bloody Rovers. It wasn’t all bad, though, as James May cadged a quick drive in it, and looked absolutely at home in it…
As well as being in Top Gear, it appeared in Auto Express as part of its Legends special edition, where it was pitched alongside the Rover 75 V8. I assume Craig Cheetham, who wrote the piece (below), will have gone for the SD1, knowing his love of 1970s BL tin.
In its time with me, KYA 922T was also driven by none other than Spen King, who pronounced that he was pleased with how the SD1 had stood up to the test of time, and how its suspension set-up worked as well as it could given the limitations of its layout. The best part was when he said that he thought the nearside rear damper was ‘down about 30%’… a fact that proved correct at the next MoT, when the tester picked up a slight leak.
After a couple of happy years of ownership, I ended up selling it on eBay, and delivered it to an enthusiastic chap in Wales who said that it was his lifelong ambition to own one of these cars. It did look good alongside his Triumph Stag, it has to be said.
After that, I lost touch with the car, but was shocked to see this advert on eBay in February 2006, which seemed to show the car in a partially broken-down condition, with quite a bit of its interior missing. Piecing together what I can, it looks like the man I sold it to had trouble re-registering it (something to do with it originally being registered overseas), and he eventually sold it on. I am not sure why that was an issue, as I certainly had no issues with its registration.
From there, the car appears to have been sold as described in the advert, having donated its interior to the pre-production Rover SD1 that regularly pops up for sale. You can find out about that car by reading this story, penned in 2013.
I assumed I’d never see KYA 922T ever again, so it’s fascinating to see it listed on eBay again now. Of course, although you can never be 100% sure it’s the exact car it’s described as, the presence of the rather naff aftermarket pop-up sunroof would certainly mean that it looks that way.
I’d love to get that car back up and running into its original condition, as it really does have a story to tell. I am not sure how I feel about the seller’s £5000 asking price, but I reckon that it might be possible to chip it down a little…
Alternatively, how about each and every one of our readers chipping in a quid and we could collectively purchase this car to ensure it’s safe for years to come. What say you?!