Polski-Rover SD1 : In and out of love

Keith Adams 

Rover V8-S
Will buying some of these wheels have me fall in love with the SD1 again?

I must admit that I’m in a bit of a rut with my Rover SD1. It’s not that the old girl’s done anything wrong as such, just that I feel like I’m at a bit of a standstill with it – and am in desperate need of some real inspiration. I think it’s because, after the summer of recommissioning it went through, it’s still not right. 

Don’t get me wrong, Mike Humble and MOTEST have both done a cracking job on the thing, putting right all the bodgery that went on before it, as well as the inevitable side-effects of being stood around for so many years, but still the issues crop up. Well, they would, except that I haven’t actually used it since September – when a couple of yukky issues reared their ugly heads. 

Firstly, the exhaust started blowing – that was slightly disappointing considering it’s a new system. I figured it wouldn’t be anything major – just a loose bracket or something – but no, the driver’s side manifold has stripped some threads, and now the exhaust won’t connect to it. 

Then there’s the floppy gear linkage. Yup, there’s now so much play in the gear linkage that I can’t  actually select any gears without waggling the pathetic and limp lever like a wooden spoon in a bowel of porridge. Given how nice it was before it went crap, that’s doubly disappointing. No doubt this failure has been due to former bodgery. 

Then, adding insult to injury, one of the brand new tyres I fitted sprung a low puncture. Actually, that happened the day after the tyres were fitted. It’s a trio of niggles that have prompted me to put it in the garage and ignore the old lump until I find myself inspired for another session of masochistic car fixing. 

Problem is, that was three months ago, and I still don’t feel the need. 

I think another thing’s bothering me about the SD1 and that’s its worth or, more precisely, its lack of it. Yes, I know that I never restored this car to make money – and, in truth, anyone who does is deluded or very lucky – but, at the same time, it’s slightly irritating to think that this car is worth such a paltry amount of money. 

Why have I come to this conclusion? Well, it seems to me that every time a nice SD1 comes up for sale online or in the mags, the so-called enthusiasts will bemoan it for being too expensive, if it’s priced realistically, or scream unfair if it’s too cheap and wander off to the banger brigade. Like all financial matters, classic car values are a simple function of demand and supply – and, in the case of the SD1, demand remains low and supply is plentiful. 

However, more corrosively for the SD1 brigade, it’s one of those cars that people celebrate depressed values and find absolute glee in buying for pennies and running for a song – and I guess  that’s a very good thing for a starter classic. However, it’s not a conducive situation for strong market values… It seems we’re a victim of our own success. 

There’s also the other small matter of running a car that’s in such good condition, but which – to me – feels so fragile mechanically: I’m not going to want to run it for fear of someone damaging it and, if they don’t, I’ll be scared it’s going to break down. It really does seem like I’m on a downer about the thing, hence my plea for some inspiration. 

The pictures I’ve used to illustrate this rather downbeat blog are of a pair of SD1s running on the original factory option alloys. I’ve always liked these and wonder how I’ll feel about my car running on such gorgeous wheels. There are a few that would say my car looks nicer on the original steels and hubcaps, but all I know is I want a nice set of alloys on it – and maybe I can get the tyre sorted while we’re swapping over! 

Anyway, if that doesn’t cure my blues, I’ll start running out of ideas! 

Rover SD1 - car of the year 1977
Rover SD1: Car of the Year 1977
Keith Adams


  1. The alloys look loads better than the steel trims, do it!

    I know exactly what you mean about being in a rut with it. I’ve made a half-hearted attempt to move the Princess on, but without any interest at all, and now it’s cold and wet I have no enthusiasm for doing anything with it. I have grand ideas like a leather 800 interior, a nice set of wheels, new vinyl etc, but I suppose I best try for an MOT first…

    Roll on the spring, I’m sure everyone will feel much better about sorting things and enjoying their cars for what they are.

  2. Hi Keith,

    You know what I think, but I do believe that, with the final hurdles jumped, you should be able to use the old SD1 as a proper daily driver. I have never found them to be too fragile for general use and abuse. My V plate Series 1 has 120k on her and is not in the best of nick but can be relied on to produce the goods whenever asked.

    OK, so we have the value situation but, the funny thing is, I think the supply is starting to tail off and we should soon see (if the market doesn’t change) some higher prices for SD1s.

    I keep thinking of selling mine too but only to get a better one – trouble is I know the money would get swallowed. All I have to do to change my mind is go for a spin and come back with a beaming smile.

    Oh, and yes the alloys would look lovely but keep the cloverleaves too for originality.

  3. Years of P6 ownership have convinced me that a Rover is a car you really have to live with long-term to appreciate. It took me time to adjust to its little foibles and money to get reliable.

    Four and half years and 80,000 miles later, the car has really grown on me and I enjoy my relaxed V8 automatic. You won’t get your money back but it’s worth repairing some minor niggling problems and you will get a lot of enjoyment out of running your SD1. Take it on a long trip!


    Eric from Holland

  4. Hi Keith,

    Fix it and take it on a long run. SD1s are such superb mile-eaters. I had exactly the same blues with my restored 2600: “Why have I spent so much money on a car which feels so agricultural to drive?” A drive from Leeds to Edinburgh and back soon cured me of that sort of thinking!


  5. Follwing our ‘phone conversation the other day, I reckon you should keep the old girl. I can see your point about values and so-called enthusiasts and so on but, at the end of the day, you drive and own a car to please yourself and not for the benefit of others.

    If you want that floppy knob (ooh, err, Missus!) dealing with, despatch the car back to me for a while and I’ll sort that out for you.

    Anyway, for heaven’s sake don’t part with it – like I have said, it will break your heart if you do that. Maybe not straight away, but a short while thereafter.

    I did the same thing with my 620Ti – it was virtually immaculate by the time I had dealt with its issues and I sold it to create a bit of capital when I first went self-employed rather that take out another loan. The overwhelming sense of loss and woe that flooded over me about a week or two after the sale was a pain I don’t want to go through again.

    I just so wish I had the space, yet alone the funds, and I’d have that SD1 tomorrow – and that’s a fact!

    Keep the old girl – you know it makes sense, Rodney!

  6. Oh, Keith, you’re missing the point: no amount of tarty alloy wheels – or LPG conversions – will cure the gear linkage, the exhaust manifold or a tenth-rate brand of tyre. I seem to remember you had the blues this time last year, too – don’t we all?

    The answer? Keep her original, get her to a proper, experienced mechanic for a full and thorough service, use quality parts/oils, have a bloody good Christmas and – guaranteed – you’ll both have 3528ccs worth of smiles come next Spring.

  7. I can sympathize, Keith. Over the years, I’ve bought quite a few cars that were going to be “keepers” only to get itchy feet, sell them and regret it within a couple of weeks – my old Sterling Coupe and Tomcat are cases in point.

    I’ve had itchy feet again this week wanting another 75 as a project – a Dorchester Red V6 turned up on eBay for buttons. The trouble is that the only way I can do it is to sell the one I’ve spent 4 years getting just the way I wanted it.

    Hold firm, don’t succumb to the winter blues, get the old girl properly sorted and enjoy. You know it makes sense.

  8. This may not be to everyone’s taste but here goes… How about some behind the scenes tweaks eg: a few more horses via a 3.9 litre EFi unit or a suspension upgrade?

    My 1973 GT6 is totally standard to look at but I run a fruitier 2.5 TR6-spec engine and suspension/brake mods from the excellent Jigsaw Racing – it just makes it a better drive.

    I think the alloys you have chosen are a wise choice – the later Vitesse lattice type wouldn’t be. The early alloys suit the SD1 Mk1, would go better with the white body work and could have been fitted as a period option. Mind you, how about some Minilites? You could pretend you were driving a 1970’s ‘Jam Sandwich’ chasing villains!

  9. @Simon Woodward
    I agree. It’s a delicious car that just needs a bit of backroom work – without really changing the appearance.

    I’d suggest that Keith fits a properly tuned 3.9 or 4.0 with MS or Emerald management – it’ll be economical enough and gain a lot of torque too.

  10. @Keith Adams
    I think this is the answer!

    I have a Mini 30 auto, a Wolseley Hornet and 1995 Mini SPi in various stages of repair and restoration. Watching all this snow and being unable to drive my Midget or dig out my TF (which decided to suffer a wiper malfunction this morning), I made the decision to get rid of everything bar the Midget and the Mini SPi in their current states – I had lost the motivation and enthusiasm to do anything more with them.

    However, I am sure that, once the better weather and the shows come around again, I’ll be glad I didn’t act hastily.

    Don’t abandon the SD1 just yet!

  11. Bang on – that’s what I was going to say. How many times have you seen a ‘Kevved-up’ Mini and thought “they’ve ruined that putting alloys on etc?” Keep the car original – it’s beautiful as it is and as David Bache intended. I get down at this time of year as well – buy a daylight simulator lamp or something!

  12. I had an immaculate 1981 Series 1 Vanden Plas from 1991 to 1994. Everyone commented on how smart it was but it was forever in for repairs (new gearbox, big ends, camshaft, various electrical weirdnesses, disintegrating switchgear) and it seldom ran right. Fix one thing and, two days later, something else would happen out of the blue. My SD1 was great when it worked but that was so unusual it became a second car and then just sat in the garage as I completely lost faith in it. Your story sounds very familiar.

  13. I see you’ve taken my advice. That’s a sensible decision – it just shows how hard it is to restore modern (1980s and newer) cars.

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