SD1 progressing nicely

Keith Adams

SD1 on the ramps at MOTEST
SD1 on the ramps at MOTEST

There has certainly been plenty of progress on the Rover SD1 project since the last update. You might remember that I’d trailered the car down to MOTEST in Farnham to get a few little jobs for the test done before putting it in for its first MoT since 2004.

Well, the boys have certainly been busy! The car is looking in great shape now, though, and the words of wisdom I’d received from several people about not driving it home seem to have been borne out. Because here’s what MOTEST have done so far…

Rebuilt carburettors
Fit new brake calipers
Replace brake pipes
Install new brake shoes
Bleed and refresh the braking system
Fit a new brake compensator

Can you imagine doing a 120mph emergency stop on the Autobahn in a car that needed that lot doing?

I suspect that once it’s done and an LPG kit is fitted, this going to be one fine daily driver. Really, really can’t wait!

MOTEST's ex Austin-Rover technician working on the new calipers
MOTEST's ex Austin-Rover technician working on the new calipers
The rear showing new handbrake linkage, pipes and back plates
The rear showing new handbrake linkage, pipes and back plates
Keith Adams


  1. Hi Keith – all starting to come together now..! I can recommend someone to LPG your SD1 if you’ve not investigated that far now. I converted my SD1 to LPG back in 2000 (when it was 39p a litre – happy days) and it’s definitely worth doing.

  2. “An ex Austin Rover technician working…” – now that IS a first!

    All right, seriously tho’, what’s all this about an LPG conversion? What kind of fuel is that for a 3.5 SD1?? Sacrilege! Not to mention having to punch another hole in that lovely paintwork.

    You’ll be telling us next you’re keeping that awful tow bar on, too.

    Mister Adams, you do disappoint me sometimes…

  3. LPG is the way to go, the engine will last longer, and make the car a viable daily driver and the worst thing for it would be to have it parked up most of the time. The tow bar will provide a good mounting for the LPG filler without cuting a hole in the side.. so don’t get rid of it!.

  4. Ugh. Another vote against LPG conversions here; mostly from an aesthetic and snobbish point of view that stems from hordes of Jaguar V12s and similar so butchered so people could “run them on a budget”. If your budget doesn’t stretch to running a Jaguar V12, buy a Cortina. It’s partly because if the Government decides to slap fuel duties on LPG at the same level, the car will have been modified for no good reason.

    I am aware that differing uses affect cars, but after discovering that my New Beetle 1.6 did 30-33mpg, and my 3.0 Supra would do the same if I used it sensibly, I stopped caring about economy. By comparison, my current 500 SL (5 litre V8) does about 28-32 on the motorway, as does my gf’s 1.6 Clio at the same speeds, so it’s only in town that it makes a difference – where environmentally speaking (and car wear and tear speaking), I shouldn’t be driving unless I have to anyway.

  5. Sounds singluarly ludite to me.. I have never had to butcher any of my cars to fit LPG. Pity most of the ‘professionals’ deeem it required to hack huge holes in the body for the filler, its not at all necessary, us the tow bar to mount it, or the mounting holes already there for it. The boot will adready have holes in it put there to locate the panels on the jigs they were welded on in the factory, these are more than capable of being used for the pipework for the tank once the blanking plate has been removed. Only other issue is the tank guage/switch unit, again there are more than enough holes in the fire wall with the original loom in them to avoid the need for any new holes. Basically if care is taken there is no need to hack anything about, unfortunatly this level of car is seldom taken by the ‘prefessionals’. The doom sayers have been harping on about the pond life at number 10 slapping the tax on LPG scince I got my first car running on it in 1995.. it hasn’t actually happend yet

  6. Yes, if care is taken, sure, a really good “factory equivalent” system is no different to fuel injection or any other modifications to the basic setup of a car.

    However, people generally convert to LPG because of budgetary constraints, not technical or environmental ones.

    I know several people who have chosen big cars, Range Rovers/Mercedes 300 TE and the like, and spent £800-1500 on LPG conversions which promptly robbed the big, practical cars of space – and then they sold the cars long before they’d covered any sort of mileage that would recover the cost. When I look for old, powerful cars, I run a mile when I see “LPG conversion” because I assume that whoever did it, did so because they placed saving money above everything else (yet bizarrely wanted a 3 litre Mercedes instead of a 2 litre or diesel Volvo, for example).

    For people who want to keep the car a very long time, for people who want it for the environmental reasons, great. For people who immediately go “Oh, that’s a big engine, chuck LPG on it” – no. Not going to agree with that mentality ever. It is less efficient than petrol (at least on cars converted, I imagine sequential systems from new are pretty efficient) and the only benefit is the lower cost, it does not give “lower MPG”, it gives higher miles per pound.

  7. If a car is not a ‘keeper’ an LPG conversion is surely a pointless excercise. But if it is, a well done conversion surely has many positive points. Space requirement is the only negative tradeoff I can imagine right now. Either get a large tank and sacrifice some boot space or use a smaller tank and put it in the spare wheel well. I did the latter and don’t regret it, although the mileage from a single fill could be longer at times. There is a small loss on efficience on carburettor fed engines, otherwise the arguments have already been posted: cleaner engine, less emissions, cheaper fuel (guaranteed until 2018 here in Germany, don’t know about the UK).

    I agree with Richard’s argument about economy, as most people don’t understand the aspect of converting a small engined car. The typical argument is that LPG is useful (only?) to run a big car on the cheap. But as it stands, my 1.3 litre Maestro is a true economy car in every sense, even if the old fashioned carburettor/Venturi-setup falls behind modern electronic injection systems. The LPG installation has paid itself about 6 or 7 times now, so I am deep into black numbers now. And it saved roughly 1.5 tonnes of CO2 compared to being run on Petrol in the same time (which is obviously a very, very small number in the grand scheme of things).

    So if Keith intends to keep this car any length of time, there should be no harm in a conversion – if he does not like how it runs on LPG, he can still flick the switch to Petrol…



  8. If the fuel costs are the same, why on earth would I want to run a grotty fiesta instead of a 3.6 Daimler XJ40? as was the case when I had the XJ40. At that time there could have been no way I could have run it on petrol, but I had the ability and knowledge to put it on gas. I drilled nothing, used the clips for the unfitted emissions gear for the pipe work, cut NO wires, cut no bodywork, and only cut 1 heater pipe. When the car was sold all the LPG system was removed (fitted to the next car) and the heater pipe repalced. If there is no differance why did anyone buy the 500SL in preferance to a Desiel Fiesta?

  9. There’s obviously a difference; the SL was £77,000 new and when you bought one, you knew that it did 18mpg. You did your conversions sensibly, many people don’t – this isn’t a dig at YOU, Stewart, it’s 18 years of hanging around dodgy car dealer lots and messing with cars, finding that the big, luxury cars I chose to run because I don’t care about fuel costs had been wrecked by people who were so desperate to run the cars they’d butcher them and destroy their practicality (and generally skimp on maintaining them anyway).

    Your approach is not the norm.

    FWIW. I’ve never seen an SL with LPG, though I’m sure they exist. It was the big estates that invariably had them, in the form of huge tanks behind the seats – utterly negating the benefit of having the big estate car. I saw one half-decent conversion on a Discovery with a tank under the car, though I still question why anyone would do that to a 3.9 Disco instead of just buying a TDi.

    Alexander: The environmental reasons I can respect, and I don’t understand why more manufacturers than Opel/Vauxhall & Volvo have offered bi-fuel cars, properly designed and engineered, in the UK. They’re also exempt from congestion charge (another reason why luxury cars get converted around London).

    I doubt the SD1 will do enough miles to justify an LPG conversion, having been restored to this extent, given the number of cars Keith already has at his disposal. Keeping it pure would be the right, IMO, approach to preservation. And if he ever put it up for sale, I’d be in the queue with cash in my pocket if it remained unconverted; my cousin has a lovely modified Vitesse (I think he has a couple, a red one with a TVR-tweaked engine, and a black one) and I’d rather enjoy popping to the next family occasion in a similarly clean SD1 – I’ve only had rubbish ones!

  10. The way I see it, if LPG costs considerably less than petrol at the pumps, then I will be more inclined to use my SD1 on a daily basis. The fact is I don’t want holes cutting in the bodywork, and there won’t be any, and I want it completely reversable, which it will be.


  11. Great car , my dad used to own one JDH429V where are you now!

    seem to remember he sold it when i was 15 , though i did drive one round after i passed my test whilst working at Rover dealer in the late 1980’s

    Just one comment , is that a cable tie holding the brake line on ?! surely there must be a better / safer fixing

    yours worried…

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