More admiring glances and comments for the Polski-SD1 reinforces my thoughts about arguably British Leyland’s finest creation.
Words and Photographs: Mike Humble
Well, the Pride of Longbridge gathering is now just a fortnight away and, man, how time flies. It seems only five minutes ago I was in a panic re-spraying the rear doors to get my R8 214SLi ready for the long and boring journey from Horsham to Birmingham – is it just me or does anyone else reckon the M40 to be one of the most boring motorways in the UK? Mind you, the M11, of course, comes a close second.
I have mentioned previously that the Rover had been put onto the back burner while I knuckled down into my new job but, suffice to say, normal service has now been resumed and those final niggling jobs, bar one, have been knocked on the head as t`wer. The really horrible past bodge to the fuel line has now been dealt with – someone had previously snapped the plastic fuel line that runs parallel to the chassis rail and used a length of unbraided rubber hose which was crumbling away and becoming porous. Some decent fuel hose has now been fitted and sits a comfortable distance from the exhaust down pipe, unlike before.
A few days ago the car started running rather odd struggling to maintain a steady idle speed. Looking further into the problem, it transpired that the “Y” piece in the breather system had fallen to bits. Last year, I had bonded the cracked item with some success but age had taken its toll and the aforementioned component had split apart. Hopefully, Keith is sending a new item down but, in the meantime, I have used a T piece which I had in stock as a temporary measure – not the prettiest of lash ups, but a sufficient one nonetheless.
The remaining task of replacing the front dampers has ground to a halt and, on this occasion, I have to admit defeat. After copious amounts of heat, hammering and swearing one of the bolts which secures the steering arm to the hub refuses to budge. My torque wrench was clicking at an indicated 120 lbft trying to undo said bolt so, as a consequence, I decided to stop there and then before something sheared off and immobilized the car. The weeping N/S/F damper still seems to be damp, so I’m not that upset, besides, it recently passed the MoT like that but will need replacing in the near future.
Both headlamps seem to continue working after the minor electrical meltdown last year and the brakes, thanks to a brace of wheel cylinders, all round bleed up and lining de-glaze are doing a sterling job at anchoring up. I have spent most of today burbling around West Sussex and, even though I say so myself, I’m pleased and happy with the way things are going – I just hope his Keithness concurs with my sentiments. One again, it’s bound to be a gut wrenching feeling when the car goes back to Northamptonshire – there have been an awful lot of hours tinkering and, even though I have always been conscious of my neighbours, they all love the car and many people have commented about how nice it looks and how lovely it sounds.
A Parcel Force driver was delivering next door this very morning as I was giving the old girl a wash and the driver, who was old enough to remember these cars in the halcyon days of BL, was cooing over Pendeilcan white coachwork, while telling me a tale of when his Father-in-Law’s SD1’s engine went West on the M6 – it was a 2300 I may add. However, this has been the story all along with the Rover: everywhere I go, be it a Sainsbury’s or a Shell, people take the time to saunter over to me to share their stories about the Rover SD1 – some good, some bad – but all recounted with nostalgic fondness. There is, though, a common theme runs which all the people I have spoken to have mentioned – they all love the SD1’s styling.
British Leyland, by a long chalk, produced some of the very best looking cars ever seen throughout the world – for example, the Range Rover, Jaguar XJ and the SD1 along with, according to some, several of the very worst – Allegro, Maestro and Maxi. Many a harsh word has been said about the styling of cars such as, for instance, the Princess and TR7 but, on a personal level, I loved the raked and wedge look of the aforementioned cars and. in the case of the Princess, it was one of the most relaxing cars I have ever been a passenger in.
Sometimes BL tried to be different and bold in its styling direction – much like Citroen with their offerings of the CX and XM, though the modern C6 is an ignored car in the UK yet deserves to do well. I have driven one and they are simply stunning, amazing and bonkers like big French cars used to be. Anyway, in the case of BL, the Princess and TR7 joined the ranks of the lame ducks thanks to the English tradition of a lack of development and chronic quality problems – all such a bloody shame while at the same time, unforgivable.
This summed the SD1 in a nutshell – applauded at launch yet scuppered soon after, a car that promised so much and delivered heartache in equal measures. I reckon that, if the same catalogue of catastrophic blunders, mis-management and shocking reliability issues had occured in say Volkswagen, the guilty parties would have rounded up, taken to the middle of the Black Forest and quietly shot. Yet BL were allowed to lurch and stumble from one balls up to another – all very wrong and sad.
Still all of us here on AROnline love the turbulent timeline of the British Motor Industry and, for us, what was so wrong seems so right. Every one of us keeps a pair of rose-tinted spectacles in the glovebox and I for one look forward to hearing about Montego wheel bearings, Rover 820 Vitesse oil leaks and Rover 75 head gaskets to name but a few. This year’s Pride of Longbridge gathering marks the fifth meeting and six years since “The Austin” closed its doors – my how time flies.
You don’t even have to own a car from the BMC/BL/Rover marqueS – get off your backside and join us all at Cofton Park on 16 April 2011.
See you there??