Blog : Rover SD1 heads for perfection

Keith Adams

The Polish-restored Rover SD1 after a day with Perfection Valet. White's always hard to photograph, but in the metal, the paint finish and shine are now absolutely astonishing.
The Polish-restored Rover SD1 after a day with Perfection Valet. White's always hard to photograph, but in the metal, the paint finish and shine are now absolutely astonishing.

When I brought my Rover SD1 back from Poland back in October 2009, I promised myself that I’d leave it a few months before I set about making the paintwork perfect, and really making it shine. Chucking on wax and keeping it clean is one thing, and fine while the paint hardens up and ages, but what I didn’t want to do was start claying, treating and cutting it until I was absolutely sure it had aged a little, and I was confident that there would be no problems.

A few months ago when I started getting active on Twitter, I hooked up with Richard Tipper of Perfection Valet and asked his advice. I know he’s good, by the way – the cars he’s fully detailed since I’ve been following him is astonishing. He’s done the guys on Evo magazine including Harry Metcalfe’s amazing Lamborghini Countach. On any given day he’s either buffing up some Ferrari 458 or giving the works to  250GTO. In short, he knows all there is to know about paint.

And basically, what I needed to know was a) is my paintwork any good and b) is it ready for the full treatment?

He quickly reassured me that after this time it was – and that he’d pop over to the Octane office to have a look. As it happens when I rolled in at 8.15am, he was already here, and raring to go. After saying our hellos,  (which is always funny – I know him, yet only in terms of online, and in packets of 140 characters), and doing the first brew of the day, he cracked on with the first wash. Then he used a cute little tool to measure the depth of the paint…

And here’s the good news. The Poles did a brilliant job. In places, the smooth high-quality paint is almost a millimetre thick – ranging from 600-1000 microns in depth. In comparison, most newer cars have a layer of about 150-200 microns thick. Nice. With that established, he was off – polishing, cleaning and breathing new life into the car. Although the exterior is nice, I did worry about the interior – but with the right solutions, and techniques, it has come up very well indeed. Far better than I ever expected.

The paintwork is something else again. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is the shiniest, glossiest car I have ever seen. It’s sublime to look at now, and the real shame is that the camera doesn’t really pick it up. But look at the reflections, and they are deep and clear. Gorgeous. I am bowled over by how it looks, and wonder how the hell I ever considered selling it!

It’s certainly been interesting. And confirmed that the Polish can do a brilliant restoration job. And really know how to paint.

It also confirms something else. If you have a car you cherish, and want to fall in love with it a little more, you really need to get it detailed. It really does make all the difference. In fact, you could say it’s perfect now!

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Keith Adams


  1. Glad you’re fallen for the SD1’s charms again – after all that blood sweat and tears, to sell it would have been sacrilege! Now, KEEP IT until one of you is old and faltering!

  2. Looks fantastic. How long did Richard spend on it and can you reveal any more of what he to achieve the finished result after he had measured the thickness of the paint?

  3. Keith,

    Your car looks fabulous! What an achievement; big respect to you and your Polish engineers for a job very well done.

    I have fond memories of the three Rover SD1s (two series ones and one series two) that my father ran between 1978 and 1989. It was the Rover SD1 that sparked my life-long interest in the British motor industry. A flawed car but such a beautiful one with such refined presence that it was impossible not to fall in love with it. Truly David Bache’s masterpiece.

    Your example looks so perfect now with its glistening paintwork that, for that reason and that reason only, my eye has been drawn to a couple of final touches that would make it truly complete: (Don’t take this the wrong way, the devil is in the detail and, in any case, I’m being deliberately anal!)

    1. You need a set of original-equipment mud-flaps! The car is incomplete without them. Seriously! Consult any series-one SD1 sales brochure of the time and you will see that mud-flaps were factory-fitted to all Rover 3500s but never to the six-cylinder cars. I actually think the original-equipment mud-flaps greatly enhance the look of the car and, given that the sills curve inboard so acutely behind the front and rear wheels, will prevent dirt and grit from being kicked up onto that beautiful paintwork as well as the easily-pitted black sills under the doors.

    2. The windsreen-wipers you have on the car are not original equipment! They seem to be too short and are not flat, therefore disrupting the graceful line of the bonnet as it meets the windscreen. The original-equipment ones fitted between 1976 and 1978 were longer, flatter and chrome-finished. I believe that in 1979, the chrome was changed to a matt-black finish but that the rest of the wiper specification remained the same as before. I’m sure someone in the SD1 club will be able to supply you with part numbers.

    (3. Your tax-disc seems to have gone for walkies up the windscreen!!)

    Okay, don’t lose any sleep over point number three! Regarding the mud-flaps and wipers, I’d be pleased to let you borrow my SD1 brochure from circa 1977/78 which shows how the production cars looked. I only have one brochure (they’re probably as rare as the mud-flaps and wipers) so you’d have to send it back! Let me know…

  4. I have to agree with Craig’s comment regarding the mudflaps. SD1s look naked without them I think. A lot of people don’t like drilling the required holes in their lovely new wheelarches, and there is a concern they trap mud up in there. Don’t forget the SD1 has that cool “blow through sill” feature to minimise rust!

    Get her dressed properly to save her modesty please Keith!

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