Polish SD1 : Mission accomplished

The Polish Rover SD1 attracted many admiring looks and comments at last weekend’s Pride of Longbridge 2011 event. At last, reliability and driver satisfaction are thankfully possible after a few long distance high speed runs.

Words: Mike Humble

Photographs: Keith Adams and Mike Humble

Enjoying a well-deserved rest the day after Longbridge, Keith's SD1 didn't miss a beat!

Well, that’s it for another year, Pride of Longbridge 2011 was a total success and, just like last year, the weather was superb. Over 1100 cars attended with all classes and marques were on fine display, but doesn’t it only seem like yesterday since the sad demise of MG Rover – six years ago?

Last year's steed - my much-missed (but still going) R8 214 SLi

Last year, I took my 1989 Rover 214 SLi not knowing what to expect of the occasion – even though I am a 100% petrolhead, I don’t normally do ‘car shows’, but getting to know Keith Adams and a few others via this brilliant and ever-expanding website, I decided to take the plunge and bring my old clunker to the party, so to speak. Sadly, late last year, I sold the R8 after being offered a seriously cheap Rover 25 – a bitterly regretted event. I miss that dear little thing so much, though, I will own another one sometime soon I hope.

Anyway, this year I visited  Longbridge with Keith’s SD1 being certain that, after much blood, sweat, tears, tea and ciggies, it wasn’t going to let me down along the way. I am pleased to announce that it’s finally there at last, the patience has paid off as the car never missed a beat going there and back.

Long distance runs in a modern car are a breeze – even in cars with miniscule engines and dimensions – as cars today are well engineered and, on the whole, well made. Go back to when you were a nipper, and your mum or dad would seldom ventured out of the county without a trusty old squash bottle of water and a spare fanbelt  rolling around in the boot.

Modern cars seldom need the bonnet lifting aside from topping up the washer bottle.  I just, for example, fuel up my Honda Civic and check the oil but even that’s a pointless exercise as the level on the dipstick never alters. Rewind 20 years to when I was rattling around in a 1700cc Ital or something similar, and a pint or so would be added every week without fail.

A Cavalier billowing blue smoke was once an everyday sight - now banished to memory!

A Cavalier I ran some years back used so much oil on motorway runs, I often wondered if the damn thing was a two-stroke. Cast your mind back to when you last saw a petrol car with any blue smoke billowing from the tailpipe? The ever stringent MoT emission laws have banished cars in that state to the razor blade or bean tin a long time ago – such a shame, as I really miss the sight of plumes of blue smoke from tired Astras and the once popular back-firing Hillman Avenger.

Anyway, in the case of the SD1, I was tense and nervous about the journey to B31: would she be fine? Would she let me down? Would I be calling the RAC? Would she bankrupt me in fuel costs? Well, I needn’t have worried but the latter was certainly true. Not a drop of water or oil was required on the almost 400 mile trip, good temperature and credible oil pressure showing on the dials I kept to around 60 to 70 mph running up.

The SD1 on display at Longbridge - the public loved it!

Following an excellent post-rally curry at Imrans of Sparkbrook, I didn’t hang around before returning to West Sussex. Halting at Beaconsfield services for a quick splash and dash, the levels were checked again. Taking full advantage of the almost desolate M40 and M25, let’s just say I didn’t hang about.

The SD1 still commands so much respect today even though, in all fairness, the car is very much a flawed diamond – a fact that’s confirmed by the many admiring glances which the car received at PoL and the favourable comments and SD1-related tales which Keith and I heard on the day. Many thanks to all those who mentioned they enjoyed reading about the progress of the car on AROnline.

A truly stunning 1982 MG Metro 1300 - close your eyes and hear that transmission whine!

There were some really stunning cars on display this year from some seriously elderly Minis through to some lovely looking MG ZT 260s – even an XPower SV turned up. A couple of cars on view tugged my heartstrings:  one being a stunning early MG Metro with the legendary pepper pot alloy wheels, and the other being an Ital 1.3 SLX which was a good as, if not better, than the day it left Longbridge – the last of the Ital cars were built in Longbridge.

It was great to meet other members of AROnline’s Editorial Team such as Clive Goldthorp and Steven Ward at last  – Steven, incidentally, is one of the funniest people I know that come from Newcastle besides Mike Neville. Pride of Longbridge 2011 was a total success and I, for one, as I’m sure the thousand plus people who attended will agree, look forward to 2012 – though I have no idea what I’ll be driving on the day!

Mike Humble


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