The patience pays off

It’s been a long battle with the Rover but the war is now won. 

Mike Humble 

Just moments before I sat down to write my final ramble on the progress of the SD1 belonging to Keith Adams, I learned of the sad death of Spen King, the ex-Director of British Leyland’s Engineering Division and creator of legendary cars such as the Range Rover and SD1 – two vehicles admired the world over for style, British ingenuity and performance. I guess, then, that as one door closes another opens in the form of my declaration of Keith’s SD1 being fully fit for service. To close this paragraph, I and the AROnline team wish his friends and family our thoughts at the loss of Charles ‘Spen’ King. 

On a lighter note, having run the SD1 fairly hard over the past two days, I can now state with confidence I’m happy with the way she’s running and consider it to be the best I could do with the budget and time scale allowed. It’s been so long since I have had a real British Leyland product to work on – the last being my old ’81 Dolomite a few years back and other Leyland tin I have owned, cobbled together and driven in my 20+ years of driving. To quote big Chris from the film Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels: ‘It’s been emotional’. 

Originally, my services were called upon to deal with the cooling system that was below par and keep an eye on the girl while Keith visited New Zealand. It very quickly became obvious that the 1976 3500 was in dire need of some fettling and tender loving care. Just on the journey from Farnham to my home in Sussex, all of 35 miles, I knew damn well that I was to encounter some nasty surprises and, boy, was I right. 

Some very black looking engine oil & rusty oil filter

I shall do my best to keep it straight to the point, but stated below are just some of the issues dealt with over the past few weeks…. 

Replace life expired radiator & viscous fan hub
Replace oil and filter
Tighten loose carburettors
Reset engine timing, idle speed,  balancing of carbs & over tight throttle*
Clean up spark plugs
Re-route clutch hose that was chafing on a major brake pipe
Tighten loose fan belt
Repair under bonnet illumination
Make good of loose ignition circuits
Repair horns
Blown bulbs in clock, speedo and sidelamps
Short circuit on badly fitted and broken number plate lights
Blown bulbs in dashboard, sidelamps and clock
Repair broken throttle cable
Make good of poor cigar lighter connections
Loose washer jets
Badly fitted tailgate flow vent trim
Loose and dangerous wiring behind drivers glovebox
Main starter motor live cable rubbing through on earth harness
Ill-fitting breather pipes and cracked Y-piece on carbs
Loose headlamp bulb multi-plug
Non-functioning panel dimmer (rheostat) 

There were a few other odds and ends too but, without the risk of boring you all rigid or coming across as picky, I’ll leave it there. In a nutshell, the car has had a pretty good body restoration but it’s obvious that the interior and trim had been thrown in and bodged up. A couple of the above issues had the potential of injury or possible death. 

Three generations of Rover cars in one street

I’m not of the habit of knocking other people’s workmanship but, had the car been mine, I would be deeply offended and angry at the quality of craftsmanship. The car is now fit for the purpose and I’m sure Keith will be over the moon with his revitalised Rover. Yes it angered me, yes it’s bitterly disappointed me, but have I enjoyed myself? Hell, yes and I’ll be sorry to see it go!

Mike Humble


  1. Salutary tale of getting somebody a long way away to do a restoration.

    I see on Twitter that Keith is now thinking of converting it to LPG. Perkins worked on a diesel version of the V8 Rover engine – wonder what that would have been like in an SD1….

  2. Great car, a diesel would be amazing. Would a BMW diesel fit under the hood, as they used these to replace the petrol V8 in the range rover.

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