Published On Feb 8, 2024
The Rover SD1 is an enthusiast's dream-come-true: V-8 power, 5-speed, RWD, sports-car handling, supercar looks, racing pedigree, and a hatchback. So why don't you know it exists?
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You've heard of Land Rover — but who is Rover? Well, same company, just without the Land. And when Rover was folded, together with Triumph, into the dysfunctional British Leyland conglomerate, this is the outcome. The SD1 replaced both the Triumph 2000 and the Rover 2000, formerly direct mid-size sedan competitors.
It used Triumph construction methods, suspension, transmission, and steering, together with Rover's 3.5-liter all-aluminum V-8, which started out as the Buick 215. Its exterior styling was straight-up copied... errr... inspired by the Maserati Indy and Ferrari Daytona and BB, inside and out.
In addition to immediately winning the coveted 1977 European Car of the Year award, the magazine reviews were outrageously positive. And then it all started to fall apart — literally. The SD1 was a victim of Leyland's cost-cutting and dysfunctional management, and sometimes-hilarious build quality issues scarred its reputation.
However, as automotive journalist Jason Cammisa points out — the fundamentals were incredible, and there was a gaping chasm between the Rover's fundamentally (very) sound engineering and its shoddy build quality. It made a great police car, it made a highly successful racing car, with BSCC, French saloon-car and RAC TT wins, beating even the Mercedes-Cosworth W201 190E 2.3-16 to win the 1986 DTM season.
What follows in this fun, interesting documentary about the history of the Rover SD1, is an incredible story of enthusiasts getting exactly what they wanted — but not quite. The SD1 sold just 1254 units in North America, making it one of the rarest cars ever sold here.
Full Disclosure: Jason owned one-third of this particular Canadian-spec Rover 3500, found thanks to a Carmudgeon Show listener who sent him and Derek the for-sale listing when Jason mentioned it'd been 30 years, to month, since he'd driven one. (And nearly as many years since he's been able to thank the owners of that car, which were like family to him.) Jason fell even more in love with this car after doing the episode, and is now the sole owner. His objectivity is most certainly compromised. Do with this information what you will.