Tuesday, March 18, 2014

1980 Rover SD1 3500 - It Could Have Been A Contender...

It looks like Chris over at Rusty But Trusty scooped me on this car, but having owned one for a few years, I had to add my 2 cents. Much of what is written below is from my previous posts about the SD1 / 3500...

I think that of all the "odd" car I've owned, the one that got the most attention (as in, "What the hell is that?") was my Rover SD1.

Had I lived in Europe when I owned that car, the reaction would have been "So what? It's another Rover". Here in the US, where it was known as the 3500, the SD1 was sold for only one year, 1980. Only 800 were sent here and it took Rover well into 1982 to find homes for all of them. To say it was a failure would be putting it mildly.

It didn't have to be a failure. On paper it was a brilliant car. But, quality control at BL's factories in the 1980s was awful and the cars that rolled off the assembly lines were poorly screwed together and broke down often.

The 3500 came with Rover's ubiquitous aluminum V8. This engine is one of the great engines of all time. It has powered everything from Land Rovers, Triumphs, Rovers, Morgans, TVRs, MGs and a whole bunch of kit cars. Lightweight and fairly powerful, it was the perfect engine for the SD1. (In the UK the SD1 was also available with 4 and 6 cylinder engines.)

The interior was extremely comfortable, very roomy and relatively luxurious. It was also "modern" by British large car standards. There was not a piece of wood veneer to be found. The design of the dashboard was made symmetrical in order to allow for the assembly of both left and right hand drive cars. It had two gloveboxes. On a LHD car like this, there is a vent where the steering wheel would be if the car was RHD.

In every place other than North America, these were great looking cars. In North America they had the mandatory big US bumpers and awful looking sealed beam headlights. More than anything, the loss of the flush headlights (also mandated by US law at the time) ruined the look of the front end of the car. If you buy one, pay whatever you have to pay for a set of European lights. It makes a world of difference.

My SD1 was a reliable car. It never failed to start, it never left me stranded. It was fun to drive (mine was a 5 speed) and, as I mentioned, attracted attention everywhere I drove it. I traded mine for an MGB, a move that I now regret. The MGB was a good, fun car, but compared to the Rover they're a dime-a-dozen. I should have kept the Rover and bought an MG. Oh well.

If this was a little closer, I would consider it. The seller bought it as project. He doesn't know a whole lot about it. He states that it "seems to run and drive well." The seller says the interior could use some help. At the very least, the dash has some cracks and the headliner is missing. The rear seat looks good, but there is no mention of the condition of the front seats.

The best part of this car is the body, which looks to be rust free. The color is a matter of personal taste, I guess. Having grown up in New York, it was years before I could look at a yellow car - any yellow car - and not think "taxi." But, I'm beginning to appreciate the color now and I can see where this car would look pretty good with a paint job in its original color.

Over the years many of these cars were bought strictly to be scrapped and their engines used in MGB V8 conversions. Let's hope this one finds a home with a person who can appreciate it for what it is.

The asking price is an extremely reasonable $850.00. There is something about another $850.00 in DMV fees being owed. You would have to pay those if the car remains in CA. It sounds like - from the way the ad is worded - that you might not have to pay those fees if the car is being registered out of state. Check with the California DMV on that.

Located in Mendocino County, CA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

...

Below is a picture of my Rover. It was taken at an event called British On The Green, in Granby, CT. The picture was taken in 1988. The local TVR club, which sponsored the event, had no special section for Rovers, so they put me in a group called "Other British". This included cars from Rolls Royce, Bentley, Alvis, Reliant, Allard, a few double decker buses and anything else that didn't have a specific group. I took 3rd place, much to the dismay of many of the RR and Bentley owners. (You could see by the looks on their faces what was going on in their minds... "We were beaten by a Rover? That Rover? We spent a lot of money having our car detailed. He ran his through a car wash on the way to the show. We had wine and cheese and a picnic basket. We had classical music. We dressed up like Rolls Royce owners. The owner of that thing didn't even stay with his car. He wandered around in his shorts, sneakers and t-shirt, eating a hot dog and looking at the proletariat cars.")

7 comments:

Max Power said...

I fully admit that as a kid and teen in the 70's and early 80's I liked the federalization of the European and Japanese cars. A car did not look 'right' to me unless it had sealed beams and giant bumpers (what the hell was I thinking). That said, even then I was shocked on how grotesque the headlights were on the otherwise gorgeous 3500. Not that it would have been that much better than google eyes, but they should have used the quad rectangle sealed beam headlights instead

wal said...

you so funny missa Dave.

rrshadow2 said...

I had one of these as well when it was about 10 years old. What a pile of Crap! I had owned 2 p6 Rovers and wanted a SD1 BAD so I bought the first one that came along a white automatic with a sunroof, Mechanically it ran and drove ok, Yeah I did have to replace a cracked exhuaust manifold which was the same as a TR8 But DAMN! the windshield leaked and the dual glove boxes filled with water when it rained, the power windows and locks worked when they wanted, the only reason the sunroof worked was because it was manual and not electric, I DID put the euro headlights in mine which I snagged from a Junk Yard when I was in Holland, but Yeah I couldn't wait to get rid of it after about a year and let someone else have the Ummm Fun with it

Chris Keen said...

The gold on your old car looks way better, and I'm not even a huge fan of gold.

There's a Dutch SD1 site that suggests the Range Rover 4.6 would fit, for a gain of 70hp, or you could get even more from a Buick 340, although that might not be as easy to install....together with a 5-speed you could have a real sleeper. Am I crazy for thinking it?

m4ff3w said...

If this car had a manual trans, I'd be on my way to buy it right now.

Anonymous said...

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/cto/4367032423.html

French Driver said...

Keep the V8, toss the rest out, then use it on a project like a hot rod or a dune buggy on steroids.