Monday, June 29, 2020

A Beautifully Restored 1980 Rover 3500 SD1

Wow. Just wow.

I have written about the 3500 SD1 in the past. I even owned one. To save time, I am copying some of the text from a previous post.

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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.

My Rover at a car show circa late 1980s.

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 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.

This is a pretty amazing find. The seller states in his ad:
This Rover (not Land Rover) 3500 or “SD1” is 1 of about 800 left hand drive models made by British Leyland for the US market in 1980.

Mechanical restoration is mostly complete and it starts and drives great. The paint and interior are all original, and quite nice for their age.

5-speed manual, Pendelican White, 3.5L Rover V8 EFI 130hp. Always garaged. Always passed smog. 33k miles on chassis, 3k since rebuild.

Things that work: All exterior & interior lights. All gauges. Wipers. Seat belt buzzer. Blower fan and heater core diverter. Quartz analog clock.

I bought this car with its drivetrain removed, performed a frame-on restoration of the engine bay and installed a rebuilt engine from another SD1 bored .030 over. All parts under the hood are either new, or rebuilt.

New brake, clutch lines & hydraulics, rotors pads drums & shoes. Rebuilt steering rack & power steering pump. Rebuilt front suspension, powder coat cross member. New EFI wiring harness and computer. Rims and spare power coated in Prismatic Gold. Most lighting converted to LED.

Included with the car is a large collection of spares. 18 or so boxes and a few larger items. Original workshop manual with USA model wiring diagram. 5 rims. Steering rack core. NOS interior trims, sensors, relays etc. Buick ported heads. European Vitesse front spoiler. US model chin spoiler. NOS tail lights and corner marker lights. Full upholstery set in light brown (or use as pattern for your own choice). Full set of A/C parts. A/C condenser. Spare radiator. Cruise control computer & throttle actuator. Fitted indoor car cover.

What can I say? This is a car you don't often see, that has been lovingly restores. It is worth the $9500.00 the seller is asking.

Located in San Jose, CA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

1980 Renault R5 / LeCar - Are They Becoming Collectible?

This has already been posted on Barn Finds. Their post can be found here.

I'm just posting this because it's an R5 / LeCar. I've posted quite a few of them here. I've owned a few, too. They have a bad rep in the U.S., but mine were reliable and fun to drive.

This one supposedly has just under 40,000 miles on it. It has the very desirable sunroof. The seats are not original, but seem to fit well and look comfortable.

All-in-all it looks to be in decent condition (I see quite a bit of surface rust), but would need some work to be perfect.

Here's the interesting thing... This car has been bid up to $4,050.00 with just under 4 days to go on the eBay auction. Yikes! Are these now becoming collectible?

I'll be interested to see what it sells for. I wonder what my Black Beauty Edition would have been worth if I had kept it?

Located in North Hollywood, CA, click here to see the eBay listing.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

1970 Rover P6 3500 - It Deserves To Be Restored

I've written about the P6 in the past. Some of the text in this post is coming from past posts...

The P6 was introduced in 1963. It was advanced for its time. In the rear was a de Dion tube suspension, it had 4 wheel disc brakes and, in 4 cylinder form, an OHC engine. Those things were not usually seen in 1963.

In 1968 Rover made the P6 really interesting by dropping the 3500cc V8 into it. The all aluminum V8 gave the car some real power without adding much extra weight (The V8 3500 P6, which had more "features" than the 6 cylinder version, weighed only 52 lbs more.) The car was able to hit 60 MPH in around 9 seconds and had a top speed of over 120 MPH.

There are some pretty interesting features on the P6s that came to the US, notably a thing called "Icelert" which told the driver when the temperature dropped to a point where ice may form on the road. Many modern cars have something similar these days, but 40+ years ago that was really unusual. You can see the sensor in the picture above, it's the silver box next to the right side headlights.

The 3500 P6 should have been a huge success in the US. It featured everything the US buyer looked for in a car; power, ride, handling, luxury and style. Initial reviews of the car were glowing. Unfortunately, the 3500 P6 may have been one of the most trouble prone new cars ever sold in the US. The Lucas electrics, of course, were a problem, but build quality, due to BL's poor quality control and a disgruntled workforce, was also extremely poor.

How unreliable was the 3500 P6? Well, in 1974, Britain's "Drive" magazine declared it the "worst new car in England". They purchased a 3500S P6. During their first six months and 6000 miles of ownership, it had gone through three engines, two gear boxes, two clutch housings and it needed a complete wiring harness. The car had spent 114 of its first 165 days in the shop. This was 6 years after the model's introduction, by which time you would have thought Rover would have worked all the "bugs" out. Imagine how bad the early cars must have been. Yikes.

There is some good news to all of this. First of all, because of it's reputation, the P6 - even restored ones - don't sell for a lot of money. Secondly, like so many cars I write about, over the years the owners and the aftermarket have figured out how to prevent and / or fix most of the car's problems.

This particular P6 needs a full restoration. The seller say the engine has a rod knock. The body looks to have little or no rust, but there are some dents and it's missing some trim. The interior looks to be complete, but rough.

Financially, there is no good reason to restore this car. This car would be a labor of love. It's a job I hope someone takes on. The P6 may not be a perfect car, but it's from a time when carmakers took chances. That's something few carmakers do today. This piece of automotive history deserves to be saved.

Located in California's Sonoma County, click here to see the Craigslist ad. The asking price is $1750.00.

Friday, June 19, 2020

1974 Fiat 128SL Coupe

Just a quick post today...

I just wanted to point this car out because there are so few left in North America.

The 128SL was based on a shortened 128 sedan platform. The suspension and brakes were slightly different than the sedan's.

The body was, to my eyes, subtly beautiful.

This car has had some work done to it. The seller calls the engine a "built performance motor." New parts include a cam. pistons, headers and a Weber 40 DCNF carb.

The body is described as being a "straight rust free body." It needs paint. Originally orange, someone spray painted it the blueish / greenish color you see now. I kind of like the current color, but if I were to buy it, I'd restore to its original orange.

Someone needs to buy this car and restore it. Cars like these are getting harder and harder to find. The seller is asking $2950.00 for it.

Located in Seattle, WA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

1985 BMW Baur 323i - In the U.S.

Another cool car that was never officially imported to the U.S. But, what the European car companies wouldn't send to us, gray market importers often did. This Baur 323 convertible is one of those cars.

The first BMW Baur convertible was based on the 1600 / 2002. Early convertibles had full folding roofs. In 1971 they started producing "targa" style convertibles. Every 3 Series through the E36 was available with a Baur conversion. (The e36 was a unique, somewhat bizarre, 4 door convertible.)

The E30, even in U.S. trim was a damn good car. Stuck between the lackluster (at least in U.S. trim) E21 and the much rounder, more modern E36, it was the car that put the 3 Series on the map in North America. The first M3 was an E30 and it was the first 3 Series to be offered as a 4 door sedan. It was also the first 3 Series to be offered as a BMW factory built convertible, which was sold along side the Baur "targa" versions.

The M20B23 6 cylinder engine was never offered in the U.S. and puts out around 150 HP. A noticeable difference between the U.S. spec E30 and this car is a lack of the 5 MPH "diving board" bumpers that were required in the U.S. at the time.

This 1985 Baur looks to be in overall good condition. The seller says the clear coat is staring to peel in places and there is a bit of rust "inside the trunk at the trunk lip." he also states that it needs new tires. If I were to buy it I'd replace the wheels too, which in my eyes don't suit the car. That's personal opinion of course, and you may think differently. (The seller is including a set of Alpina wheels with the car.)

The asking price is $8800.00, which seems realistic to me. The is a fairly rare car in general and very rare in the U.S. The E30 is a fun car to drive and the Baur conversion just adds more fun to the equation.

Located in Burtonsville, MD, click here to see the Craigslist ad.