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The venerable Rover SD1 was launched in 1976 to great acclaim, but appalling quality managed to dishonour the new car within only a few years. So how has this 1978-model survived in original condition?

The SD1 story is probably one of the greatest lost opportunities of the British automobile industry in the Seventies. A period that retrospectively is often remembered as if the British could do nothing right – wrongly actually, as the concept of the Rover was brilliant, it’s design likewise and indeed its basic engineering as well.

For that it was promptly rewarded with a European Car of the Year-title in 1977. Rightly so, as it was not only fast, beautiful, practical, comfortable as well as (considering all the aforementioned) economical – but it was even competitively priced too. It was a very strong package, and the car seemed destined to greatness.

At launch, the new Rover was only available as the 3500 and only later did the smaller engines join the range.

The only problem was the quality. An innovative paint process turned out to be problematic and coupled with the typical Seventies British Leyland-quality issues, the gleaming new SD1’s deteriorated at a rate not suitable for a new luxury car. And with it deteriorated the reputation of the model as well. The SD1 never really recovered from this although later versions were much better.

The prestigious title as Car of the Year 1977 was well deserved and showed that the British could still design a great car. They just could not BUILD a great car.

The thing is, this has always haunted the SD1 even as it got older too. Values plummeted and many cars were subsequently driven into the ground. Even as more people in recent years have discovered that good SD1’s were getting hard to find, values have remained low. This has cost the lives even more SD1’s, as it has never been an economically viable proposition to restore one.

Which makes it somewhat of a sensation finding a car like this week’s Prime Find: A 1978 Rover 3500 in supposedly original condition even down to the paint. How can this possibly be? Well for one thing, it was sold new in Sweden and for another it was not really driven much. The claimed 39.000 kilometers is according to the seller accompanied by the original owner’s handwritten notes from every single trip he undertook in the car.

It appears some of this persistence must have gone into the maintenance of the car as well, as it presents exceptionally well in the seller’s photos. Especially the interior is terrific – both in condition and not least colours. The interior was never a strong point of the early SD1’s, but no problems on this one: The comfortable seats are a delicate beige, but have incredibly survived 40 years without a blemish or a stain.

As an early car it has some specific features in the detailing and all seem to be preserved and in place. Only the airfilter boxes seem odd for the model, but I suspect this could be some special feature for the Swedish market. The car is said to drive perfectly as well and to top it all off nicely – it is brown.

Find it at the Swedish dealer Classix, where the car is priced at 130.000 SEK or 10.000 Euro: Rover 3500 SD1 with 39.000km from new!

 

With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same. Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic!

We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to primefindoftheweek@viaretro.co.uk.

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About The Author

Broad car taste. Prefer them working, though. Coupés, estates, racing cars – and so on. Origin less important, but I love Italy. And Britain. Germany. And so on. I strongly believe everything was better in the old days. Except the internet of course. Claus' keeper is a 1978 Reliant Scimitar GTE. As a true Scandinavian of course he also has a Volvo – a 445 of the 1956 vintage. Claus' keeper is a 1978 Reliant Scimitar GTE. As a true Scandinavian of course he also has a Volvo - a 445 of the 1956 vintage.

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One Response

  1. Anders Bilidt
    Whoooaar…!! What a beauty.
    I positively love (just about) everything about this SD1. The V8, especially the stunning condition, the interior, those early details, the low mileage, the delicious alloy wheels, and not least that sexy dark brown factory paint. Yummy… :-)
    So what is I don’t like about it? Well, now that I live in the UK, the LHD set-up would be a little bit annoying. Not impossible to live with, but still. Also, I have never managed to appreciate slush boxes thus far, so “my” SD1 V8 would simply have to be manual. In my opinion, this one is also too original and unmolested to mess about with a gearbox swap.
    Nonetheless, someone living in a LHD country, will get themselves a seriously nice SD1 here!
    Reply

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