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Found on Craigslist – 1980 Rover 3500 SD1

Antti Kautonen December 18, 2012 For Sale 68 Comments


Over here, Rovers are a rare breed. The last time they were imported officially was some time ten years ago, as a result of which there are a number of 75:s roaming our roads with someone grey-haired behind the wheel. Then there is a bunch of smaller, more mediocre ones, and then a small amount of Sterlings. Lastly, some SD1:s survive from the ’70s, but whatever remains car-shaped is usually a hollowed-out, engineless shell comprised of rust atop rust.

That is not the case with the mustard yellow Rover 3500 pictured here. The car in question is a Washington state car, and it’s clearly distinquishable by the quad-headlight setup in place of the aerodynamic units. It’s a weird setup, and comparable to some federalized Citroëns. But it’s a V8 manual car, and it’s very cheap. Check it.


There’s something about the SD1’s shape that works exceptionally well. A lot of British cars of the age were born bold designs on the drawing board, but got depressingly diluted by the time actual cars rolled off the line. The SD1 is an exception, as it stands head and shoulders above the rest, design-wise. Of course, underneath the skin there are a number of engineering decisions that are less than space-age, a live axle and rear drum brakes just to name a couple, but visually the car works.


And then there’s something else that works as well – namely the 150-horse 3.5 Rover V8 with its Stateside genetics. A roaring lump of aloominum, it could well brighten anybody’s day. The ad says the car runs great, and the engine bay is clean enough to warrant that. The wiring doesn’t look too horrible at a glance either.


Inside, there’s clean cloth in a light hue. Outside, there is a black dog.

The SD1’s dashboard was a brilliant bit of design, featuring a separate instrument cluster pod that looks like it was built to rise up from hiding. It’s probably for the best that it was static instead of any frippery, but it still looks definitely weird enough. On the dash, where the steering column goes through on the driver’s side there is a hole, and on the passenger side there is a corresponding vent, making LHD/RHD setups easier to configure. The ad doesn’t feature a clear photo of the dashboard, but by now our well-educated reader base probably knows the Rover dashboard by heart.


The Rover is advertised on Yakima Craigslist for 1500 dollars. For a rust-free car with a V8 and stick shift it’s a steal in my opinion. What do you think?



To balance out the praise lathered on the Rover by now, here’s a side photo from 1976 of a similarly-coloured one, found from Wikipedia. Attached to it was a comment:

“When I photographed it in Innsbruck I spoke briefly with the apparently English owner who had purchased this car new some two weeks before and then driven it to Austria for a family holiday. He was much enraged by the car’s absence of reliability during its first two weeks on the road, and urged my parents (then the moderately proud owners of an aging Peugeot 504) to resist any temptation ever to buy a Rover 3500. Ever. My parents never did buy a Rover, though some time later I myself acquired a Morris Minor Traveller, manufactured several years earlier by another branch of the same company which proved relatively (though not totally) dependable.”

Of course, said car was an earlier production model and the 1980 car featured in the ad must have had all the quirks ironed out by then. Surely?


  • " all the quirks ironed out by then", remember it's British and new quirks will come as they age.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Still a very good looker. I mean, that front clip is almost, not quite exactly the same as a Ferrari 365GTB. And the interior has held up very well, though the design is looking rather dated. From what I've heard, the car's reliability was an absolute nightmare. Still, the design was impressive enough that it led me to think rather well of the Chevy Monza coupe.
    <img src="http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/chevrolet-monza-12.jpg&quot; width="400">

    <img src="http://www.mad4wheels.com/webpics/hires/00000170%20-%201971%20Ferrari%20365%20GTB-4/1971_Ferrari_365_GTB-4_005_0230.jpg&quot; width="600">

    • Slow_Joe_Crow

      David Bache was supposedly quoted as saying he wanted to design a 4 door Ferrari Daytona. I think his true masterpiece of design was the Series II Landrover since the modern Defender is not only recognizably the same vehicle but some of the parts are still interchangeable.

    • Alcology

      I think it really shares a lot with the south of the border amc eagle, the VAM Lerma
      <img src="http://www.imcdb.org/i005133.jpg&quot; width="600">

      • danleym

        Thumbs up because someone other than me knows about the Lerma. Someday I'd like to have a 282 out of one, the largest engine from the AMC inline 6 family and only available south of the border.

  • dwbf11

    Nice Price. Clarkson paid 1100 pounds for his.

  • JayP2112

    DFW to Spokane one way is about $400.
    2000 miles in a 32 year old orphan. Thru Wyoming, Montana and Colorado.

    • Van_Sarockin


    • That does sound like my idea of a good time. Keep in mind, however, that Spokane is still about 150 miles shy of Manson, so plan accordingly.

    • MVEilenstein

      Give me $100 and I'll park it at the airport

      • JayP2112

        I just knew someone would make this feasible.

        That Spokane-Manson leg was the hard part.

        • MVEilenstein

          I'm a problem solver.

  • dculberson

    It's like a RWD, v8 powered, row-your-own Chevy Citation. Which is not a bad thing, in fact I kind of wish it was closer so I could check it out.

  • "Of course, underneath the skin there are a number of engineering decisions that are less than space-age, a live axle and rear drum brakes just to name a couple, but visually the car works."

    Nearly all Mustangs rocked this set up until 1993!

    • buzzboy7

      Nothing wrong with live axles and drum brakes. Not the best per say but…

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    <img src="https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/301280_711837549710_1206757443_n.jpg&quot; width="650"> I call dibs! I've already emailed my wife for permission! HOLY SHIT I swear I saw this car not even two years back for $4.5K near Sacramento!

    • That Corgi has seen better days.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        It's the oldest toy I still have, I got it after I lived through a fever so bad I was hallucinating. My parents were in Austria with me as a little boy, we had fled Poland. They did not know what to do, finally they got a doctor, my father road bicycle to landlady, had no way to pay, doctor came to house. I have no idea how they could afford this toy, but it was my favorite. When I was in Poland one day I saw a family of W Germany tourists drive this up to the hotel in Sopot. We had a path through some fields (was common Poland, to have a little plot somewhere to grow veggies) on the way to the sea. I had walked it and this SD1 seemed to me the most futuristic beautiful opulent car in the world. So there it was in the old fashioned store in Austria, like how drug stores were like in USA before the CVSs and Walgreens came.

        When we arrived in USA I had with me this, a stuffed rabbit that my mom had sewn (of the style of the Polish story book with the rabbit from the mirror), a remote controlled Polonez (wire not radio), and a box of terrible Russian building blocks. The Polonez was crushed. I loved this SD1 so much, after the paint peeled off I painted it. What news there was of TWR racing my dad passed along to me.

        Then the toy was lost. One day I visit my father and he tells me he found something in the crawl space, this photo is of when I took it into my hand again after years, my wife took it, I love it too. I will do everything I can to make this Rover out west mine.

        • Wow, awesome story!

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            Thanks, but my wife said no. I was crying in the bathroom stall.

            • Did you neglect to mention to her the Rover even has new tires?

              • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

                That made me smile, thanks!

                • Vavon

                  Did you try bribing her?

            • erikgrad

              perhaps some perspective would help; tell her a divorce would be much more costly than letting you buy this car

              • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

                Erik I love my wife very much, as she me, that's why I think it is not really settled. It's not really about the money but there is someone less fortunate that money was planned for in a round about way, my wife's young relative would be much more pleased with trip to USA than I with a third car.

                • erikgrad

                  You're a good man, Charlie Brown. I totally empathize with the 'loving your respective wife' thing. Perhaps this isn't the time to buy, depending on how it settles out… but don't give up your dream. (Also, share with the Hooniverse when you get one, I want to hear about it!)

            • erikgrad

              Come on… you MUST buy this. Find someone to help ship it back to you. Tell your wife to suck eggs.

        • Van_Sarockin

          You're right, this car should be yours. Enjoy it in good health!

        • MVEilenstein

          HCOTY nomination. Do I hear a second?

          • JayP2112

            Only if he drives it home give us every gory detail.

            • Perhaps MVEilenstein means the blue one. If so, seconded.

              • MVEilenstein

                I do indeed.

              • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

                <img src="http://i.imgur.com/h1KWt.jpg"&gt; I'm very touched and really honored especially because of your seconding in particular because… well… because of you. But I feel strongly the HCOTY should be a car in fact, motorized say in the least, one that can transport a human possibly, in fact four, and two dachshunds as well – simultaneously even, though not all under one roof. So to that end I have been writing my own nomination, the fire engine illustrated above, but got a little side tracked last night and have not quite finished the nomination email submission. I'd be even more honored if it wins, let alone ends-up in the running.

        • You rock

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            Thanks, means a lot coming from you buddy!

        • Scandinavian Flick

          I am so glad I came back to the comment section on this article. I noticed the reply count went way up and figured something must be going on. Sure enough; awesome story! Thanks for sharing it!

          Good luck in getting this car. I second… er… third… quadru..whatever… I ALSO AGREE that you must share the acquisition story with us when it happens!

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            Thanks Flick, I'll see what develops today but again, I'm a really lucky dude as is already.

    • mseoul

      Great story and glad to see the Polish enthusiast so evident on Hoon. I found the Złomnik site thanks to Hooniverse.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        That's great site, I am glad as well, this one great too! http://www.stadobaranow.pl KK recommended it recently to me.

        Anyway, everybody I'm doing fine again, all will be good. Desolation Row and All Along the Watch Tower with the drive in Dale helped. Helping my son with homework, talked with my parents on the phone for while, played some pong with my youngest, later off to see my daughter play viola after a walk with the doggie, and really not last word on this car yet I expect. Lot to be happy about.

        I'm glad I have this place here, my support group.

        • Van_Sarockin

          C'mon! Who wears the jodhpurs, or pantalons, or lederhosen in the family anyway? Sure, she's right. But that's not the point! It's got to be your turn to make a huge mistake, and your wife would be a whole lot happier if you bought this car, than if you ran off with the waitress down at the Waffle House. Yeah, she's a really cute waitress, but we're talking cars here! Your wife will be incredibly supportive, once she understands, that no woman will give you a second glance when you're tooling down the boulevard in the world's last 3500. THE ONE THAT KEPT YOU FROM DYING.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            Ha, thanks, I hope she reads this all tomorrow, couldn't hurt.

        • mseoul

          That is a great site. I've only barely seen what they have on there. I saw a pic of a guy with a US market R5 (Le car) on there. Now how (and why) would anyone import that to Poland? I had an MZ new in 1982 in Poland. Used to ride from Lublin to an area just below Warsaw and try to do round trip on one tank of fuel during rationing and fuel shortages. I saw some older MZ's on the site already. I had a friend who could perfectly imitate the differing sounds of a Syrena or Trabant with mouth noises. Yes, this is a good site too.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            My father had WSK! I haven't seen that LeCar, but I saw the fellow with the Aries K in the Ralley Historique Monte-Carlo!

            • mseoul

              One night after drinking I had to steal a whole headlight bucket and light for my MZ as mine broke in a small crash and you could absolutely not buy parts anywhere. I walked the same street a few days later and saw the bike I stole from with a new light. He obviously stole it from someone else. The LeCar is in the first set of pics up on the main page in the blocks below. Its red. I had one myself in the US in the mid 80's and while a good car it could not equal the non-altered EU model.

              • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

                Man that's great story! I remember once in the '80s my father's family needed part for clutch linkage for Skoda when I was visiting, was impossible to get it anywhere, so my cousin had to make himself with what he had around 🙂 Here's the photo I was talking about: http://www.stadobaranow.pl/wp-content/gallery/sta

                • mseoul

                  Insane guy in the Monte Carlo K-Car. He looks pleased too. Two years ago two Polish friends visited my house in Kentucky from NJ. On a Sunday with no OEM parts available for their old US car type we home-made a complete alternator harness from wire we bought at a hardware store and they drove it to Texas the next day, successfully. The years in "Old Commie Poland" were a good lesson in improvisation…the expression is Polak Potrafi, in English, "a Polish person can do anything"….

    • Maymar

      I have the same Corgi model sitting on the window sill in my kitchen. Of course we never burn things while cooking, it's always the little Rover's electrics.

      Yours has a far more fantastic story though.

  • Jay

    Jamie Kitman bought one off of eBay on impulse a few years back, brave man.

    Featured, by the way, in one of my fave TG specials, British Leyland
    "That wasn't a sophisticated car, despite looking modern, was it?"
    "Oh, not at all, no. The suspension was from the 1950s."
    "And it's not a sophisticated man driving it!"

    By the way, the SD1 is coming reasonably soon to a Hooniverse article near you.

  • m4ff3w

    My birthday is tomorrow. Someone should buy it for me so I can cross it off my bucket list. And yes, it really is on my bucket list.

  • Rover1

    It has aHolley(or similar) US carb instead of the original Su carbs or did the fed spec SD1s have EFI? Either way if that introduces too much extra reliability , don't worry, help is at hand. A wide range of theoretically more powerful V8s from Range Rovers or Discoveries bolt straight in. This should reintroduce the desired unreliabilty levels as originally designed.

    • Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?

    • dukeisduke

      It has a GM power steering pump.

  • Otto Nobetter

    Is it my Monitor or has the hood been re-sprayed?
    (probably after the Holley caught on fire)

  • lilpoindexter

    [youtube uPudE8nDog0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPudE8nDog0 youtube]

    • Vavon


    • dukeisduke

      I miss The Human League.

  • Ol'Shel'

    Fun engine. Go-fast parts. Turns small, good-handling cars into good-handling, mini muscle-cars.

  • Felis_Concolor

    Psst! You misspelled aluminium.

    • Felis_Concolor

      I assumed most would figure out I was having some fun when referring to British cars and using that particular spelling in context.


    "Inside, there’s clean cloth in a light hue. Outside, there is a black dog."

    I have just spent the last 4 minutes cackling like a little kid over this line and dripping coffee out of my nose. Thanks!

  • Van_Sarockin

    Outside of a dog, the man had few friends. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to see.

  • Synchromesh

    These are pretty cool! I actually have seen a whitish-cream version of this car in Brighton, MA a few times over last few years. Recognized it immediately. From what I gather about 800 were imported in the early 80s so they're quite a rare find, especially in New England.

  • rennsport964

    That's pretty cool. Whoever owns it also managed to hang on to the original Washington plates. Double bonus.

  • Shinri

    From the "it's a small world" department, I suspect that the last story about the British owned yellow 3500 SD1 in Salzburg, was my father's friend Richard Samuel who drove his new SD1 to join up with my family for a skiing holiday in Kitzbuhel that winter. He remarked several times about all the problems he has on the way.

  • I for one, was familiar with the dash of these. Here is a shot that the googs came up with…

    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/nj6qH.jpg&quot; alt="" title="Hosted by imgur.com" />

  • Mark Nelson

    I own one of these Rover SD1s here in Australia, a 1982 model. Fear not the reliability issue, these were ironed out by the end of the 70s and my Rover has done 268,000 miles – yes truly! They were sold in UK/Europe and Australia/New Zealand up to 1985 – build quality improved enormously. On my Rover everything works still and its still a great looking car, rust free and starts on the button. Grab one if you can stateside and enjoy a very distinctive looking vehicle which is amazingly practical with that big hatch at the back – it swallows up an amazing amount of gear. Though the V8 is small by US standards it has great torque and surprisingly good gas mileage – and the best bit is there cheap!