Good morrow, and welcome indeed to part two of part nine of Rusty’s Archive- Showroom Hyperbole. Now by Royal Appointment. *
Last time we met I was waxing all lyrical about the Rover 2300, 2600 and 3500 (or SD1) as they were fresh from launch. Today we’re going to the other extreme, to have a look at the car briefly before Rovers majestic missile was taken into the woods and given both barrels.
It’s the Rover SD1, again.
Those of you with eyes will have noticed that my lead image shows a Rover catalogue with a Sterling on the front cover. ‘Tis true, but this brochure is interesting in that it contains both the New Order and the Old Stager, side by side in a textbook example of a manufacturer hedging its bets.
Yeah, the SD1 was an old-fashioned concept by 1986 and, good as it was, had struggled through various reputation-tarnishing episodes throughout its life. In addition, the competition had grown much, much stronger over the decade and the Japanese and Germans were baying for blood. So Austin-Rovers senior management swapped Sherry for Sake and developed the SD1s replacement, the 800, alongside the Honda Legend.
I’ll be visiting that wonderful (!) machine in the future but, in 1986 Rover loyalists were understandably uncertain about the idea of their big British brute being usurped by a half-Japanese upstart. Furthermore the company probably had hundreds of unsold SD1s sitting in muddy compounds, so in 1986 both the new and old flagships sat in the brochure, cheek-by-jowl.
“A legacy of power”
This was the respectful opening phrase. The SD1 was very much being marketed on the basis of driver appeal, and rightly so.
“In the rarified world of top executive saloons, the Rover’s dynamic, purposeful styling is not the only quality which makes it distinctly different”.
The brochure continues to remind us even the entry models were equipped with sunroof, electric windows, central locking and a wealth of other luxuries. But; crucially:
“…on every model you’ll discover the pervasive sense of calm and confident refinement which is a part of the Rover’s character. That quality too was bred into the Rover from the beginning- in the certain knowledge that you wouldn’t accept anything less”.
I’m almost welling up here, reading that. It’s true; every SD1 had character so deep you could swim in it.
A facelift in the early ’80s had brough with it a host of updates including new and handsome flush-mounted headlamps. The Vanden-Plas model was by now quite celebrated and established, but there was another, far more exciting model growling in the corner. And they named it Vitesse.
“An instinct for power to match your own”.
Clearly aiming at Ze Germans, here. But dynamically the Vitesse could hold a pair of mid-digits up at anything from Stuttgart or Munich and just about get away with it, thanks to 190hp from that old V8, now fuel-injected (with twin throttle-body plenums on these late cars, and possibly slightly conservative power output ratings). And nought to sixty in 7.1 exhilarating seconds.
“Lowered suspension and low profile 205/60 VR tyres on 6.5″ spoked alloy wheels create a confident race-bred stance. A front spoiler and large rear spoiler indicate above average speed and handling ability.”
“….this Rover shares your instinct for the judicious use of power.”
Oh, yes. I really want one of these. But until then, at least I own the brochure.
*Royal Appointment pending only.
<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, taken on my bathroom floor thanks to Arctic conditions outdoors. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, long may they rest in peace. Yeah, seriously; thanks BMW, Thanks Phoenix Consortium…>