Rover 3500 SD1: history; performance; design

Seeing it today, one would be tempted to consider the Rover SD1 as one of the unofficial ancestors of the modern sedan-coupé, which from the Mercedes CLS onwards began to depopulate in the top of the range of mainly German brands.

It is certainly a somewhat forced combination, because the British sedan class 1976 was actually one 5 door particularly gritty and streamlined, but undoubtedly the effect it obtained on the public and critics at its debut was not so different from that of the current “comfortable” coupes. Especially considering the conservative image that the Rover brand had maintained until then.

Revolution, but only aesthetic

The motivation behind the birth of a model so out of the ordinary was, in fact, exactly that: after entering the British Leyland Group, in the mid-70s Rover called into question its role on the market trying to give itself a new style that could rejuvenate the image and increase sales, too anchored to an “old school” clientele.

Rover SD1, in evidence the rear with cross tie rods and rear wheel drive

For this, the model intended to replace the classic flagship sedan P6 was designed working mainly on the design and maintaining the classic technical setting, with front engine, rear wheel drive and no particular technological flicker, entrusting everything to a development team that the new group had formed by combining the skills of the Rover, Triumph and Jaguar, called Specialist Division.

Rover SD1, history

Rover SD1, the front of the first series

The name SD1 originated from this, having been the first project curated by this division of British Leyland, even if the model was presented, and is still better known, with the initials 3500, referring to the V8 engine of Buick origin, already offered on the P6 and on the Range Rover, with an initial power of 155 hp.

For the line, on the other hand, the choice fell on an elongated 2-volume fastback configuration with a large tailgate, a solution at the time used only by innovative brands such as Citroën (from which the idea of ​​the steering wheel with a single spoke was also taken. ) and completed with a pointed front and fairing headlights inspired by some sports cars such as the Ferrari Daytona.

Rover SD1, history

The interiors with single-spoke steering wheel

Likes it but does not make a bang

This breaking design, applied to a 4.75 meter car body, was enough to make the 3500 / SD1 one of the most interesting cars on the scene and garner such critical success that it was elected “Car of the Year” for 1977, as well as a good appreciation of the public.

Rover SD1, history

The 3.5-liter V8 engine of the first 3500

However, the choice of a single engine with such a high displacement it limited its diffusion in countries where taxation penalized high cubic volumes (such as Italy, where the costs increased for models over 2 liters), while some reliability problems, despite the components and the frame not new (rigid rear axle and brakes with mixed disc / drum solution), it did the rest by dampening some of the initial enthusiasm.

In 1979 the 160 bhp S variant was launched, refined and better equipped, while in 1980 a series of improvements were made on all models and finally introduced other engines, in this case the 6 cylinders 2.3 and 2.6 liters also used on Land Rovers, with powers of 126 and 138 HP.

Rover SD1, history

Rover SD1 restyling 1982

Improvements in the race

The real restyling arrived in 1982, recognizable by the redesigned front lights and flush with the bodywork, the front spoiler, the tailgate with larger rear window and new light groups. In addition, new bumpers and chrome details, plus a brand new dashboard and more elegant finishes in the cabin. The range has been further extended downwards with a 2-liter version of around 100 HP and a 94 HP 2.4 turbodiesel supplied by the Italian VM Motori.

Rover SD1, history

Rover SD1 Speed ​​1982

The 3.5-liter V8, on the other hand, has been updated with electronic injection and increased to 192 HP and offered with 2 distinct trim levels: the elegant Vanden Plas (name of a historic brand of the “downgraded” Group to a luxury version) and the sportsman Speed which is still remembered as one of the most successful versions of the SD1 in the final phase of the career, which ended in 1987 with just over 303,000 units produced.

Source: Italia – News by

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