Built by the Specialist Division (which gave its initials - SD1 - to the vehicle model) under the Rover division of British Leyland, the Rover SD1 was designed as a replacement for both the ageing, yet fantastic, Rover P6 and also the Triumph 2000.
Launched in 1976 and offered with a variety of engines ranging from the 2.0-litre O-Series inline four to the 3.5-litre V8, there was no doubt which of these configurations was the ‘top dog’ and the SD1 in V8 guise earned itself the nickname of the ‘British Bulldog’ among enthusiasts and journalists alike.
Impressively, the SD1 also saw significant success in tin-top motorsport, scoring wins with the likes of Steve Soper and Tom Walkinshaw behind the wheel in competitions such as the RAC Tourist Trophy and the Bathurst 1000.
Not only was the SD1 good at racing, but also excelled in pursuits, leading to the V8-engined example in particular proving popular in Police use, where the impressive grunt and on-road performance no doubt caused several headaches for the criminal underworld
A 1985-registered Series II Vitesse with the desirable and much-loved 3.5-litre V8 engine finished in attractive Moonraker Blue, this SD1 is a single-plenum, 190bhp fuel-injected model, which was stated as producing 190bhp when it rolled out of the factory.
Being a late-style model, it also benefits from the deeper chin spoiler, side rubbing strips and numerous other small updates compared to earlier model year cars.
The history of this SD1 is somewhat of a mystery, having appeared to be stored between the years of 2001 and 2019, before being sold as a ‘barn find’ to the previous owner in the Carlisle area, who subsequently sold the car to our vendor after being MOT’d.
Prior to the sale in 2019 to the previous owner, the then-custodian carried out a light re-commissioning process including the fitment of a new water pump, a thorough servicing and - somewhat unusually - had the alloy wheels refurbished.
During our vendor’s time with the car, numerous items have received attention and the following work has been carried out and the following parts fitted:
Bonnet and boot gas struts replaced
Fan belt replaced
New spark plugs and ignition leads
New air filter
Radiator refurbishment (removal, overhauled and refitted)
New front brake discs and pads (June 2021)
New front wheel bearings
New coolant hoses
Fresh brake fluid change
A replacement ECU has been fitted (July 2021)
Engine oil and filter change with Valvoline VR1 racing 20W-50 oil (July 2021)
Due to the car’s time in storage, it would appear that precious little information is known about the cars history prior to 2001, with the exception of two stamps in the service handbook from October 1986 and May 1989 respectively.
Included with the car is the original handbook, service record and stereo manuals, numerous old MOT certificates and tax discs, the V5 showing 4 prior keepers, and several miscellaneous invoices from over the years.
The Vitesse interior was rather plush by the standards of the era, and remains in good shape to this day.
Let’s get the negatives out the way first - the usual SD1 ‘trademark’ dashboard warping is present above the instrument binnacle, and the headliner is beginning to sag and warp in places.
Other than the above, this SD1 shows only light commensurate wear to the interior, and we have to say that on the whole, the cabin of this example remains in excellent condition throughout for its age.
According to our vendor, all of the switchgear and electronics are working correctly, including the headlamp washers, trip computer and electric windows, whilst the period-correct Pioneer stereo unit is the only known modification fitted to the car, which remains in otherwise standard factory condition throughout. The heater fan works but does not pump out heat, which has been attributed to a blocked heater matrix, though there are no signs of any leaks from the unit.
As you may expect from a Rover of this age, there are numerous small patches of corrosion as seen in the gallery below around the door inners, though the boot floor looks commendably solid and the vendor reports that none of the issues have ever worried an MOT tester.
Finally, the sunroof is in fully working condition and is watertight, though our vendor suggests that the seal is best earmarked for replacement in due course.
Moonraker blue certainly suits the squared-off lines of the SD1 very well indeed, and this example looks absolutely stunning from a distance.
Up close, the paintwork generally stands up well to scrutiny, though there are numerous small age-related marks, wear and stone chips, along with numerous patches of - what appears to be - surface corrosion and bubbling scattered around the car, which have been detailed in the extensive gallery of photographs below.
All four wheels remain in excellent condition after being refurbished in 2019, and the full-size spare that remains with the car is in as-new condition and appears to have never been used.
Under the front-hinged bonnet, the venerable 3.5-litre Rover V8 engine looks to be in good order, though no doubt a fastidious owner would have a field day giving the block and ancillaries a thorough degreasing and cleaning, but this is all part of the ownership experience.
With numerous key components such as the fan belt, radiator and hoses replaced during our vendor’s tenure with the car, there are no reported mechanical issues with the car and our photographer reports that the V8 engine note sounded “superb” as you would expect.
Eagle-eyed viewers will note that the factory-fitted under-bonnet insulation is missing - this is due to the original having deteriorated significantly. The vendor has sourced a high-quality replacement which is included with the sale of the vehicle, though this has yet to be fitted to the car.
Finally, potential bidders will be pleased to note the most recent MOT exam - dated 03 June 2021 - resulted in a clean pass with no advisories, after initially failing on 13 May 2021 due to the condition of the front brakes and wheel bearings, both of which have been rectified by the vendor.
A true ‘survivor car’ and in wonderfully original condition throughout, this SD1 is an honest and usable example of the classic British ‘muscle car’ that can be used and enjoyed as it sits, or would make an outstanding candidate for an aesthetic restoration.
In apparently rude mechanical health and with significant recent work courtesy of our vendor, this SD1 represents a fantastic opportunity for any Rover enthusiast looking for a light project, or wanting to relieve the glory days of their youth.
Notice to bidders
Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.
As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the seller's discretion.
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