As much as I hate to part with it, I think it's time to say goodbye to our much loved Vitesse. After five years of fun, covering 16,000 miles including some epic road trips all round the UK and down to the Alps and Provence, our girls have grown up and are leaving home, we are downsizing and I need to turn my attention to my 1993 Range Rover which is calling for more of my time.
Registered on the 31st August 1984, it’s about to celebrate its 35th birthday. The car is in the early trim spec of smaller front spoiler, rear wheel spats, Vitesse door decals and no side rubbing strips. However it has the walnut wood trim on the door cards and not the straight grain found in the 1983 Vitesses.
The car is utterly reliable, never broken down in my ownership, running very nicely, and continues to be a wonderful way of getting about the place. The Rovercraft 3.9 fitted with the uprated RC87 cam and tubular headers and deleted central muffler sounds amazing and is ridiculously torquey - most of the time you only need to use the first inch of throttle pedal. I always drive with the window down so I can listen to the exhaust note bouncing off the houses and at full chat in 1st gear in the Blackwall tunnel yesterday it was amazing! The car is magnificent on motorways and A roads, and is a delight on twisty stuff with sublime steering and throttle response.
When I bought the car it became clear fairly quickly that the suspension wasn’t up to the job, but as I was living abroad at the time and coming home to use the car each summer I wasn’t able to do anything about it except replace the rear springs with Rimmer Bros yellow items. This made a small improvement but the car was still bottoming out when loaded and so two years ago I totally refreshed the front suspension with new Spax shocks, new Rimmer Bros yellow springs and new bump stops and gaiters. At the same time I finally found some suitable rear shocks (Monroe Load Levellers) to replace the inadequate and ageing Unipart items. This transformed the car, and although I would have loved to install the correct Vitesse spec Boge Nivomats, they are still unavailable.
Over this winter I completely replaced every component in the braking system except for the lines, front discs and pads. So that's a new servo, refurbished the master cylinder with new seals, replaced the brake balance valve (unique to Vitesse model), and completely rebuilt the rear brakes with new shoes and cylinders and of course fresh fluid. It also had a new handbrake cable a year or so ago. The other major work I carried out last summer was replacing one of the valves in the engine and the entire rocker assembly on one bank as one of the rocker arms lost its little steel bearing plate and started bashing away on the end of the valve. I put up with the ticking for a while assuming it was a stuck hydraulic lifter, but then realised I needed to bite the bullet and pull the head off. So I delved in to see what I could find - and was delighted to see that the innards of the V8 are very clean and untarnished. There is no sign of any wear at all on lifters or cam lobes, and no carbon build up either - for a Rover v8 it’s in excellent shape. So I replaced the damaged valve, ground it in, and also fitted a whole rocker assembly on that side as the shaft was worn in one or two places. I then rebuilt the top end with composite gaskets, new O rings for the fuel injectors and changed a couple of the coolant hoses which were looking a bit dodgy.
The car sailed through MOT again back in January with only four advisories; apparently the silvering in the headlights is starting to deteriorate, the front brake flexi-hoses have some grease on them, there’s a small oil leak and the exhaust was blowing. However, the exhaust fumes that had been present when I bought the car five years ago were getting worse and the cloud of blue smoke on start up was getting embarrassing so last month I took both heads off again and found the culprit - the little rubber washers masquerading as valve stem oil seals were hard and brittle, three were split and one was completely absent. As it’s an early 3.9 engine and is not machined for the later clip-on oil seals, after some research I discovered the seals from a 1.9 Opel Manta engine fit perfectly and so duly installed sixteen of them and it has completely cured the problem. I had already removed all the valves, cleaned up some carbon deposits I found on the valve shoulders, and then rebuilt everything again with new composite gaskets. The engine also has new NGK spark plugs and has the top of the range Magnecor plug leads.
During the last few months I got the exhaust fixed as silencer no.2 eventually blew, so I had a new silencer fitted by an excellent place in Basildon called "Pipecraft". I’ve had all four wheels refurbished (acid dipped and powder coated) and new Firestone Roadhawk tyres fitted all round and I’ve also fixed the petrol gauge and one of the electric windows which had become reluctant to close.
The car is probably best described as a Condition 2, and is unmodified except for the replacement 3.9 engine, radiator and twin electric fans, exhaust system, replacement shocks, springs and upgraded headlight bulbs. It's done 121,000 miles and is a good sound machine. Chassis, engine bay and bodywork are all in good shape. There is a leak into the boot floor as is common on SD1s so there is some rust to deal with there and the carpet in the wheel well is water damaged and the bottom portion is missing. There is also one bodywork repair needed behind the rear wheel arch where the sunroof drain exits.
Again, to be clear, the car is not in pristine condition, instead after thirty five years on the road it exhibits an honest patina (faded black paint around window frames, weathered bumpers, boot spoiler and exterior plastics, sun fading to top of rear seat and rear speaker grills, cracked and flaking lacquer on interior wood trim). One thing I have not managed to get round to is replacing the bonnet, which is quite rusty underneath and exhibiting a couple of blisters on the exterior, and there is some rust starting at the bottom of the rear doors. Having been restored and resprayed in the original Silverleaf metallic at some point in the past, the rest of the bodywork is very good notwithstanding the usual scuffs and scratches, and the chassis and underside are also very good .
The interior is complete and (almost) everything works as it should, with the only electrical issues being the trip computer functioning about 90% of the time, a problem with the courtesy lights and the intermittent wiper function is dysfunctional. The rear electric windows are a bit slow and sometimes the speedometer needle decides it needs a rest for a few minutes. The headlining was redone before I bought the car and is still perfect. The seats, dash and other interior trim are all in good condition (apart from the usual SD1 binnacle cover warping) with nothing missing or mangled, and the car comes with a lovely Mota Lita classic leather bound steering wheel with polished steel spokes. I fitted a Sony head unit with Aux input which matches the black trim in the centre console, but it’s definitely time to change the rear speakers. The car comes complete with four tailored footwell carpets and the correct Vitesse alloy spare wheel plus the jack and wheelbrace in the proper vinyl case.
Although there is still six months left on the MOT I would be happy to get the car retested for the buyer to provide full peace of mind.
Rovercraft 3.9 engine with Hotwire injection
Uprated RC87 camshaft
Magnecor Spark plug leads
Braided fuel lines
Twin electric thermostatically controlled fans
Tubular exhaust headers and deleted central muffler
Two replacement rear silencers
Uprated headlight bulbs
Spax front shock absorbers
Monroe Load Leveller rear shocks
Rimmer uprated yellow springs all round
Refurbished and powder coated Vitesse alloy wheels
Four new Firestone Roadhawk 205/60 R15 91V tyres
New gas struts for both boot and bonnet
Renewed headliner still in perfect condition
Replaced trip computer
Mota Lita steering wheel
Sony head unit
Work still to do:
Change front discs, pads and Flexi hoses
Replace bonnet (currently on sale at Rimmer Bros for £126)
Repair bodywork behind rear wheel on driver’s side
Rear stereo speakers
Fix courtesy light
Refinish wood trim
Refinish silvering in headlights
I have plenty more photos so please let me know if you'd like to see more
SOLD, SIMILAR REQUIRED ! Turmeric Yellow with Coriander trim, Originally supplied by Dutton Forshaw of Tonbridge to its 1st and only owner Mr Smith of St Leonards-on-Sea, Complete with history file.....
Mr Darcy's are offering for sale, this beautiful Rover Sd1 in immaculate condition.
Finished in silver sand, with barley velour interior, this is a prime example of the iconic V8 SD1. This car has.....
Moonraker Blue with grey velour upholstery. 74k miles. Only 4 previous owners. 12 months MOT with no advisories. Early single plenum model in good solid overall condition. Interior is tidy although.....