PH CARPOOL: ROVER SD1 VITESSE
A PH favourite because it's what our dads drove, this week's Carpooler actually is driving his dad's car!
Edward Le Masurier
Rover SD1 Vitesse
Renaultsport Clio 197, Audi A1
Erm... I didn't! In fact, I was two years old when my father bought this car from a dealership in Dursley. Having previously owned various MG Midgets, MGBGTs, and Triumph Stags, my dad needed something more practical after my sister was born. It has been in the family ever since. My father and I have been restoring it to its former glory over the past two years after some structural rust resulted in it languishing in the garage for five years or so.
What I wish I'd known:
It hasn't been a challenging as we imagined. Parts are fairly straightforward to come by (we used Rimmer Brothers for most of them) and a few years ago a warehouse full of various pieces of SD1 bodywork was found in India and shipped back to the UK so replacement door skins, wings, etc are also relatively cheap.
The noise - we have just had a new stainless sports exhaust fitted and it sounds awesome!
The engine - it is a big old lazy V8 and has bags of torque low down. It sounds good when given its head and is improving with use.
The looks - the long bonnet, tea tray rear spoiler, large front air dam and black metallic paint give it a menacing look. The fastback design makes it very practical and it is widely regarded as an iconic shape. It just looks 'right' from all angles (to these eyes at least).
The driving experience - it is 27 years old, it has rear drum brakes, the suspension is rather soft and, as a result, it does require some concentration to drive smoothly. That is all part of the appeal. It rolls, the steering is rather vague, and grip levels are modest but it can be hustled along at a reasonable speed as long as the road is well sighted. It certainly isn't a precision driving tool, but that does not make it any less rewarding.
Reaction from others - everyone seems to like it!
The electrics - the rev counter needs a solid whack to make it work, the central locking is rather hit and miss, the water temperature light is permanently on, and I don't really trust the fuel gauge.
The interior - love the design (very 80s) but the headlining is sagging, the steering wheel is huge (it feels like it has been pinched from a bus), and there are always a few squeaks and rattles.
Classic insurance is only a couple of hundred pounds a year, but it does like to drink Super Unleaded (it originally ran on four star but can run on super without modification). Parts, as mentioned previously, are fairly easy to find.
High speed trips down to Pembrokeshire and up to Prescott Hillclimb as a child are etched in my memory, but recently the car has not been on too many long journeys. That is going to change next year!
B SAD is going to start getting a bit more use. We need to have the tyres looked at (they are rather old) and we are hoping to get a few cosmetic bits done but I would like to re-enact those trips up to Prescott and perhaps to The Goodwood Revival next year. It would be good to do a Sunday Service next year too. It has become apparent that cars like this need to be used on a regular basis and that is exactly what I intend to do!