SOTW: Rover SD1 3500

If you were to pick a time and a place from which it would be inadvisable to purchase a manufactured good, it would be hard to think of any when and any where worse than a British Leyland factory in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

It was a time when supply problems, management cock-ups, industrial disputes and generally shoddy build quality pretty much destroyed forever the reputation of some of Britain's best-known car marques, not least Rover.

And the Rover that suffered the most was arguably today's SOTW, the Rover SD1. Despite a dramatic, innovative design both inside and out, the option of classic V8 grunt, and more or less universally praised dynamics, the SD1's reputation -and its longevity suffered at the hands of a company in meltdown.

And it could all have been so different. The car, which was styled by Rover's design genius David Bache, had some grand ambitions. It had been designed to look like a family version of contemporary Italian supercars (they even got a load of Italian supercars in for comparison purposes early in the design process), while the attractive interior was intelligently designed from both a user's and an engineering perspective. Such was BL's confidence in it that they ploughed £31 million into a new factory (which in the end would be mothballed after just five years).

Heck, it even received rave reviews from the motoring press. "It is hard to be over-enthusiastic about the new 3500" said Autocar. "On every score, its qualities justify any kind of enthusiasm. It would have been hard to predict, especially looking at the bald paper specification, just how well the car would perform, handle and ride.

"Add to that the spaciousness and aerodynamic efficiency of the body, and the attention paid to ensuring that the car will last, and it is easy to see why all competitors are casting worried glances, not only at the car but also at its price. If the 3500 will be built in sufficient numbers, if the quality can be maintained along with the price, and if the ground is not cut from under its wheels by ill-advised legislation, the new 3500 should be one of the successes of the decade."

But production numbers, of course, could not be maintained and nor could the quality. And all we are left with in the 21st century is a whole bag of 'what ifs' and a dwindling handful of what was once one of the most promising cars ever to be created in Britain.

But the world's loss is Shed's gain. This 1981 car looks as clean as any within the bounds of SOTW's £1k limit, it's got almost an entire year's worth of MOT and five months tax, and they really, truly don't make 'em like this anymore. £995 for a wafty portion of British automotive history? Sounds like a bargain to us. Provided you don't mind shelling out a bit for the fuel bills...

Advert is reproduced below

rover sd1 3500 se v8 auto REDUCED £995ONO For Sale (1981)

rover 3500 se series 1.5 finished in arran with bayleaf interior . 11 months m.o.t & 5 months tax. loads recently done including full service & carbs tuned. The car starts first time ,runs great and would drive anywhere !This car is a genuine as you could get for the 30years old. Only selling to help fund resto of another sd1. A rare model thats a joy to drive in a very rare combo. Strictly NO more timewasters please.May p/x something of interest.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (167) Join the discussion on the forum

  • johnpeat 28 Apr 2011

    Never, in the field of motoring, has the term 'shed' been more appropriate - no really, I know someone who actually uses one of these AS A SHED.

    Well, it's more of a cold-frame I suppose - or mini-greenhouse - but it was dumped on his allotment and so rather than move it - he used it!!

    This is also the car my headmaster had (poss. not a 3500 in his case but same colour) so it brings FEAR smile

  • hornetrider 29 Apr 2011

    My dad used to have one in chocolate brown back in the day, brilliant old thing.

  • Faust66 29 Apr 2011

    I really want to like these; the styling, stonking V8 and the general down-at-heels charm... I just can't though.

    Remember talking to a couple of chaps from the owners club at the NEC classic car show a few years back. They let me sit in their restored cars - the build quality, even in an immaculate restored example, made my Capri seem like a Bentley.

    If only they'd got the car right in the first place... one of the great 'what ifs' of the British car industry.

  • B'stard Child 29 Apr 2011

    Ahhhhhh - just wonderfull

    Well done guys - should drag all of the BL haterz out of the woodwork

    I predict Ferrari references and epic tales of cars that shed parts like confetti at todays wedding

  • Hitler Hadrump 29 Apr 2011

    Jeremy Clarkson said:
    I once had one of these and the door which had been unbolted fell off!!!!!!!!!
    Everyone votes 0

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