Cohort Outtakes: 1980 Rover 3500 (SD1) – Old World Meets New World

Rover 3500 US Spec

I have said before that one of my roles in the CC Skunk Works is to watch for any Rover 3500 (or other SD1) that passes by, catch and record it, and in this event and many others the CC Cohort has again proved to be a good source. Not one, but two Rover 3500s, one pretty much as shipped from Solihull, and one obviously not.

We should investigate.

Rover 3500

First, a quick refresher. The 3500 (known as the SD1 from BL Specialist Division Project 1) was introduced in in the UK in summer 1976, as a replacement for the Rover P6 2000/2200/3500 and Triumph 2000/2500 ranges. Striking and successful styling covered a conventional car, with MacPherson struts and a live rear axle. Power came from the Rover, ex-Buick 3.5 litre V8, and 6 cylinder 2300 and 2600 and 4 cylinder 2000 versions were added as time went by.

Rover 3500

This was perhaps BL’s high spot – a striking, appealing car that won technical acclaim for being both conventional but more than competent, and innovative with the hatchback and modern interior. Things looked good – early demand was very strong and it was European Car of the Year in 1977.

After a four year wait. in 1980, it came to North America, with just the V8 option, and was fitted with fuel injection, sealed beam headlights, big bumpers and plenty of smog control equipment. Power went from 155bhp to 133bhp at 5100rpm, and performance was noticeably down.

Rover 3500

Sadly, British Leyland quality had not improved during this waiting time. Let’s just say only 1200 were sold in a year and a half, the Rover brand never went back to North America and you won’t be seeing many around now.

So, William Oliver has done well to spot two, somewhere in California.

Rover 3500

The blue car looks to be pretty well stock, and in a period if not very attractive colour. The sealed beams, the big bumpers and allow wheels are all there. You can tell that this car is being cared for, and is quite tempting to those of us who have been described as “true believers”.

Rover 3500

The red car, however, clearly has a bit of history. Yes, cared for, but clearly lowered, repainted and fitted with wide wheels, and I suspect there’s something happening in the engine bay. Six exhaust pipes doesn’t sound right for a V8 to me.

William, if you’re reading this, do you know the history of this car? Please let us know – I need to make an entry in the CC Book of SD1 Record.