Nicest One Around: 1980 Rover SD1 3500

1980 Rover SD1 3500

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

When I first learned about the Rover SD1, I thought it was a brilliant idea! A British sports sedan with an American derived V8. Honestly, does it get any more interesting than that? The problem is, we didn’t get many here in the States, and most of the ones I’ve come across here have been driven hard and are worn out. This example has to be the cleanest one I’ve ever seen, but with 72k miles on the dial it should be nice! You can find this SD1 here on eBay in Willow Creek, California with a starting bid of $8k.

Rover SD1 3500 V8

The Rover might not be the most seductively designed car, but that’s part of what makes it so cool! When the SD1 was introduced in its home market, it was built to take the place of the P6 and was initially fitted with 4 and 6 cylinder engines. Parent country British Leyland had previously acquired the rights to the Buick 215 V8 and had developed it for use in Europe. When they decided to reintroduce the Rover brand to America, it just made sense to fit the SD1 with the American derived V8.

1980 Rover SD1 Interior

Not many of these cars were sold here, even though they were fairly well received by the press. I’m going to guess that is one of the reasons so few have survived in nice original condition. Getting parts to maintain them from new was likely difficult, so people just drove them till they broke down. Somehow this one has survived in great condition and just needs a new garage to call home! So would you like to have this great sedan parked in your garage or is the price too high for you? Special thanks to BoldRide for this tip!

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. wagon master

    Hmmm, tempting with that great 215 Buick V8. But, I’m having difficulty getting past the Malaise era aesthetics. Selling by a Rover shop. The new customish interior is ok but not a well cared for survivor, with faded paint also. Standard statement: “AC needs a recharge” ?? They are a repair shop?! Yeah right!!

    Like 0
  2. Birdman

    A friend of mine years ago had one of these..not sure what year… but I remember the first time I saw it I thought “That thing looks like a Chevy Citation on steroids”. Seeing this one,I still think the same thing…. nice car though..

    Like 0
  3. Bill

    Way too much money for something that will leave you stranded somewhere, sometime.

    Like 0
  4. Jamie Palmer JamieStaff

    Eventually, I will own one of these cars. But when I’m done, it will look like if not be the Vitesse version. I think the headlights, larger wheels and tires and yes, spoilers really enhance the look. BTW, I would have thought this was too much until the one that I wanted to buy closer to me (not as nice) went for $7,600 earlier this year.

    Like 0
  5. Will

    When I was stationed in England in the mid 80s These where everywhere. I loved them. I really don’t like the U.S. spec headlights though. I would change those.

    Like 0
  6. Bill

    NIce drivers. I had the fortune to look after one that had been played with a bit (heads, intake, exhaust…) nice cruisers, When it was towed to my shop a guy said “Hey is that a Maserati?… um.. the opposite actually. That said it is a product of it’s era. los of velour and earth tones. they do look amazing when you put the spoilers and such on them and paint them a cool colour like black. I own a P6 thouh, and prefer that to the SD1 which it replaced.

    Like 0
  7. charlieMember

    I read this almost every day and have never seen a Sterling listed here – British bodied and insided, mechanically a Honda, if I remember right. An upscale Honda before the Infiniti, to blend Japanese reliability with British plushness.

    Like 0
  8. Jubjub

    Actually the V8 came before the fours and sixes.

    Probably reiterating, but I remember being pretty impressed when a handful of these were on the frontline with some MGs and Triumphs at the local BL dealer. Even without the flush lamps and with clumsy bumpers they’re still striking.

    Those Vitesses are sick!

    Somehow I conned my parents into buying me a Polistil 1/25 scale die cast Rover 3500 while on a family trip.

    Like 0
  9. DirtyHarry

    The world has spoken, zero bids with less than 24 hours to go.

    Like 0
  10. jtnc

    Correction: the Rover-Buick V8 came out with the introduction of the SD1. It had previously been used in the P6 3500S sedan. A friend had an SD1. Excellent design (with the exception of the mousy upholstery material) but truly horrible build quality. Broke down regularly, just like all those stories you’ve heard about BL’s cars during this era. I later bought a new 1989 Sterling 827SLi (the hatchback) 5-speed, Rover’s version of the Acura Legend. Beautiful car, initial build quality was also terrible (especially electrics and plastics) but eventually everything was resolved. Drove it 130K miles but utimately the non-Honda parts became difficult to get.

    Like 0
  11. Doyler

    As always, these cars are far far better looking in their European configuration. I’m with Jamie – Vitesse all the way.

    I heard that Rover acquired a Ferrari Daytona and left it in the design studio to inspire their people. It worked

    Like 0
  12. kman

    I think the Vitesse is strikingly more attractive with the richer colour. The deep red does give it a lot more class. The world doesn’t need anymore silver cars.

    Like 0
  13. ClassicCarFan

    Good to see an interesting car like this in these pages.

    I remember these well back in the UK. They were really pretty nice driving cars which should have been a real success but were let down by poor quality control and build problems. The fuel injected Vitesse models (especially the rare twin plenum version) were pretty rapid cars for their day.

    @Jubjub beat me too it… there are some inaccuracies in the write up here. The car was designed around the V-8 from the very start and it was the smaller engine options that were only decided upon closer to launch time.

    British Leyland had nothing to do with sourcing the ex-Buick V-8 motor. It was the Rover car company that bought the tooling and rights to that design in 1965(?) and BL simply inherited it as a well-established engine that had been used in the Rover P5 and P6 when they absorbed Rover later on in the 1960s.

    You say “When they decided to reintroduce the Rover brand to America, it just made sense to fit the SD1 with the American derived V8.” I think this is just supposition…. The SD1 was designed with the V-8 and was sold with the V-8 in all markets and had been used in the previous P-5 and P-6 models too so to suggest that they made a conscious decision to fit the V-8 to go after the US market is probably a stretch of imagination. It is true to say that they chose only to market the V-8 engine version in NA.

    Calling the engine in this car a “Buick” engine is not really appropriate. It was certainly based on the Buick 215 design licensed from GM but there was quite a lot of further development before it was ever used in a Rover car. Rover even hired a retiring GM engine specialist as a consultant and brought him over to help. The Rover 3.5 litre engine is different to the Buick engine in many details and they have very few interchangeable parts. All the engines used in the Rover cars in production were built by Rover in the Rover engine plants to the Rover design.

    It’s just like the frequently repeated myth that the Hillman (Rootes, Sunbeam) Imp had a Coventry Climax engine. It didn’t, it had a Rootes designed and built engine based on a previous Coventry Climax design. …or that the Triumph TR 4-cylinder cars had a “tractor engine”. No, they didn’t. They had a 2-litre engine designed for car use (in the Standard Vanguard) which was loosely based on an earlier smaller capacity design which WAS used for tractors and the Standard-Triumph 2-litre engine as used in the Vanguard and the TR-series sports cars was then subsequently also used to power tractors. But hey, let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good internet urban myth…..

    Like 0
  14. Joe Nose

    Fill it up with water, then fold it along the wet spots and dispose of in an appropriate lake.

    Like 0
  15. DolphinMember

    Now that is one heck of a battering ram on the front.

    Like 0
  16. wagon master

    your’s is one of the most informative and we’ll versed dissertations witnessed on this blog, INMHO! I’ve always wondered about the connection and similarities between the two engines. Thank you!

    Like 0
  17. ClassicCarFan

    @wagon master.
    Thanks…there’s a really good write up of the development history of this car (and many of the other BMC/Rover/Triumph cars/engines) at his site.-

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds