1987 ROVER SD1 Vanden Plas

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1987 ROVER SD1 Vanden Plas


The new British Leyland/David Bache designed Rover SD1 (named after the company’s new Specialist Division) saw tradition jettisoned in favour of a new, more modern aesthetic. Imagine the purposeful lovechild of a Ferrari Daytona and Star Wars’ droid R2D2 and you can’t go far wrong.

Out went exterior chrome (well, most of it), while the cabin had little to no wood – both mainstays of the accountant and bank managers’ favourite the P6, and almost all of its predecessors. Powered initially in 1976 by the big Buick-sourced 3.5-litre V8, other engines would follow including a plethora of six-cylinder units (2.3- and 2.6-litre in flavours).

It landed the European Car of the Year title in 1977, although the spec combination proved somewhat mixed with standard power-assisted steering and a five-speed gearbox integrated with a somewhat antediluvian live rear axle and rear drum brakes; that said, MacPherson strut front suspension ensured sharp handling.

Build quality issues were standard for BL in period, although things would improve. A shift from Solihull to Cowley in 1981 preceded this, as well as a mid-life facelift. Four-cylinder power could now be had, as well as a diesel for those looking for efficiency gains and improved mpg.

The 1982 Vitesse offered 190bhp via fuel injection, rather than the standard 155bhp, as well as lowered suspension, 15” alloy wheels and more aggressive looks. Police forces up and down the country loved ‘em, so they were familiar sights particularly on Her Maj’s motorways and on thus themed television dramas.

The failing British industrial behemoth raced and even rallied the model with some success, so images of the big beast mixing it in the British Touring Car Championships and the like were firmly lodged in the minds of a generation of fans.

The SE spec added leather, alloys and a trip computer, while the ’84 Vanden Plas came with even more kit. BL produced 113,966 V8 engined cars but survival rates are low, so they’re a fairly rare sight on today’s roads.

Let us introduce you to an example that has been in stasis for quite a considerable time, ensuring that it’s survived in remarkably original condition.

The Vehicle

Delivered new to Belgium in 1987, this Vanden Plas resided there for 12 years before being sold to a Dutch owner and nipping just across the border.

“Since that time it has been stored in a Rover collection and hasn’t been seen in daylight,” explains vendor Nadim Masri. “This summer I woke the car up by putting a new battery on it, replacing the fuel pump, and replacing some rubber hoses.”

The Rover runs and drives but will need a full service with replacement of all fluids. “As you can see on the pictures below, the body is rust free; it has always been inside a heated garage all these years and is in mint condition with the original factory paint. When new it came with an electric sunroof and disc brakes.”

With just 69,995 kilometers on its clock Nasim reckons that this is a quite an opportunity for someone to get their hands on a genuine piece of well-preserved Rover heritage. “Unfortunately the space in my garage is needed and with no time to drive it in the near future it’s time to sell.”

He also has a framed original ‘Vanden Plas – The Ultimate Rover’ poster, which will accompany the big V8.

On the Outside

Like many cars of the period the SD1 has a notorious reputation for rust; the leading edge of the bonnet, lower extremities, front and rear wings, wheelarches and sills are prone to rot. The good news… in fact, the spectacular news here, is that the shell appears just as Nadim stated, “rust free”.

Body restoration costs on an SD1 can soon mount so it’s so much better to find as original a car as possible, and this is it. The front and rear valances look excellent, and there are no apparent signs of bubbling around the front windscreen or sunroof surrounds.

Instead, it’s a story of clean panels, tight gaps and lovely clean gutters, door channels and sills. The bumpers have one or two small scuffs but the plastics retain a deep black colour, as does the large rear spoiler. Alloy wheels are clean but, as we always recommend with any classic that hasn’t seen much use, we’d check the date stamps on those tyres before using the car on the road.

There is no doubt that this SD1 Vanden Plas has been very well cared for. If you are a Rover SD1 fan then welcome to automotive heaven.

On the Inside

The SD1’s cabin is a time warp full of velour goodness and remains remarkably clean. Up top, the headlining remains pretty much immaculate with absolutely no signs of water ingress (thus chiming with its dry storage), whilst the seats remain free from pulls, rips, or tares. The only signs of wear are a slight loosening of material on the front seats (extremely minor) and a bit of discolouration on the driver’s headrest cushion.

Carpets remain excellent, and instrument pod, dashboard, and centre column remain in absolutely tip-top Eighties condition. The wood veneers (yes, it returned for the Series 2 as cabins became more traditional) retain a deep colour). The original Pioneer stereo radio cassette is present, as are two parcel shelf mounted Pioneer speakers that scream 1987.

It is worth noting that SD1 interiors rarely remain in such good nick, so this really is a bit of a find and indicative of the car’s overall condition.

The carpeted boot is in identical condition with the spare tyre, jack and warning triangle present.


The best place to start with this SD1 is the underside because it remains absolutely spit-spot. It presents very cleanly indeed with just a light bit of surface corrosion on the exhaust pipes, but even the silencer boxes look in exceptional condition. The metalwork looks to be very well protected with underseal in situ and a complete lack of road debris. As you would expect of a car that hasn’t seen much action for the last couple of decades, one or two of the rubber gaiters do look as if they will benefit from being replaced.

Pop the bonnet and you’ll find both engine bay lights function as they should, with the underside sound deadening still intact and in place. It is very smart in here with the V8 hidden underneath a sea of pipes and air filters. The coolant overflow container plastic remains nice and clear, the radiator is in almost new condition and again, there’s a distinct lack of grime. It wouldn’t be far off concours standard with one or two new pipes and a bit of elbow grease.

Vendor Nadim says the car drives exactly as you would expect a low-mileage survivor to do so.

History Highlights

You will find the original Austin Rover Distribution note in the car’s history file, dated 30 Dec. 1986 and signed by handler Andre Cornut. This confirms the car’s chassis number, as does the accompanying ‘Indentificatie Van Het Voertuig’ certificate.

Also present is a letter from CVC (Classic Vehicle Consult) of Hoofddorp, The Netherlands, dated 4th August 1999, relating to the sale of the SD1 for a total of €7,941; in it, you will find a breakdown of condition. You’ll also find a Certificat de Visite from the previous year, as well as one invoice from earlier in its life.

Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of the paperwork to support our claim that this car has been cherished and remains in first class original condition.

What We Think

We do love it when a car like this pops up; storage in a collection for a number of decades has ensured that it has remained in first class condition and ready for another aficionado to take up the reigns.

It could easily slot straight back into another Rover or British Leyland collection, or with a bit of re-commissioning it could just as well be used sparingly on the road and for display at shows.

Given its lovely time-warp condition, we think this Vanden Plas will realise somewhere between €10,000 and €15,000. At either end that’s a great price for what remains a lovely low-mileage example of Rover’s luxury SD1 model.

The only question next for the new owner is what to do with it. As decisions go, it will be a very nice one to make.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located in Zwanenburg, Netherlands. To arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.


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  • Location: Zwanenburg, Netherlands
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 69927 Kms
  • Chassis Number: SARRRMWV4CM333399
  • Engine: 3500CC
  • Gearbox: Auto
  • Steering position: Left-hand drive
  • Colour: Silver Grey Metallic
  • Interior: Grey
  • Estimated Price: €10,000 - €15,000

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