1981 Rover - Austin SD1 3500se 3.5 V8 ohv from UK and Ireland


Affordable classic with a V8. What more could you want?


I've been quite lucky with it so far; Under the bonnet the hydraulic tappets were a bit noisy when I first got it, but they've quietened down with a bit of use and an oil change.

I've had to replace the alternator as its voltage regulator went crazy and every now and would attempt to fry the battery.

I've lagged the tubular exhaust manifolds (a horrible job) to keep the under bonnet temperature down, which has also cut down the general engine noise a bit.

The GM 3spd auto box has a bit of a clonk when down shifting 3rd to 2nd, but if I change the gear myself it's silent. Strange.

I replaced the temperature sender and thermostat so and was pleased to see that it doesn't overheat even in the worst traffic. The previous owner had left the thermostat out claiming that it would 'add at least 50bhp' to the engine. What a clown.

I've fitted an oil cooler to keep the pressure up a bit in traffic. It's surprisingly effective.

The electrics have proved fine so far, after I replaced numerous dashboard warning lamp bulbs and re-connected a few wires that had come adrift. Even the electric windows all work. The central locking has a mind of its own though.

Keeping the rust at bay is a big part of SD1 ownership, and this one has had a lot of touch ups and panel replacements. It looks fine for now, but I'm getting worried about the spreading rust rear panel..

General Comments:

This one had been messed around with in its past, with evidence that it's had a nitrous oxide kit at some point.

The previous owner claims its engine was built by some race mechanic with big valves, hot camshaft etc, but I'm not convinced. What it does have is a full stainless big bore exhaust with tubular manifolds and a pair of K+N filters, so it sounds awesome.

As for its performance, It's big and heavy, has a slush-box, but really goes like sh*t off a shovel. The previous owner took me out in it and hammered it until the speedo went off the clock at an indicated 140MPH+, but I know it was nowhere near that speed in reality. Perhaps 120MPH at most. It accelerates very well and has shown a few corsa/saxo/pug drivers that their version of '16v' pales in comparison. It'll still kick down at 70MPH which makes motorway driving a very satisfying experience.

The brakes have been upgraded with four pot calipers and braided hoses, but it still has solid disks. They are fine for normal or fast driving, but not the best feature of the car.

The suspension had been partially upgraded with Spax adjustable dampers all round, and it seems to hang on to the road reasonably well. I've never pushed it that hard to explore the limits though. As to be expected it's a bit tail happy in the wet, but not too bad.

Fuel usage is OK for the size, weight and age of the car - 25 MPG easily achievable on a run. However short trips round town can be expensive.

The car attracts a fair bit of attention in petrol stations and car parks, all of it complimentary so far! It makes every journey feel a bit special.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 29th June, 2004

1981 Rover - Austin SD1 3500SE 3.5 V8 petrol from UK and Ireland


Hideous amounts of rusting, electric window motor broke, leaking rear shocker, but the car NEVER failed to start in the 2 years I owned it.

General Comments:

My favourite car to date. V8 engine has loads of grunt and sounds gorgeous. I never had to worry if I was in the right gear due to its masses of torque. If it hadn't rusted away from under me I would still be driving it now.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 10th November, 1998

3rd Oct 2001, 05:27

Yes - I agree! I had to scrap mine as it crumbled so badly after a 12 month stint in a DRY garage!

I kept the engine though... this is now in my land-rover...

She lives on!