Let Jimmy Take Over – 1980 Rover SD1 3500S (plus bonus P6B!)

Here’s a car that’s never been featured before on this site – Rover. While they have a long history in England, they’ve never been particularly successful in the US – maybe not sporty enough for the Triumph/MG crowd, and not beautiful enough for the Jaguar crowd. That said, this car is pretty interesting for having incorporated many design cues from the Ferrari Daytona, and for running a V8 when most European cars in its class were running sixes and sometimes even fours. It’s also Rover’s last gasp in terms of doing an independently designed car – the 800-series (aka Sterling for the US market) that followed was done in cooperation with Honda.

Here you can see how well the lines of this car work. It’s not stunningly beautiful, but it’s quite handsome for the time. My somewhat-contemporary Lancia Beta sedan, which has a similar 4-door fastback shape, is not anywhere near as attractive. Orange foglights are kind of cool in period way, and this car seems to have had Euro headlights retrofitted, which brings it nearer the designer’s original intentions than the usual US-mandated round sealed beams. Externally, it looks pretty straight and undented, but for that weird part of dull paint on the driver’s side doors. Seller says the car has a clean NY title, which would make me want to look for rust in all the usual places, just in case. Find it listed on eBay for $3250 OBO in Portland, OR (the seller also has a Sterling listed under his other items).

1980 Rover SD1 3500S left

From the interior, it looks pretty decent, but the seller admits the rear seatback is sun-damaged, and there’s a tear in the driver’s seat. I would expect other sun damage to interior vinyl bits as well. The headliner sags, and the cruise control and temperature gauge don’t work, but other than that this car is apparently quite electrically sound. The car has also been stored since 1991, so as with any car that’s gone through that, I would expect surprises and be satisfied for now with a driveable car to debug.

1980 Rover SD1 3500S interior

Lastly, the other side and rear, which seem to be in better shape. Clearly the car will need paint at some point, but for now a wet sand might make it liveable. The car runs and drives, is fuel-injected, and has a 5-speed, so once you get it sorted, this should be a reasonably fun ride. Given the time at which it was built, I wouldn’t expect a ton of power, but be happy with a decent amount of torque compared to its competitors. Seller has replaced all the fluids, and it seems the major mechanical need right now is a new clutch (there’s more, but this would get you started down a probably long debug road).

1980 Rover SD1 3500S right

So there we have it. I’ll jump out there and say this is all the money for this kind of car, but it does have the desirable manual transmission, and seems to be fairly unmolested. You’d be the only one at most car events with one of these, too, although they do show up on the road every so often (at least here in California). Show the seller some cash and you can probably pick this up for under $3000.

However, if that’s too rich for your blood, there’s a P6B with the same 3500 V8 on craigslist in Edmonds, WA for $1800. These cars have their own appeal thanks to a rear deDion suspension, the engine, and distinctive styling with a typical British luxury-car interior. Since it’s a smog-exempt 1970 car, and the engine was widely used, you might be able to hop it up a bit or do a 5-speed conversion. This particular car has the usual faded paint and needs some electrical attention, but has had recent overhauls to the engine, brakes, suspension, carb, and alternator. Looks like a pretty good deal for what it is!

1970 Rover P6B 3500S


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5 Responses to “Let Jimmy Take Over – 1980 Rover SD1 3500S (plus bonus P6B!)”

  1. Roger Says:

    I went to look at the 3500 sedan…save yourself a trip. Nice seller but a tough old car. Did get it sort of running for him, though. Lots of work there to keep a young man busy. (Turn said young man into an old man like me, if he doesn’t watch it.)

    There was an immaculate SD1 up here for sale for half the money of the Portland car, incidentally, but the owner decided not to sell at the last minute. I would think $1K would be pretty generous for the car on the Portland CL, but what do I know.

    A friend and I have a joke up here that the market for weirdo stuff like old Rovers is him, me and one other mutual friend of ours. There just isn’t any demand, and if you’re willing to be patient you can get a decent car for the same price as these tough old projects.

  2. Dave Says:

    Ha! I almost wrote about this car and the Sterling the same seller has on eBay. It’s good to see that someone else shares me affinity for unusual cars!

    Great blog, BTW.


  3. Kirk Says:

    I own a 3500 rover and am looking for parts. I would like to restore the one I got. Do you have any informationon this

  4. Dale Says:

    I too like the Rover not because I like different cars I had one when I was stationed at Raf Bentwaters A 1978 3500 with a five speed gear box.People have there own say in what they think or like. But all I put in mine in about three years is a clutch cyl rebuild kit and couple of rear box’s and a lot of fun driving her!!!Dale

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