The Rover SD1 is the code name and final production name given to a series of executive cars built by the British Leyland (BL) Specialist Division (later the Jaguar-Rover-Triumph division) under the Rover brand. It was produced through its Specialist divisions, Rover Triumph and Austin Rover, from 1976 to 1986, when it was replaced by the Rover 800. SD1 was marketed under several names. In 1977, it won the European Car of the Year title. [2]

In "SD1", "SD" refers to the "Expert Division" and "1" is the first car to come from the internal design team.

The SD1 can be considered the last British Rover, being the final vehicle with the Rover emblem to be produced in Solihull, in addition to being the last to be designed in large part by former engineers at the Rover Company. Future Rovers would be built at British Motor Corporation's old factories in Longbridge and Cowley; and largely depended on Honda and BMW engineering.

In 1971, Rover, then part of the British Leyland (BL) group, began to develop a new car to replace the Rover P6 and the Triumph 2000/2500. The designers of Triumph and Rover presented plans for the new car, from which the latter was chosen. David Bache would head the design team, inspired by exotic machines such as the Ferrari Daytona and 365 GTC / 4, and Pininfarina's late 1960s design study for the BMC 1800, which also guided the design of the Citroën CX. Spen King was responsible for engineering. The two had previously collaborated on the Range Rover. The project was given the first code name RT1 (for Rover Triumph Number 1), but soon changed to SD1 (for Specialist Division Number 1) when Rover and Triumph were placed in British Leyland's new "Specialist Division".

The new car was designed with simplicity of manufacture in mind, in contrast to the P6, whose design was quite complicated in areas such as the rear suspension of the De Dion type. The SD1 used a well-known live rear axle. This different approach was chosen because research has shown that, while the automotive press has been impressed by sophisticated and revolutionary designs, the general public was not unless the results were good. However, with the rear axle live, another retrograde step came - the car was equipped with drum brakes at the rear.

LHD Rover SD1 interior
The SD1 panel has an unusual ventilation opening, which is directly facing the passenger. The display binocular is on top of the panel in front of the driver to assist production in the left-hand drive markets, as it has avoided the cost of producing two different frames for the LHD and RHD versions. The vent acts as a passage for the steering column, and the "podular" binocular on the display can be easily installed on the top of the dashboard, on the left or right side of the car.

This concept was not entirely new; it had also been used on the Range Rover and again on the Mk.1 Austin Metro, both also designed by David Bache.

A real estate agency had been envisaged, but it did not go beyond the prototype stage. Two properties specified in the same way have survived and are displayed at the Heritage Motor Center and the Haynes International Motor Museum, respectively. One was used by BL President Sir Michael Edwardes as personal transport in the late 1970s. The two cars as suitable prototypes differ in detail and around the rear door. One car has a lowered rear door, while the other has a shell arrangement, where the entire rear door is visible when closed.

The SD1 was designed to be produced in a state-of-the-art extension of Rover's historic Solihull plant, alongside the TR7. It was largely financed by the British government, which had rescued BL from bankruptcy in 1975. Unfortunately, this did not contribute to improving the irregular construction quality that plagued the entire British region of Leyland. This, together with fast-wearing internal materials and low details, ensured that the initial enthusiasm soon turned into disappointment.

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