Torque Thursday: Rover SD1 3500 V8

Ferrari Daytona for Dacia Sandero money, with one of the greatest engine noises ever? It could only be Rover’s SD1 – and it could be yours for under £6k…

As one of the most legendary cars made in Blighty in the 1970s, the Rover SD1 is one cool cat. Considering all the jokes made by British Leyland snobs, you’ll struggle to fault the model that was designed alongside ‘70s Italian supercars to get the look ‘right’.

It’s common knowledge that the SD1 was heavily inspired by the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, with the headlights, indicators and even aspects of its flanks taking a leaf from the prancing horse’s avant-garde book.

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The men behind the masterpiece, David Bache and Spen King, languished over the details of one of Leyland’s only cars to legitimately claim it was ‘ahead of its time’. They even wanted to put gullwing doors on it. Naturally Leyland guffawed at the idea – but still, this is the kind of wizardry we were playing with back in 1971.

Once the go-ahead was given, there was only one engine for the job. The powerplant that started life in the US and was bought in one of Leyland’s most forward-thinking moves of all time: the Buick-derived Rover V8.

Following the success of the powerplant in the P6, it was a no-brainer. The testament to this decision is the legacy; Land Rover used the Buick-Rover V8 until 2004. Not bad considering the engine was designed at the tail end of the ’50s, if you can believe it.

Rover’s V8 was even used by the UK’s most demonic sports car manufacturer – TVR – who managed to squeeze a whopping 340bhp out of its 5.0 high-compression version, with the same engine being offered in the Bowler Wildcat.

In addition to looking as cool as Matthew McConaughey saying ‘alright, alright, alright’ in Dazed and Confused, the SD1 was both an on-screen sensation as well as a genuine life-saver in one of the coolest police operations of the past generation.

The New Avengers’ John Steed frequently impressed viewers as much as he did Joanna Lumley as his mustard-yellow SD1 consistently flipped the bird to Mercs and Fords. Its enchanting V8 even clearly assisted with Lumley’s facial expressions. Although this was the kind of PR boost any company would yearn for, a rather more heroic story caught our eye with the car.

Back in 1987, a woman needed a liver transplant at London’s Cromwell Hospital, and a donor was fortunately sourced. Thanks to bad weather and a number of delays, the only way for the donor liver to reach the patient was by road.

In the kind of insane real-life occurrence that puts most fictional car chases to shame, two 3500 SD1s were recruited. With 27 miles between the liver and patient, the Rovers had to cane it from Stansted Airport, down the M11 and across the city on a Friday – and that’s having been told that if the drivers took more than 40 minutes they should call it off, as the procedure was already underway in the Cromwell.

Approaching 130mph on the motorway, and very scary speeds taking in London’s finest tourist attractions, the SD1s made the trip in 34 minutes; it was known as the Liver Run. How bloody cool is that?

Our example in the AutoClassics classifieds is the car you really want; the full-blown V8. No weedy 2600s here, no sir!

Although details are scarce, the car comes with an MoT, Moonraker Blue paint and a very dishy blue velour interior. Better still, this example is a manual, so you can rev-match to your heart’s content – and at £5950, why the hell not?

With supplies of Vitesse body kits still available on the internet, this seems too good an opportunity to miss, especially when we gently remind you that TVR used this peach of an engine in a car that would likely give your children nightmares and scar them for life.

Get a closer look with the AutoClassics classified advert.

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