CAR OF 1976 ROVER SD1
I could have reasonably selected the Ford Fiesta, Honda Accord, Lotus Esprit or Porsche 924, but for me, the new car debut of 1976 was the Rover 3500 SD1. This is not just because it became the Car of the Year for 1977 – the last time this was bestowed on a British marque – but for the sense of hope it gave to the recently nationalised British Leyland. Plus, there is the fact that the sixyear-old me had never seen a car quite like it on the mean village streets of Swanwick in Hampshire, now downwind of the M27.
The blend of David Bache’s coachwork with the proven 3.5-litre V8 engine was in that great Viking badge tradition of defining the notion of the British executive car. At £4750 it also represented excellent value for money, but a Car magazine road test of August 1976 sadly anticipated the problems that were to blight it. ‘Production (if it can be called that) has ground to a stop once more as this is being written, leaving Citroën, Renault, Peugeot, Mercedes, BMW, Opel and all the rest to count the money Rover should have had.’
Unfortunately, that ‘new tradition’ included poor build quality on the early models.