The Rover 3500

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Sir,

The last time I wrote to a motoring journal praising a particular car, its engine blew up the following week, so perhaps I’m tempting fate this time.

But I feel I have to counter the negative comments of Mr. Gear and your unnamed owners about the Rover SD1. Mine is a 1977 model, delivered some six weeks ago (although already with 6,000 miles on the clock) and appears from the various date codes around the machine to have actually been built sometime in January.

Apart from fiddling little things that I suppose a good pre-delivery check should have eliminated but didn’t – like a bad earth connection for the rear lights, a mechanically fractured fuse, and a loose brake pedal stop bolt, the only thing that worried me a bit was persistent misfiring when cold. How on earth neither the delivery driver nor the pre-delivery check (presuming it got one) spotted it I don’t know, but the cause was very simple the distributor gap was about 100 instead of 15 thou., and it looked to me as though nobody had ever set it.

These matters attended to, I have only praise for the car. It has now been down to Italy and back, and twice up to Scotland, and I can say that with one exception this is by far the best car I have ever driven or owned – and my experience goes hack to 1947 and includes such as Ferrari, Maserati, various Jaguars, and even Rolls-Royce (that being the exception). Sure, it doesn’t have the sheer performance of a Dino 308, the uncanny silence of a R-R, or even the overall smoothness of the newer Jaguars, but then it doesn’t have a £10,000 tag, or drink petrol at 8 m.p.g., or cost £500 a year to insure, and to my mind is a far better looking car than most others on the road. I had some reservations when I ordered it about its non-independent rear end, but having chased a Dino 308 along the Upper Corniche above Monaco, and been able to at least hold it, and also having driven regularly over the last few years a saloon with a much-praised independent rear-end, all I can say is that the i.r.s. boys had better think again!

This car is so unlike the older Rovers that anyone who still remembers the “old-man’s car” image that Rovers once had had better not buy one of these as a sedate gentleman’s carriage – I suppose it would do it well enough, but what a waste!

Across Germany it cruised all day long at the customary 110-115 m.p.h. that practically every Mercedes or BMW seems to adopt, with no evidence of strain either mechanically or personally; in Switzerland, where it has just been released, there were many questions from admiring Swiss, particularly in Zurich, in Italy sheer disbelief that this was an ENGLISH car, and in France much evident frustration from CX 2400 owners to find yet another foreign car they couldn’t shake off.

I keep accurate fuel consumption records at all times, and I can only assume that Mr. Gear spends all his time driving a few miles to work and back. The only time I’ve ever got anywhere near his 8-20 m.p.g. was when I unfortunately found it necessary to spend a whole day shuttling back and forth in Central London and must have actually been stationary for about half the time in traffic jams. Then I got 21 m.p.g. The other extreme was when I was running it in (which I did for 2,000 miles) and went up to North Wales and back mainly on the M1 at 50 m.p.h. and got 32 m.p.g. The aforesaid 110 m.p.h. cruising returned 25.67 m.p.g. over two successive days. Conversation with other local owners shows much the same figures.

Dislikes? The brakes – they work very well when they have to, but are too harsh at low speeds and too soft at high speeds, an odd little vibration at 70 m.p.h. which is all the more noticeable for coming in at our legal limit, and a rather optimistic speedometer that over-reads by 5 m.p.h. at low speeds and up to 10 m.p.h. above too m.p.h.

Failures? Only one – the clock, (and made by Kienzle, too). No water leaks even in torrential Swiss downpours, and the carpets fit. I’ll let you know how the next 100,000 miles go!

Dorking, W. Blanchard