…and yet, well, see for yourself. It’s an interesting period piece, but I don’t think the car is in any danger of being called “beautiful.” Driving it home today people guessed “Peugeot” twice and “Citation” once, but mostly they didn’t guess at all.
I bought this 1980 model for the oddly exact sum of $1,480. The interior, an exercise in earth-tone velour, carpet and plastic, is in decent condition; the bodywork, while not pristine, is OK, and the car has the rare 5-speed transmission (which was the tipping point for me). It also has a freshly rebuilt engine (the infamous “215” aluminum V8), which must be said runs very nicely–converted to a Holley (or similar) carburetor instead of fuel injection. Throw in new tires and nice original alloys, and you end up with Rusty Heaps saying “sure I’ll take it–what could possibly go wrong?”
The story behind the genesis of the SD1’s styling: it was inspired by both the Ferrari Daytona and the Pininfarina BMC 1800 show car. (I cannot really see either except in the most general sense…a slanty nose and a slight up-tick to the rear do not a Daytona make.) Perhaps back in the day it was much fresher, cutting-edge design, but it really is anonymous now, especially from the back. In its defense, white is not a great color on this car and certainly helps it blend into the scenery; some of the other factory colors were much more appealing (and would really cement it as a monument to 1970’s Britain): mustard yellow, aqua green, maroon.
There are two things that have to be addressed before it can be driven daily: It is not charging (the seller claims it is the regulator) and the handbrake does nothing. In addition, there are some pretty good oil leaks from both the engine and transmission, the steering wheel is off-center and the car pulls to the left a wee bit, so an alignment would probably help.
It’s a nice driving car, and handles well. The engine on this one (the seller claims) is putting out about 200 horses, it pulls like it is, and sounds nice when asked to go. The car is also practical, with the four doors plus hatch; with the rear seat folded the car can swallow a lot of gear. The 85 MPH speedometer (remember those?) is laughable, though.
Rover had a lot riding on this car, but it essentially put the nail in their US-sales operation. Rover only sold 800 in the US before giving up (all 1980 model year cars). The car was very popular in Britain, though, where there were several variants and later a hot version called the Vitesse made a name for itself. (All US cars, incidentally, had quad headlights; someone has converted the headlights on this machine to the European version which makes it look a lot better.)
The Miata is going to go to make room, I think I’ll be selling it to a friend here on the island–for roughly $1,480.