Car of the year logo (2,32kB) The Rover SD1 "3500"
European Car of the Year !!!

Car of the year logo (2,32kB)

W ell every excellent design deserves an award. And off course the SD1 wasn't an exception. During its production years our beauty has won many awards. These are for instance:

  • The Don safety trophy (1977)
  • Tow car of the year (1978) by Caravans international
  • AA gold medal
  • Style auto award (By a panel of leading European car designers)
  • Car of the year in the Director's class, What car magazine 1979

No British car had ever won so many awards in the first years of its life. But the most important one was the European Car of the year award in 1977.

It was the second time for Rover to win this prestigious award. The first time was in 1963. Also the first time this award was given! Well to keep you informed, here is a list of the other Cars of the year. A few winners might not deserve the title (politics in the automotive world).... But the SD1 defenitely does deserve it!!

The Car of the Year.

The motor industry has tried throughout its history to give itself agreed standards of excellence to which it can work. At international motor shows exhibits are judged for gold, silver or bronze medals by panels of experienced and knowledgeable experts. Cars are made available for road test by experienced journalists. The objective is publicity, but the results are fed back into the system and designers are guided by them for future designs.

As the car manufacturing grew all over the world it was natural for motor industry organisation, magazines and newspapers to try to assess each year's crop of new models and decide which of them was the most successful. By the middle 1960s there was a thoroughly confusing collection of awards, each one claiming to be the "Best Car of the Year" award, and each one conflicting in its standards and objectives with other "Best Car of the Year" awards.
In the early 1970s, the editors of leading European newspapers and magazines got together to try to sort out the situation. John Anstey, Editor of the Telegraph Sunday Magazine, says: "I thought it was time we organised it properly".
He met with editors of other leading publications: Autovisie of Holland, L'Equipe of France, Quattroruote of Italy, Stern of Germany and Vi Bilagare of Sweden.
Representing six of the most influential publications with motoring interests in Europe, the Editors worked out the rules for a new, authoritative Car of the Year Award. The new trophy was commissioned by the Daily Telegraph which, it was agreed, would organise the first event in 1973. Simple in concept and representing in its design the flags of the six nations who take turns to organise the event, the trophy was awarded for the first time in 1973. Since then the award has gone to multi-national or continental manufacturers, but for 1977 cornes to Britain and the creators of the Rover 3500.

In a fiercely competitive area such as the motor industry any award of this kind must be clearly seen to be won each year solely on the merits of the cars involved. To ensure this, a panel of jurors is made up of 49 respected and experienced motoring journalists from 15 European countries. Major car manufacturing countries are allocated a larger proportion of votes on the panel than countries which have smaller industries. The cars judged to be eligible for the award each year are those which the body of journalists as a whole had the opportunity to test. If a particular vehicle has been driven by only a small number of jurors it is possible that it will be held over for assessment in the following year. To be eligible the cars must be in series production and a minimum level of production of 5.000 units has been set to ensure that this condition is met. This year there were 17 new saloons, from Germany, Sweden, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Jurors have 15 points each to allocate and must spread them amongst at least five cars, which means that a maximum of only 11 points is possible. The Rover was consistent in its appeal, with only six failing to give it "top five" rating. The continuing health of the Car of the Year Award is guaranteed by the fact that motoring journalists, being the kind of hypercritical, objective observers that they are, can fault with little effort products on which thousands of highly-skilled man-hours have been lavished to bring them to a high state of perfection. No car considered for the award escapes its share of informed criticism.

The designs accepted for assessment each year must be genuinely new. They must offer substantial innovations in construction and in technical specification. Merely re-styling a well-established type is not sufficient. The rules demand an entirely or essentially new structure and essentially new mechanical units. Or they must have a structure and mechanism sufficiently changed to alter the market at which the car is aimed. Or they may have entirely new or substantially altered mechanical parts in an existing structure adapted to take them.

Designed and developed under the leadership of Spencer King, Leyland Cars Engineering Director and Product Planning, the Rover 3500 is the product of one of the longest established and most experienced groups of designers in the European motor industry. It is to a large degree due to the bringing together of separate design groups within Leyland Cars that they were given scope to work as they have done. Previous notable designs from this team have included the Rover 2000 of 1963, in its time also a "Best Car of the Year" award winner and winner of the AA's Gold Medal for its safety features, and the Range Rover, acclaimed throughout the world as an entirely new type of luxurious cross-country vehicle and which has gone on to create for itself an entirely new market.

Spencer King has been involved since early in his career with advanced design. Early training in aero engineering led to the fascinating series of Rover gas turbine engines and cars. In 1952 he drove the experimental JET 1 Rover gas turbine at nearly 152 mph over a measured kilometre of Belgian motorway. He has designed, as spare time projects, both single-seater racing and two-seater sports cars. The Rover gas turbine project culminated in the Rover BRM which twice ran with success in the 24-Hours Grand Prix d'Endurance at Le Mans.
On the second occasion, in 1965, the car was clad with a handsome aerodynamic body designed by David Bache, Director of Styling for Leyland Cars. Bache's career began as a student apprentice with Austin at Longbridge, but he moved to Rover in 1954. Apart from the new Rover 3500 and other projects, he has been responsible for styling the Rover 2000 of 1963, and the Range Rover. He has been involved as a consultant in Leyland Truck and Bus's work on heavy truck cabs design, including advising on the Design Council award-winning Leyland National bus.

There's a fundamental engineering axiom that the best solution to a problem is the simplest, other factors being equal. The Rover takes the form it does because of a deliberate policy towards simplicity. We began with a definite conviction that we could obtain our objectives by simple means.
We consciously avoided over-complicated structures. We minimised the number of the components in the suspension. We simplified all design aspects as far as possible and then we refined and refined again until we have what we believe is a superb end-product.
We have learnt to do great things with simple means because we have been able to analyse more precisely than before what the various parts of the car cost and what gives us value for money.

For instance, the patented rear suspension was carefully designed with generous fore and aft compliance - a certain amount of "give" - throughout, to give refinement yet retain very precise sideways location for good handling. Attention to the layout was tailored to allow us to put the petrol tank in the safest possible place just ahead of the rear axle. Constant velocity flexible joints in the propshaft allowed a slight offset yet retained the smooth drive.
By using very carefully developed geometry and self-levelling rear damper units we've achieved a better combination of ride and handling than in any other product in the Rover's class.

The Rover 3500 is pleasant to drive, comfortable and most sensibly equipped. The overdrive fifth speed is an excellent feature and the car rides and handles well.

The modular construction for our five-speed gearbox was logical. Leyland Cars need common major components right across the range. This box can be used in either four-or five-speed form in other Leyland cars. Here again, attention to detail was the key. We have introduced taper roller bearings. Since they are used in their millions in all sorts of applications throughout industry, it was logical to apply them to our 77 mm gearbox. They'll last and last, and they're very inexpensive. In this gearbox, too, attention to detail has been a feature. For instance, we have installed a simple oil pump to ensure adequate lubricating at all times. It was just honest sound engineering - we didn't think that relying on luck was good enough.
But we had no intention of letting the simplicity we sought reduce the quality of the ride and roadholding. Our most precise use of dampers is extremely important in the Rover 3500's scheme. There are fairly low spring rates combined with long wheel travel. The levelling units are important because they permit adequate movement without rebound problems. The axle is never caught on full bump when it really ought to be halfway through its stroke.

It was part of our engineering philosophy that the car should be aerodynamically sound. There are all kinds of reasons for this, ranging from fuel economy to stability. The wrong aerodynamic profile could mean that at high cruising speeds a car could have 300 lb of lift, and then where are your careful calculations about suspension characteristics?
Our light alloy V8 engine is familiar to everyone, but we decided to develop it even more. It is now a more freely-revving unit, going up to a maximum of 6,000 rpm from the original 5,200 rpm. In consequence, there's an extension of the power and torque curves.
The body engineers have contributed so much to the success of this car. They met the weight and strength targets for the number of pressings to make up the body and the target for the number of spot welds.

The Rover 3500 is the first British car for years with a worldwide appeal. It is lavishly equipped, very economical for its size and performance (which is excellent) and offers a good blend of handling and comfort. However you look at Sterling it represents very good value both on the home and export markets.

Rover proves the British can if they will. There is a beautiful response from the V8 engine, excellent ride with conventional layout, remarkable fuel economy for its size and Citroenesque styling, this, too, surprising for British Leyland. Rear headroom and knee room could be improved.

Looking back, the striking thing about this Rover 3500 is that it is precisely identical in form to the original submission we made back in December 1971. Certainly, in detail there are changes because we've bent over backwards to produce the car at the right price for the part of the market we have aimed at.
The overall styling object was to provide impact and identity, low drag and good aerodynamics to supplement what we knew were going to be admirable roadholding characteristics, straight-line stablity even in cross-winds, and a general impression of timeless good design.
We made every attempt to create a design which relied on its good sculptural forms rather than on applied decorations for its effect. Our solutions to the problems posed by all the many requirements is a sculptured form in the increasingly important European hatch-back, five-door idiom.

My preference goes to the Rover 3500 because I consider that in its class the close working relationship between the engineers on the one hand and, on the other hand, those responsible for the styling as well as the conception and furnishing of the interior, is here particularly reassuring.

There's a fundamental engineering axiom that the best solution to a problem is the simplest, other factors being equal. The Rover takes the form it does because of a deliberate policy towards simplicity. We began with a definite conviction that we could obtain our objectives by simple means.

Surely a car like the Rover 3500 must reflect the ideals and preferences of the people who develop it. I felt happier about this car than just about any other project I've been involved in. The interior is about the optimum in inside room for this layout of car. It represents a good honest approach - what we set out to do from the beginning.
We used our experience to enable us to give that quality feeling without the problems that quality standards of finish can sometimes bring. There is, as an example, the facia structure, of deep foam padding over an energy absorbing pressed steel armature. This was designed in such a way that even the unavoidable variations in production tolerances that you must allow for, make no difference to the excellence of the fit.

Rover shows modern styling as well as outstanding comfort and technical solutions. It is a real pleasure to drive. It costs a lot but its value for money feature is granted.

In a project such as the new Rover 3500 you find a degree of conflict between the various groups who are involved, but when we produce another vehicle, and if we have no more conflicts than we have had in this,
I'd be happy. Most of the disagreements were on points of fine detail and all were amicably resolved in the end.
We quite deliberately aimed at an exotic but long-lived style. Early clay styling mock-ups were put alongside cars like Maseratis and Ferraris. Despite the fact that it is a fully practical saloon car and not a cramped grand tourer, it looked perfectly in keeping.

The trouble is, I fell in love with the Rover 3500. I admire her - such a car must be a she - appearance.
I appreciate her easy handling and her superb roadholding. I love her immediate and mighty reaction when I give her full throttle.

British Leyland really deserves acknowledgement for engineering the new Rover 3500. A totally new car with a daring style, excellent performance and still very economical, with not a sensational but very well-considered technique. A car that even in its class can be judged on good value for money.

The word "elegant" describes the styling philosophy behind this design. We had to find an elegant way to combine all the practical features we needed and provide a shape which would accommodate the increased space-needs of people today, more living accommodation and more load-carrying space, provided in such a manner that the balance could be adjusted to meet the requirement of any particular moment.

Members of the Jury.
P de Barsy
D Benson
H Berchet
J Bernadet
A Bertaut
S Bjorklund
F Busch
B Carat
P Casucci
J Daniel
R Escamilla-Serrano
A Evangelisti
S Favia del Core
0 von Fersen
W Fick
P Frere
R Glismann
P-J Glodschey
H Gravdal
A Guichard
P Guth
R del Hoyo
I Izaaks
J Jackson
N Jagenau
P H Krol
J Langley
M Le Paire
G Madaro
D Merlin
F Page
H Patleich
T Pleterski
G Pohle
M Poltronieri
A Prokesch
G Rogliatti
M Salo
E Seidler
L J K Setright
P Simsa
R Sogaard
P Taruffi
J-P Thevenet
P Toussaint
J Ullen
A Vilela
F van der Vlugt
G Wilkins
Echo de la Bourse
Daily Express
Gazette de Lausanne
L'Action Automobile
Teknikens Varld
L'Auto Journal
Auto en Motortechnik
Der Spiegel
Bild Zeitung
Annee Autombile
Sunday Times
Gazette d'Anvers
Algemeen Dagblad
Daily Telegraph
France Soir
Le Figaro
Die Welt
II Giorno
Tekniikan Maailma
Motor Press
Vi Bilagare
The Hague
The Hague

1977 SD1 Car of the year 9,6kB)

Car of the year award 1977(10,1 kB)
Car of the year award

John Anstey, Editor of the Telegraph Sunday Magazine, which commissioned the Award in 1972

Leyland Cars Engineering Director and leader of the team which designed and developed the Rover SD1 3500, Spencer King

Leyland Cars Styling Director David Bache

European Car of the Year     1963-2001

Year       1 st place 2nd place 3rd place
1963: Rover 2000 76 pt
1964: Austin 1800 78 pt
1965: Renault 16 98 pt
1966: Fiat 124 144 pt
1967: NSU Ro80 197 pt
1968: Peugeot 504 119 pt
1969: Fiat 128 235 pt
1970: Citroën GS 233 pt
1971: Fiat 127 239 pt
1972: Audi 80 114 pt
1973: Mercedes-Benz 450 115 pt
1974: Citroën CX 229 pt
1975: *
1976: Simca 1307/1308 192 pt
1977: Rover 3500 157 pt
1978: Porsche 928 261 pt
1979: Simca Horizon 251 pt
1980: Lancia Delta 369 pt
1981: Ford Escort 326 pt
1982: Renault 9 355 pt.
1983: Audi 100 410 pt
1984: Fiat Uno 346 pt
1985: Opel Kadett 326pt
1986: Ford Scorpio 337 pt
1987: Opel Omega 275 pt
1988: Peugeot 405 464 pt
1989: Fiat Tipo 356 pt
1990: Citroën XM 390 pt
1991: Renault Clio 312 pt
1992: VW Golf 276 pt
1993: Nissan Micra 338 pt
1994: Ford Mondeo 290 pt
1995: Fiat Punto 370 pt
1996: Fiat Bravo/Brava 378 pt
1997: Renault Megane Scénic 405 pt
1998: Alfa Romeo 156 454 pt
1999: Ford Focus 444 pt
2000: Toyota Yaris 344 pt
2001: Alfa Romeo 147 238 pt
Mercedes 600 65 pt
Autobianchi Primula 51 pt
Rolls Silver Shadow 81 pt
BMW 1600 69 pt
Fiat 125 133 pt
BMW 2500/2800 77 pt
Autobianchi A 112 96 pt
Volkswagen K70 121 pt
Renault 15/17 107 pt
Renault 5 109 pt
Fiat X1/9 99 pt
Volkswagen Golf 164 pt
BMW 316/320 144 pt
Audi 100 138 pt
BMW 7-serie 231 pt
Fiat Ritmo 239 pt
Opel Kadett 301 pt
Fiat Panda 308 pt
Opel Ascona 304 pt
Ford Sierra 386 pt
Peugeot 205 325 pt
Renault 25 261 pt
Lancia Y10 291 pt
Audi 80 238 pt
Citroën AX 252 pt
Opel Vectra 261 pt
Mercedes-Benz SL 215 pt
Nissan Primera 258 pt
Opel Astra 231 pt
Fiat Cinquecento 304 pt
Citroën Xantia 264 pt
VW Polo 292 pt
Peugeot 406 363 pt
Ford Ka 293 pt
VW Golf 266 pt
Opel Astra 272 pt
Fiat Multipla 325 pt
Ford Mondeo 235 pt
Hillman Imp 31 pt.
Ford Mustang 18 pt.
Oldsmobile Toronado 59 pt.
Jensen FF 61 pt.
Simca 1100 94 pt.
Alfa Romeo 1750 76 pt.
Renault 12 79 pt.
Citroën SM 105 pt.
Mercedes 350 SL 96 pt.
Alfa Romeo Alfetta 95 pt.
Honda Civic 90 pt.
Audi 50 136 pt.
Renault 30 107 pt.
Ford Fiesta 135 pt.
Ford Granada 203 pt.
Audi 80 181 pt.
Peugeot 505 199 pt.
Austin Metro 255 pt.
Volkswagen Polo 252 pt.
Volvo 760 157 pt.
Volkswagen Golf 156 pt.
Lancia Thema 191 pt.
Mercedes-Benz E 273 pt.
BMW 7serie 175 pt.
Honda Prelude 234 pt.
VW Passat 194 pt.
Ford Fiesta 214 pt.
Opel Calibra 183 pt.
Citroën ZX 213 pt.
Renault Safrane 244 pt.
Mercedes-Benz C 192 pt.
Opel/Vauxhall Omega 272 pt.
Audi A4 246 pt.
VW Passat 248 pt.
Audi A6 265 pt
Peugeot 206 249 pt
Opel Zafira 265pt
Toyota Prius 229 pt
* In 1975 the title wasn't given in the year of introduction of the car but for the year after the election

Part II
Part III
SD1 History

© RWP March 2006