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.

T he Story about the 3500 Car of the Year 1977.

The Old Rover 3500 was, in a sense, a stop-gap, though a very successful one. The idea of an "up-rated" 2000 took some time to work out, but eventually the 3500 became the accepted stepping stone to the XJ6. It was fast and it handled well enough, but it was cramped inside and rather thirsty. When the time came to consider its replacement, Spen King (with David Bache as stylist) had no trouble defining the areas in which to seek major improvements. More room inside; better economy; better ride; more versatile layout; all these things were on the list. And so too, inevitably, was the need to hold the cost down to something like the level of the old 3500.

Fortunately, the old car was rather heavy and expensive. The original 2000 concept of an anti-crash skeleton clothed by unstressed panels was brilliant, but better answers were promised by the computer-designed crushable sheet-metal assemblies of the 1970s. To an even greater extent, the 2000 based suspension with its peculiar front end geometry and odd back end with a sliding de Dion tube added cost without offering real advantages in ride and handling.

While the car itself was to be entirely new, there was no question that the V8 engine should be retained. The Buick based unit has built itself an enviable reputation for reliability and smooth power delivery, and indeed looks like becoming a standard engine in the Leyland range for a long time to come. The decision was taken, however, to modify and up rate it for the new car and for other forthcoming projects.

B ody.
The factory built by Leyland Cars to produce the new Rover 3500 at Solihull is the biggest single development undertaken by the UK Motor Industry for 40 years. The project costing 95 million sterling has resulted in one of the most capably planned and potentially efficient car manufacturing facilities in Europe.

The three-storey paint shop - one of the largest in Europe - has a floor area of over 52,000 sq metres. The plant is heavily insulated to prevent noise and fumes affecting the surrounding area. In the paint shop steel bodies are marshalled and prepared for painting at ground level, on the first floor they are pre-treated, weather sealed, and painted by a controlled thermoplastic process before passing to the ovens on the second floor for curing. This process is explained in detail in the Project Solihill booklet.

B ody Design.
A monocoque shell was chosen for its maximum efficiency in metal usage - excess weight costs money, and wastes petrol. The shell has the now near-universal crushable front and rear end, rigid passenger safety cell structure for impact and/or roll over safety. All doors have high anti-burst load locks and will open and shut after the ECE 12 50 kph frontal impact test. Horizontal compression struts are built into the inside of each door, just below the glass line. These feed longitudinal impact forces through the body via 'proximity pads' at the ends of the struts, thus helping to maintain the integrity of the passenger safety cell. Tamper-proof child-proof door locks are fitted on the rear doors.

Safety is not only confined to passengers but also towards pedestrians with the body having smooth contours all round, smooth bumper profiles and flush fitting exterior door handles. The body bumpers are made of stainless steel, and their end pieces and the front number plate mountings are made of tough plastic.

Aerodynamic penetration of the body has been enhanced by the use of a special panel under the front bumper. It collects air from beneath the bumper and directs it upwards towards the radiator by means of aerofoil slats. The panel assembly which is made of injection moulded plastic, for resistance to corrosion and ease of production, is in effect an anti-lift air dam with a reverse aerofoil to contribute to low drag and stability, as well as to direct air to the radiator. Overall body design, with the centre of pressure well back, gives good straight line running at high speeds and in wind tunnel tests returned a drag factor of 0.39 - this on a car fitted with the standard items of mudflaps, radio aerial and door mirrors.

Safety and stability are further enhanced by the positioning of the fuel tank beneath the floor pan ahead of the rear axle, while the bonnet is front hinged, and for security the release is located in the lockable glovebox on the driver's side. Benefits - low wind resistance, therefore good performance and good fuel economy.

A nti Corrosion.
Comprehensive corrosion resistance is an important factor in long term safety, as well as having the benefit of low depreciation. On the Rover 3500 the body is initially protected by an electrophoretic primer, while the body sills are force ventilated for longevity. While the car is moving or the heater blower switched on air is fed from the heater air intake chamber into the sill box members and flows through to extract at the rear, preventing any build up of moisture inside the structure.

Further anti-corrosion measures include a carefully designed underbody pan and wheel arches to avoid mud and snow packing; full underbody seal protection using rubberised bitumastic, and the use of zinc-coated steel for the sill outer panels. The bumpers are stainless steel with liberal use of rust-free plastic in other vulnerable areas. The exhaust system is aluminised in all potential corrosion areas for long life.

Boot Space

B ody Features.
Standard equipment on the Rover 3500 includes a locking fuel filler flap, and gas filled struts to support and assist in the opening of the large rear tail door. Connected to the tail door by two detachable straps is a parcel shelf which hinges as the tail gate is lifted to give access to the luggage area and spare wheel, but gives privacy to luggage contents when lowered. The parcel shelf can be removed to maximise load carrying capacity with the rear seat in its normal position, or with the rear seat back folded forward. It is made from a new form of moulded laminate to support articles placed on the shelf and to avoid distortion during hot weather.

Jacking Points

The spare wheel is housed in the bottom of the luggage well and is covered along with the comprehensive tool kit / jack by two false floor boards. An alternative position for the spare wheel is to be held vertically to the left of the spare wheel well.
Jacking points are mounted at the corners of the body for con-venience and safety of wheel changing in awkward and hazardous conditions.
Safety is the reason for the incorporation of large rear lamps, fog guard and reverse lamps, all with crenellations of their lenses to reduce their being obscured by road dirt and allowing light to shine through their inclined faces.
Mud flaps are fitted as standard to both front and rear, to avoid spray obscuring the rear light assembly area and to minimise stone damage to the body work and following vehicles.
For safety at night the front doors are fitted with automatic red warning lights on their trailing edges when the doors are opened.
Powerful twin halogen headlamps are integrated into the design of the front profile and twin fog auxiliary lamps are incorporated into the front apron.
Hazard warning lamps are fitted as standard.

Continuing the safety aspect of the car the new Rover incorporates revised front inertia seat belt mounting points. The lower anchorages are attached to the seat base to maintain the correct and safe belt positioning for front seat occupants in any seat position. The inertia reels and the vertical runs of the belt are all concealed behind the door pillar trim. As with other Leyland cars a front seat belt warning light is fitted as a reminder. In addition the rear seat can be fitted with twin inertia reel seat belts, with a third static belt for the centre occupant.

The facia of the Rover 3500 has a dished top shelf, with a self contained instrument binnacle in front of the driver. It has a well proven safety structure with vacuum formed grained ABS skin on foam padding over a carefully stressed energy absorbing pressed steel armature.

The steering wheel, with a large padded centre, is adjustable both axially and vertically over a range of 50 mm., and the release nut for adjustment is located inside the driver's glovebox.

The roof lining, which has good sound and heat insulation and has a degree of impact cushioning for safety, is constructed of a moulded glass fibre former on to which the brushed nylon trim is mounted. Padded sun visors, trimmed in matching material with a safety vanity mirror, on the passenger side, are mounted on safety pivots, and housed within recesses in the roof lining.

The dipping interior mirror has a safety break-off stem mounting.
Twin interior courtesy lights operated by all four doors are fitted and there are lights operated by the tailgate in the luggage compartment, and under bonnet lamps when the side lights are on.

C entral Door Locking System.
For the first time Rover have adopted a central door locking system. Operated electrically all the door locks can be locked or unlocked, externally, by use of a key in either front door - this also applies to the tailgate. Internally, the central door locking switch is located in the driver's door armrest, however there are manual locks on all doors should there be a circuit failure. A safety feature of this system is that all doors are automatically unlocked by the driver on entry, which avoids the potential danger of occupants being trapped in the car following an accident.

The tailgate lock, although part of the locking system, can be operated independently with its own key and isolated from the central system for security when the car is left in public garages or service areas. Its operation is as follows, when the key is inserted and turned to the left or anti-clockwise, the tailgate is unlocked and locked by the operation of the central door locking system; if the key is inserted and turned to the right or clockwise, the tailgate is locked and isolated from the central system.

Should a fault occur or the system cease to function, manual operation of door locks can still be carried out, and the fuse for the locking circuit is located behind the passenger front glovebox.

Thanks to: Shirley Rimmer.

1977 SD1 Car of the year 9,6kB)

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

The Rover SD1 V8 engine

The Paint shop

Venturi Panel

Fuel Tank

Force Ventilation

Large Rear Lamps

Front Lamps

The Tialgate lock

Fuse Located

Part I
Part III

© RWP dec. 2003