Fascination is the key to quality

The Rover 800: its styling and history English text Nederlandse tekst

april 2016

The Rover 800: the successor of the SD1

'The Rover', as it was the official name of the model internally within Austin-Rover or British Leyland designated as SD1, and consisting of the Rover 3500, 2600, 2300 and 2000 petrol and 2400 diesel models, was never the success the company hoped. It suffered from quality issues like flaking paint, poor rust protection, poor build quality, unreliable electrics and unreliability in general. This meant that for example for the important North-American market the foreseen market share was never achieved. The production methods, the design and the environmental aspects had to be modernised considerably.

In 1979, when build quality within British Leyland was on its poorest, Rover was looking for cooperation with Honda, in order to reduce costs of development of e.g. engines and gearboxes. This lead to , with which Austin-Rover was already sharing the Honda Ballade. Honda was looking for an entry in the upper middle class, with the 1600 cc Honda Accord as the then top model. It could without doubt design and produce a six cylinder engine needed for such a model, in particular for the much coveted North-American markte. The engine should also be more fuel efficient than the engines employed in the current Rover SD1. Furthermode, chief designer Gordon Sked looked for a shape not only more modern and clean than David Bache's Rover SD1, although Sked still regarded the SD1 as a beautifully proportioned car, but also for a more aerodynamic design. In the end, Rover developed its XX model along with Honda developing its HX counterpart. The cars would share their chassis, , suitable conSD1 is the internal designation of the Rover 3500, 2600, 2300 and 2000, introduced in rather distinctive design As a successor of the beloved, but somewhat outdated clean, clear, smooth, undisturbed, flat, possibly angular design, although in general I hate modernism, in particular in interior styling and and architecture [primarily because of the unlimited arrogance and lack of respect of many of the protagonists]. And the design of the Rover 800 reflects these preferences in fact better than the Rover SD1.

Elsewhere on this website I pointed out what cars I liked during the long period that I did not have a car myself, having grown up without cars. In the end, I decided the Rover SD1 was my favourite. It was build from 1976 to 1986 and my first car was a 3500 Vanden Plas from 1985, so one of the latest. After ten years I added the Jaguar XJ40 to my 'stable', although in my list of favourite cars it did not occur, probably because it had always been rare and expensive and was out of reach for me, even second-hand.

When I was investigating the possibility that my wife and me would really buy our first car, the Rover SD1 in the end had had my preference. However, as described elsewhere on here, for a short period of time I was considering if the Rover 800 wasn't to be preferred above the SD1. As you can see from my favourites, I have a preference for a clean, clear, smooth, undisturbed, flat, possibly angular design, although in general I hate modernism, in particular in interior styling and and architecture [primarily because of the unlimited arrogance and lack of respect of many of the protagonists]. And the design of the Rover 800 reflects these preferences in fact better than the Rover SD1.

However, in 1998 the Rover SD1 became our first car and I became a real enthusiast. After about ten years and 240,000 km of driving our Rover 3500 Vanden plas I bought the Daimler Double Six (the most luxurious specimen of the Jaguar XJ40 model), although I kept driving the SD1 as a daily driver. Later on, several other XJ40's were added to my 'collection', as you can read elsewhere on my website.

In the meantime, every now and then I spent (or should I say: spoilt) some time on the internet looking for interesting and affordable cars. Amongst them the … Rover 800. Without really intending to do so, in November 2014 this led to buying a Rover 800! That is a good reason to devote some pages to the story on how I stumbled upon it and ended up buying it for ridiculous little money, about the styling and attractivity of the Rover 800 and how things developed …

External information on the Rover 800

As far as I know, the history and details of the development of the Rover 800 were never extensively described in a book (please inform me if wrong). On the internet, I regard one source as the most informative and extensive: the story of Keith Adams on 'Austin Rover Online', a private website with pages ('blogs') on all Austin Rover specimen and much more enthusiast information. The page on the development history of the Rover 800 is the most comprehensive I know of.

The description of the history of the Rover 800 on the best forum on the Rover 800, Rover800.info. http://www.rover800.info/history-of-the-800/ Also Wikipedia has a rather informative article on the Rover 800. Any suggestions on information sources, be it on paper or electronical, are appreciated.

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De Rover 800, fraai verlicht in een brochure, waardoor de strakke stijl goed uitkomt

A brochure shows the clean lines and angular style of the new Rover 800. The dramatic lighting of this photo helps a lot appreciating the design. This is the base model, the 820i. It is clear that the 'saloon' model differs from the Rover SD1 with its huge fifth door.

Kind regards,
Rens Swart