Top of the tree was the wonderful Concorde which was and still is the world’s fastest passenger jet although it was sadly retired from service in 2003.
Second is the High-Speed Train or Intercity 125 as most people know it, which is still the world’s fastest diesel passenger train and incredibly many are still in front line service today.
Finally, we have the one of our nation’s biggest missed opportunities, the Rover SD1, this striking and rakish fastback was met with almost universal wonderment and praise not to mention the sound of a few jaws hitting the deck!
The big Rover may not have any world speed records to its name, but it does boast a pretty comprehensively stuffed trophy cabinet including car of the year and a range of design and safety awards from a time well before safety was fashionable and sold cars.
The designer David Bache decided to go bold and took styling cues from his favourite Ferrari and Maserati models (surprised he didn’t get sued to be honest!) and created a very individual look which owed nothing to previous Rovers but did bear some resemblance to the 1967 Pininfarina BMC Aerodinamica as modelled by Matchbox.
All the Rovers competitors immediately looked stodgy and dated in comparison except for Citroen’s CX model but then it’s stylist Robert Opron must also have been a fan of the BMC Aerodinamica, when you see the three cars together there is no need for a paternity test!
It all started well for the SD1, there was even a waiting list to buy them in the early days and Police forces, TV casting people and racing teams also took a shine to it. You could see the Rover tearing down the outside lane of the M6 with blue lights flashing and twin tone air horns clearing its path or watch it pounding around a race track near you in a touring car race or put your wellies on and stand in a forest and get covered in mud by Tony Pond rallying in one!
If that was all too much excitement of fresh air for you then you could put your feet up and watch John Steed or George Cowley taking down the world’s deadliest super villains without ever swearing or breaking into a sweat! It would have been quite hard not to see one on TV as they popped up everywhere, The Bill, The Gentle Touch, Dempsey and Makepeace, Juliet Bravo, Inspector Morse, basically any show that required a Police car. As for civilian examples Dirty Den had one in EastEnders, George Cole had one in Blott On The Landscape and also as Arthur Daley in Minder he used a V8S model prominently in one episode with no explanation as to why. The Fields’ Oporto red model got plenty of screen time in hit sitcom Fresh Fields and Penelope Keith had one in Executive Stress.
There was also some big screen action in American Werewolf in London, The Forth Protocol with Michael Caine (handbrake turn on Paddington Station platform!) and I should mention the cult film Rita Sue and Bob Too where an SD1 even featured on the cover of the video.
Talking of videos check out the music video for The Human League’s 80s classic ‘Don’t You Want Me’ to see a gold series 1 being stalked by a hitman in a Saab 99 Turbo. While you are on that website looking at clips watch ‘The Liver Run’ a high-speed run across London in a pair of Police SD1’s.
Of course, the good times couldn’t last as the SD1 was made by that ocean-going disaster British Leyland who true to form managed to scuttle the car completely with flaky paint and even flakier electrics and any number of other problems.
If you want a less troublesome example to own, then there are many models to choose from. The Rovers shape seems to have been a tricky one to scale down as most either look too long and narrow like the Corgi Juniors and Dinky versions or too short and squat like the Corgi 1:36 scale but this one does at least come in a wide range of colours and two Police liveries as well as three race car liveries. Matchbox got the proportions pretty well but then spoiled it with a plastic base which comes up to bumper height and looks a bit clumsy.
Vanguards also have a wide range of colours on offer with several Police options and a semi race/custom version. The Vanguards level of detail is good although it does fit into the ‘a bit long and thin’ category.
My pick of the Rover models is from Polistil who were the only company that I know of to make it in 1:25 scale and they got the proportions bang on and the detail too save for mounting the door mirrors too low down and they even matched the colour pretty well to Rovers own Caribbean Blue. It’s quite a rare model to find especially in its box so happy hunting.
Are you a fan ot the Rover SD1? Leave a reply in the box at the bottom of the page and tell us what would you think. We’d love to hear from you!