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Rover SD1 in Australia – special versions of the Leyland Rover 3500
(CF: 27 Nov 2011)

The following is a summary of information gathered from a range of newspaper advertising, motoring journal and newspaper articles, and my own contemporary exposure to one of these vehicles – a Design and Development modified SD1.  The intention is to continue research on these vehicles and update this article from time to time.

Input from readers is most welcome, especially in relation to locating additional newspaper and/or journal articles.  Equally we would like to hear from you if you have personal experience of any of these vehicles – or any other dealer or period after market modified SD1s not listed here.

The modified vehicles listed below all appear to use the Series 1 Rover SD1 as the basis for modification, and it is unknown by this writer as to whether later SD1s were also modified.  The contemporary advertising for these modified vehicles is around 1981 when the Series 1 was available in Australia.  However, it should be noted that the advertising does include references to the then new 1981 fuel-injected SE (colloquially referred to in Australia as Series 1.5) which started to feature trim and colour schemes that were later seen as standard fitment to the Australian delivered Series 2 SE and Vanden Plas models.

The reason that these special vehicles came to be built appears to be motivated by a range of factors.  As noted below, each vehicle seems to target a particular audience – be it higher levels of trim and finish for a conservative buyer, and/or a range of performance modifications for young (male) buyer.  Interestingly, The Age newspaper, in an article titled ‘Rover dealers add the extra touches’ (5 February 1981, p.?) suggests that “special versions of the Leyland Rover 3500 are appearing here as dealers try to spur interest in a car which did not meet sales hopes last year”.

D & D Sports Tourer
Click on to the thumbnail images to view larger on-screen images:

DSC_0010 Rover 3500_VDP_3500_3500 Braddon ACT 13-2-1994

DSC_0009 Rover 3500 SD1 Binalong 21-6-1992

DSC 0008 Rover 3500 SD1 Yarralumla ACT 2-4-1994

A respectable hot rod dd Rover 3500 sd1 title1
DSC_0003 Rover 3500 SD1 Binalong 9-12-1990

Download | dd Rover 3500 SD1 Magazine Article PDF

A respectable hot rod dd Rover 3500 sd1 title1

Builder:  Design and Development (Sydney), proprietor – Milton Leslight.

Information Sources: Wheels magazine (March 1981) pp.56-7, and personal photo archive.

Distributed through: Regency Leyland, Hornsby, NSW; Dave Johnson Motors, North Fremantle, WA; Regent Motors, South Melbourne, Victoria.

Price: in the region of $30,000 (in 1981).

Modifications: appears to vary according to buyer specification.

Modifications to the vehicle shown in Wheels (March 1981) – with ‘dd’ motif (black?) located on the upper front wing – include:  Gotti alloy wheels, Uniroyal ER 60 H15 tyres, customised pin striping and paint work (silver over dark blue?), variable rate springs and Decarbon gas shock absorbers, headlight covers, Scheel fully reclining seats front and rear, pure wool trim on the headlining, doors and pillars, wool carpets and Momo steering wheel, Pioneer sound system, Prince on-board computer, Radar intercept detector, Bionaire 300 ioniser, AWA car phone and engine modifications (not specified).  The Wheels article notes that tyres, sound system, computer, radar detector, ioniser and rear Scheel seats do not come as part of the standard modification list.

Modifications to vehicle located in the Canberra region during the late 1980’s/early 1990’s:  after market alloy wheels, pin striping (red) and customised paint work (platinum over dark blue), headlight covers, body coloured bumper bars glass sunroof, front spoiler.  The car was later repainted platinum over anthracite grey (no pin stripe), headlight covers, additional body mouldings fitted to leading edge of rear guards, front spoiler was deleted, alloy wheels changed to Rover 14 inch Vanden Plas type, skeleton bonnet badge replaced by later type.  Vehicle was scrapped during the 1990’s.

Production: unknown.  The vehicle featured in Wheels magazine (March 1981) is the “…promotional vehicle for the 1980 Sydney Motor Show…”.  A similar vehicle which resided in the Canberra region during the late 1980’s/early 1990’s (described above) and was often referred to by its owners at the time as having been a Sydney Motor Show vehicle, but it is unknown if this is the case.

Click on to the thumbnail images to read the article & advertisements:

Rover Shadow The Age 5-2-1981 (1)  Rover Shadow The Age 5-2-1981 (2)  Rover 3500 SE & Scimitar Kellow-Falkiner Ad 30-9-1981  Kellow Falkiner Rover Scimitar The Age 13-8-1981
Builder:  unknown

Information Sources: The Age newspaper, article titled “Rover dealers add the extra touches” (5 February 1981, p.21); The Age newspaper, advertisement titled “At a hundred and sixty the loudest noise in the new Scimitar is the sounds of the siren” (13 August 1981, p.5); The Age newspaper, advertisement titled “The myth of the four cylinder motor car” (30 September 1981, p.3);

Distributed through: Kellow-Falkiner Motors, South Yarra, Victoria.

Price: unknown

Modifications: Contemporary advertising (August 1981) could be interpreted to suggest that the Scimitar package included: engine performance modifications, leather seats, sun roof, sound system upgrade, and ‘two tone body work’.  The tag line for the August 1981 advertisement is “Not for the timid”.  The advertisement seeks to appeal to young men seeking the equivalent to a “racey” sports car, stating that “the Scimitar’s performance is dazzling”.

Production: unknown

Click on to the thumbnail images to read the articles:

SMH 1 Brents & Leyland Australia 26-1-1981  SMH 2 Brents & Leyland Australia 26-1-1981

  Brents Shadow Wheels March 1981  Brents Rover Shadow Ad The Age 17-2-1982

Builder:  unknown

Information sources: The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, article titled “Rover V8 manual eliminates most flaws” (26 January 1981, p.8); Motor Manual magazine, article titled “This Shadow Pales the Original” (March 1981, p.9); Wheels magazine, article titled “Me and my shadow” (March 1981, p.10).

Distributed through: Brents Motors, Melbourne, Victoria.

Price: $23,995 (1981).  Offered “$5,000 worth of options for a price increase over the standard Rover of only $2,000” (Motor Manual magazine, March 1981, p.9)

Modifications: Electric sun roof, retrim in plush pile pure wool fabric, recarpeting in four-ply pure wool, tinted windows, electric aerial, headlight and fog light covers, two tone ‘shadow-tone’ paintwork.  The vehicle appearing in Wheels March 1981 has red over silver paintwork, pin striping (gold) and a ‘Shadow’ motif (gold) on the upper front wing.

The vehicle driven by The Sydney Morning Herald journalist David Roberston (January 1981) was fitted with straight through twin exhaust, Bilstein gas-filled shock absorbers, spoked alloy wheels, Pirelli P6 steel radial tyres, Momo steering wheel, two tone body work, and 3.08:1 final drive.  Note that the final drive quoted is consistent for UK delivery, but believed to be at odds with period Australian specifications for manual SD1s ie the standard final drive for Australian delivered manual vehicles, as quoted in the vehicle handbook, was 3.45:1.  It would be good to understand if this vehicle was imported with a 3.08:1 final drive, or modified by Brents (or whether the car was in fact 3.45:1 and there is an error in the article).

Production: unknown.  As at March 1981, Wheels magazine states that six Shadows have been sold, and six more are being converted, with pre-orders for three vehicles.