the fleet: 1977 Rover 2600

sdAs Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist anything except temptation”. Using this rationale, in July this year I managed to convince myself that [a] there was a gaping Rover SD1-sized hole in the fleet, and [b] this particular specimen should be the car to fill it.

On the face of it, it was superb. 12,500 miles from new, untouched ‘Brentford Nylons’ interior, excellent bodywork (albeit not entirely on original paint) and no water leaks (on an SD1 – shurely shome mishtake?). The downsides were a headlining heading south, an engine as rattly as a bag of spanners and the foul stench of excess hydrocarbons emanating from (what was left of) the exhaust. Worryingly, the SD1 was also smoking like Keith Richards – and it was the dreaded blue smoke – while misfiring badly. Hmmm…

Bascially, I took a punt. I gambled on the fact that the engine was all coked up, rather than shot. The car had been used repeatedly for short journeys all of its life, as its clonky gearbox, black engine oil and hopelessly rich exhaust whiff all confirmed. It certainly wasn’t one of those dream classics that had done only motorway miles, feeling far less fresh than an 68k mile example I’d owned a few years back which had barely so much as bothered a byway!

First task was the MOT, and – unlike most SD1s – it didn’t fail on rusty inner wings. Instead, it was the exhaust pipe (or the lack thereof) that did the dirty deed, and so a new full system was quickly sourced off eBay. It just about squeaked past the emissions test. amazingly. I was certainly relieved, as if it had failed on this, it would have been very difficult to sort, as my plan was to decoke it by repeated oil changes and engine flushes, plus lots of long, hard, fast driving…

Freshly MOT’d and taxed, the engine quietened down a lot after its second oil change (20W50, full synthetic), and started smoking less. Previously, clouds of blue smoke surrounded the Rover on idle, like it was some sort of circus clown car. Now there was just the occasional ‘waft’ that would await me on start up, a huge improvement. It was still running rough however, and so it was off for a carb tune – which improved fuel consumption from 24MPG to 29MPG – and reduced the smell of petrol at last.

Still lumpy, next it acquired a new Lucas distributor with electronic ignition module. This helped no end – although the in-line six wasn’t turbine smooth yet, it was certainly getting there. A new fuel hose, air filters (a bugger of a job on series 1 2600s), plugs, leads and fuel filter all helped too. Just a few months ago, the car was running so rough I feared I had either a cylinder head gasket gone or a burnt valve, but now it was getting silkier, smoother and quieter. What a difference clean oil and a tune-up can make, all sustained by regular use!

Now, the blue beastie is beginning to show real signs of life. It’s actually feeling quite ‘fast’ and fun to drive, instead of giving the impression it had been strangled at birth. That six-cylinder Triumph engine was a nice unit in its day (thanks to engineering whizz Spen King), and its DNA isn’t a million miles from the lusty TR6 engine. There’s a real cheeky, cheery ‘pep’ to a two-six SD1 that the V8 3500 Buick engined SD1 lacks.

Still, the sudden reappearance of horsepower has cast doubts on the chassis. SD1s should handle very well, and the fact that this is a bit scary tells me the dampers are shot – not surprising after three and a half decades, I suppose. So they’re just about to get changed, along with a host of surrounding bushes (pukka rubber ones, not the polyurethane grot). Meanwhile four fresh Continental 175/80 14 tyres have made a world of difference, as have the newly refurbed factory alloy wheels – they’re six inches wide instead of the five point five of the stock steels, and give more assured handling.

The brakes will need attention too, soon. The discs are heavily rusted and the pads not great. I’ll be putting stainless brake hoses in, along with new discs and pads and fresh brake fluid in the next month or two. Still, it’s late October now and the SD1 will be going off the road again presently. More months of languishing in the barn won’t be ideal, but I don’t want that delicate British steel exposed to the vagaries of the Wiltshire winter. Watch this space…

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One comment

  1. Ben Collins

    lovely!

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