By on December 21, 2009

a genuine british lawn ornament

N.B. In anticipation of Saab’s (inevitable) demise, we’re going to have Dead Brands Week at CC.

We’ll start off Dead Brands Week with a royal Rover triple bang, with this Sterling zombie corpse. When it comes to persistence (idiocy) in trying to flog dead corpses in the US, Rover absolutely takes the cake. It took three US deaths to finally convince Britain’s favorite maker of cars (and its government medium-wigs) to give up the ghost. The last attempt, Sterling, is the classic English car disaster story. Despite Rover’s intentions to avoid the usual pitfalls, by building an essentially reskinned Honda/Acura Legend, they still managed to create the ultimate rolling clap-trap English nightmare.

genuine sterlingLet’s quickly recap Rover’s two previous deaths.  Its complex and fiendishly unreliable 2000/3500 models of the sixties were overly ambitious, and collapsed around 1971. Rover exited the US market for almost ten years, but then spent a fortune certifying the SD-1 (3500) for the US market. In what will go down in history as one of the most spectacular failures ever, Rover managed to sell only 800 of the Ferarri Daytona-inspired fastback sedans, beginning in 1980. You would think that the scars from that flogging would be enough to keep them from ever trying again, but let’s not forget, this was now the government-backed British Leyland. Risk analysis is different when the feds are your backstop.

As an already dying entity, Rover wisely hooked up with Honda in a major alliance at the beginning of the eighties. Essentially, Rover handed new-product development over to Honda, and opened up its creaking production facilities for Honda’s European models in exchange. The development of an SD-1 executive sedan replacement was high on the list of priorities, and work started in 1981. Essentially, the Rover 800 series development was piggy-backed unto Honda’s new V6 Legend. Both the Rover and Legend were to be built in Rover’s historic ex-Morris plant in Cowley. An inauspicious beginning, building a new world-class car in the same plant that cobbled together the infamous Morris Marina and other BLMC shit boxes of the seventies and sixties.

The European Rover was called the 800 series, with various-numbered versions depending on the engine. Four cylinders were more common there, but the Rover four was not a Honda unit, rather a development of the BL O-series engine. The 2.5 liter V6 was a Honda, and the main version imported to the US. The Europeans (and a few late-model US cars) later got a 2.7 liter V6 and a VM-Motori diesel engine. In Europe, the Sterling moniker was a top trim level of the notch back sedans; there was also a hatchback, primarily for Europe, whose top trim level was the Vitesse.

no japanese imitations for us

Because of the highly acidic aftertaste the name Rover left in the US, it decided to call its 800 import Sterling. It was a reasonably handsome boxy sedan, in the typical idiom of the times. It’s main claim to fame was its luxurious English leather and wood interior; much warmer than the corresponding Legend and the antiseptic German imports. I’m sure the mushrooms are thriving in this one, on all that organic material. Sure enough, most US buyers had no clue this was a Rover, and initial sales were fairly encouraging.

Rover 800 interior; not from this Sterling(this interior is from a Rover 800, not this featured Sterling)

But the 800 was born pre-mature. It suffered from a variety of serious maladies that its Japanese-built Legend was utterly devoid of. Build quality in general was shaky, and trim, electrics and paint quality, along with other gremlins quickly turned out to be highly Roverish. And I almost forgot: rust. The genuine 100% British variety. It all rapidly escalated into a crisis of epic proportions, and furious buyers watched their resale values plummet. Sterling was exposed for what it was, and within a couple of years, Sterling jokes were as almost as common as Yugo jokes. There’s a sucker born in every income class.

a little out of focus, like Rover's quality controlI was shocked when one of my tv station sales managers showed up with a new Sterling in 1987. The other one had just bought a a new Jaguar a few months before. I learned a lesson: sales people are often the biggest suckers for others’ sales pitches. I guess its just a way to show you truly believe in the religion of sales-speak. I was driving a W124 300E, and I remember way too many trips in it to pick them up at the Jaguar/Sterling dealer in San Jose. Both cars were utter nightmares; but the Sterling well outdid the Jag, if that’s possible. They were lovely cars to sit in; you just had to use your imagination about them actually moving.

Rover went on to patch up the 800 series for domestic consumption, and it underwent one face lift and a re-skin, and plodded along until 1999, when the BMW-designed Rover 75 finally put it down. Sales were primarily to government hacks, where the tradition of riding in Rovers if you didn’t merit a Jag or Daimler date back to the fifties. I haven’t seen a Sterling in ages, but here it sits, in a side yard of a house along the banks of the beautiful McKenzie River; a lovely genuine British lawn ornament.

not forgotten easily by its buyers

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70 Comments on “Curbside Classic Dead Brands Week: 1987 Sterling 825 SL (Rover 825i)...”


  • avatar

    The 827 DID come to the U.S. at the end of the line. They weren’t sold in great numbers, but they were sold here toward the end of the line.

    The P6 (the Rover 2000/3500) was a remarkable car in many respects — see here: http://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/family-cars/162-red-rover-p6.html — but they really dropped the ball when it came to reliability and dealer service.

    During the Stokes era (beginning with the merger in 1968), British Leyland was actually contemptuous of the idea of selling in the U.S. market. Lord Stokes said himself that he didn’t see BLMC’s brands — which by that point included basically every British automaker except Morgan and Bristol — ever selling more than 150,000 units combine in America.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Not sure whether the previous comment refers to the five-door hatch rather than the 827 designation per se, but there were indeed five-door hatches imported to the US; I’ve seen them, and images can be found on Google as well.
    I had totally forgotten about the attempt to sell the SD-1 in the US around 1980, but now that I’m reminded of it, I can almost recall the magazine ads for them, sealed-beam headlamps and all.
    Sorry to report that TTAC is still crashing my Safari (Mac) browser when I attempt to use the comment feature; had to use Firefox to reply.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      An instrument mechanic I dealt with had one of the 1980 SD-1 sedans; it may have been the only one in the state of Washington. He did his own wrenching on the car, raved about its handling, and didn’t have any complaints about it – this was in the late 80′s or early 90′s.

  • avatar
    50merc

    “They were nice to sit in; you just had to use your imagination about them actually moving.”  Never had a Rover, but that sure describes my old Jag.

  • avatar
    tiger260

    Hey,
    The Rover 800 / Sterling may have been a failure as this article suggests – but you’re not being fair to descibe it as a re-skinned Honda/Acura Legend.  The Rover 800 and the Honda Legend were a joint development between the Austin-Rover company and Honda.  Both companies contributed fairly equally to the project and the Legend owes as much to Rover design and engineering input as the Rover 800 does to Honda.  Though Honda even at that time had a good reputation for desigining high-quality cars – they had no experience of building large cars.  Rover (despite their faults) had a history of building large sedans.   

        

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Both companies contributed fairly equally to the project

      Depends how you define “equally”. Engine and transmission: 100% Honda. Suspension: 100% classic Honda double wishbone, that Rover didn’t like.
      The main things that differed on the Rover from the Honda were the cooling system, brakes, electrical, trim, interior, etc.; ALL of them were epic disasters. So to call their contribution as being “equal” is really playing with words.

      No doubt, Rover’s contribution to creating the Sterling/800 disaster was anything but equal. They can take 100% credit for that.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      Both companies contributed fairly equally to the project

      Depends how you define “equally”. Engine and transmission: 100% Honda. Suspension: 100% classic Honda double wishbone, that Rover didn’t like.

      The 2.5 Honda engine was crap and the Rover variant 2.0 litre 4 cylinders were by far the most numerous and far better. How can you say it was 100% Honda then?

      The reason Rover didn’t like the wishbone was that it was a packaging nightmare and gave a harse ride – fairly reasonable objections in my book.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I had a friend who bought a Sterling, I believe it was the first new car he bought out of college, when he landed a job at IBM.  If you guessed he was in sales, you’re right.  Fortunately he’s much better at selling than he is at picking cars.

  • avatar
    RayH

    I’m a proud owner of two 827s.  Sure, the titles are long missing, and they’ve been up on blocks for 4+ years with families of groundhogs under them, but one of them will still start with a jump.
    I had good luck with them, other than the HVAC on both cars.  What took mine out were bad transmissions, within 2 weeks of each other.  130,000 miles and 144,000 miles.  It’s hard to stomach putting a $400 junkyard transmission into a $600 car.
    edit: did not buy these cars new, bought both within a year of each other around 100k miles for just under $1000 each around 1999 or 2000.

  • avatar
    midelectric

    I used to see a lot of these in the metro DC area when I was a kid but haven’t seen one in possibly a decade even though they should be serviceable by the same Acura mechanics that keep the Legends I see around still alice.  Yet in that time I’ve seen a number of Peugeots (including an SW8) even though both Sterling and Peugeot pulled out of the US about the same time.  I remember Popular Science gave the Sterling a nod over the Legend as it had nicer interior appointments and was seen as the optimum blend of new world Japanese technology and quality with old world craftsmanship.  It was a great idea that crashed against the same old English car issues.  And now Rover is Chinese.
    I used to see an SD-1 planted out in the field of an English car mechanic place in lower Delaware years ago, I didn’t know that some were actually imported here legally and assumed it was a grey market vehicle.

  • avatar
    salhany

    The 827 5 door was downright handsome by the end of the line. I remember there were a few on the streets of RI and Mass at that time and a high school classmate’s father had one. A beautiful car but apparently an electrical nightmare.
     
    I wonder if one could have swapped in Honda electrics into them and kept the Sterling ambiance.  Probably not worth the effort even when new, but that would have given them the best of both worlds.

  • avatar

    One thing I like best on TTAC is when car stories give lessons about human nature (and a good laugh on top of that):
    I learned a lesson: sales people are often the biggest suckers for others’ sales pitches.
    @midelectric: are any of those Peugeots you see 404s?

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I remember having a nice dark metallic red Sterling 827. It was rather reliable, and very cheap to maintain. It was built in Macau by Matchbox.

    Paul, as a side note, I saw a rather unique 80s car in a nearby parking lot. A Nissan Pulsar, but with the “wagon” rear end. I remember these cars having modular rear sections and other 80s quirky style characteristics.

  • avatar
    salhany

    Huh, there’s an 827 in pretty good condition from the Portland, OR area on eBay right now: ’89 Sterling 827
    Wouldn’t be a bad project to mess around with, I suppose. Looks like the current owner’s done a lot of work to it and it looks like he’s got the Brit car bug by those pictures, poor guy.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      That guy actually has two that he’s getting rid of, two Rover’s that is.  If I truly wanted a collectors item and a project that would leave other people scratching their heads (I’m a believer in “dare to be different” any idiot can own a Camaro or a Mustang) I’d snatch them up in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    tiger260

    Depends how you define “equally”. Engine and transmission: 100% Honda. Suspension: 100% classic Honda double wishbone, that Rover didn’t like.
    The main things that differed on the Rover from the Honda were the cooling system, brakes, electrical, trim, interior, etc.; ALL of them were epic disasters. So to call their contribution as being “equal” is really playing with words.
    No doubt, Rover’s contribution to creating the Sterling/800 disaster was anything but equal. They can take 100% credit for that.

    Paul - I take your point that probably more of the key components were contributed by Honda. 

    However, describing the Sterling as a ” re-skinned Honda/Acura Legend ” is really er,….. playing with words….?  

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    I so love Sterlings.  For a bit more in-depth analysis of this brand implosion, you should check out the Retrospective I wrote about them a while back.  link below.
    Retrospective – Sterling Motor Cars
     
    -James @ Carthrottle.com

  • avatar
    Seth L

    Moss and algea, the rust of the Pacific NW.
    I’ll be surprised if Merkur isn’t on the list.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Extensive history over at Aronline:

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/xxstoryf.htm

  • avatar
    dejal

    In the 4th photo, you will notice that the plastic on the left side (left of the headlight is missing).  I worked with a guy who had one less that was less than a year old that was also missing that same part.  He never did get it replaced (maybe he couldn’t).
    I also remember a story in “Car” when this car first came out.  The story highlighted their sales guy who was a real piece of work.  They only wanted to sell this car in areas of the US that basically deserved it.  Places like Montana and Idaho were beneath a vehicle of this caliber, because people in these  areas weren’t sophisticated enough to appreciate grand rigs like this.
     

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      That was probably a good move on their part. My Rover 2000 broke its halfshaft in Tacoma a couple of days before we were to take a trip to Ohio, thus saving me from being stranded in Montana or Idaho in 1968 with a broken Rover 2000.
      It was a two-week trip, and it took three weeks after that to get the Rover back from the dealer shop.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    The most enduring memory for me was the early TV ad, trying to establish the brand that showed a Sterling driving on a twisty mountain road with James Bond type music and then a jump cut to the interior, with Patrick MacNee saying “I suppose you were expecting  someone else”.
    At the time the idea made some sense since  the British were still better at suspension tuning so the Sterling/800 handled better than the Legend and also looked more distinctive but the build quality and clueless US dealers killed it.
    I did actually drive one once, a quick blast up a favorite back road in new 2.7 engined hatchback and it was a good drive, compared to my dad’s Audi 4000 Quattro and my Scirocco.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    All that talk about the car and not one shot of the interior?
     
    I had no idea these shared anything with the Acura Legend.  I still can’t see it, especially since the Legend always seemed a really reliable car.  It could have been worse: think 80s British reliability and mid-80s Japanese interior design.
     
    I learned a lesson: sales people are often the biggest suckers for others’ sales pitches
     
    You’re right about this, and I’ll never understand it.  I did some work recently on mobile phone/smartphones for a fleet of sales reps and you’d be amazed how these people were taken, hook, line and sinker, by sales reps for other telcos claiming some mythical decrease in cost or ROI if you’d just look at their plan.  Considering our own reps made their living lying, or possibly just fudging, ROI figures I couldn’t believe that they took this stuff seriously.
     
     

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    My parents rented one in Ireland in 1988, it actually turned them back on to standard transmission cars-credit Honda for that.   We only had it for a couple of days so the gremlins didn’t get a chance to interfere with the fun.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Were these imported to Canada? I never saw one. I’ve seen an older 3500 though at some of the British Car Shows at Bronte Creek Provincial park.

    And yes to the Merkur. My mother in law had one. The engine and transmission kept going for quite a few years, but every single electrical component save for the lights and turn signals failed years before the rest of the car did. And parts? hah. I pity anyone trying to get parts of a Sterling.

    (The Marina’s engine was the same as an MGB, so they were at least useful as donors, or so I am told.)

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I actually own a Merkur Scorpio (my 2nd one) and it’s been very reliable overall. Things have worn out from age as to be expected, but the car has never stranded me or failed to start when I was using it as a daily driver. The powertrain, while somewhat underpowered, is dead solid reliable and it’s a well sorted RWD design, unlike the Sterling. The interior is absolutely gorgeous – it puts most modern cars to shame from a materials quality standpoint. The seats coverings are literally 100% leather – there’s no vinyl anywhere, not even hiding in the map pockets or behind the rear seat armrest. The front seats are still the most comfortable I’ve ever sat in, and it’s one of the few cars ever offered with power reclining rear seats that also fold down to make a huge cargo area. If only someone would make a car that practical and with so many clever details today, I might actually buy it. 

      *edit – most people associate the Merkur name with the 2-door XR4Ti, which had all the problems of a hastily hand-assembled car (Karmann assembled them for Ford) as well as any of the designed-in or supplier-related problems that all of the Sierra/XR4i cars suffered from. It was also an older generation of car as compared with the Scorpio and much less reliable overall thanks to it’s hodge-podge origins.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Can’t remember the last time I saw a Sterling.

    However there is a Rover 3500 that lives just a few miles from my house, I see it driving down the road (yes under it’s own power!) once  or twice a year.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    From the early 80′s until it finally keeled over and wheezed it’s last breath, Rover built cars for older people who remembered the ‘glory days’ of the British Empire and nobody else. They were boring, British, wheezing, with fake wooden trim and questionable build quality. Their only redeeming feature was the Honda engine found in a majority of the later models, however a reliable engine does not make for an interesting car. If someone did a survey of the average age of a Rover owner I’m guessing 90% of them would be 50+ with the other 10% being people who have strapped cherry popper exhausts and rubbish alloy wheels onto them, who do donuts in supermarket car parks.

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      “They were boring, British, wheezing, with fake wooden trim and questionable build quality.”

      Ah, come on now. Don’t come to me and say your heart doesn’t start to beat faster on the thought of driving a properly maintained Rover 3500 Vitesse:

      http://www.aronline.co.uk/images/cotm200506_01.jpg

  • avatar
    obbop

    Had one in the wrecking yard.

    Concord, CA.

    Entered data into computer accesible by a huge number of other wrecking yards.

    Too awhile but the orders rolled in from other yards.

    They, in turn, sold to their locl customer.

    Until the interior was stripped it was one of the favorite cars to hide in for a beer and doobie break. Those occurring around 3 times daily.

    Hey!!!! It was a tough dirty job involving a lot of heavy lifting.  Many folks, even husky guys, lacked the muscles to handle the physical aspect of the job.

    We deserved those breaks and to take them on leather seats.

  • avatar
    TonUpBoi

    My best memory of the Sterling was the Car & Driver review.  Generally positive, with some worries and reservations.  And, at the end, the mention of an incident where the electrical system went completely dead while rolling down the Interstate – only to come back on two seconds later as if nothing was wrong.  And it never happened again during the duration of the test.
     
    I’ve always loved Rovers.  Almost bought a 2000 back in my college days (red, of course), have been fascinated with the SD-1, and would seriously consider an 825 if I found a car that was reasonably local – as a third-car-plaything, of course.
     
    Then again, I’ve always wanted to own an Austin Allegro.  And my now-brother-in-law owned a Marina when he was first dating my sister.

  • avatar

    All this reminds me of the Eagle Premier. Tell me you’re going to post on that abomination. I’d love to hear the tale behind it.

  • avatar
    Pahaska

    I had an auto xmission one as a rental in Southampton.  It felt and drove like my Legend back home.
    At least 4 times, it suddenly dropped out of gear when pulling out from a stop.  Moving the shift lever did nothing.  Several of the incidents were when pulling out on the 4-lane in front of work.  The gear lever was still in drive each time it happened.  I had to shut the car off and restart it to get it moving.  It was a lot more excitement than I wanted, to be sitting dead in the middle of the motorway.  I turned it in for another of the same model and the second car worked OK for the next few weeks I was there.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Well, it was a brilliant premise:  Honda mechanicals and British interiors.  A pity that Rover’s ego got in the way.  If they had merely re-skinned the legend (exterior and leather) they might have made a go of it.

    I thought the Honda/Rover partnership was a smart one — Honda trading its engineering prowess for entry into European (at at least British) markets.  But the deal with BMW killed that, hurting Honda first, and then BMW, and finally Rover.

    Honda hasn’t done another major alliance in the developed world since then.  They are probably the only automaker that could have actually saved Chrysler, in the process turning themselves into a full line automaker in the process (with the Hemi putting a stop to all the whining that Acura can’t compete without V8/RWD).

    What could have been…
     

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      Rover learnt a lot from this and their relationship with Honda, thats for sure. Shame that BMW screwed both Rover and Honda over since by the 1990′s with the 200/400 and 600 series Rovers, were really good cars.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    I remember reading a long-term review of the Sterling around when they were being built. The summary was something like “all the Honda parts were OK, but the Rover bits malfunctioned or fell off within a few months”.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    An astute observation about sales persons, being married to one, I wholeheartedly agree. 

    All you had to say was ‘British electronics’ and you have the reason for most of the troubles.   Was the prince of darkness “LUCAS” involved?

  • avatar
    futurewarrior

    In 1994 I worked for 12 weeks at a company supplying Rover Group with powertrain components.
    On the first day I was installed on a machine to check component tolerances. Being young (20) and stupid, it took me about 30 seconds to realise the machine needed to be plugged in.
    5 minutes later a senior technician stormed in, and wrenched the plug back out of the wall.  “This constitutes a major ( swearword ) if you start doing stuff like this – just put the (swearword) things through the (swearword) machine.”
    Two years later I bought my first car.  I made damn sure it hadn’t been made in the UK.

  • avatar
    AccAzda

    Hmmmm

    Im going to hold onto this article for the whole week.. in addition to the rest..

    Honda even made a 2.5ltr V6?! I had..no idea. I thought they only made 3ltr 6′s for the Ody starting in about ’97 and the 6th gen Accord?! WTF!?

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      As I recall, the Legend always had a V6, starting in 1985-86 in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      The Honda C-series V6 debuted here in the US with the (Acura) Legend in 1986, carried over to the RL and TL in 1996. The 1995-97 Accords could be optioned with a 2.7 Legend V6 as well. The NSX used a C-block too, but nothing is interchangeable without enough money to buy a new RL.
      The CL debuted here in 1997 with the new 3.0 liter J-block, the Accord switched in 1998, the TL in 1999 and the RL in 2005. Now the most powerful one is the 3.7 liter in the TL SH-AWD.

  • avatar
    JSF22

    A friend sold these and lent me one for about a week. What I remember most is the hood release in the passenger footwell, which they couldn’t be bothered to re-engineer. All I can say is, it wasn’t NEARLY as big a piece of shit as the ’87 Audi 5000 I owned then.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    “An inauspicious beginning, building a new world-class car in the same plant that cobbled together the infamous Morris Marina and other BLMC shit boxes of the seventies and sixties.”

    That’d be the same plant that now makes the MINI, and for that matter made the Honda Legend too. The location doesn’t have much to do with it at all

  • avatar
    djn

    I always liked the looks of the Sterling.  I came very close to buying a 3500 SD1 new but opted for a 1979 Alfetta Gt. Good choice.   I did have a P5 for several years.  Heavy, slow but truly gorgeous from the inside, all that real wood, leather and wool carpets.    The 3500 P6 was also a beautiful car but only came with an automatic.

    • 0 avatar
      ghillie

      There was a P6 3500S with 4 speed manual – rare compared with the auto.  I believe the box was not really up to the handling the v8′s torque and was prone to failure (what a surprise!)

  • avatar
    Powderguy36

    Wow! Just when I thought I was out TTAC pulls me back in. I knew the Sterling mechanic, his kids birthdays as well as his wifes. The service manager had me out to lunch twice just to calm me down. Great leather, wood and wool. It just would not fit into our livingroom.  And Yes I am a sales person. I picked the Sterling, a Trooper with a recal list that looked like Dillingers rap sheet and a few other weezers.
    I am not allowed to pick our cars any longer.

  • avatar
    segar925

    My 1990 Sterling 827 has been a great car and I’d buy another one just like it in a heartbeat.  I purchased mine from the original owner in 1993 for $5000 less than a comparable Legend would have cost at that time.  Many parts are interchangeble with the Legend, so most parts are not hard to find.  My 827 currently has over 186 K, everything still works and with electrical problems whatsoever.  Overall, this car has held up better than any pre-’86 Accord I owned and it’s still a reliable daily driver.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      Sir, you are a lucky man, and your post illustrates that there is no type of car, however well-deserved and widespread its reputation as an unreliable car, that there are not some good examples to be found. Not many, maybe….

  • avatar
    AnthonyG

    Rover is now dead in the UK as well, although Land Rover continues  – it’s been a seperate company since 2000, has is now owned by a Indian conglomerate, Tata – Ford lucked out by selling both L-R and Jaguar (now one company) for $2.3bn before the recession hit.
    Volvo is the last remnant of Premier Automotive Group, unless you count Lincoln.
    By the way exMorris plants where all those 1970s shitboxes were built lives on, it is were all those fashionable MINIs are made!

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      Rover and Land-Rover are now one company again. The Rover brand was thrown in as part of the Land-Rover deal when Ford sold same to Tata (BMW sold the Rover name plate to Ford just prior to the Tata deal).

      There is every likelyhood we’ll see more Rover’s soon. Good thing too, as they made some excellent cars before their swansong…

    • 0 avatar
      rmwill

      @Nicodemus

      The Rover assets are owned by the Chinese.  They are not connected to JLR in any way.

  • avatar
    wmba

    BLMC was so screwed up, they couldn’t organize their way out of a wet paper bag. The Rover 800 series proved that.

    There was an article in CAR magazine about just how bad, published in the late ’80s.

    Rover (BLMC) actually contracted to put together the Honda Legend for the UK market. Honda found they were so poorly put together that every single vehicle was taken to their Swindon UK plant and remade. That’s right – taken apart and reassembled. Properly.

    Once I had read that, it was obvious that the Rover/Sterling lashup, and that’s what it was, was an absolute stinker of a car that people should avoid at all costs. Forget Lucas. BLMC was a far worse horror story. With a complete set of instructions, they couldn’t bolt the Legend together properly.

    BLMC was a place where people socialized over a cup of tea. Putting together cars was just a side issue for them, so far as I could see.

  • avatar

    Rover designed the 75, BMW just paid for it and stipulated certain things like Z axle see http://www.aronline.co.uk/ for its developement details.

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    I sat in one of these at the auto show in San Diego back in 1988.  I was so silly thinking how “upscale” it felt to sit in an expensive British car at an auto show.  Wow.  It was a very good-looking car in profile, the grille was lacking a bit, though.

  • avatar

    It’s a shame Rover ended the way it did. So frustrating that at the very end, they’d managed to pull off some things that were really RIGHT – the MG-F/TF and the Rover 75 (the final incarnation of the 75 is simply stunning), and yet they could never really get their act together, a running theme since the British Leyland death-spiral began in the 70s.

    We may well see a new Rover sometime in the future, but what form that’s going to take remains to be seen. SAIC/Nanjing owns MG-Rover Group’s intellectual property, but JLR/Tata owns the rights to the Rover marque.

  • avatar
    Pan

    The British should not make cars, or anything mechanical. They should make biscuits and sweets.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    Thanks for posting the new index to Curbside Classics.  Quick question: how were these sold? Dedicated dealerships? Through Land Rover showrooms?

  • avatar

    I still remember how excited I was to take delivery of my ’87 Sterling 825SL, among the first in Fairfield County, CT. Two months in, my wife slammed the passenger door closed and the rich genuine burled walnut panel flew off the door and hit me in the face!

    The original brochure discussed how Sterling assembly line workers wore clothing with covered buttons rather than zippers to protect the finish of the car. I suspect the real reason was that zippers were too hard for them to operate!

  • avatar
    toppertx

    Bought one new in ’88 and loved it. Much more comfortable than my BMW and drove the heck out of it for 3 years before trading in for an Audi. Preferred the Sterling to both of them. I think that dealers ruined the deal for the factory. Every time I took the car in for scheduled maintenance, the dealer did thousands of dollars of unnecessary warrnty work on the car. Replaced the radiator after 12K miles for instance and replaced all of the wood interior trim even though there wasnt a problem. Crooks.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    Recently saw one of these for sale in Vegas. Not dead yet!

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    As a former owner of not one, but two Sterlings (both purchased used), I think your assessment is a tad harsh. Used, a two year old Sterling sold for just half of a comparable Acura/Honda Legend with which it shared a very well-regarded engine and drivetrain. The suspension was a Rover/Acura hybrid that my mechanic once described as a nightmare. The interiors of my two vehicles were rather nice and well put together. The Bosch(?) electrics of the first two model years sold in the US were horrible. The Lucas(?) electrics of my two later model Sterlings were fine. Both of my vehicles started to wear out at about 125k miles, so I dumped them. Their Honda/Acura cousins were a bit more durable. Bottom line, their Acura part was excellent and their Rover part only so-so.

    Now, in a business sense, the Rover 825/827 US foray was a well-deserved disaster. Rover itself was a dead man walking even in the UK. Its collaboration with Honda just delayed the inevitable.

  • avatar
    Pan

    I don’t know if I’m right or not, but I have the impression that British Leyland was mismanaged at the top, and sabotaged by indifferent workers at the bottom.
    I also recall reading that one Socialist cabinet Minister was quoted as saying, “British Leyland’s job is to provide jobs, not to build cars”. If this is true, then I guess all is explained. I’d like to hear from any readers who have insight into British industry practices in the ’60s,— ’90s.


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