When you find a Jensen Interceptor in one row and a Maserati Biturbo Spyder in the next row at a Los Angeles self-service wrecking yard, you can count on finding another weird import not far away. Sure enough, here’s a Sterling, a rare reminder of the short-lived Austin-Rover-Honda experiment of the late 1980s.
Based on the Rover 800, which itself was a sort of Rover-ized Honda Legend, the idea behind the Sterling brand was that American car buyers could get a luxurious British-style interior coupled with Japanese build quality and reliability.
Sterling 827 buyers got the 2.7-liter 24-valve Honda V6, same as the Japanese-market Legend (the first-gen US-market Acura Legends had a slightly less powerful version), but they also got cars full of Lucas electrics, hammered together by angry Englishmen who saw the union-busting face of Maggie Thatcher in every fastener they pounded. American buyers edged away in horror.
Still, the interiors were very nice, lots of wood and leather.
This one barely made it past 100,000 miles. Checking the VIN in the California smog-check records database indicates that this car failed the smog test just about every time, but managed to get registered as recently as 2008. Since that time, it probably sat in a driveway, awaiting some repair that just wasn’t worth doing.
With 5,907 Sterlings sold in the United States for the 1987 model year, these cars were always pretty rare.
Connally Leather, which has to be better than Corinthian Leather!
There was a Japanese version, of course.
The 800 was pitched as being romantic in the UK, no hint of the Honda innards.