Junkyard Find: 1990 Sterling 827 SL

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The first thing we need to make clear when talking about the Sterling 827 is that it is not a Honda. It’s a Rover. Rover!

Well, OK, it’s really a Rover-ized Acura Legend, built in England with Lucas Electrics and legendary British build quality. Run away!

Surprisingly large numbers of Sterlings were sold in America, but almost all of them got crushed during the 1990s. This is the first example I’ve seen in a junkyard (in this case, in California) for at least a decade.

The interior is full of crypto-luxurious (and non-Honda-ish) touches such as this slotted sunroof screen.

The word “Honda” does not appear in any obvious locations on the engine, but we all know what “PGM-FI” means.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Davew833 Davew833 on Oct 18, 2012

    My family's had half-a-dozen Sterlings over a decade from about 1996 to 2008 or so. In 2004, I bought beautiful a one-owner 1990 Oxford Special Edition 827sl with 72,000 miles on it. Over the following 5 or so years that I owned it, I just about doubled the mileage on it and it proved to be a generally reliable car. I think by 1990 Rover had gotten many of the bugs worked out and perhaps they paid a little more attention to details in the Oxford Editions. The problems I had with it included very cheap and flaky power window switches (especially the back ones), electric door locks that randomly locked and unlocked, a dodgy alarm system, and a loose connection in the headlight wiring. Mechanically, it needed an exhaust system replaced, used rack & pinion (from an Acura Legend), rear struts, routine timing belt & water pump replacement, tie rod end, rear wheel bearing, etc. The only time it left me stranded was when the distributor seized up without notice- not a Rover part. Over the 5 years I had it, I amassed quite a stockpile of spare Sterling parts including many replacement electronic modules, sunvisors, front corner lights, and radiator overflow tanks salvaged from a number of other Sterlings found at the self-service junkyards. My family had several Acura Legends during that time as well and I thought my Sterling compared favorably to them in terms of overall reliability. My biggest complaint was probably that the driver's seat sat too high and despite the multiple adjustments, my hair always brushed against the ceiling. I enjoyed driving a unique car and got regular questions and comments on it.

  • Graham64 Graham64 on Jan 05, 2023

    Was the car named Sterling to try and reinforce the fact that it was an "English" car - sterling is an English unit of currency.

  • James Hendricks The depreciation on the Turbo S is going to be epic!
  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.