Junkyard Find: 1989 Sterling 827 SLi Fastback

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1989 sterling 827 sli fastback

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.

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  • Cadillacpimpin Cadillacpimpin on Jan 31, 2014

    I would pay good money for those emblems.

  • Badger461 Badger461 on Mar 27, 2014

    Glad too see many positive comments on this car here. I have one of these ('89 827sli) as a second car currently and love driving it, and do often. I bought it out of a southern estate about 6 months ago and have put aprox 4000 miles on it in that time. It has 126k on the clock currently. Have experienced a few minor electronics hiccups Like sticky interior light switches and warning light misfires) but they seem to reset themselves when I shut off and re start the car. The only things I had to do in the car so far was replace a sunroof switch, one ball joint and convert / charge the AC. Other than that it all works beautifully. Love the suede and leather seats which are in perfect shape since the original owner had them covered since new. Find them to be much more comfortable than the ones in my '12 Mazda CX9. My Sterling is at its best cruising @70mph+ on an interstate or on curvy back country roads. It is a competent city car but the automatic trans is a little tight and jumpy so it is less pleasant in urban conditions. An unexpected bonus if this car is it's generous size. It holds as much cargo as most small suv's and the rear seats have as much leg room as my Mazda. I hope to be able to own. drive and enjoy this fine unique car for a long time to come.

  • Arthur Dailey Is most of your driving in stop and go urban traffic?Do you have kids, who you have to drive to and from their activities? Sometimes with their friends/teammates.Do you have pets? Do you have some mobility issues?Can you perform maintenance yourself?Do you have a discretionary fund for unforeseen repairs?Do you have another car, so that you only need to use this on weekends or rural/highway trips?Check your answers to the above. They may tell you that as nice as this car is, you might be better off with a new, boring but more practical SUV.
  • DungBeetle62 Before everyone dumps on California and their tax structure and Gavin's hairstyle, my recent road trip (which didn't get to California) was as follows when tanking up Super Unleaded.Texas - Fort Worth area Costco : $3.36Texas - Amarillo Sam's - $3.46New Mexico - Albuquerque Costco - $3.75Arizona - Flagstaff Sam's - $4.25Nevada - Henderson Costco- $4.72Oil is oil is oil is oil. State taxes vary, transporting the refined product varies, but a friggin BUCK AND A HALF more a gallon (and we're talking Costco to Costco here) ain't passing the smell test as you get out west. No, count me in with thinking someone out west is going for a bigger bite of the apple and figuring people will blame Newsom.
  • Tassos Whoever pays $23,000 for this 15 year old unreliable car will regret it. I would not pay half that.Go get an excellent E55 AMG, also 2008, and pretty close HP-wise, with far higher Torque, and a proper luxury interior..
  • VoGhost Why would anyone want to save a car dealer? No really - what actual value do they provide?
  • FreedMike Really nice example, but these are LEGENDARY for being money pits.