Junkyard Find: 1989 Sterling 827 SLi Fastback

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

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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  • 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.

  • Lorenzo Why aren't American firms trying to grab some of that loot, er, tax money? Either way, it's nice of them to create American jobs so people can earn back some of their tax money - after taxes, of course.
  • Lorenzo I think it's time to retire the adjective 'electrifying'. It will only cause confusion now.
  • Daniel J Until we get a significant charging infrastructure and change times get under 10 minutes, yes
  • Mike I own 2 gm 6.2 vehicles. They are great. I do buy alot of gas. However, I would not want the same vehicles if they were v6's. Jusy my opinion. I believe that manufacturers need to offer engine options for the customer. The market will speak on what the consumer wants.For example, I dont see the issue with offering a silverado with 4cyl , 6 cyl, 5.3 v8, 6.2 v8, diesel options. The manufacturer will charge accordingly.
  • Mike What percentage of people who buy plug in hybrids stop charging them daily after a few months? Also, what portion of the phev sales are due to the fact that the incentives made them a cheaper lease than the gas only model? (Im thinking of the wrangler 4xe). I wish there was a way to dig into the numbers deeper.