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42 years of the SD1
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SD1 Enthusiast : Lawson Smith, Member of the SD1 Club
The Mechanical Engineer knows what car he likes and builds it..
“The engine has been rebuilt up to 5 litres with top hat liners, steel h-beam rods, forged pistons, Wildcat cylinder heads, serpentine front end, big trumpets, ported hotwire manifold and big diameter fuel rail, and Motec injection/ignition with custom trunking feeding the twin throttles. Injectors are yet to be chosen but have to squirt a lot of fuel. This is quite a rare engine build so predicting power output is tricky, and the cam is limited to emissions which will get through an MOT so can’t be a screamer, but I’m certainly hoping it will be closer to 400 than 300bhp – perhaps a lot closer thanks to those Wildcat heads (which alone cost the same as a nice single plenum Vitesse!). The heads will be back from a little more flow work in the next few weeks and the motor can be put onto the dyno at V8 Developments so we’ll see what it’s good for. The strong innards are also going to be hit with a 300bhp progressive nitrous kit from Trevor at Highpower in Doncaster, so the car shouldn’t be sluggish. In fact, it could potentially be quite nippy.”

Of course, with the nitrous that adds up to the best part of 700bhp and 800ftlb on the gas, so the whole drivetrain has to be sorted. I already had a Quaife and steel-jointed competition propshaft, and was lucky to find a set of custom made billet steel half shafts. However, despite having an almost new R380 gearbox and very heavy duty Borg and Beck clutch, Im now looking at options for Tremec gearboxes and multi-plate clutches to take the load yet more hideous expense!!

“Brakes are Jag XJ12 front and Cosworth Scorpio rear, and the car is about to be fitted with a trick pedal box running separate master cylinders for front and rear circuits, which should pull her up okay. My last Vitesse had the Jag setup and although they may not be as pretty or light as some of the competition brakes that can be used, they don’t cost too much and work extremely well on an SD1. Suspension has taken a lot of sorting too. The front subframe is being swapped for a trick item with the engine mounts lowered half an inch and moved two inches back, the rear axle has modified trailing arm attachments, and the car has adjustable trailing arms and Watts linkage to ensure that the rear geometry is spot-on. Trailing arms are also modified to have hemispherical cup attachments to the axle, so there are no bushes to go soft. The mandatory lowered Watts attachment is fitted to the diff cover, and the rest of the suspension is fitted with uprated bushes and a front anti roll bar that would keep a double-decker bus upright. I have a braced rear axle that has been modified for toe-in and camber but I’m not sure whether to use it – the half shaft splines must have to sit at an unhappy angle and I don’t want to unevenly stress the spline faces with that amount of torque. I’m swapping the race springs and shocks because this is a road car and I’ve suffered the agony of running an SD1 too low and hard before – never again, I ran a 60mm lowered car before and it was HELL on public roads! I’m using the Rimmer’s 30mm lowered uprated springs (a shade under Vitesse height ), and I’m trying to identify the best quality on-car adjustable shocks I can find without paying silly money for custom jobs.”

Nothing has been fitted to the car itself since I bought it but I have a shed full of bits ready to finish the car off, including new headlights and indicators, a brand new set of side rubbing strips, fibreglass bumpers which will have to be re-shaped to fit around the wider wings, and loads of stainless, chrome and zinc plated bits to be bolted in and around the engine bay and suspension. Im in two minds about hacking at the boot floor to fit twin silencers and probably wont decide until the time comes to finish off the exhaust (I already have stainless headers with 1.75 primaries). It would be a nice touch Ive only seen a couple of SD1s running twin silencers and they look good but only if done right and not hanging under the standard floor.

I was going to retain the blue S interior, apart from seats, but think Ive managed to find a good complete Vitesse set which is tidy enough to go into the car. The interior will receive a little more walnut than standard, and some tasteful additions to the instrumentation (based largely on replacing the three Series 2 minor gauges with a bank of Series one gauges showing some extra temperatures and pressures, re-facing the speedo and tacho to reflect the new speed and rev ranges, and some aircraft spec switches to control whats going on under the bonnet. The exterior will be as standard as I can possibly keep it, though the wheels are a bit of a giveaway it would have been nice to have a set that look like the original cross spokes but beggars cant be choosers, and the expense has to stop somewhere.

Rover SD1 Club 2005
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