All this praise culminated in the 3500 being awarded the Don Safety award and also the European car of the Year for
1977 – something that a British Leyland car had not achieved since the BMC1800 in 1964.
Customers agreed with the press and the 3500 was very soon so oversubscribed that people were queuing to buy the car
– and worse, some dealers were actually selling delivery mileage examples at a premium over the list price –
something that British Leyland had never experienced before. Rover had priced the 3500 at £4750, which at the
time, brought it into direct competition with such cars as the Citroen CX, Volvo 144 and Audi 100, all cars with
4-cylinder engines and cars that could not hope to go as well as the V8 engined Rover. Only the V6 Ford Granada 3000
was in the same league at that price point, but that was a vastly more conventional looking car than the Rover and lacked
its showroom appeal.
After the kicking that the public and the media had given British Leyland over the Allegro, Princess and Marina, this
was genuinely good news for the Company, but as usual, trouble lurked, not far away. Rover had committed the cardinal
sin of not making enough examples to satisfy the demand for the new car. To be fair, no-one within British Leyland had
expected the rush to buy the new car, but at the same time, the P6B was a very successful car and the SD1 was so
“right” in design and execution that it shouldn't have come as a surprise that people were going to be
clamouring for the new car.The situation was also excerbated by the BL-wide tool-makers strike in the early monthsof 1977
- domestic supplies were drastically cut, but more disastrously when the SD1 was put on sale in the EEC in March 1977,
riding high on the good publicity from the CotY award and generally excellent press reports, the dealers had no stock
which to sell. Derek Whittaker appealed to the sensibilities of the rogue workers, who he said, were costing the company
profits - big profits - by not allowing the company to build the car that people across Europe so patently wanted to buy.
Again, the company had shot themselves in the foot - all the good pre-launch publicity in the EEC amounted to nothing as
people soon associated BL with strikes and non-production.
Picture Information: V8-S interior, showing just how modernistic this design was. Not a piece of wood veneer to be
seen anywhere! This picture also demonstrates how the dashboard made it from design to production, relatively untouched.
It's a shame that the steering wheel wasn't as small as the one depicted in the original design sketch (above).