Kelvin's 1984 Rover SD1 Vitesse

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Well i'm a bit special. Not only do I still have the VDP EFI, now i seem to have picked up another disease/SD1.

So, Number 50 has finally landed.

It was a hard decision, what is special enough to be my 50th car? Well, the answer kinda fell into my lap, and then the ball got rolling very quickly.

The other day I was just browsing the usual Rover SD1 Facebook group, seeing what's what in the world of old British Metal, and one of the fellow Kiwis (who also follows this blog) commented on the photo with

nice 1f642.png and just when I'm starting to think about selling my Vitesse I see a picture like this, and I think to myself, do I really want to let it go?!

I half jokingly said

Yes you do, you want to sell it to me 1f609.png

And from there, he sent me a direct message and well, a week later this arrived

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Number 50, is a 1984 Rover SD1 Vitesse.


It's a good solid base, the body is straight and the paint is pretty good. The interior, except the boot, is tidy, and the engine has receipts for some serious work done in the past.

It's still running the 3.5L V8 like the VDP EFI, but it's backed up with a manual cog swapper. Receipts indicate that it's had an engine rebuild in the past, and is fitted with a Hurricane cam (good for an extra 20hp apparently, and doesn't run out of puff in the top end). The previous owner fitted a Link LEM G1 and had it tuned, along with Jag injectors (higher output), a cold air intake, and a full exhaust with headers. Needless to say it sounds utterly amazing.

Of course it's not all roses, and I knew this going into it. The reason I was offered the car was that the car has been off the road since 2013 because it developed a running issue, where it would run fine for a bit and then start to badly misfire, to the point you cannot touch the accelerator or it dies.

The previous owner tried a lot of things to identify and fix the issue but couldn't get to the bottom of it. Thus the car has just been sitting around gathering dust. Being an avid fan of fixing SD1s, I jumped at the chance to save this beast and bring it back up to scratch.

Unfortunately recently it's also developed another issue.... it doesn't like to start. This posed a rather annoying issue trying to unload the car from the trailer. We were almost at the point of pushing it off the trailer, up the hill and into the drive, but thankfully it stumbled into life and I managed to drive it off.

Visibility out the rear was a little limited

The car was packed to the roof with more spares to add to my collection

So that's the story of how I acquired Number 50. Its going to be a long project to get the car back up to scratch, but I'm looking forward to it. The goal is to have both of my SD1s at British Car Day, and then if the Vitesse is pleasing me enough I might move the VDP EFI onto a new owner.

Big thanks to Brent at Classic Towing for transporting the car down the island for me, and making it happen a week earlier than planned (thanks other guy that bailed from having his car transported, opening up space for my car).

Tell me how stupid I am here, 



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As usual, I don't mess around when I get a new car. It was time to see what I had.

Update - The Car Page for the Vitesse is now up. Check it out for more details.

Having the car delivered so late at night I didn't really get a chance to give it a good look, or unload any of the parts that were in it.

In the light of day, she still looked great


The first task of the day was to unload everything from the back. It was packed to the roof with spare parts.

Out came the doors, which were on top. Well packed, and well protected. There are a complete set of four doors here, and either they are new old stock, or have been well looked after and stored because they are in very good condition with only surface rust on them. No signs of paint though.
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With the doors out it was time to start pulling all the boxes of everything else out
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Theres a lot of parts, including two mostly complete EFI inlet manifolds and plenums, some shocks, some lights and window regulators. Also most of the original parts that were on the car at various times, like the intake and original fan.
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Oh and who could forget, a complete spare D suffix LT77 gearbox
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With the car empty now, the true condition of the boot carpeting was revealed. It's not had a good life this boot. The bottom carpet is missing, but there is a tide mark up the side carpets and it appears it's had a lot of oil or something spilled all through it. The top carpet is badly stained also.
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I'll give it all a good wet vac and hopefully it'll come up better but I may need to source replacements for some of it. The good news is the boot floor itself looks nice and solid (albeit blue, not black...). In the meantime I gave the interior a good vacuum to get the rubbish, and unfortunately, the mouse turds out. The car doesn't smell like mice like GRU did but there is mouse poo everywhere.

Also found in the boot was this little Schrader valve. It links to the two rear shocks, and sure enough, when I put air into it the rear of the car raised up, so they still work. The car has had a towbar before (and will again) so must have had the load levelling shocks added to tow heavy stuff

 Now that I could put the rear seat back up I was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the fabric. It has no tears and little to no wear. The Vitesse has bespoke fabric, so getting replacements wouldn't be fun.
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The front seats have had seat covers on for as long as the previous owner could remember, and he never checked under them to see what the seat under it was like. I didn't like the covers, as the fluffy wool is just too "old man" for the racy Vitesse, so off they came.
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So, what were the seats like under them? Perfect. There is one little mark on the driver's seat but otherwise no wear. I'm very happy. You can also see the more aggressive seat bolsters. Compared to the VDP, it makes the VDP seats feel like flat benches.
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Since I was in the interior already I had to have a nosy at the Link ECU

The wiring isn't the cleanest I have seen, but apparently it worked

I removed the Link and opened it up to see if I could identify the model, as some of the later ones could be tuned by computer. This isn't one of them

I removed the board and noticed it has had a serious failure in the past. One of the injector tracks on the board was completely burnt out. Its been fixed, along with the couple of other little sections, but still doesn't give confidence.

The Link will stay for now, as if I can get it running it's a good option, but if I cant get it running properly then i'll need to see what my other options are.

Moving along, I wanted to see if any of the basics could help with the starting issue. Check out that engine, now with added structural supporting broom.

First I added 10L of 98 octane fuel, and a bottle of injector cleaner to the tank. Its been sitting for ages, so it's likely the old fuel has gone off. 

Then I replaced all the spark plugs. The old plugs were jet black and smelled of varnish, not a good sign. They were the correct BPR6ES though.

I also replaced the distributor cap, coil and injector resistor pack. I checked and the fuel pump is operating, despite sounding a bit odd. None of these helped, it's still really hard to start. When it does start though, it makes some awesome noises.

I'm thinking the issue could be the pickup in the distributor, or an issue with the locked out timing. In order for the Link to control the ignition advance the mechanical and vacuum advance in the distributor have been locked in place, I'm wondering if this is moving and throwing the timing out. I'll need to remove the distributor and have a lo

Theres still more work to be done.

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The past couple of days have been busy, trying to get the Vitesse to start.

The starting issue was starting to bug me. The answer should have been obvious but nothing I did was making any difference, so I changed tact.

The first job was to change the fuel filter. The old one was date stamped 2007, and although it's been off the road a lot since then it's been full of stale fuel for most of that time. Speaking of stale fuel, since the fuel lines were disconnected I tried to drain as much as I could out of the system. Initially it was coming through as dark amber and stank like varnish. Today I added another 20L of 98 octane to the tank, so kept flushing the line until it actually smelt like petrol, and the colour was much clearer.
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I noticed after cranking that my ground lead from the battery was getting warm, indicating high resistance. I happened to have another spare, so swapped that over, now it doesn't get warm. The old one was looking very rough.
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When cranking I had noticed the Link hand controller was showing huge spikes in the cranking RPM. Now obviously this isn't possible, the engine cranks at 100rpm or so.

This indicated that there was an issue with the pick up in the distributor, it wasnt giving a clean signal. I ended up actually removing the whole pickup (remove dist cap, rotor and clear plastic cover, remove the two cylinder shaped nuts with slots in them) and cleaning it. There is a spec to refitting and setting the air gap, but I couldn't be bothered finding it so I just set the pick up as close to the rotor as I could, which still leaves a decent air gap.

The work resulted in a nice solid 100RPM when cranking. It wasnt the issue, but at least I eliminated a potential cause of issues for the future. Another issue presented its self though, the battery was struggling with all the cranking. My spare battery was still on charge, so what do I do? Well, Rover to the rescue!

Other work I did was to test for spark, which I seemed to be getting from both the coil and spark plugs. I tried another coil just in case, but it also didn't help. In order to eliminate the fuel system as the issue I grabbed some Start Ya Bastard and sprayed it into the intake, to which it made no difference. No spluttering, no popping, nothing.

Well, it's spark then. I whipped all the plugs out again just to make sure they weren't flooded, and let them air out. I refitted them, swapped the distributor cap back to the original one, and tried again. No change.

In one last mad attempt before I rage quit, since I had the EFI bonnet open, I decided to try swapping the distributor rotor between the cars.

I'll be damned, the Vitesse fired straight up on the first turn.

Was it a fluke?!

Nope, it now starts every time, on the button

So the starting issue appears to have been a combo of a bad distributor rotor, and stale fuel. Of course now that it starts and runs well I couldn't NOT take it for a hoon up the road and back.... and what a noise! Theres some shaking through the steering wheel, and the engine is a bit smoky, but otherwise it seems to be running and driving well. No signs yet of the misfire that I replicated the other day either.

One issue that did show up badly when driving was just how bad the shifter is. It's all over the show, almost like it's not even attached to the gearbox.

I removed the console trim and boots to have a look at the shifter remote, and sure enough the whole remote is flopping about. You can see it in the video. There should be a series of bushes holding the remote in place, but as far as I could see mine are all missing.

This is the remote, it's a bit that sticks out the back of the gearbox with the shift lever and linkages on it

The bushes that I can see missing are on the bolts at the bottom of the picture, on the bit of metal sticking down. The way the remote moves also indicates that the bushes on the bolts where the remote meets the gearbox (on left in photo) are worn or missing too.

Rimmers sells replacements made of a more durable material for about $68..... plus postage. There are cheaper options on eBay, so will go that way.

Hopefully once I replace them I should have a nice solid shifter. Its funny, both of the manual Vitesse that I have driven had this same issue.

So that's another day, and another (major) issue resolved. Now I can work on tidying the car up, and replacing things like the badly leaking valve cover gaskets.

I should probably also find out if it's too low to get into my garage....

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Just a small update today; I got rid of the bonnet support broom.

One of the differences between the Vitesse and EFI is that there were two methods of supporting the bonnet.

First was the standard locking rod as seen at the top of this image. It's a rod attached to the bonnet that travels along a slot, and at the top of the slot is sort of like an upside down J. As the bonnet opens the rod moves up the slot and falls down into the hook of the J, locking the bonnet up and in place. To close the bonnet you lift the rod back into the main slot, and lower the bonnet. It's a nice simple, reliable system. It does mean you have to go to the passenger's side of the car every time you want to close the bonnet though.

On the other hand, for some reason only known to BLMC, the Vitesse didn't get that simple system, it got a pair of gas struts at the front edge of the bonnet, which are designed to hold the bonnet open.

They're great when they work, but mine didn't. This required the use of a trusty broom to stop the heavy steel bonnet caving my head in.

Thankfully the previous owner had realised this was an issue and the car came with a pair of what he was told were good struts. Today I set about swapping them.

It's actually not a hard job. Use trusty broom to hold the bonnet up, and then a pair of 13mm spanners to remove the nuts holding the struts in place.
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The struts came out easily once I managed to crack the nuts. I ended up sitting on the front guard and leaning in so I wouldn't kill my back. Low car life. The replacement struts went on with some copper grease on the threads so they can come off again in future.

The old struts were so wasted that the oil had parted company with them, and you could compress them by hand. No wonder they didn't hold the big steel bonnet up.

The replacement struts? They were good, which is great. They hold the bonnet up well, and although they groan a bit when lowering its a smooth action.

And to celebrate? A hoon of course. One thing I noticed though, despite getting the engine nice and warm (a touch over 100c) the electric radiator fan didn't come on. I thought it was triggered by the Link ECU at about 92c, but maybe I'm reading it wrong. Need to look into that, don't want to cook it.

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Its been so darn hot recently that progress on the Vitesse has been slow.

Because it is so hot though, I had to find out why the fan didn't come on the other day.

I emailed the previous owner asking what he knew about the fan, and was advised that the power feed was wired to the coil and that I should check that. When I was diagnosing the starting issues and swapped the coil over I did notice a red wire that was just hanging around disconnected

I connected it back up to the positive terminal on the coil. The terminal was very loose, no wonder it came off at some point. I squeezed the terminal to make it a really tight fit. With something as critical as a cooling fan, there is no room for failure like this.

Once that was connected, I had to test the fan. I didn't want to sit around waiting for the engine to heat up, so the quickest way was to turn the ignition on, and set the Link to trigger the fan below ambient temp. Sure enough, as soon as it hit that temp, the fan whirred into life.

Well, who would have guessed that the fan would be wired to the coil positive? Not me. I'm sure there are far better places to get switched 12v under the bonnet.
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Anyway, the fan works now. I reset the trigger temp to 92c as it was before, and during testing after a decent drive today I confirmed the fan does come on when it should. It moves a lot of air. Not as much as the viscous fan, but hopefully enough.

Theres still a few random disconnected wires in the engine bay, which I have no idea what they go to, but everything else seems to be working. Its one of the downsides to dealing with someone else's bodges. On the EFI at least I know what all the wiring is for, because before I got it, everything was standard. Anything that was modified was done, and recorded, by me. The Vitesse has had some changes and additions done that I just don't know about. Time will tell what happens, I may end up ripping these mods (like the air horns) out and redoing it myself, or at least just tracing it back and making a record for the future.

A couple of other small things I got around to doing was to lube the steering shaft bush and refit the driver's side glovebox.

The steering bush is a common failure point on SD1s, and the one in the Vitesse has been replaced with a nice uprated Nolathane bush. This will last a lot longer than a standard rubber one, and it's stiffer leading to better feel. Unfortunately one downside to this is that the bush grips the shaft unless it has adequate lubrication, leading to a kinda sticky binding feeling when turning the wheel. The bush in question is the bright red one.

I used a couple of sprays of my favourite lube. It's a synthetic spray that I have used many times for various jobs and it always works a treat. Its funny, the only reason I have and know about this stuff is that I found this can rolling around under the seat of one of my previous cars.

Since I didn't need any further access down there, I refit the glovebox. It makes the car look and feel a lot more complete, and adds some nice refinement. Looking at it, i guess I'll need to remove and clean the damn thing now. It hangs down a bit too, need to see if there is an adjustment in the catch.

I did find a cool business card when cleaning out the car. A google indicates they may not exist anymore. I like finding little trinkets from the cars past, especially from when it was in the UK.

Another random trinket I found was this steering column cover with the original sticker still in place.

Obviously the chances of ever seeing one of these stickers is almost zero, because the owner MUST remove the sticker. Clearly this owner was a rebel.

So that's all the work I have done recently. These 30c days really slow down productivity, especially with the car outside and the risk of being turned into human jerky being so high.

I still have some work to do very soon, like fixing the rear seat hinges and the tailgate latch. I have ordered valve cover gaskets and shifter bushes from the UK, so they should hopefully be here soon, and then I can take the car for a Warrant inspection and see if it passes, after being off the road since 2013.

I have also done a couple of longer trips in the car to see if I can replicate the original fault, and so far despite covering around 60km (on private roads... ahem), 40km or so today, the fault hasn't shown up. Hopefully this means I have fixed it, but it may still pop up yet, only time will tell.

I have noticed some other little things with the car since driving it more, like the rear suspension bottoming out over bumps, guess I'll need to keep that mad raked look by keeping the rears pumped up a bit more. Gosh its fun to drive though, staying at the speed limit is hard... the car just wants to push faster and faster. I don't know why, but 100kph feels so slow in the Vitesse, whilst in the EFI it's a nice cruising speed.

New shocks and springs, guess I'll add that to the list of "things I wish I could afford".

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I'm ticking off things on the to-do list, getting ready for its WOF check. Someone had made a mess of the rear seat hinges, so that's where I started.

It might not be a Warrant issue, but having a rear seat back that doesn't lock into place properly, or even fold up and down properly is a bit of a pain.

The previous owner supplied the car with replacement hinges for the seat, so that made life a bit easier.

First step is to remove the side bolsters. Once again, push down the on seat base below the bolster, and you can feel around for the small Philips head screw. Remove that, push the bolster upwards and out it comes.

The seat back is then held in with a couple of bolts per hinge. They are a T40 torx
I removed the whole back section from the car.

I don't know what happened to the hinges but someone had Hulk Smashed both of them. I presume the hinges may have seized.
It even went so far as to bend the mounting plates

The hinges are held to the seat back by four large Philips screws. Use a BIG bit on these so you don't strip them. Mine were all loose, but they shouldnt be. To access the screws you need to pop some clips for the seat back trim.
Replacement hinges fitted. I thoroughly lubricated these before fitting to make sure they were nice and free, and shouldn't rust or seize. This is how they should function. They are a bit over complicated because they lift the seatback upwards when you fold it down.
With the hinges in place I set about cleaning the rest of the rear seat area. The seat base just lifts up from the back as it has two hooks in the front edge There was a fair bit of dirt, grime and rubbish under the seats.

There is also zero doubt now that this car was at one point in its life a Moonraker Blue car, not original black. Not a big deal, but interesting.

With all the gross vacuumed up, I refit the seat, including the original head rests.
I hate refitting the bolsters, but found that they were easier to refit with the seat back folded down.

Since the car was in the garage out of the sun and I was on a roll, I decided to move on and tackle the tailgate release, which was missing

Once again the car came with a couple of spare parts to fix this. It wasnt a simple as just popping a new tailgate lock assembly in place and calling it a day.

First I removed the number plate lights and tailgate garnish. Just a few screws
One of the plate lights was really on its last legs. The connector was literally held together with one strand of wire

The previous owner taped over the tailgate vents because the exhaust design lets fumes in. Half the vent flaps were just floating around in the tailgate

The old tailgate catch was looking worse for wear. Someone had also tried to remove it and butchered the screws. Both were jammed and stripped

During test fitting I couldn't get the release lever to engage with the old catch. I'm presuming the old one is worn out, and maybe why it was all in bits in the first place
Its bit of an average design. The white plastic bit just pushes again a tab on the catch to release it

When the key is inserted and turned, it slides the rusty bit on the left across and engages and disengages the handle from moving the plastic bit.

I removed and replaced the catch with the replacement (whilst reusing the original screws which with some copper grease still work fine), and refit the lease lever assembly. It is secured to the tailgate with a pair of M4 nuts and washers. I didn't have the originals so found some substitutes.
Now the catch and lever works properly, but unfortunately the key is a different key. I don't have the original lock (or not that I could find) or I would swap the lock barrels. If I happen to come across it I'll swap them over. In the mean time it just means I have two of the same key on my keyring. It's also missing the central locking solenoid, which I may sort later.

Whilst refitting I cleaned the number plate lenses and fit some LED bulbs like I fit to the EFI. The wire got a new terminal crimped on it.
The car is getting more complete by the day.

I did notice one slight potential issue for the future
It JUST makes it to the entrance of the garage, but I havent tried to see if it clears the bump at the garage entrance yet. I might need to use some planks to get it in without slamming the spoiler. I'm not overly enjoying this low life, too much caution.

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I guess i should replace the tires shortly too. Despite all having good tread, they're flat spotted from sitting, and the youngest ones are date stamped 03, so i suspect the oldest probably had fears that the Y2K bug would destroy us all.

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In the quest to get the Vitesse ready for its Warrant inspection next week, I had to remedy something else I noticed wasn't working well.

When I first got the car, the first thing (other than not starting) that I noticed didn't work was the headlight switch. Park light setting worked, but no lights on the headlight setting, so I was moving a car full of stuff, that I couldn't risk stalling, down the road with no lights.

I found if you wiggle and jiggle the switch you could get the headlights to work, but that's not really good enough to pass a WOF inspection, so I had to fix it. Not to mention it's also a pain not being able to rely on the headlights to work.

I have spare switches (and they are even still available new thanks to being used on the MGB), but what fun is swapping parts when you can recondition them and keep them going for the future?

To remove the switch, first remove the lower shroud on the steering column. There is one Phillips screw in the underside then it carefully wiggles free. The top doesn't need to be unscrewed or removed. Turns out mine must have had a run-in with a rather angry steering wheel boss kit (not the current one, but I noticed the car came with a spare, now I know why) in the past as it's missing a nice arc of plastic

The switch is now accessible, and should just pop out if you're careful. There are two metal spring clips. If they don't just pop out you may need to use a small flat blade to push them inwards.

It turns out there must be two different types of switch. The one on the car has the little bulb picture the opposite way around to the spare I have, as well as the little picture being recessed into the plastic, not just screen printed on it. Another reason to rebuild the original one.
Disassembly is fairly simple. I used a flat blade to pop the sides apart. There are clips along the whole length but a gap in the middle for the screwdriver.
It's a VERY simple switch, with not much to go wrong.

My switch was packed with old, hard grease that was covering all the contacts including the sliding contact
There was a lot of wear on the sliding contact also, so I cleaned it up and gave it a quick sand down. I also cleaned and sanded the contacts in the switch base.
Reassembly is the reverse, just make sure everything lines up nicely and make sure you have the base the correct way up in regards to the top half. I smothered the contacts and any moving parts in dielectric grease just to keep it fresh, and flipped the sliding contact around so it would wear the other side instead. Some water on a rag got any human filth off the switch without wearing out the white paint further.

Before refitting I connected the switch up and made sure everything worked as it should. Sure enough the headlights came on every single time.

And that is how you rebuild a Lucas headlight switch.

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