In the early 1970s, Rover began developing a successor to the receding P6. The intention was to create a luxury, the brand’s first 5-door family car. Together with Triumph, Rover established a Specialist Division. The first of the cars was named Specialist Division nr. 1 or SD1.
SD1 was redesigned from the beginning. Rover’s product development department took inspiration from Pininfarina, not least the Ferrari 365 GTB / 4, more commonly known as the Daytona. Triumph’s Coventry department was responsible for the design of the suspension and chassis. The SD1 was introduced with Rover’s V8 engine. Production of the car began at a new factory in Solihull, and the first cars were delivered to customers in the summer of 1976. In 1977, SD1 was chosen Car of the Year in Europe.
In 1982, the factory decided to convert one of the SD1 factory race cars for street use and handed it over to Rover’s CEO for a drive. Soon after, the decision was made to make a fast and efficient street car in production. It name would Vitesse, in French fast.
The Vitesse 3.5 Rover V8 soon received the Lucas injection, which produced 190 horsepower as standard. The transmissions were changed and the gearbox was strenghtened. The Vitesse was about an inch lower than the base model and the ride was made stiffer by modifying the rear axle supports and outriggers. The performance was impressive: 0–100 km/h was done in about 7 seconds that was an astonishing figure for a sloping family car, as was the top speed of 230 kilometers per hour. Still, the car had all the finest equipments of the 1980s, from an electric sunroof and air conditioning to an on-board computer and sporty seats.
John Davenport, head of Rover’s racing car division, had a significant influence on the design and production of Vitesse, and for good reason. The goal was to get a talented racer for the 1983 season. And so it happened. British Leyland began supporting Rover and Vitesse competed successfully in both the BTCC (including Tim Harvey, Andy Rouse, Steve Soper) and the Rally Group A, driven by Tony Pond. Vitesse’s success in the competition culminated in the German DTM, where the Danish Kurt Thiim won the championship with Vitesse in 1986, leaving behind e.g. BMW, Ford and Mercedes.
This Rover Vitesse, built ‘1983 in Cowley factory, was brought to Finland by a small car dealership from Porvoo, Germany, in 2008. After imported to Finland, the car was serviced in Karaasi, which has specialized in taken care and restoring British cars for over 40 years. Soon after the car changed hands to A. Linnavuori, the older son of the founder of the Karaasi family business.
Linnavuori took the car to parts in 2011 and the car body was refurbished. There was only little of bodywork needed, the body of Vitesse had remained in good condition. The tailgate was replaced because rust under spoiler and the rubber spoiler was not installed again. The body was painted in Rover Black and the original Vitesse wheels were restored. All exterior parts available, such as gutters and door handles, were replaced. The interior upholstery was renewed and the hardwoods were restored. The wooden steering wheel was tinted with the same varnish as the hardwoods.
The engine was upgraded with respect to Vitesse’s original heart as Rover V8: 4.6-liter Rover V8 block was machined and assembled with all new bearings, pistons and parts. The camshaft is Kent 218. The compression ratios are 10.5 to 11: 1. Timing cover and other front end parts and distributor, are Vitesse’s own, and there are few external differences. Significantly increased power and torque is observed!
The car is built specifically for driving and use. The original Lucas Efi system has been upgraded to the more modern and especially more reliable Lucas 14CUX / Hotwire. The car runs very smooth and is easy and effortless to drive.
The brakes were also refurbished and disc brakes were fitted also at the rear. The air conditioning was refurbished with new parts.
In 2021, the clutch was completely renewed and the flywheel was machined.
Since its restoration, the car has been driven about 1000-2000 kilometers every summer since 2012.
The car is what it should have been when it left the factory: Almost the performance of a factory racer, without compromising on modern conveniences and everyday use. By this Vitesse you can enjoy the roadtrip or go around the track or winding roads.
The original matching numbers engine is also stored and can be purchased with the car.
The car is registered as a historic vehicle. Fresh Mot/Tüv inspection until 2025. Documents on the stages of the car from Germany, as well as the original manuals are stored.
The Rover Vitesse is a rare, and in this condition a very exceptional car with left-hand drive.
The car is located in Helsinki. Views by appointment. Worldwide shipping with generous rates.