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Fun Story

Rover SD1, British Leylands Finest

21 May 2020

In the picture above is a blue Rover SD1, . My dad bought that when I was about 18. I remember it coming and thinking wow, its the same car as the police used. It sure did look modern and impressive for its time, and I think it was a European car of the year.

Now, truth be told, the impressive police version used Rovers venerable V8 power plant. Ours was the paltry 2 litre version. Which to be charitable was a bit asthmatic on the power front.

Once we started using the car I found it a mixed bag. The space and comfort was far superior to anything I had driven before. But its short comings soon became apparent. One advantage of the smaller engine version was that when you put your foot down less bits fell off inside. You would turn a corner and bits of interior trim would whizz pass your head. The fit and finish looked like Stevie Wonder had done the final quality control.

When Your Best Friends With The AA Man

During our Rover experience we were members of the AA. Which was quite fortunate seeing as quite often the car returned on the back of an AA transporter. I think in the end the AA wrote to us and told us that we were overusing their service and they were going to have to rethink our membership.

In the 3 years we owned it, it had 2 replacement engines. The second engine then had to have a total rebuild.

Other items failed at random intervals, the gearbox, differential, electrical components. In fact midway through our final year of ownership a fuse had blown for one of the electrical windows. When we looked to replace the blown fuse, we noticed that 2 were blown, so we changed them both. Suddenly after 2 and a half years we discovered we had central locking.

Fuel Pumps And A Work Out


One of the items that seemed to fail regularly was the fuel pump. This was a small cylindrical pump about the size of a bobbin of cotton. It lived in the actual fuel tank and would fail with depressing regularity. At the time it was about £200, which 30 years ago was a not inconsiderable sum.

My dad eventually got sick of paying for this and bought an electronic aftermarket pump that bolted on the side of the engine. At only £100 this was a nice saving.

I was out one day in the car towing a small tourer following dad, when the car once again chucked it. Because this was such a common state of affairs, It no longer caused a panic, and we carried a comprehensive tool kit in the boot.

Whilst investigating which of BL’s finest components had stranded me this day, an absolutely stunning woman pulled up behind me in a brand spanking new Jaguar sports car. Dressed to the nines she was walking down the side of my trailer when she asked, “Do you need a lift, you can jump in with me.”

As she actually reached me she suddenly realised that I was not only wearing an absolutely scruffy boiler-suit, but both my hands and face were scruffy. Some will say this was a rare occurrence for me to have engaged in manual labour, but we had just finished derigging at an event before hitting the road. As she took stock of me I could see her heart sink as she suddenly thought about her new leather seats. I smiled sweetly and thanked her but told her I could repair it. She made a feeble attempt to argue then beat a hasty retreat.

Electronic Genius

And you know what, I could fix it, my first business was building electronic control systems, so I had a good working knowledge of how electronic units worked.

What I managed to work out was how the pump worked. Basically when the ignition was turned on and power applied to the pump, the electric solenoid pumped once. As it pumped it broke a light beam on an optical switch. This immediately cut the power and the solenoid dropped, whereupon the light beam connected and supplied power for another pump cycle.

Unfortunately said opto switch was defunct, deceased, as dead as a parrot. But being a bit clever with electrics, I disconnected the positive feed. Tapped a wire on, and ran it through the door into the car. By tapping it on the cigarette lighter I could pump enough fuel to start the engine.

Trouble was whenever I came to an hill, the engine would splutter and I would have to tap faster. By the time I caught up with my dad, my left arm felt like it belonged to someone else.

I think I flagged my dad down and got my sister out of the cab of the lorry. She was promptly given fuel pumping duty.


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