SOLD | 1981 Rover 3500 SD1 Group 2
When Mike O’Sullivan and his new business partner decided to set up a racing team in South Africa, they were only missing one item, a car to race with. They set off for the UK with a suitcase full of cash to find the car with which they were to compete. After a visit to Leyland’s motorsport division in Abington Mike ordered a 3.5 litre Rover SD1.
The car was built by Dave Price Racing to Group 2 specification, with many images showing the build process in the cars history file. Within 8 weeks the car was ready to be shipped to South Africa, however prior to shipping it was taken to Brands Hatch for a shakedown, being driven by Jeff Allam, who would go on to win the 1982 Group A British Touring Car Championship in a Rover SD1. A copy of the test sheet is also in the cars history file, along with a copy of the sales invoice from Dave Price Racing to Kalkkloof Eloff Leyland Racing in Johannesburg, South Africa. The car then was flown to South Africa and upon arrival was immediately impounded by customs officials who believed it to be a road car. At the time, in South Africa, a road car was subject to import duty of 110%, however a racing car was only 10%. The customs official remarked at the time “A racing car is an open cockpit single seater, like Jody Scheckter drives!”. After much communication with British Leyland, the car was eventually released to Mike O’Sullivan.
The Rover enjoyed fundamental speed immediately, although initially did suffer from small component failures, as anyone would expect from such a project. The 3.5 litre engine was built by Hesketh, and produced over 400 bhp at 8250 rpm, which put it right at the front of a highly competitive field.
The Rover quickly became an iconic car in South Africa, competing at the Kyalami 9-hours endurance race in 1981 and 1982. For 1983, the O’Sullivans entered the Rover in the Kyalami 1000 kms which was a round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, and one last time in 1984. In-between the four headline events at Kyalami the O’Sullivans entered many sports car races with their Rover, many pictures of which are in the cars history file.
Once its time with the O’Sullivan brothers was over, the car was purchased by Dick Sorensen who continued to compete with it for several years, by which time the car was red and yellow. It then briefly passed through the hands of Dave le Roux before being purchased by the O’Sullivan brothers again! The car was never disassembled, or converted, it remained the menacing 3.5 litre machine it was always designed to be. In 2003 the O’Sullivan brothers repainted the car back to its original green and white racing colours.
In 2014 the car was purchased by its current European owner who embarked upon a thorough and detailed restoration with specialists BGM Sport. Every panel and fitting was stripped, assessed, and rebuilt to build what is undoubtedly the most beautifully presented Rover SD1!
Its post-restoration track debut was at Vallelunga in April 2015. The car immediately took pole position in the Heritage Touring Cup, proving its outright pace. Sadly, the car did not finish the race due to a gearbox related issue, however it did return to the Heritage Touring Cup at Spa, Dijon, Monza and Paul Ricard throughout the 2015 season.
The car is eligible for two European championships, the first is the Heritage Touring Cup which is run by Peter Auto and in 2017 will visit Jarama, Spa-Francorchamps, Dijon, Monza, Hungaroring and Paul Ricard. Under the Peter Auto regulations, the Heritage Cup will feature a practice, qualifying and one hour race at each event, and at Spa will feature an additional night race. The second championship for which this car is eligible is the HSCC Super Touring Car Trophy in class GA4. In 2017, this championship will visit Donington Park, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Spa Francorchamps.
The Rover SD1s launch in 1979 created a big stir in the automotive world thanks to its futuristic styling and advanced engineering. For the first time, young boys lusted after a five-door family saloon. The car is now presented in truly stunning condition having been fully restored, and maintained regardless of cost by specialists BGM Sport and recently fitted with a brand-new, race-ready, dyno’d engine.