The V8-Powered Rover Vitesse Roars Louder Than a Hellcat

Rover SD1 race car 1 photo
Photo: Belgian-Motorsport/YouTube
Britain is home to some of the greatest automakers, from lightweight manufacturers like Lotus and Caterham to luxury auto giants like Rolls-Royce and Bentley. But Britain is also the country that gave us the Rover Vitesse, the fastback that won the European Car of the Year title in 1977.
Despite earning the coveted award, the Rover Vitesse, also known as the SD1, isn't exactly famous outside Britain. That's mostly because Rover, much like Triumph, Jensen, and Austin, went extinct decades ago, and many of their vehicles weren't memorable. But the SD1 is, at least to me, an exception that deserves a lot more attention.

This five-door, RWD fastback was more than just an executive car designed to top Rover's lineup in 1976. It was developed by the brand's performance division (SD stands for Specialist Division), and while many examples were fitted with mundane inline-four and inline-six engines, Rover also offered a 3.5-liter V8. This engine, by the way, remained in production in Land Rover models until 2003.

The Rover Vitesse itself was offered from 1976 to 1986 while Rover was owned by British Leyland.

The V8-powered Vitesse produced up to 190 horsepower, but that's not the car I want to talk about here. Rover also designed a race-spec motor for Group A racing. Thanks to revised aero and a beefed-up V8 good for up to 340 horsepower, the race-spec SD1 won both the British Touring Car Championship (1984) and the German DTM championship (1986), defeating the greatest Mercedes-Benz and BMW models of the era.

The Rover Vitesse also the RAC Tourist Trophy, an important event in the 1980s, and came close to winning the European Touring Car Championship in 1985 and 1986. More importantly, its V8 engine is ridiculously loud, to the point where it can outgun modern muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Find out for yourselves in this four-minute video of Rover Vitesse fastbacks racing at Spa, Nürburgring, and Goodwood.

If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea profile photo

Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories