Rover Vitesse series 2


October 1982, Rover launched a new high performance SD1 onto the market, the Rover Vitesse. It was a result of the succesfull Rover SD1 racing programme, that extended Rovers sporting image.

Rover originally wanted to call the new SD1 car, the Rover Rapide. But Aston Martin Lagonda held the rights for that name and refused Rover to use it on their V8 engine cars. Rover decided for the name "Vitesse", taken the name from the Triump Vitesse from the past. Vitesse in French is "speed" in English, and the 8 cylinder high power car lived up to its name.


The very first idea of the Vitesse came from marketing man David Clarke, who had a V8 egined car built which could produce 200 BHP. It was a very effective car in racing, with two choke Weber carburetors, lowered suspension and Minilite wheels and racing green colour. The car was showed to the management, Harold Musgrove as managing director at the time borrowed the car and became totaly hooked on it. The 200 BHP SD1 was a "must come", but it needed more refinment as this particular version. The Australian injection system supplied on these models was the way to improve the performance of the car.

John Davenport, head of the competitions department, approached management with the request to produce a high performance, fuel injection version of the car which would be homologated for racing for the 1983 season. His idea was granted as all would believe that this model would increase sales of all SD1 cars, and so it did. John Devenport invested a great deal of time into the development and engineering of the new model, including the design of the plenum chamber.

The Rover Vitesse was certainly a mean looking beast with its big, black polyurethane foam rear spoiler, 15 inch spoked alloy wheels and flat Pirelli low profile tires and badged Vitesse also along the sides of the doors. It could not be mistaken, or changed this was the Vitesse series of the SD1.

The heart of the car was a fuel injected V8 engine, developed 190 bhp, and claimed from 0-60 in 7.1 seconds, and that was faster than any production saloon on the UK market back than.

To cope with all the power, Vitesse had some improvements, it had 10.15 inch diameter ventilated front disc brakes with four piston AP callipers, which had been developed for the Metropolitain Police and used on the racing cars. The car sat 1 inch lower than the other SD1 cars, it used modified suspension springs and damper rates were increased by 20% in the MacPherson strut front suspension. Variable rate coil springs were used with Boge self levelling nivomat damper units which had been uprated and re-calibrated on the torque tube live axle and trailing link rear suspension. The Watts-linkage improved lateral location of the axle and enhanced stability at high speeds, while solid rubber bushes were used all over.

The injection system from Lucas fitted to the Australian market V8 Rovers was uprated and used for emission reasons. In the Vitesse form it was much more powerfull with new air-flow meter and electronical control unit, a different distributor advance and retard charasteristics were required to adapt the "L" system from the low compression 15 bhp specs to the high compression Vitesse engine.

The compression was 9.75:1 and used improved gas flow from reshaped valves with modified stems. The cooling system was uprated to stand up to additional stresses on the engine, and also the gearbox was strengthened by having shot-peened gears and stronger bearings to cope with the increased torque. The only thing that was not changed was the camshaft.

The Vitesse was very well specified at a cost of 14,950 UK pound on its introduction. Metallic or black paint were no cost options, early cars appear in three colours only, Monza Red, Silver leaf, and Moonraker Blue. Reason for this was that they could use the same interior colour (grey) to keep the production costs down. Seats also were different from the standard SD1. At first Graham Lewis used Recaro seats and retrimmed them, later the production car seats were totally redesigned.

Inside the car was trimmed with straight gain walnut panels on the instrument facia and door fillets. Standard equipment included trip computer, digital clock, stereo radio/cassette player with four speakers, electrical aerial, sliding steel sunroof, electrically operated, bronze tinted windows and central locking. Options to the Vitesse were an electric sun-roof and airconditioning.