Rover is a pretty good name for a dog, so it was appropriate that the quality issues that dogged Britain’s Rover would lead it to rebrand as Sterling here in the States. Today’s Nice Price or No Dice 825SL was an offspring of the breed. Let’s see if this handsome survivor’s price will keep it out of the doghouse.
Ford may not be trying to make the Thunderbird happen at the moment, but one would expect the company to bring the nameplate back sometime soon if only to keep it relevant in the consumer mindset. That will probably be some sort of electric flying car, but until then fans of the marque will need to make do with used T-birds like yesterday’s 1987 Turbo Coupe. That car proved clean enough for many, however its $6,500 price tag didn’t clean up at all, falling in a 57 percent No Dice loss.
When it comes to losses, it’s hard to compete with the British motor industry. No car-producing country has had quite the string of automaker failures that Britain has. It’s not like the country didn’t know what was going on, as the closures, consolidations and eventual sell-offs to foreign owners of every major carmaker showed a country in search of a soft landing. Today it seems that the most stable of all British car makers is the Morgan Motor Company, but it only makes about 600 cars per year, a pace unchanged since before the sword was in the stone.
British Leyland should have been so lucky. Once the amalgamation of almost all of Britain’s most famous marques, it’s now…well, gone. The last remaining divisions — Jaguar, Land Rover and MG Rover are all owned by non-British entities and only Land Rover seems to be hanging on with any sort of stability.
It wasn’t for want of trying that the British auto industry collapsed. British Leyland tried to hang on, and even partnered with Honda in an effort to save costs, improve quality and expand sales. Those efforts were necessary to make inroads in the lucrative American market where by the 1970s the British in general and Rover in particular, weren’t making much more than a dent.
The first offspring of the BL/Honda partnership was the Triumph Acclaim, a small saloon based on the Honda Ballade and the very last car ever to carry the Triumph Laurel. The companies followed that up with the Rover 800/Honda Legend, kissing cousin cars that would be sold in America as the Sterling 825 and Acura Legend.
Both models shared the same platform and suspension but featured vastly different bodywork on top of that. Honda stuck with its all-alloy V6 for the Legend, while Rover also offered a four-cylinder choice for fleet sales. The Sterling name was chosen for the U.S. company, as Rover’s reputation for build quality had been tarnished by the previous SD1. That car was shunned not just for its papier-mâché durability but as well for being a V8 hatchback in a market that was increasingly preferring less thirsty cars and those with trunks. Sadly for the Brits, the Sterling also suffered quality issues, and being an unknown brand in the market created additional hurdles to overcome.
You may still see some first-generation Legends on the road today, but the Sterlings are almost all but gone. That’s what makes this 1987 Sterling 825SL such an interesting anomaly. The ad claims that this one-owner car was, for some unknown reason, was squirreled away in 1990. One can imagine a movie in which it is placed in an elementary school time capsule as a character played by Nicholas Cage watches while biting his fist and whispering “the future needs to know...”
Whatever the reasons, this Sterling now has just 26,000 miles under its tires and looks to be in almost-new condition. The two-tone red-over-gray paint looks fabulous and still pairs well with the car’s minimal brightwork and handsome alloy wheels. The 800 was designed before the BL/Honda partnership expanded to the executive class cars so you won’t even see any cost-cutting parts sharing in the body either.
Pop the hood — oops, bonnet — and it’s all Honda’s game. There you’ll find the Japanese company’s C27A SOHC V6. That 2.5 liter was good for 168 horsepower in the Sterling and is matched with a fuss-free four-speed automatic transmission. All Sterlings were FWD-only. The ad doesn’t say whether long-term storage has caused any issues with the mechanicals, but the pics do make it look as though they’ve held up, at least visually.
The interior has done likewise. The first time I saw a Sterling 825 in the wild many years ago, the gray leather upholstery had turned a sickly green, an issue that a number of the cars were suffering. This one has biscuit leather and it all looks to be in fine shape. This being an executive saloon, it has all the power accessories and comforts you might expect of an ’80s car. It even comes with a sheepskin-style dash and steering wheel cover with the Sterling logo, which has got to be the ultimate bit of kitschy kit for any Rover fan. The car offers a clean title and, based on the rear license plate, current registration.
Considering that the supply of Sterlings here in the U.S. is constrained by both attrition and fairly lackluster original sales, you likely would not expect to find many on the market. You are highly unlikely to find any in as nice of shape as this one. That may make its $10,850 asking price a bit more palatable. Let’s find out just how much that might be.
What’s your take on this squirreled-away 825 and that $10,850 asking? Does that seem like a good deal to experience the last Rover car model sold in the U.S., even if it is part Honda? Or, does that price make you think there’s tarnish to this Sterling?
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