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Blunder Buses: Sterling 825

9 months ago

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Richard Bremner | Journalist


13 November 2023

One Saturday evening, a Brit freshly deployed to a new job in Florida drove to Venice Beach for dinner. After soaking up some of the flavour of the place, he stepped back into his new company car and headed through the twilight to his hotel. It was humid, so he switched on the air conditioning. At which point the headlights extinguished.

Austin Rover PR man Denis Chick instantly gained a flavour of the task lying ahead, which was to rescue the fast-failing Sterling brand just two years after its 1987 launch.

Sterling was the brand name Austin Rover gave to its new line of executive cars, co-developed with Honda. Why not call the Rover 800, as we would know it, a Rover? Because a few years earlier the company had attempted to sell its SD1 predecessor in North America. A theoretically appealing package with its simple, well-sorted mechanicals and an ex-GM V8, it was terminally undermined by power-draining emissions gear, poor quality, its utility-flavour hatchback and a legally required four-headlight design that pretty much torched the Ferrari Daytona-like drama of its nose. Less than 1200 found buyers, and Rover lamely withdrew.

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