Friday, September 4, 2009

San Francisco Street Sighting: 1987 Sterling 825 SL

What looks like a Japanese car, runs like a Japanese car, but feels like a British car and rusts and breaks like a British car? Well, if you live in the US, chances are the car is a Sterling. Europe knows this car as the Rover 800, a car which, under the skin, is basically an Acura Legend. The engineering was done by Honda, with the platform and powertrain built to last. Everything else was done by Austin Rover, a fact which pretty much doomed the Sterling.

Being a British luxury car, the Sterling 825 could be expected to look and feel like traditional British luxury. The interior was trimmed with nice materials and the exterior was clean and, for its time, modern looking. Austin Rover was a leftover from the ill-fated British Leyland conglomerate which produced cars for Europe that had such shudderingly poor build quality that they all but destroyed the reputation of Britain's auto industry. The Sterling was not much different, but for the fact that the Honda-based platform would keep going even when the rest of the car did not. As a consequence, the Acura Legend gained a reputation for high quality while the Sterling hit bottom.

In the US, the Sterling 825 and its larger-engined sibling, the 827, were sold between 1987 and 1992 (the 827 was introduced in 1988 and featured a 2.7 liter Honda V6 instead of the 825's 2.5L V6). Rover imported the Sterling until problems with build quality, rust and even the pound-to-dollar exchange rate forced Rover to pull out of the US market.
This car is a 1987 Sterling 825 SL, a first-year model. The SL came standard with power Connolly leather seats, ABS brakes and two-tone paint. It has faired relatively well over the years and appears to be in good condition. Luckily for its owners, the Sterling's mechanical parts are Honda items, so it can be serviced almost anywhere. As long as they protect the body and interior from San Francisco's salty climate, this Sterling should be sterling for a long time to come.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that a lot of what is written about this car and Rovers in general is pretty much utter shit I'm sorry to say.

    Yes, some Rovers were generally poorly built/engineered, but no more or less than any other car. American cars aren't generally known for thier reliability and the joke that Chevrolet had basically badge engineered a load of poorly built Korean cars amd sold them in Europe.

    The Rover 800 Sterling was not solely engineered by Honda. The Honda engines were designed and financed by both Rover and Honda. No way would Honda have let Rover piggy back thier own cars, Rover had to play half the game otherwise thier was no partnership which is something that a lot of opiniated pretend 'car gurus' don't fully understand and hence trotting off the old line of the Rover 800 being nothing more than a 'warmed over Honda' (oh, sorry "Acura" as you lot like to call it)

    Don't get me wrong here, Rovers were fairly poor cars and had been on a downward spiral for many years, but then, I've had a lot of cars, BMW/Mercedes/Audi/Honda that were just as rusty and unreliable as a Rover was. I'd had 2 Honda Legends that spat out thier engines and that wasn't by chance, Honda had very fragile coolant system set ups so Head Gasket Failures in early to mid 90s Hondas were common.