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47 years of the SD1
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A Personal Perspective
by Gareth Hopkins
The morning of the SD1 Grand Tour, organised to celebrate 30 years of the SD1 model, was sunny and warm. It was soon to get even hotter but that wasn’t going to spoil our day.

Bob (my car) and I arrived about 30 minutes before the start and I’d brought my dad along too. He was going to be my co-pilot for the day. About 15 SD1s lined up in the visitor’s car park just outside the Land Rover plant at Solihull as Dave Puzey made swift work of registration.
Even “Club Shop” Fairley was doing some brisk sales in our limited edition anniversary prints. “Camping” Lee was busy on the camcorder recording the day for posterity.
At 10.31am precisely, and to the accompaniment of a V8 roar and air horns blasting away Bob, dad and I set off for Cowley. As we picked our way through the light Sunday morning traffic we realised, within a mile of departing, that we were lost. But that didn’t matter, it wasn’t a race. We arrived, by accident rather than design, at Catherine De Barnes and with the help of some locals enjoying a stroll and were soon back on track.
Within 5 miles, we were lost again. Too busy admiring the countryside and discussing the merits of comfy seats, an SD1, a V8 burble and glorious sunshine, we’d missed the railway bridge at Hampton In Arden. We’d travelled some distance before nothing was making sense in our directions booklet. We backtracked once more, found the junction where we should have hung a right and buried the throttle. As we raced into Warwickshire and past Hatton Country World, I realised that we hadn’t enough Autogas to get us to Cowley. We pulled into a garage forecourt and whilst dad put some of that wet fuel into Bob, I rang Dave Puzey for a sit-rep.
Unfortunately, we’d already lost a car. A local member had just acquired an MoT the day before the Grand Tour for his SD1 that had been laid up for some time. Perhaps it was the heat or some other fault, but he’d had to retire early on. I also learnt that we were definitely “tail end Charlie” and that even Dave (who’d departed last some thirty minutes after us) had gotten ahead of us.

As we approached the M40, dad and I considered “cheating” in order to catch up with the others. However, as we’d now mastered the directions and our navigation hats were definitely “on”, we decided to stick with it. And I’m really pleased that we did. As we past Banbury mixing A roads with minor roads and country lanes, it was a real joy to appreciate the English countryside in early summer. My dad, who works abroad and in the desert, was overdosing on the green fields, empty tree-lined roads and spotting other classic cars.
Soon, we were approaching the northern end of Oxford and I was feeling overly confident. This was, after all, my own stomping ground. Oh dear. Ahead of us lay the A40 and a massive tailback. This, it transpired, was partly caused by our own “Club Shop” Fairley who’d decided the best place to have a breakdown was in a single lane of traffic caused by road works. His series 1 V8 was having fuel starvation problems and neither he nor his car were the most popular things in Oxford that day. It was roasting hot stuck in the traffic but Bob didn’t boil and within 20 minutes we were free of congestion and roared onto the Oxford ring road.
The old Morris/BMC/Austin-Rover works in Cowley is where the new Mini is put together. It’s also where the series 2 SD1 models were knocked together from 1982. As we passed the factory on the slip road leading to our lunch destination, I tooted a broadside salute with the air horns. Over lunch, dad and I discussed our misadventure with Dave whilst Bob allowed his coolant to cool.

Several large drinks later, my own coolant had cooled down too and I was ready for the drive from Oxford to the Cotswolds Water Park via Abingdon and Swindon.
There were many surprised faces in the beer gardens of Abingdon as seven SD1 motors burbled past them in convoy. As we headed out onto the A420, we caught up with a further group of SD1s and motored into Swindon. Unfortunately, the directions here were beyond even Lee and so we made a decision to head directly for the Cotswolds.

So it was that several SD1 cars made up another convoy up the A419 heading towards Cricklade.

On arrival at the water park it soon became apparent that a thunderstorm was brewing. It was very hot and very muggy but our spirits were high. After a couple more cold drinks and some more banter, the cars began to depart and make their merry way home. Having taken note of the gravel in the car park, Bob allowed himself a long power slide exit out of the park as a final salute to the SD1 anniversary.

Thanks are due again to Dave Puzey. Not even the hottest July on record could ruin this brilliant day out.
These great photographs are courtesy of Adrian Cowlin.
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