In the early 1980s, Honda and British Leyland collaborated on car development; BL gaining Honda’s quality of build, while Honda gained exposure in the European and American markets. The first product of the BL-Honda alliance was the Triumph Acclaim, but the companies immediately mapped out a full-size executive car, a needed addition to both model lineups, Honda only offering diminutive cars and Rover’s need for a replacement of the decade-old Rover SD1. Joint development of the car began in 1981 under the “XX” codename; the corresponding Honda version was known as the Honda Legend, and was codenamed as “HX”. The development work was carried out at Rover’s Cowley plant and Honda’s Tochigi development center. Both cars shared the same core structure and floorpan, but they each had their own unique exterior bodywork and interior. Under the agreement, Honda would supply the V6 petrol engine, both automatic and manual transmissions and the chassis design, whilst BL would provide the 4-cylinder petrol engine and much of the electrical systems.
Honda and BL agreed that Legends would also be built in the Cowley plant for the British market. The US-market Legends were built in Japan and branded ‘Sterling’. It was finally launched on 10 July 1986.
The Sterling badge was also used in Europe and most global markets to denote the top saloon luxury version. At the time of the launch, the Sterling provoked controversy as it overlapped in price with the entry level versions of the Jaguar XJ40, which was launched at the same time, and had been developed largely when Jaguar was still part of British Leyland.
The original version of the Rover 800 was one of the most popular cars in Britain’s full-sized executive car market, which at this stage was effectively split into two strong sectors – mainstream brands such as Ford and Vauxhall, and prestige brands such as BMW and Audi.
The Sterling on offer here, sporting the American spec 2.5 liter, Acura-designed engine, hails from a single California family’s ownership and shows an original 27,000 miles from new on the odometer. Purchased new by a gentleman for his wife, the car was used sparingly throughout most of its life, until she passed away and left it to her brother-in-law, who put very few miles on it, until readying it for sale now. 100% original, the car is offered in excellent condition throughout and features all the luxury appointments of the day: 6-way power seats, chrome alloy wheels, ABS, a perfect leather interior, sunroof, and includes all books and manuals with service records, and original window sticker. Service records show a new timing belt, brake overhaul, and a set of new tires.
The car drives flawlessly and is need of nothing for many more years of enjoyment.