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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Matchbox Sterling Rover

One of my current quests to add to my collection is looking for Matchbox cars of the 1980's and early 1990's.  I was a little kid at that time so I did not know much or was fully into collecting, and also I remembered some cars that I still wish I'd kept and now on a search for them.  It's getting to be a challenge as the cars are getting older and disappearing left and right, and I always find myself looking at the mixed assortment of beater cars to find one (that's how I found a pristine Matchbox Ford Sierra that I profiled a few years ago).  The latest is the Sterling Rover and what makes this car unique.

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The Rover brand was a British automaker looking for a replacement for their SD1 series, while at the same time Honda was looking to expand into the luxury car market with Acura and needed a large sedan to make up for the brand.  The two manage to collaborate, share technologies, and create the model they need: for Acura it was the Legend; for Rover it was the 800 series, or Sterling in the U.S.  Both cars had unique styling with Rover supplying the electrical equipment for their Sterling and Honda providing the engineering and engine.  This car has four-wheel independent suspension and front-wheel drive power by a Honda-sourced 2.6L SOHC V6 that produced 177 hp. through a 5-speed manual.  The interior was spacious and ergonomically-designed, yet despite the advantages the poor build quality and awkward dealer arrangement meant the demise of the Sterling brand in the U.S. in 1991.

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On the other hand the build quality of this Matchbox version is in great condition, and while most are metallic red with lower silver trim, this one is a Rest-of-World-only silver with lower metallic blue and Rover Sterling on the sides.  Neat.  The front is a weak point as the chisled front-end with flush headlights and lower grille is barely noticeable.  A typical trait of Matchbox cars back then is the door trim line that is sandwiched between the metal body and base.  The sides show off a typical 4-door sedan arrangement with a C-pillar that extends towards the trunk.  The rear has more character with defroster lines on the rear window, separate taillight and plate bar in red, and exhaust tips that are visible below the bumper.  The base shows off the drivetrain, exhaust, and suspension components, while the 8-dot wheels always looks best here.  Also note that this car has a working suspension, but when the wheels don't have enough travel and rub against the body it's hard to get a full workout of the suspension.  The interior is right-hand drive with a sunroof, seating for two with auto retractable shoulder belts, 4-spoke steering wheel with Honda-like gauges, HVAC controls next to the gauges, radio just below and ahead of the shifter.  The rear seat is roomy, and visibility is very good for this sedan.

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While it was not a very popular model, nor a successful car in real life, this Rover Sterling just has a charm of its own.

Update:  Here's the Sterling Rover in red.  This was sent to me by mistake after winning an auction for another Matchbox.  The correct car was sent afterwards and I got to keep this one.

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