The famous Cowley Plant is 100 years young this year, and during those years it’s produced some great diesel cars. Here we pick our top five Oxford-built oil burners.
Rover 2400SD Turbo
When it comes to the SD1, most people will immediately think of the big, lusty V8. However the sharply-styled SD1 also had a diesel-powered variant.
The engine, a 2.4 litre turbo diesel, was built by Italian firm VM Motori, before being married up with its English body at Cowley.
The 2400SD Turbo was amongst the first of the truly modern diesels, and while the engine block was cast iron, the cylinder heads were aluminium, and was capable of over 100mph at full tilt.
While relatively unknown in the UK, the diesel-powered SD1 proved popular in mainland Europe and underlined the value of a diesel model to BL’s management.
The Montego 2.0DL and DSL Turbo saloon and estate was launched in 1988 powered by a Perkins 2.0 turbo diesel engine.
With the estate’s optional seven-seat layout and roof bars, the Montego proved the ideal companion for many a family. While it lacked refinement, it more than made up for it with its lack of thirst.
The Perkins unit developed a reputation for its ability to cope with astronomical mileages – 100,000, 200,000 and even 300,000 miles weren’t uncommon for the Monte.
Its mileage-munching ability meant that in most cases the Montego’s fragile frame succumbed to the evils of rot and rust long before the engine gave up the ghost.
The Rover 75 was the last great hope for Rover, the one and only model truly co-developed with (then) parent company BMW.
Though production moved to Longbridge in 2000, those first 75 diesels were 100 per cent Oxford-built cars.
BMW’s management felt that the best diesel power option for the car was its own 2.0 litre diesel to be installed under the Rover’s bonnet.
The BMW lump’s reputation for reliability and quality means that even today 75 diesels are worth considerably more than their petrol-powered equivalents.
As the last Rover to be built at Cowley and the last diesel-powered car to carry the Viking badge it deserves a place in our top five.
MINI One D
The original Mini never boasted a diesel variant and it took the new MINI almost two years to sup from the black pump.
Demand from European buyers meant that in June 2003, a diesel MINI was trundling down the production line and on sale in the UK.
When it arrived, those first MINI diesels borrowed a 1.4-litre Toyota unit more commonly found in the Corolla and Yaris.
It wasn’t particularly powerful, originally producing 74bhp and 133lb ft of torque, but a later power hike meant that the MINI One D developed 87bhp and 140lb ft of torque.
As the first diesel powered MINI it was an important milestone for the marque and opened up the model to an entirely new market.
MINI Cooper SD
The new millennium saw rapid development of diesel engines with performance diesels becoming increasingly popular as the decade wore on.
Not wanting to be left out, the Cooper S finally got a true diesel performance model in 2011 when the MINI Cooper SD arrived.
This time the engine was one of BMW’s own, coming from the 118d. With 141bhp and 225lb ft of torque, it more than deserved the fabled Cooper S badging that only the hottest Minis had worn since 1963.
The SD is still capable of delivering the MINI’s pin-sharp handling and grin-inducing ride, all while returning a healthy 65mpg.