The British Leyland – Austin/Rover Metro
The Austin/rover metro is an iconic vehicle made between 1980 and 1997. The first metro rolled off the line on the 8th of October 1980, this was then introduced to the world as the mini’s big brother and not as a replacement for the mini which many first thought. When BL decided which concept to go with (metro) they expanded the factory to accommodate the production of 100,000 metro’s a year. Doing this forced British Leyland to restrain from new designs for the maestro/mini etc as expanding the factory had took a lot of equity out of the company and in fact they were seen as being in a vulnerable position. In 1980 there was a choice of 5 specs:
MiniMetro 1.0 at £3,095
MiniMetro 1.0L at £3,495
MiniMetro 1.0HLE at £3,695
MiniMetro 1.3 at £3,995
MiniMetro 1.3HLS at £4,296.
Between 1980 and 1997 2,078,218 where sold proving that it was a good move for the rover group.
In 1984 Austin/Rover released the Metro 6R4. This 3.0L V6 16v DOHC Metro could produce more than 410bhp which at the time was astonishing for any naturally aspirated rally car. This then made history for Austin’s metro. Its four-wheel-drive system was permanently engaged and drove separate prop shafts to the front and rear differentials. The rear differential was mounted on the side of the engine sump with one driveshaft running through the sump to the nearside rear wheel.
The 6R4 appeared in two guises. There was a so-called Clubman model which was the road going version which developed in the region of 250 bhp, of which around 200 were made and sold to the public for £40,000 (the homologation version).
A further 20 were taken and built to International specifications which had a recorded output of over 410 bhp. Austin Rover withdrew from the rallying scene at the end of the season, but in 1987 all the parts and engines were sold to Tom Walkinshaw Racing, whereupon the V6 engine reappeared under the bonnet of the Jaguar XJ220, this time with turbochargers added.
The Metro remained one of Britain’s most popular cars throughout its production life, even during its final year when it was among the oldest designs on sale in the country. During its early years the Austin Metro was Britain’s most popular supermini, often outselling the Ford Fiesta. By the time of the Rover Metro’s demise in late 1994, 1,370,000 examples of the two incarnations had been sold in the space of 14 years averaging at nearly 100,000 sales per year.
This popularity endured in spite of the Metro failing to match the durability of its contemporary rivals, notably the Nissan Micra (K10) and VW Polo Mk.2. This is illustrated well by the findings of Auto Express’s 2006 survey which named the Metro as Britain’s seventh most scrapped car. Just 21,468 were still in working order at the time of the survey, approximately 1.5% of all those registered. Nearly seven years on, that figure has inevitably declined further, with the number remaining as of 2013 now likely to be in four figures.
Many Metros (particularly the pre-1990 Austin models) have been scrapped as a result of the body shell’s vulnerability to rust. Also, pre-1989 Metros cannot run on unleaded fuel without expensive conversion of the cylinder head reducing these older cars’ viability as everyday transport, and often resulting in premature scrappage.
The original pre-1990 Metros use the same engine and transmission package as the Mini – hence they have become popular donor cars for Mini restorations and Mini-based kit cars – and as a result thousands of Metros have been broken purely for their engines to keep Minis on the road. Now determined metro owners are fitting all kinds of engines into there pride and joy from the 1.6 k-series up to the 3.9 rover v8 engine. Some have even fit the Audi TT running gear and 1.8 20v turbo onto/into there Metro, the lists are endless. Now they are becoming so fast it is hard to find any modern cars that can keep up with the power of a little metro and is undoubtedly impossible to get the same ‘bang for your buck’.
Keep the Austins, BL’S and Rovers alive!