Great to drive and with hatch­back prac­ti­cal­ity, up­grad­ing the Metro is easy, cheap – and fun

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics -

Head to the Bri­tish Mo­tor Mu­seum this Sunday (4 June) and you’ll find plenty of these pint-sized clas­sics at the National Metro and Mini Show – and you’ll find that own­ers use all of sorts of clever tricks to make the 1980s hatch­back bet­ter than ever.

It helps that the Metro shares its en­gine and gear­box with the Mini, so there are vir­tu­ally lim­it­less up­grades. Most are in­ex­pen­sive and within the grasp of the DIY-er.

Many of the up­grades men­tioned in our Mini guide ( CCW, 1 March) apply here too. Over and above that, the stan­dard MG Metro air­box is bet­ter than the Austin al­ter­na­tive and has a bet­ter cold air feed tube as stan­dard. The MG’s camshaft is also ideal if you’re build­ing a fast road car, but why not just fit an MG en­gine?

This 73bhp unit is a straight swap for the stan­dard 63bhp 1.3-litre in the Austin Metro while the 1.0-litre pow­er­plant is rated at just 42bhp or 48bhp, de­pend­ing on com­pres­sion ra­tio. What­ever you fit, a re­worked cylin­der head is key to bet­ter breath­ing and a wa­ter-to-oil heat ex­changer from a later Metro will re­duce en­gine bay tem­per­a­tures.

Get­ting the Hy­dra­gas sus­pen­sion dis­plac­ers re­fur­bished will prob­a­bly pay div­i­dends. Also, the two rear spheres are linked via a pipe – fit­ting a valve to each one and re­mov­ing the pipe firms up the ride.

A thicker front anti-roll bar from a 1985-on car re­duces roll, as does a rear anti-roll bar from a Metro Turbo or Metro GTi MkIII. Fabri­cat­ing a rear brace will also re­sult in a no­tice­able dif­fer­ence in the corners. Cam­ber isn’t eas­ily achieved with the stock sus­pen­sion but a pop­u­lar mod is to shorten the sus­pen­sion rods to lower and stiffen things up.

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