The City was a lowly model in the Metro line up and most have long gone but this rare survivor has been lovingly revived and is set to commute on into the future
You have to admire some car manufacturers in their various bids to encourage a sense of corporate aspiration – or, put another way, ensuring that their entry-level models were as miserably equipped as possible. a 1984 austin Metro City is devoid of a passenger door mirror, a rear wiper and a heating element for the back windshield, halogen headlamps, reclining front seats, a second sun visor and – possibly my favourite detail of all – ambercoloured reflectors have replaced the indicator repeaters on the front wings.
at least BL didn't place the steering wheel or fuel gauge on the optional extras’ list but judging by the brochure it's clear that they would have done if presented with the opportunity. you have to a) sympathise with the copywriter reduced to boasting of ‘brake pad wearing warning light’ as a sales feature and b) marvel that as recently as the ‘Eighties it was still possible to buy a car devoid of reversing lamps.
The survival rate of the basic versions of popular models is traditionally limited; these were aimed at fleet buyers rather than private motorists. They were typically used as police panda cars, by public utilities or driven by sales representatives who had fallen foul of management. Thirty-four years ago, a Metro City was the direct rival to the Ford Fiesta Popular, the trim names for each car being rather more tactful than painting the word ‘Cheapskate’ on the side of doors in neon letters. Today, the City is rarer than an MG Metro Turbo and a specification that’s best described as ‘limited’ did not deter andrew Hopkins from acquiring his City in June 2015. “The car had been off the road since 2008 or 2009 and was going to be broken for spares, so I’m glad I stepped in and gave her a new lease of life’.
In terms of overall condition, ‘She wasn’t too bad’, with the Metro needing ‘repairs to make good the work on the inner arches, two new wings, although they weren't too bad, a front valance and, obviously it needed a service’. The austin was trailered to Birmingham and according to andrew the car: “Fired up first time with a new battery and fresh fuel and was back on the road in September 2015. When I bought her the mileage was 25,080, and now it is 27,880 or thereabouts. The City is not my main car, as I’ve other Metros I use for work and shows, but I have still managed to clock over 2500 miles in it”. andrew doesn’t use this car as often as he would like to but this can vary really, as it depends how many shows in a month during the summer that he can get the time off to attend.
attitudes towards the Metro appear to have undergone a sea-change within the last decade – with a generation of classic enthusiasts who are too young to recall the dismal soap-opera that was British Leyland now appreciating them on its own merits. It is also difficult to explain to anyone aged under 45 the sheer weight of expectations placed upon the Mini Metro (as the early models were known) in October of 1980. This was the first new model to hail from the austin Morris division in five years and the Metro was advertised as ‘a British car to beat the world’, with £300 million spent on ‘the most advanced car production methods in the world’.
It is quite noticeable how, in the first half of the decade how there was comparatively little publicity for the Mini, as it was
the new hatchback that BL wished to emphasise. However, details such as the driving position in the Hopkins Metro would have been eminently familiar to anyone trading up from a two-year-old 1000, as would that distinctive transmission whine.
The original base version of the Metro was the ‘Standard’, but in 1982 the City offered ‘electric windscreen washers, carpets and door-operated courtesy lights’ (wow) for £3259, although a rear parcel shelf and mud flaps for the rear wheels were clearly decadent luxuries. The adverts emphasised how, for this very reasonable sum, you too could own one of the most up-to-the-minute vehicles in the UK, for at that time there was a perceived social divide between a sparsely equipped hatchback and various Eastern European imports. Furthermore, the motoring press widely acclaimed the Metro: in 1981 Car magazine stated that it had taken ‘a very big step in widening the acceptability of the small car’ and that it was ‘ compact, lively, very economical, comfortable, roomy and endowed with the attributes of larger cars. The City, just as much as the MG and Vanden Plas which debuted in that same year, helped the Metro to become the best-selling car in Britain by 1983.
unfortunately, the Fiat uno and the Peugeot 205 were launched at the same time, while the introduction of the second generation Fiesta created yet more of a challenge for British Leyland. The autumn of 1984 saw the arrival of the improved Metro MkII but by the mid-‘Eighties the brand was starting to suffer from a lack of
development funds. The owner of a City would have been unlikely to have expected a five-speed gearbox (they would probably have considered themselves fortunate to drive a car fitted with seats), but those who looked at the more expensive versions were starting to demand a more advanced technical specification.
The extensively revamped rover Metro made its bow in 1990 and represented far more than a change of badge, no matter what alan Partridge might think. Today, the surviving examples from its first ten years are now guaranteed to create a stir at virtually any classic gathering you care to mention. When out and about, andrew finds that his City is an ‘absolute delight’, as well as being ‘so different' to his daily driver, which is a top specification version. andrew reckons this Metro holds the road well, is nippy and sprightly – and will keep up with modern traffic. It could even be argued that as this a car almost entirely devoid of distractions, it allows an owner to appreciate the unadulterated spirit of the Metro. Besides, who could resist a car so spartan that it even lacks a second rear fog lamp?
There's no scabby rust stained rear arches and door bottoms on this fine looking Austin Metro City.
The Metro City provided no frills motoring for a generation of motorists who'd learnt to drive in a Mini or an 1100. Houndstooth patterned upholstery like this combined with oddly coloured dashboards were very much in fashion when the Metro was launched in 1980.
a low waistline allows plenty of light into the Metro's reasonably spacious cabin. Basic transport at its best – andrew's Metro gets a lot of attention when its out and about.