PRODUCTION & BEYOND
British Leyland threw everything it had at the launch of the Mini Metro. Extensive press advertising included a TV campaign that tugged at the heart strings of jaded buyers by implying that it was their patriotic duty to buy this most British of small cars. This might sound naïve today, but was stunningly successful at the time because the national zeitgeist still yearned for the survival of an embattled BL. The ‘83mpg Metro’ soon started flooding out of the showrooms, and they were on every street corner within months.
From launch, the range encompassed 1.0- and 1.3-litre A-Plus engines and trims ranged from the stripped-out Base model, to the plush 1.3 HLS. There was a Metro for everyone. Soon, all the smartest people were seen in Metros (including, most famously one Lady Diana), and a cottage industry offering performance and luxury upgrades popped up. The Metro really had warmed Brits’ hearts.
Very soon, it felt like the 1960s heyday of the Mini again, with Wood & Pickett, Tickford, Janspeed, John Cooper Garages and Turbo Technics (among others) offering faster, plusher Metros. You could even buy an opentop Metro, courtesy of Crayford or Rapport. Its success was also a tonic for BL, so used to dealing with kickings from press, unions and government.
BL joined in the action in 1982, adding the MG Metro to the lineup and following it up with the City models, MG Turbo and Vanden Plas. In the background, Austin-Rover Motorsport commissioned F1 team Williams to come up with a rally version – it started out with its V6 engine up front, which works driver, Tony Pond, famously described as being ‘undriveable’.
Williams GPE moved the engine to the rear to solve that problem, creating the MG Metro 6R4 in the process – and the rest is history. It ended up being Group B rallying’s most vocal entrant, entering the sport in 1986 with its normally-aspirated
Much of the construction process was catered for by robots so the Metro boasted a much-improved build quality over previous BL products.