PRO­DUC­TION & BE­YOND

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THE METRO AT 40 -

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

IMAGE Cour­tesy of the Bri­tish Mo­tor In­dus­try Her­itage Trust.

Much of the con­struc­tion process was catered for by ro­bots so the Metro boasted a much-im­proved build qual­ity over pre­vi­ous BL prod­ucts.

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