Manufacturing more than two million units of a vehicle model over a 17 year lifespan is impressive. Though to put that in context, Ford was rolling as many Model Ts off the production line every year in 1925…
However, the Austin Metro was an undeniable domestic sales success. In the UK, only the Ford Escort was able to better the rate of registrations of British Leyland’s rust-prone runabout. But it’s this last point that is perhaps the main reason why less than 1% of all Metros manufactured are thought to still exist, and why it’s so hard to find an example today in a respectable condition. Nevertheless, after a thorough delve into the classifieds, we appear to have a winner.
This 1991 Metro Clubman L Automatic is almost certainly the youngest and most highly specified first generation Metro anywhere in the UK. In today’s money, it’s £7,895 invoice would be north of £14,000.
That’s more than the starting point for a brand new Audi A1.
Let’s take a look at the specifics. This car has less than 17,000 miles on the odometer; a figure backed up by every previous MOT certificate, which the current owner naturally has to-hand because it’s been in their family from new. This fact also means that the full set of original tools and driver’s handbooks are also present.
And what of the performance?
60bhp from a 1.3-litre engine may sound lethargic, but it’s worth remembering that this car weighs less than a Lotus Elise. However, ride and handling on the first generation cars are on the opposite end of the spectrum to Hethel’s finest. The heavy, four-speed automatic gearbox around the front axle of this Clubman, coupled with a Hydragas suspension set-up that should have been interconnected from the front to rear – but for which British Leyland wasn’t willing to pay – is no recipe for dynamic prowess. A certain Mr Willson suggested that it had “all the performance and agility of the Albert Memorial.”
Cue the second generation.
The exasperated inventor of Hydragas, Alex Moulton, finally saw his creation deployed in the manner intended [read Keith Adam’s excellent history of the Rover Metro for more]. Front-rear connection made a dramatic improvement, along with new engines, a new face and a pricey television advert directed by Ridley Scott.
In fact, the progress was so significant that What Car?‘s review of the new car stated, “In its chassis dynamics – ride and handling – it takes on the acknowledged masters of the art, the French, and beats them.”
Unfortunately, the new Metro’s dynamic reputation did perhaps encourage the most abhorrent attempt at a replica that I’ve ever seen.
Behold, the 1.4-litre ‘Audi TT’.
The vendor suggests that it, “only need a rollcage, harnesses and painted”. Assuming that work can be done in time, I would then suggest that it is delivered somewhere very hot on November the Fifth. The advertising below the description is hugely appropriate.
The most expensive
If that last paragraph has left you feeling a bit deflated, fear not. As you well know, not all modifications to the Metro have been so unsuccessful. In 1985, the Austin Rover Group unveiled the MG 6R4, designed to mix it with RS200s and 205 T16s in Group B. Despite not being hugely successful, the 6R4 is no less a cult car than its Group B peers, and is equally sought after.
It’s rare that there’s never at least one 6R4 on the market somewhere around the world, but the classified I’ve stumbled across is a bit different.
Not one, not two, but three 6R4s. And one of them was owned by Colin McRae. Ian Rowlance is also including a two-car transporter, half a million pounds worth of spare parts, and the trademark and URL for 6R4.com within the sale. So, if you happen to have £500,000 burning a hole in your pocket, now you know where to look.
While we’re on the subject of Metro 6R4s and Colin McRae, the YouTube clip below simply must be watched. I’d recommend seeing it from start to finish, but if you’re short on time skip to 04:20 and stay tuned…