So far I’ve been studiously ignoring most of the material within The Carchive that dates from anywhere post 1990, ‘cos, you know, that’s too new. But hang on a minute, 1990 was almost a quarter century ago. Seriously, that’s ridiculous. My Father’s ’96 Mondeo V6, if it had survived, would be an eighteen year old car by now. OhEmGee.
So, without totally opening the floodgates, let’s start to allow a few trickles to seep through, starting with that tower of excitement; the second generation Geo Metro.
This brochure was actually picked up while on holiday in FLA, in 1995 and it fascinated me because, well, the Metro was pretty much the least American-seeming out of all the cars on the market. Florida, for me as a 14 year old at the time, was still stuffed full of T-Birds and Crown Vics, Town Cars and Caprices. And it wasn’t just cars of the past, either; there were plenty of intriguingly unfamiliar big cars coming on stream, too. The Aurora, the Intrepid, all glorious and a fantastic contrast from the tedious motoring landscape of ’90s England.
And then there was the Geo Metro, which made me think “Who on Earth would want one of these when everything else is so much more appealing?”
“This sensible idea comes in two sizes- a roomy four-door sedan and a sporty hatchback coupe”
A roomy four-door car. Well, the GM “M” platform was always a well-designed setup, making the best possible use of the real estate it sat on. But I can’t believe for one second that anybody chose a Geo Metro for its roominess compared to, well, bigger cars. And the “Sporty” hatchback coupe? Well, granted the profile, with just two doors, has more in common with the GTI’s of this world than the Sedan does, but aside from the paucity of hinged access methods there is precious little actually sporting about any Geo Metro, unless, say, it had been stripped out and re-engined with a CBR1000RR lump, but you’d want to do that with a ’90, anyway.
That said, it is remarkable how much more appealing the three-door body is over its frumpier sedan sister, providing you went with the LS model to avoid the godawful recessed rectangular headlamps that characterized the base machines.
“The small car with big ideas”
The brochure tries to kid us that this car is the solution to all your transportation needs. The photographs show it in the following situations: Parked outside a pavement cafe with a pear of embarrassingly overdressed young go-getters enjoying an al fresco high tea; being admired by a trendy musician with over-coiffured hair next to a glass curtain wall with a ludicrous display of unlabelled electric guitars, as if in the most pretentious music shop ever; and in the company of a presumed female student moving to college, complete with an overspilling cargo of all those campus essentials running as far as a baseball mitt and ball, Ficus and Victorian birdcage.
Not just big ideas, but all the lifestyle answers to boot.
“A new 1.3 Litre four-cylinder engine gives you power for passing and merging, while the redesigned four-wheel independent suspension provides smooth ride”
It provided a ride smoother than if you were, say, being dragged over a ploughed field in an iron bath. And if you’ve never been in a bigger car before, you might be led to believe it a surprisingly smooth ride when find yourself not bleeding, bruised or concussed at journey’s end . No Cultus-based car ever had the worst ride in the world, but smooth is definitely a comparative term.
As is power. The three cylinder allowed sufficient power to easily get past most bicycles and all but the most determined armadillos, while the 1.3 litre four-cylinder had so much extra power it could lead to dizziness and your eventual insanity. It’s 70hp would ensure effortless overtaking of anything, providing they were going slow enough. Unless you took the three-speed auto choice, which I should imagine would have sapped more or less all the power, switching the optional A/C on would probably send you backwards.
“Automatic Daytime Running Lamps. Geo Metro is among the first cars in the U.S.A. to offer this innovative safety feature.”
Whoa! Now that’s some pretty serious bragging, and it checks out, too. It seems that the only other GM car in ’95 to have auto DRLs was the Chevy Corsica. Now that’s something to truly be proud of. Actually, the Metro spec lists were pretty strangely balanced; you could have A/C but there was no option for power windows. Assisted Steering was firmly on the extras list, but a pair of airbags came as standard. And every model had four speakers. But your rev-counter, your ABS, your cassette or tape player and your rear windshield de-fogger were all optional extras. I suppose you couldn’t expect more from what was obviously intended as basic transportation.
“Obviously, the 1995 Geo Metro is anything but basic transportation”
Oh, right. Of course. Basic transportation would have been, well, being dragged over a ploughed field in an iron bath. Geo Metro, later becoming Chevrolet Metro, was all the car some people ever needed. Truth is, those people considering one of these as a car, new, from a dealership, probably wouldn’t have had much in common with us Hoons. These people didn’t really want a car at all. These people wanted a trouble-free basic, reliable transport solution with as little emotion attached to it as possible, for not a huge amount of money, and in the Metro that’s exactly what they got. This here was an appliance.
And, you know what, that was absolutely fine. The Metro was pretty much the consummate consumer durable tool for going-along-the-road-in and then parking up and forgetting about. I mean, these days a lot of people do exactly the same thing with their bought-on-credit BMWs, which is a shame. The Geo Metro almost insisted that you let it serve as your four-wheeled slave and give it absolutely no credit for anything else; being fun or generally inspiring, or indeed having any kind of image whatsoever. The Geo Metro was An Car.
It’s a rare commodity to find these days, a car that alludes to acheiving absolutely nothing more than simply existing.
(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of General Motors, probably Chevy, who absorbed Geo a few years after this brochure was released. I saw a Geo Tracker randomly in Ipswich, once. It somehow seemed much, much cooler than a Suzuki Vitara despite being identical…)