It’s Monday, and time to wearily embrace Part Ten (already?!) of the series that The Man never wanted you to read.
Last week I went all teary-eyed and nostalgic for one of the high-notes in the history of the British car industry, with the Rover SD1. Today we’re going to the opposite end of the early ’80s Austin Rover spectrum with a pair of offerings from the Metro stable.
Yes, Mr Harrell, Step up and collect your keys. The ’82 MG Metro is here.
“Your best friend will hate you”.
Well, maybe Mike can confirm whether this is true; I can certainly imagine that said friend might deem you eccentric, possibly insane for choosing a Metro today. That said, back in ’82 the Metro, which had only recently shed its “mini” prefix, could still arouse envy from those who drove older, less ’80s machinery.
“The already excellent aero-dynamic shape is made even more slippery by the addition of a tailgate mounted spoiler. The drag coefficient is 0.39”.
To be fair to Austin, a coefficient like that is more aerodynamic than some houses, although some of Frank Lloyd Wrights creations may have run it close. A small car isn’t an easy thing to make slip through the air, and we ought to applaud the boys for at least making the effort.
“Another benefit of the spoiler is that it improves yaw (crosswind) stability”
This was an entirely new phenomenon; a British car company mentioning words like yaw. Especially Austin who, bear in mind, in ’82 were still producing the last of the Allegros.
Oh yes, MG purists were crying into their warm beer over the concept of their beloved Red Octagon being reduced to what essentially amounted to a trim level on a shopping-car. But the simple fact was that, in terms of appeal as a drivers car, the Metro was a mile beyond what the MGB offered. And it had red seat belts.
Red seat belts were important.
Of course, one didn’t have to be of a sporting bent to enjoy the Metro. If Sir happened to be landed gentry, or simply enjoy he finer things in life, perhaps he would feel more comfortable in the Vanden-Plas edition?
Sold as the Luxury Metro, the VP:
“…is dedicated to the belief that a cars is as much a means of expression as a means of transport”.
On the outside the (initially three-door only) Liliputian luxury limo was embellished by such niceties as:
“Initialled wheels and a chrome grille surround”
Soon, the Vanden-Plas would gain the same uprated 72hp version of the venerable 1275cc A-Series engine as the MG boasted, but only in cars specified with the manual gearbox. The roster of standard-fit equipment would also grow to impressive lengths, with full leather trim, electric windows and other gewgaws piling up.
But whether you wanted race-track appeal or limousine luxury (both of these are wild exaggerations), both models were keen to point out their common advantages.
“….The (MG or Vanden-Plas) takes full advantage of the ingenious shape that allows the Metro enormous interior space within compact exterior dimensions”
Sit a Metro directly next to a Fiesta or Renault 5 of the era, and it’s difficult to see where this ingenuity is hiding. But somehow it is indeed more spacious inside than pretty much all of the competition. Alas, along with fundamental design basics like the A-Series engines and subframes that were very much developments of those found in the Mini, the most peculiar of all Issigonis’s design decisions survived right until the demise of the Metro in ’99; that 45degree steering wheel angle. At least it ensured that retired bus drivers felt immediately at home.
I’ve never owned a Metro, but by best mate did (bought in a pub for £5 and never legally registered to him). The vast majority of survivors these days find themselves cannibalised for the engines and subframes to use them in Mini “restomod” projects. It’s a shame as they featured on our motoring landscape for ages. But hey, that’s progress…. and At Least I Own The Brochure.
<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author on his bathroom floor and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who would probably be trying to sell it for thousands of pounds too much if they were still around today>