Returning from a supermarket visit on Sunday I spotted an early Fox Body Mustang, in matt black, wearing big ‘n littles and an enormous, aerodynamically flawed rear deck spoiler. Unfortunately, the rapidly defrosting groceries I had on board denied me a chance to stop, park and shoot, so I completed my journey, disposed of Nicola and the ice cream and returned by bicycle five minutes later. Alas it was already gone, leaving just a dubiously ’80s hair-rock tinged memory. Fortunately, later the same day, while walking to the local Indian restaurant for a £13.95 Sunday Banquet, I struck gold with the heap of magnificence you see before you. It was as if the car had registered my earlier disappointment and turned up just to make my day worthwhile. This car blows my mind. Considering that even fifteen year old cars are routinely thrown away on the basis of worthlessness and fashion, the chances of a 1981 MiniMetro surviving this long in any condition is practically infinitesimal. It’s a 1981 model, that being the first full year of Metro production and pre-dating any of the “more desirable” MG or Vanden Plas variants. This car was born of British Leyland’s absolute desperation to replace the Mini, which of course ended outliving the Metro by a considerable margin. It’s a sad truth that, once the last of these original Metros had depreciated to the bottom of the value curve (after maybe seven or eight years) they became objects of derision. Nobody wanted to own up to driving a Metro. Unless it was an MG, of course. MG Metros, as we know, are for wealthy playboys, connoisseurs and aristocrats. “Ordinary” Metros disappeared from British roads almost overnight; today they seem popular only as a source of parts for Mini restoration projects, so this example deserves our attention, our respect and our very best wishes. My thoughts on “rat look” as a thing have been recorded broadly; I take a dim view on any car being artificially made to appear in a worse condition than it’s actually in for reasons of style and vanity alone. Of course, some cars acquire a natural rat look as time goes by from either neglect or indifference, or in some noble cases the acquisition of battle scars and time-related patina. Generally, if you show me a rat-look 2003 Golf with a roof rack carrying old canoes, packing crates and pineapples I’ll probably show you the door. I put it to you, though, that this Metro transcends rat-look and represents something entirely different. Yes, the matt black paint has been applied with minimal expertise as you might find on so many slavishly defaced Jettas, but the fact that it’s a Metro separates it from the “me too” crowds. And I don’t think it was done for reasons of fashion, anyway. Nevertheless, it is a statement. It says “it’s a car, isn’t it?” A brush-painted 1981 Metro is surely the least saleable motor car on the surface of the planet, and daily-driving one is a statement of total disregard for notions of value or prestige, status or style. A lot of the thick black paint has been applied to conceal rust and repairs, of which there have been many effected to this Metro over the decades; even the rear license plate, a £6 component, is held together with bolts in several places. This car wears its F117 livery for practical reasons, and I just hope that it stays balanced on this survival tightrope for years to come. This is the kind of car that I urge A-List “celebrities” to warm to. If Pharell was to emerge from this Metro, tossing the keys to the valet parking guys outside the Savoy, it be so much more of a statement than any Benz or Ferrari (Photos copyright Hooniverse / Chris Haining, 2014)
V.I.S.I.T: 1981 Austin miniMetro, Stealth Edition
RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.