Essay : Metro – its time has come… (or 1980s and ’90s classics on the rise)

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

FOR those of us of a certain age, it’s pretty astonishing to see the prices that some cars have been achieving of late. On the one hand, it’s proof that an element of economic certainty has returned to the UK, or that savings interest rates are so low we’re finding somewhere else to stash our money, but on the other hand it’s kind of incredible to see cars that changed hands just four or five years ago for a few hundred quid suddenly heading up into the mid-thousands in terms of value.

We said it'd happen - and now the humble Metro's time has come...
We said it’d happen – and now the humble Metro’s time has come…

The humble Austin Metro, for example, has become something of a cult car. For most fans of this site, that’s great news. We love our Metros, and it’s good to see that they’re finally making some headway in classic car circles. On a personal level, I still rue the day in 2001 when I didn’t snap up a 21,000 mile Metro L in Cinnabar Red at my local auction for £165 and stick it in my garage for a bit. But I digress. I do have a G-plate Clubman sitting on ice, after all.

Last weekend, at the wonderfully inclusive Anglia Car Auctions (where a Rover 820e is as welcome as an Aston Martin, and may well draw in more punters), two lovely old Metros sold for good money. A Snapdragon Yellow Metro 1.3S, previously recorded as a write off, went for £2,940, while a later C-registered MG Metro achieved an astonishing £4,095.

Anglia Car Auctions' MG Metro achieved £4,095
Anglia Car Auctions’ MG Metro achieved £4,095

There’s a very strong argument that these cars were worth every penny. Low mileage, great provenance, very well presented and extremely rare. But at the same time, they’re Metros. And to me, much as I love ’em, they’re still £500 runabouts. Time, then, to take a deep breath and refocus.

That, in itself, is hard. A few years back, I bought a solid and presentable Ford Fiesta XR2 for the princely sum of £475. At ACA last week, a near identical car achieved a mind-blowing £9,240 (which was still less than half the price achieved by a Mk3 Capri 3.0S). Are good cars of this era now really worth that much?

Tidy Fiesta XR2 - but was it really worth £9,250? Clearly, yes
Tidy Fiesta XR2 – but was it really worth £9,250? Clearly, yes

The answer, of course, is yes. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t go for this kind of money – the beauty of an auction is that the price sets itself. But it’s come as something of a shock to me, as for years, these are the kind of cars I’ve been snaffling up for peanuts.

Even the unloved are suddenly finding their feet. Three years ago, a tidy Rover 800 was £300. Today, you need four figures to get a nice one – and, although we’re not talking telephone numbers here, that’s a big shift from where they were back then. Recently, I’ve seen a Maestro van go for over £2,000, a bidding war break out on a Montego estate and four grand change hands for a Lada Riva. Meanwhile, two of my neighbours have expressed an interest in my recently acquired 31k R8 Rover 214 Si, and I think one of them is absolutely genuine in his ‘if ever you sell it, I’d love to own that’ platitudes. More of that car later, though, as once I’ve given it ‘the works’, I’ll show it off properly.

A sneak preview of the Editor's 'new' 214 - rescued from the breakers...
A sneak preview of the Editor’s ‘new’ 214 – rescued from the breakers…

Back on the Metro bandwagon, the Metro Turbo we featured here a couple of weeks back went for £3,000 in the end, via eBay, and with no MoT, while recent searches have shown me that you can’t get a half-decent Rover 100, even, unless you’re prepared to pay £1,000.

Rover 100 - currently on eBay for a grand - and probably worth it given current pricing trends
Rover 100 – currently on eBay for a grand – and probably worth it given current pricing trends

Nostalgia, then is shifting. And shifting at quite a rate. People in their 30s and 40s (myself included) are now at an age where they’re financially independent, and want to treat themselves to something they crave or remember from their youth.

The difference is, back in the Seventies, our fathers and grandfathers used to look after and maintain their cars. They were expensive items that were a) easy to maintain and b) worth maintaining. In the past 20 years, though, we’ve ceased to really give a hoot about our wheels. Easy finance, lease deals and a need to own ‘new, new, new’ have made a car a commodity in much the same way as a domestic appliance, and we simply don’t show them the same kind of love that we used to.

That disposable society, plus increased technological complexity, has made us cast aside many cars well before their best before date (and the Scrappage Scheme hardly helped, either), meaning this whole conundrum comes down to one thing and one thing alone – supply and demand, and the fact that the latter suddenly (and notably) outstrips the former.

Ironically, then, one of the cheapest Rovers that money can buy at the moment is probably one of the best. Get a cheap 75 now, while you still can. I’m looking…

Rover 75 1.8 Connoisseur
Cheap 75s won’t be around forever… Now’s the time to buy

 

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

51 Comments

  1. Amazing how the once maligned (Lada Riva for example)now have a certain kudos and therefore are becoming collectable. Even the lowly Trabant now makes silly money compare to when the Berlin Wall fell!

    One thing is certain, scarcity also brings exclusivity and people like to have things other people desire, especially if the price is right to quote an old tv show.

  2. I’ve run old rovers and Austins for the past 20 years this is bad news for me.

    I do look at some rovers and think “lovely I’ll have that” and then I think do I really want to take this and run it as banger for a year and then move it on. I do about 30k per annum and diesel 45 or Montegos are ideal for that. Currently running a 25 1.4 picked up for under £500. (the boy has to drive it so the diesel is too big). I don’t want to do that to Tomcat or 800 coupe I’d feel guilty. I need a car and not a toy. This is them disappearing over my finacial horizon just like the 3500, P6, the sta, Dolomite sprint, even Austin 1800 and Maxi.

    • “This is them disappearing over my finacial horizon just like the 3500, P6, the stag, Dolomite sprint, even Austin 1800 and Maxi.”

      That’s just the march of time. Bangers turn into classics, when enough of them have been killed off by rust or oval track racing. If all you want is cheap transport, then move on from Rovers and embrace the next generation of cheap and unfashionable cars i.e. pretty much anything small and Japanese from the mid 2000s.

  3. At £9,250 That XR2 must be worth more than it was new, then.

    I recall a feature on Top Gear where they bought an Austin Princess for £1 about 15 years ago. It would be worth 3 figures in scrap value alone now..

    • “At £9,250 That XR2 must be worth more than it was new”

      The sign of a good classic. Some cars achieve this distinction earlier than others!

  4. “The answer, of course, is yes. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t go for this kind of money – the beauty of an auction is that the price sets itself.”

    I agree to that, but only up to a point. Here’s a little nugget that appeared in Classic & Sports Car. Talbot Lotus Sunbeam (198O), nice quick little car, found in Italy, with 193 miles (!?) on the clock, in mint condition. Auction top estimate £28,000; went for – wait for it – £50,625 !

  5. The Metro deserves to be a classic. It was the car that saved British Leyland in the early eighties and went on to sell over a million in its 14 year lifespan. Also its low running costs, simple mechanics and reasonable reliability, plus the fact it will never sell for silly money due to its unhip image, makes one a practical classic. However, £ 50,000 for a Lotus Sunbeam, a car whose rarity and very high running costs make it a huge gamble, is ridiculous. Wonder if its even rarer siblings like the Horizon and Alpine will be going for this amount soon as there’s only about 20 left.

  6. I think anything rare becomes valuable, especially if it was once common. Metros were ten a penny 10/15 years ago. Now there’s only a few hundred left. Same with Montegos, Maestros, 80s Escorts and Fiestas… So many people had them back in the day, they also hold more memories.

  7. Many of the best condition cars in this auction came from an 18 car private collection, including the 1.3s & MG Metro, the best of the Capri’s, the XR2 and some of the Triumphs.
    As an avid viewer of the Car & Classic website I have seen some of these cars for sale previously, probably selling to the “collector” My recollection is that the price he paid was much lower than realised at this auction. Making them very astute at spotting rising classics. The Capri in particular is now a very sought after motor.
    Where should the smart money go for the next banger to valuable classic? My money is on low mileage cosseted MGF/TF.

  8. I think the Rover Group cars to seek out now, whilst values are low, are the Rover 75 & also the MGF/TF.
    After all, the MGF celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

  9. Same thing has been happening with non-AR cars from the period such as normal 205s thanks to a bit of a halo from the few remaining decent GTIs, as indeed it once was when new.

    Run a couple of 205s in my time and they’re great motors, especially the diesel. The cabin is very AR/Rover in that it’s light and airy.

    Once the ‘stock’ of Metros, Maestros, Montegos et al start getting snapped up, then plenty of other 80s/early 90s fare will be next.

    Decent 100s, 25s, 45s and 75s will be well worth tucking away in a nice warm lock-up – more so than now.

  10. nearly 10 grand for a 32 year old XR2 is unbelievable I would have thought, unless it had some historical significance.

  11. I wonder if the Rover 800 will be the next to attain classic status, as it was the last Rover to be developed by British Leyland and the 827 Vitesse is a serious contender, resembling the SD 1 Vitesse in fastback form, but with Honda reliability to make it easier to own.

  12. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the (Austin) Metro was a bit of a hated car! The biblical rust issues were what did the damage. They could be hard to MoT as well so a lot of Mechanics advised people not to touch them. That rotten rear sub-frame was a trial for both the owners and their Mechanics.

    I had two Metros, because they were all I could afford to buy in the early 1990’s after factoring in my insurance. Unlike so many young drivers today I had to pay for the car, its insurance etc by myself.
    At the time no young lad bought a 10 year old Metro by choice. Fiestas cost more, so did Nova/Corsa’s and in my mind I really wanted a Talbot Samba as it was the fastest insurance group 1 car there was. I couldn’t find a Samba so I bought a 1982 Metro 1.0L in Mr Bean yellow with a rotten rear valence but everything else was okay with it. BXI 4108 was kindly welded for the test by a neighbour of mine and so I was on the road.

    Yes the steering angle was a bit bus-like and you’d notice the odd placement of the pedals but compared to a Fiesta the Metro did fill like a more solid car and the interior space was pretty good. I remember getting to 50mph in 2nd gear! It would hit 95mph (young and foolish) on the motorway with it fully laden and about 100-120 miles to £10 of petrol so pretty good.
    A guy in a Renault 21 bashed its back in so that was the end of it. Next cheap as air Metro was a 1983 Metro 1.3 Auto, was bought for £100 because the steering column was broken due to a joyrider.
    Got a column and fitted it – job done. Had really nice seats and metallic gold with only 60,000 miles on it. However the real Metro bonus was that it was thoroughly waxoiled at new so it had zero rust, I mean nada. I sold its numberplate RIJ 1093 – must have been some Indian guy I guess bought it because of RIJ.
    Anyhow the starter lay down and the cost of a replacement was £150 so I just put a standard bendix-reel in its place which eventually ate the ring gear so it would not start.
    Got a rotten 1.0 Metro out of the scrap and transplanted the whole front subframe with the engine still mounted, was pretty easy to do in fact as was changing the pedals and gearshift.
    I left the 1.3 auto’s manifolds in place so the 1.0 got a HIF44 SU instead of the smaller one it should have had. I thought the 1.0 was going really well with the 1.3 carburettor so I left it as so.
    Went for a few months then one morning I started it and it was running like a cement mixer. Sounding like a 2-stroke and vibrating like mad I managed to get it home while it would not go over 20mph. Pulled off the head to reveal a dirty great crack between 2 & 3 cylinder.
    Thou Shalt Not muck about with A-Series engines without gas flowing their sand cast combustion chambers.

    The body on that Metro was perfect, was a Hi-Line with tinted glass and the nice seats. Nobody wanted it, couldn’t find a soul that would give me £40 for it. I wish I just left it in a shed or something, it was stinking with Waxoil!

    • The Metro rear subframe did not rust, it was a very strong lump , the radius arms were the problem the needle roller bearings of the suspension arms would wear, the degeree of movement was the MoT testers concern, The subframe was very easy to change, assuming you found a good complete unit in a breakers yard, around £50, I did! 3 bolts each side being , one for the strap, two for the suspension rubber mounts, 6 in total, plus the handbrake cable circlip and brake hoses, two hours work

      I cannot see how a new starter motor wouyld be £150, they were £45 exchange from the shops, or only £5-£10 from the breakers yard, again very easy to change, if you could not fix a Metro, then you should abandon all hopes of being a DIY mechanic

  13. @ Pat, I wouldn’t say the Metro was hated in the way the bigger M cars were, it was just by the late eighties it had fallen behind the competition badly, yet it was still a steady seller up to its replacement in 1990 by the Rover Metro. Apart from the rust issue and the noisy 1 litre version, the Austin Metro was quite a good car for the time and I’m glad it’s becoming a classic as without it, British Leyland would have probably died in the eighties.

    • Well I remember at the time nobody wanted a Metro, they were thought of as a Leyland-Lada. I personally don’t think they were that bad but it was the rust rep’ that pushed them way down the car league table.
      Okay sure the word, ‘hate,’ sounds a bit strong and its mean’t to mean ‘hate’ along the lines of, ”..I hate Marmite..”

      I reckon a 998cc A-series Metro was better than a Fiesta. The wee Ford was a bit of a horror, 3 1/2 gears, they were such a noisy harsh engine that I recall a lot of women detesting them (the Fiesta) at the time.
      But a Fiesta generally didn’t rust at the speed of sound and while a Fiesta could step out on you at 40-50mph, which the Metro did not, you didn’t have to try to find a rear subframe for a Fiesta, or a steering rack for that matter, or the gearbag rupturing.

      A Renault 5 or P205 were better cars overall than either the Fiesta or Metro. Had 5 gears, were nippy and really economical and apart from a few niggles was reliable.
      Mind you a solid Metro always felt like a bigger car.

      The Metro was a good design, just not built as well as it could have been. The BL story, had the designs but not the build. The Rover Metro was a big step forward but outside of GB there was no ‘core-vote’ of any significance for BL/AR so to speak and the only thing ‘Rover’ that sold was the R8 because it was so obviously a Honda.

      Its an identity thing, (some) people in England will forgive a British cars faults whereas in Ireland nobody will care about it apart from, ”.those cars are guaranteed trouble..” and buy more French, German or Japanese cars instead.

      If my 1983 waxoiled from new Metro needing an engine was in England at the time then I’ve no doubt someone would have given me £50 or even £100 for it as it was a clean hi-line.

      In the 1960’s and 70’s Ireland most cars were Britishers, by the 1980’s where I grew up that steamroller, the Renault 18, took a massive chunk of the market. The R18 was such a common sight that, ”..if you lifted a stone there’d be two of them..”

      The 18 in my part of Ireland replaced Fords, Hillmans, BL’s and Vauxhalls in droves. While the Ren 1 1/2 dozen was of no significance in GB, here it killed off everything.

      People turned away from BL to Renault. The Metros rust and rear subframe was the final nail in the coffin of BL’s Irish market.

      Maybe, just maybe BL should have been given to Renault as was once mooted.

  14. The Montego.

    Very common in its day, and now so rare now. Okay they are not good cars, so most have died and been thrown away.

    Will this comparative rarity and very low survival rate make them extra valuable?

  15. I wonder how many cheap Metros were murdered for their red painted 1275 hearts to transplant into Minis? Im guilty of at least one such crime. I seek forgiveness from all on here!

    • Oh! I forgot, do you remember the NIrl only Metro special edition the, ‘Metro Causeway,’ with the outline of three rocks from the Giants Causeway on the boot lid and better seats (or something) for an, ‘L’ spec?
      Sounded like BL were trying to gee-up a bit of local jingoism! (Really bad idea in that part of the world!)

      How many of those are left, any?

      They were MK1 Austin Metros, recall seeing on in the 1990’s, was orange-reddish, looked clean.
      My Father had a brown Metro van for a while at the same time, rust holes so big a rat literally got into it and died, during the summer! Oh boy but I can still remember the smell!

  16. @ Pat, I doubt the Metro had the legendary rusting qualities of the Fiat 127, which could often fail its first MOT due to severe rust underneath. Yet it was quite common to see five year old Metros with rotten wings, the rustproofing wasn’t acceptable as many manufacturers had introduced six year bodywork warranties by 1985. I think the Fiesta was better rustproofed, but anything less than a 1.3 and the car was a noisy, slow place to be, the 957 you’ve mentioned was a slug, and the Mark 1 looked ancient against the Metro in the early eighties.

    • For some reason many Fiats were waxoiled by either the dealers or the first owner while a BL was just left to the inevitable rapid rust. I remember a good few 127’s still buzzing about the place at 15 years old. The 127 was a fun car to drive although they liked petrol – or was that because the owners were enthusiastic drivers? As a teen I had a 127 out of the scrap for mucking about in the fields and forest. The buddies all had old Escorts and Cortinas so they thought my choice was a joke, half an hour later they were not laughing! It would seem that Fiat were the first manufacturer to get OHC to work properly. A standard 127 could just rev and rev all day long. The Strada was a total heap though, a bean-tin hatchback if ever there was.

      Same with Toyotas, the dealers waxoiled them from new for a private sale. So why did BL dealers not treat their cars? ”..you are as nasty as British Leyland..” as Arthur Daly once said, BL dealers were none too customer relations friendly.

      Apathy perhaps, who cares its only a BL attitude or people buying a Fiat or Toyota were more into their cars I suppose.

      But yes the 950 or 1100 Fiesta was a miserable wee nasty rattle box. Just why Ford geared them so low as well! Really the Metro was a batter car and a little bit of diligence from the dealers or first owners could have made all the difference. Also I wonder why that rear subframe used an enclosed box section? Surely it was patently obvious from the design stage that a box section being continually stressed will rot away. I can recall a couple of angry Metro owners being given the bad news regarding the expense of replacing a rotten rear subframe. Did they buy another AR? More customers for Renault.

      • I cannot recall the Metro subframe rusting, the needle roller bearings for the suspension radius arms which failed and required replacement, for which the dealers would jack up the price, independent garages would cahrge £50 a side to swap out a radius arm with an exchange part, including the repump of the Hydragas

  17. @ Pat, had the Metro not rusted as much and was updated steadily, it could have been a great car, but like a lot of British Leyland products it was left to muddle on and by the late eighties was seriously outclassed. However, if you got one that had been properly undersealed, it was a good car as mechanically it was solid and good to drive, certainly better than the bottom of the range Fiestas.
    As regards Fiat, the Uno, which was galvanised, turned out to be a good car even if the build quality was poor.

  18. Yeh most of the Peugeots were galvanized too, they could last a long long time. I had an £80 1987 Uno 60 for a while, it was quick for a 1.1 but was thirsty. For a jalopy that really should have been in the scrapyard its body was sound.

    Anyhow I’d like to finish off my thoughts/rant about BL and other British cars having a woeful rusting reputation by explaining my view-point.

    I know what I’ve said will irritate many people who like BL cars and probably many will wonder just why I said they could rust out so quickly.
    Where I come from the roads and driving conditions are particularly hard on cars. Bumpy twisting narrow hilly roads that are semi-sealed with lots of grit attacking the undersides. You must drive onto the verges to let another vehicle pass and more often than not the verges are wet so much compacted mud finds its way into seams and inside chassis legs, door bottoms and valences. The result is rapid rust and certainly was back in the day of the Metro.
    The average journey involves a cars body getting a lot more stresses than it would experience in most of England. Evert time you hit the road it basically tries to twist a cars body.
    So if a car was known for being a rotter in England the same car did not last too long in parts of Ireland.

    I have a feeling the MK5 Golfs and Jettas are a rusty time-bomb waiting to go off. Had a close look around a few of them as a sister of mine bought one. I could see that the undersealing does not look too good to my eye so I’ve told her to get it waxoiled when the weather gets warm and dry.

    The second Metro I had didn’t have a spot of rust on it. Was waxoiled and its underside was sprayed with schutz. This did not cost much to do back in the day and its just bizarre that only very few cars got this treatment when they were new.

    Ye can’t bate the oiled car, as used to be said. This is still as true today as it was in the 1970’s and 80’s.
    I am glad that the Metro is finally getting a bit of recognition and I know where there is a red 1987 MK2 Metro still going. I must speak to its owner to volunteer a good dose of waxoil for it.

    • Oh aye, thinking about lack of rust-proving on BL’s has woken up another old memory. Remember the way a lot of Itals, Allegros and Princesses had the zeibarting, or whatever it was, on the inside of the bonnet and boot lids with a sticker claiming the car was rust-proven?
      Aye right me mullarkey! What about the inside of the sills, legs, valences and door bottoms?
      Just how cynical was that! Oh so, the customers can see the rust coming through when they open the boot, so spray the inside of the boot lid. Never mind the damn boot lid, what about the actual structural parts of the body!

      Just goes to show that within BL and their dealers there was an attitude as if customers had no choice, like it was still the rationed 1940’s.

      Its things like that cause an almost psychotic reaction when many think of BL and the way they treated their customers. Sorry BL management we do not live in a type of North Korea where you have a captive market and you can do as you wish.

      Oh yes indeed, ”..as nasty as British Leyland..” I see exactly why that was said and what it meant.

      Anyhow good luck to the remaining Metros, not their fault they had terrible parents.

    • Agree with the comment re: Mk5 Golfs. There is a design fault with the wheel arch liners, which trap dirt and salt against the body.

  19. I remember having a 1.1 Metro on hire for a while and was quite impressed with it, far more so than the earlier A-series lumps. It was nippy and the engine was a little gem. However, the known rust bug worries always put me off and I bought a Nova 1.2 instead. The Nova was a revelation with a solid rust resisting body, decent handling and a gutsy 1.2 ohc that never let me down.

    Nostalgia is a wonderful thing but £10k for a Fiesta is a bit much. However, I see a lot of 50s blokes chucking £10-15k at a motorbike for sunny weekends and then taking an excursion into the scenaery much to the detriment of life and limb, so there must be plenty of people out ther who remember the 80s fondly and for whom chucking £5-10k at a car they always wanted is now affordable.

    Personally, I just might jump at a Nova 1.2GL saloon in good condition. Why? Because I used to have one and should not have sold it. Unfortunately, Mrs E’s new motor might have then to live on the drive…

  20. @ Pat, the arrogance and indifference of some British Leyland dealers was well known in the seventies and eighties. I have told this tale elsewhere, but someone on Skyscraper City bought a new Austin 1300 in 1971 and the car started to have water leaking into the boot due to poor seals. The garage’s solution was to drill two small holes in the boot, which caused the boot to rust out and a very expensive repair job. No surprises the next trip was to buy a foreign car.
    It’s odd that rust protection on the Allegro seemed far better than on the ADO16, but then Leyland slipped backwards with the M cars. I’m not surprised the Metro had the nickname Metrot as the wings and back end were bad for rust.

    • Or Wetrot, as we sometimes called them. Looking back the Allegro actually was pretty rust resistant, as was most Maxis although one you seen any rust they were gone. Maybe its just my imagination but the (said this before on this site) Allegro3 and the Ital seemed to be a lot more rusty than the earlier models.

  21. By the end of it’s life my Mum’s Metro was getting crusty wings, with a big line of rust bubbles through one.

    • The 1982 Metro City I used to own had a vertical line of rust on both wings, removing the wings revelaed the answer, the front panel for the headlamps etc was a poor fit and had abraded the inner surface of the wings letting the rust take hold,working its waywards similiarly the front doors (3 door), a hole appeared in the lower point in the door frame in exactly the same place on both passenger and drivers side, that turned out to the the window mechanism, with the windows fully wound down the mechanism fouled the door frame damaging the paint, more work for the rustbugs!

      The front valance failed (theh valance is the “spoiler” below and behing the front bumpers) to my great suprise, the repalcement valance was only £6 – 85 p to buy, the drill to cut the spot welds hoilding the valnce in place cost £ 9 – 99.

      I drove my car for nearly 10- years, the few parts I purchased were always a loot less than I anticipated, 10 years of “loose change” motoring indeed!

  22. The other thing that did for the Metro other than rust was the 4 speed gearbox, long after everyone else had supplied 5 speed. As said above, the cars were left in production with no major updates, while the rest of the world moved on and improved their designs.

    The only major change to the original Metro during production would have been the introduction of the 5 door body. Other than that, it seemed almost unchanged when it was replaced with the K series up date in 1990.

    A rare site these days indeed.

    • No, the Austin Metro did get quite an update in 1984. Yes, it was still hampered by a 4 speed box but as well as five doors it got an impressive new dash and a longer, smoother nose with plastic bumpers for ‘L’ and above.

      I was really impressed by the new dash. I can remember Top Gear of the time (not Clarkson!!) saying you could almost miss the five doors such was the impression created by the revised front end.

      There must have been other useful tweaks too.

  23. You can make an argument that a Metro is worth the cash, after all a mini is, and a metro shares much of the running gear. Despite being one of the group that should be nostalgic for 80’s/90’s cars, I’m not. We had a Metro, it rattled, the gearboxed whined and it disolved in the rain.

    There is no doubt cars from the era are far supperior to one’s that came before engineering wise. The rust proofing is better, cash safety was finally taken seriously, and refinement was massively improved. You can sit at 70 all day in a late 80’s/90’s car, it wouldn’t be much fun in a equivalent 60’s/70’s car.

    The problem is, it is also the era when accountants and the world car took over. No more quirkyness, cars built on one platform, and all heading towards the same basic shape. With the accountants cutting every corner they could. Plus 80’s car interiors are just nasty, a sea of cheap grey plastic.

    It is also one of the weakest eras for mainstream British cars. Your choice is a rebadged Honda, or the BL’s M cars, that were simply secondrate when new.

  24. For me, the yellow ‘S’ is a real nostalgia machine.

    In the case of the MG Metro, as I’ve said before, I prefer the look of the pre-facelift cars.

    • Dave

      That’s usually the way with most cars, the facelift looks good at first because its fresh but once the freshness is gone, the facelift often looks clumsy and detracts from the original design.

  25. Lot of 80s/90s cars are now escaping Banger Valley – ie. they have gone through the banger phase where attrition has weeded out many, they are now rare and thought of as classic with appropriate prices.

    And not before time. Even the last of the 100s will be coming up on 20 years old soon. Early R8s are over 25. (Don’t forget that in 1990 a 20 year old car would be a 1970 car, 25 would be 1965.)

    Citroen BXs have become ultra rare. I’ve noticed that values of remaining ZXs, a model unloved by many, are creeping up.

    A lady my wife works with runs a clean mk3 Cavalier as a daily runner, I’ve expressed interest in the vehicle should she ever be selling.

  26. Diesel ZX’s seemed to get a niche with bangernomics buffs, as did the better AX’s.

    BX’s did to a degree, but as a “keep it until the can’t pass the MOT & scrap it” car.

Add to the debate: leave a comment