Supermini projects : ADO88

The Metro route

Shortly after the demise of ADO74, the “Mini replacement idea” was yet again brought down from the shelf for further investigation. Unlike ADO74, which was new from the wheels up, ADO88 would use the Mini’s A-series engine plus transmission-in-sump layout. The reason for this was cost – ADO74 would have cost an estimated £130million to develop; ADO88, significantly less.


The early stages

This early sketch, dating from 1974, clearly shows that ADO88 started out as a Mini replacement. While looking more adventurous than ADO74, the principle of "maximum interior room - minimum external size" was eloquently demonstrated in the car's boxy lines.

This early sketch, dating from 1974, clearly shows that ADO88 started out as a Mini replacement. While looking more adventurous than ADO74, the principle of “maximum interior room – minimum external size” was eloquently demonstrated in the car’s boxy lines.

Also from July 1974: a slight variation of the above theme, although the round headlight version made do with a thicker C-pillar, which in my eyes defined the design more than the version with the larger glasshouse. Neither version met with unanimous praise from management.

Also from July 1974: a slight variation of the above theme, although the round headlight version made do with a thicker C-pillar, which in my eyes defined the design more than the version with the larger glasshouse. Neither version met with unanimous praise from management.

Also from July 1974: a slight variation of the above theme, although the round headlight version made do with a thicker C-pillar, which in my eyes defined the design more than the version with the larger glasshouse. Neither version met with unanimous praise from management.

Also from July 1974: a slight variation of the above theme, although the round headlight version made do with a thicker C-pillar, which in my eyes defined the design more than the version with the larger glasshouse. Neither version met with unanimous praise from management.

Initial thoughts on ADO88 styling (above) were somewhat different to the first full size clay models (below) produced in July 1974. This bulbous derivative certainly looks roomy, but lacks the crispness required of any mid-Seventies small car design.

November 1974, and the Metro’s character begins to emerge in one of three proposals photographed at this point: this is particularly evident in this car’s frontal styling (below). The side view shows that the proportions of the car were fundamentally good, although the execution was poor.

The second proposal from November 1974. The roundness was now being removed from the July designs depicted above. The style and dimensions were still very similar, but the extra style injection still had some way to go.

The second proposal from November 1974. The roundness was now being removed from the July designs depicted above. The style and dimensions were still very similar, but the extra style injection still had some way to go.

The second proposal from November 1974. The roundness was now being removed from the July designs depicted above. The style and dimensions were still very similar, but the extra style injection still had some way to go.

The second proposal from November 1974. The roundness was now being removed from the July designs depicted above. The style and dimensions were still very similar, but the extra style injection still had some way to go.

The design lacked any real defining features end as a reult, looked boxy and utilitarian. It is very clear that the decision to use this model as the basis of the final Metro was a sound one – and the later metamorphosis into LC8 was very effective, thanks to the efforts of David Bache’s team: Gordon Sked, Roger Tucker and Harris Mann.

The third proposal from November 1974 has a rather oriental look: Daihatsu Charade, anyone?

Early mule used for road testing components in 1974/75, as pictured in Car magazine. The speculative press were brought into a wild panic by this car’s lack of styling – how could the Mini be replaced by such a contraption?

Development of the original Harris Mann idea, dating from August 1975 (above, below) – now going with partially concealed rear wheels, like Citroën. This style was not unpleasant, but it did not translate well into a full-size model, and so was not pursued.

Late 1975 Pininfarina proposal displays a distinctly Citroën-esque persona. This proposal was quickly abandoned because the production costs of this car would have been too high.

David Bache takes over

Following David Bache’s appointment as project leader in 1975, five new styling themes made it to the full-scale model stage (below). These cars were presented to management in November of that year, forming the basis of a “shoot-out” to decide which would be developed into a production reality. After careful consideration, management unanimously went for the first model. (Note that these cars wore Innocenti Mini road wheels).

Austin Metro ADO88

Austin Metro ADO88

Austin Metro ADO88

Austin Metro ADO88

Austin Metro ADO88

Austin Metro ADO88

This is the design that was ‘approved for further refinement’ in November 1975.

The sketch below was then prepared to show the way forward.

Austin Metro ADO88

Austin Metro ADO88

Early 1976: the finalised ADO88 model, which was used to produce engineering drawings. Quite a number of changes have been made since the previous model was approved in November 1975, including a small stretch in the wheelbase.

Austin Metro ADO88

A later version of the full size mock-up dating from early 1976.

Austin Metro ADO88

A further development of the finalised model, now featuring a glasshouse. This version demonstrates the styling features of the basic models, with the inset headlamps making it all the way to the final Metro.

Austin Metro ADO88

ADO88’s last gasp: by autumn 1977, the car had begun its metamorphosis into LC8, the project which would produce the definitive Metro.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007. Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Clsssics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

4 Comments on "Supermini projects : ADO88"

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  1. daveh says:

    Has any one noticed how proposal two of David Bache’s five chosen designs looks like a Fiat Uno?

  2. Nate says:

    Quite like the Pininfarina and half Civic-like ADO88 (in the fourth picture) proposals, though am somewhat fascinated by David Bache’s retro-styled Mini-inspired 3rd proposal even if it could have done with more work.

    Clay model images of the 3 proposal’s rear end seen elsewhere show a retro-themed version of the later ADO88 prototype’s “breadvan” tailgate, albeit one that could have taken a leaf from the Mini its inspired by in placing the rear number plate on the tailgate itself between the rear-lights instead of below the rear bumper.

    Understand though why they went in a more modern direction for ADO88 / LC8 instead of pursuing a retro-styled Mini-inspired automobile, despite a part of me liking the idea of such a car being to the Metro what the Nissan Be-1 (or Nissan Pao) were to the original Nissan Micra.

  3. Glenn Aylett says:

    @ daveh, I was thinking that as well, the design of the front end and the doors remind me of the 1983 Uno. Actually a design like this would have made the Metro look more European and could have helped sales in Europe.

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