Blog : eBay Puzzle of the Week – the Austin Metro shock absorbers…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

Perhaps they'll be listing Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy next week?
Perhaps they’ll be listing Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy next week?

I stumbled upon this bizarre listing earlier and it reminded me of my student days…

At the time, I had a Pageant Blue Allegro 1.3 (which, of course, made me a HUGE hit with the ladies), and thanks to one too many 19-year old approaches to roundabouts, I was in need of a nearside front tyre.

So, on a wet and windy Darlington morning, I dropped said Allegro off at the fast fit and went across the road to Safeway (which, incidentally, used to be the site of one of the largest BL dealers in the North-East) to grab that week’s supply of baked beans, Pot Noodles, lager and other student essentials. When I returned, the tyre and exhaust centre had replaced my tyre with a suitable budget offering and had also carried out their ‘Free Winter Safety Check’, which resulted in my Allegro being declared a deathtrap. Apparently, I needed new brake pads and discs, and was definitely in need of a pair of front shock absorbers.

No mention was made of the Plasticine-filled sills (other malleable modelling clays are available), the ventilated front wings or the nearside headlight, which used to pop out of its own accord and droop out the front panel from its wiring, so I thought I’d have a bit of a laugh at the expense of their ‘selling-up’ and instructed them to go ahead and do the shockers…

NOT the editor's car... this one may be sporting scabby wings, but is still in far, far better shape!
NOT the Editor’s car… this one may be sporting scabby wings, but is still in far, far better shape!

I let them spend half an hour ringing around trying to get a price, whilst in true student fashion I availed myself of their free-vending coffee machine, before politely explaining that the Hydragas system didn’t have any shock absorbers at all, and enquiring as to how on earth they didn’t notice when the front wheel was off.

All of which makes me intrigued by this particular eBay listing. I might buy them, and put them in the display cabinet next to my chocolate frying pan…

metro shockers 2

Can anyone shed any light? See more here

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.

17 Comments

  1. Not as odd as you may think as quite a few Metro’s were fitted with dampers on the front IIRCC- certainly the MG variants were fitted with them.

    But I certainly remember that former dealer the Darlington Motor Delivery Co LTD (known locally as Motor D)

    They folded as Reg Vardy were building up steam and I know a few people who made a small fortune selling copper and wiring from the site which stood empty and boarded up from 1985 after they went bust.

    They sold the whole shebang too – Austin Morris Rover Triumph as well as Freight Rover and Jaguar Daimler!

  2. I’m sure the ’94L GTi Metro I owned twenty years ago had ‘additional font shock absorbers’ (as described by the brochure), too…

  3. I had a 1982 1.0 City which had dampers on the front,I know this to be a fact as I replaced the factory units with adjustable Spax units which made no discernable difference to the feel of the car.
    The factory soon ceased to install external dampers as such a function is already provided by the Moulton Hydragas spheres.

    This fact begs the question why were cars fitted with external dampers in the first place?
    Perhaps it was a lack of understanding of the Hydragas system, the same indifference which so annoyed Dr Moulton, the missed opportunity to interconnect front to rear, and the potentially dangerous ommision of the left to right balance pipe between the rear spheres as written up in his autobiography.

  4. All 16v variants of the K-series Metro had front dampers, so that would include the GTa 16v and the GTi.

    A common (and expensive) mistake among Metro owners was to retro-fit them to other non-16v models, which you could do easily as all models had the appropriate holes in the upper wishbone and turret, without welding in the additional under-bonnet support brackets, which only cars originally fitted with dampers had fitted.

  5. I should mention, the mistake of fitting dampers minus the support brackets was, more often than not, their eventual appearance through the turret top by way of torn steel.

  6. I can say with confidence that all Metros were fitted with shockers right from day one. I was involved in the design and installation of the 4 post hydraulic ‘shaker’ test rig power pack for them at Longbridge whilst the car was in still in development.
    Incidentally: as a useless piece of information, it was said that the cost of a complete Metro shell was a mere £100 at the time. I just paid over twice that for an old stock new MGB wing!

  7. All early Metros were fitted with them, then they were dropped apart from the MG/sports models, they kept fitting the top brackets to the turrets on all models for some time. During the late 80’s it was well publicised within the company when the company suggestion scheme paid out £5000 plus a car to the person who suggested only fitting the turret brackets to the sports models.

  8. After inspecting my mother’s 1985 post-facelift 1.0 City on its first day out of Appleyard’s Bradford showroom – before fitting a nearside door mirror bought as a spare part instead of more expensively as a dealer-fit extra – I noticed unused mounting holes in the front wheelarches. Comparing it my own 1982 pre-facelift 1.0 City, I noticed that they were superfluous shocker mountings.

    Later I bought a 155 tyre for the spare on mine, as I intended to upgrade to this size across the whole car, as per the higher spec models. Then I found they fouled on the shocker. Can’t remember if it was at the front or rear.

    • Upgrading to wider tyres, I have never really accepted the trend towards wider and wider tyres fitted to cars today, the Metro City I drove for over a decade had 135 width 100% profile tyres, no need for power steering, therefore good feel and accuracy in road placement, narrow tyres cut through the water in heavy rainfall so the aquaplane speed is higher, on the dry there was still ample rubber for the double wishbone setup of the Metro, as late as 1992 I could have 4 brand new Michelins fitted for only £120 all-in (Kwikfit) , such was the low manufacturing cost of those narrow tyres, today take a car such as the Honda Jazz, 185/55 tyres, £400 for 4 tyres of middle quality

  9. Had BL listened to Alex Moulton at the time they were developing the Metro it would have had interconnected hydragas from day one (as the Allegro, later series Maxi, Princess and Ambassador all did) with no need for shock absorbers or anti roll bars. However, certain factions within the company were determined to drop Moulton’s suspensions as soon as they could and, on the pretence of saving money by eliminating the interconnecting pipes they screwed up the original design and used ‘independent’ hydragas with transverse interconnection at the back only (because, as Dr Moulton pointed out to the so-called ‘experts’, if they didn’t then the cars would have become very unstable when cornering). Within months of the Metro’s launch Moulton had successfully designed and fitted a basic interconnected hydragas system to a 1 litre Metro and shortly afterwards he bought a new brown 1.3S and modified that to a higher standard with such positive results that, after it was demonstrated to Michael Edwardes and Graham Day in 1987, Austin Rover reverted to the original interconnected design on the Rover Metro in 1990.

  10. No shocks?

    Even the Xantia had shock absorbers IIRC (but no springs obviously).

    I remember going to the generic retail motor factors looking LHM fluid, and they tried to sell me power steering fluid.

  11. I remember a book on things to look out for when buying 2nd cars mentioned to always check the colour of the suspension fluid in a CX.

    If it was red or brown is was a good idea to walk away.

  12. One theory was shockabsorbers would dampen the rubber mounted subframe.

    Later only the turbo would retain shockabsorbers because of the stiffer suspension and front and rear roll bars.

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