Pre-dating the Rover Streetwise by over a decade, the ADC Metro Scout could have given Rover an early foothold in the emerging soft-roader market, but it was not to be.
We take a look at this interesting project, and ask whether it was another missed opportunity for the Rover Group.
But is it Street wise?
In these times of increasing political belligerance towards off-roaders and SUVs, buyers are being pressured to look for a more eco-friendly alternative… the rash of soft-roaders that have hit the market in recent times – as epitomised by the Rover Streetwise – have convinced manufacturers that there’s a genuine case to produce cars with chunky styling and a beefed-up driving position, but without all the baggage of a four-wheel-drive transmission system.
We’d never claim that the Rover Scout project was the precursor of the breed, or that it was a particular trailblazer – that’s left to the Matra-Simca Rancho – but there are some very interesting questions raised by the tall-riding project.
The story of the Scout is an interesting one, and well worth clarifying – and, thanks to Jim Ragless, former Manager of the Styling, Engineering and Program Management activities at Automotive Development Consultants (ADC), we’ve been able to piece together a little more about this fascinating museum piece.
Metro Scout: forward-thinking proposal
If you’ve never heard of ADC, then that’s understandable, as many of its projects have not seen the light of day, as it has worked with many companies during prototype development build. In fact, ADC was one of the consultancy firms involved in the initial stages of the MGF programme.
Jim Ragless explained: ‘ADC was actually part of the remnants of the Vauxhall Engineering Department after GM had moved all car engineering to Germany and then closed down Bedford.’
The Scout came about in 1991 and Rover had no part in ADC’s original conception of this fascinating range of six Metro-based, multi-purpose vehicles. Called the Scout project, all six versions used the same basic bodystyle, based on the five-door Metro, but with a more upright tailgate and correspondingly larger (and taller) rear side window.
Showcasing ADC’s talent
Jim Ragless recalled: ‘Rover did not commission the Scout, it was conceived and built by ADC as a showcase of our concept, design and build capabilities for the Automotive Engineering Show at the NEC. The original idea was a possible evolution of the Metro range with more space, more utility and easier entry-exit to the back seats.’
However, the soft-roader theme came later. Jim continued: ‘Somewhere along the way the idea of active lifestyle and mini-utility vehicle styling cues came in too. We showed it with cycle racks and mountain bikes and a fitted picnic set in the back. In some ways maybe it was one forerunner of the mini-SUVs and small people carriers.’
Rover’s involvement was fleeting and brief. ‘Rover was interested enough in what we were thinking about to provide the donor car,’ Jim said. Not enough to pursue the project, though.
The fate of the car after that was interesting too. “After the NEC show Ford also borrowed it for a while to examine, and I think they used it in a customer clinic…”
The Scout family
|La Petite Famille||Aimed at the young family, and featured a bike rack, removable seats and integrated child seats.|
|Sunrider||For the sporty types, and was designed to carry surfing/windsurfing/skiing and other sporting equipment.|
|Country||Targetting the green-welly set, with large mud-flaps and a dirty-boot storage area.|
|Metropolis||For city dwellers, with car-phone and anti-scuff wheel trims.|
|Specialist||Aimed at photographers, with off-road capability (increased ride height, not 4wd) and secure storage areas.|
|La Femme||Apparently tailored for women drivers (and, yes, this was the 1990s, not the 1970s), with power steering, breakdown phone, large mirrors on the sun visors, hair dryer(!), and a parking ticket holder(!!)|
Metro Scout styling sketches
The Post Office wasn’t forgotten – a potential big market for this car…
Metro Scout details
4 June 2015, and the Scout goes up for auction…
A one-off concept built at the start of the 1990s and based around a brand new Rover Metro is due to go under the hammer on Wednesday, 10 June.
No reserve has been set so this fascinating proposal for a forward-looking crossover might just be a bargain.
The Rover Metro Scout was designed and built by Automotive Development Consultants (ADC), a company which had already been involved with Rover Group via various MG roadster proposals. However, the Scout was something different – and, with the benefit of hindsight, was years ahead of its time.
These days, two-wheel drive crossover-style vehicles are extremely popular, attracting buyers who appreciate their looks, their robust image and their practicality. In the case of the Scout, a standard Rover Metro was fitted with a taller roof, a higher side-hinged tailgate, bigger rear side windows, roof rails, extra plastic panels, headlamps guards and even an externally-mounted spare wheel in order to resemble a mini-4×4.
Jim Ragless, a former Manager at Automotive Development Consultants, recalls how the idea came about: ‘The Scout was conceived and built by ADC as a showcase of our concept, design and build capabilities for the Automotive Engineering Show at the NEC. The idea was a possible evolution of the Metro range with more space, more utility and easier entry-exit to the back seats.’
Sadly, though, the idea wasn’t adopted by Rover Group: ‘Rover was interested enough in what we were thinking about to provide the donor car’, explains Ragless, ‘but not enough to pursue the project.’ With Rover busy working on its own crossover ideas at the time – the production version of which would eventually be the Land Rover Freelander – the Scout remained simply a concept.
The show car itself has been on display at the Stondon Motor Museum for more than twenty years. However, following the recent closure of the museum, it is soon to be auctioned off (along with every other exhibit) via Herefordshire-based Brightwells. It will be sold with no reserve.
First registered in 1990, the Scout has covered just 1290 miles to date and is described as ‘not roadworthy at present’, though it could be put on the road and has a V5. Included in the sale are some of the original moulds for the car, which will need collecting from Stondon Motor Museum after the auction. For further details of the Scout, go to www.brightwells.com.