Concepts and prototypes : Austin AR6 (1983-1987)

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

We’ve talked about the Metro-replacing Austin AR6 a lot in relation to the company’s development in the mid-1980s, and its march towards privatisation. Keith Adams tells the car’s full story – from the glint in its Designer’s eye to the moment it was cancelled.

Would this Ford Fiesta rival have been a success, or was Rover right to stick with the Metro?


Austin AR6: Paradise lost

The Roy Axe studio in Canley had been created to move Austin Rover forwards with a new design direction. Interesting projects were soon underway, with the first effort being concentrated the XX Programme. However, by the end of 1982, ARG’s Designers were also working hard at the replacement for the Metro, dubbed the AR6.

The AR6 was designed to fit into a suite of models that would be launched by Austin Rover during the mid-to-late 1980s, bracketing the AR5 (Rover 213/216 reskin) and the AR7 (Maestro reskin). It’s DNA lay in the ground-breaking ECV3 prototype, which featured a three-cylinder engine (that would evolve into the K-Series, and aluminium bodywork developed by ALCAN.

Unnamed and uncommented, this prototype was on display to the press at the opening of the Roy Axe Studios at Canley in 1982...
Unnamed and uncommented, this prototype was on display to the press at the opening of the Roy Axe Studios at Canley in 1982…

Big ideas from Gaydon

The AR6 was always intended to be powered by the K-Series engine which was concurrently under development at BL Technology in Gaydon. This new engine was totally unrelated to the K-Series that was designed for the 1973 ADO74, and incorporated many lessons learned during the ECV3 Programme.

Unlike the Metro, and following the lead of the Maestro and Montego, the new car was developed with a conventional MacPherson strut/rear coil suspension system, which would no doubt have been honed to a level of competence shared with its bigger brothers.

The body, styled by Roy Axe’s team, was always intended to be highly aerodynamic, and the early prototype model (pictured above) certainly reflects this way of thinking. Even the most cursory of glances are all it takes to realise that the styling of this car was heavily influenced by Ital’s then current work, such as the Megagamma and Medusa, especially at the rear with its radically curved rear window.

Cutting edge design work

Stephen Harper, a former Designer at Longbridge, and then Cowley, recalled: ‘The AR6 project, the replacement for the Metro, had been evolving for some while in the Design Studios at Canley. Late in 1984, David Saddington and I were given the opportunity to share halves of a clay model, to investigate some more advanced themes. From the first doodle sketch of the “mouse”, the design theme was approved, and the clay model was created by a model team led by Charlie James, in just one week.’

Stephen Harper's radical AR6 proposal, which he nicknamed 'the Mouse' was converted into a full-size clay model (below). Pictures, Stephen Harper, www.shado.co.uk.
Stephen Harper’s radical Austin AR6 proposal, which he nicknamed ‘the Mouse’ was converted into a full-size clay model (below). Pictures: Stephen Harper, www.shado.co.uk
AR6 design shared between Stephen Harper and David Saddington.
Austin AR6 design shared between Stephen Harper and David Saddington

He added: ‘The review of the models by the Rover management, was concluded by a statement that the designs were “a little too advanced” to continue at length with. That was proof enough that car to replace the Metro, would never see the light of day.’

The styling that Rover’s management did approve was a more conventional proposal, based closely on Roy Axe’s design, first shown at the Canley Studio’s opening, a couple of years previously. With that settled, then it was down to the matter of engineering the project.

During 1984/1985, the most critical parts of the car’s development, upheavals were going on in the company. Finance for the AR6 and its engine were proving hard to obtain from the Government and this was, in part, down to the disappointing sales of the Maestro and Montego, which it had been hoped would have generated sizeable profits for the company.

Always with the finance…

Without these profits, it was proving difficult for BL to fund these new Austin Rover programmes without outside help. In fact, the Government did relent in the end, and provide BL with a further hefty injection of cash, which assured the future of the K-Series programme.


Design sketches and prototypes

March 1983, and the design begins to develop into something more production tolerant.
March 1983, and the design begins to develop into something more production tolerant

 This running prototype of the AR6 from c.1985 shows that there has been a significant amount of tweaking of the design since the 1983 styling mockup (above). The design is still pretty radical at this point with some overy aerodynamic detailing. The rear treatment shows showcar-like rear lamps (that probably would not have made production) and complex curving of the rear glass.
This running prototype of the AR6 from c.1985 shows that there has been a significant amount of tweaking of the design since the 1983 styling mockup (above). The design is still pretty radical at this point with some very aerodynamic detailing. The rear treatment shows show car-like rear lamps (that probably would not have made production) and complex curving of the rear glass
Front view of the AR6 demonstrates the “family look” that Austin Rover was trying to achieve. Compare the frontal arrangement of this car with the Rover CCV and MG EX-E concepts of 1985 and 1986 - slim, elongated headlights and a slit like grille; these were also a feature of Gerry McGovern's AR6-based MG Midget concept (see below). These styling cues would become industry standard by 1990, but by that time, Rover was already seeking to move away from the look it had helped to pioneer. (Picture: Kevin Davis)
Front view of the AR6 demonstrates the ‘family look’ that Austin Rover was trying to achieve. Compare the frontal arrangement of this car with the Rover CCV and MG EX-E concepts of 1985 and 1986 – slim, elongated headlights and a slit-like grille; these were also a feature of Gerry McGovern’s AR6-based MG Midget concept (see below). These styling cues would become industry standard by 1990 but, by that time, Rover was already seeking to move away from the look it had helped to pioneer. (Picture: Kevin Davis)

According to Simon Weakley, a Marketing Trainee between 1982 and 1986, the AR6 was a very interesting technical package indeed. He said: ‘The ‘new’ Metro was due to be launched in 1985/86 and Harold Musgrove was clear that it needed to be a world-beater and technically advanced.

‘This involved making the car out of bonded aluminium and I was tasked with tracking aluminium prices on an almost daily basis! The new car was going to have the new K-Series engine as a three- and four-cylinder unit (including Turbo) and was designed to be made as a diesel without need for strengthening!’

August 1983, and the final design takes form...
August 1983, and the final design takes form…

Gallery: Austin AR6 Running prototype

Austin AR6
It’s 1989 – would you have bought this in preference to a Fiesta or Nova?

The Austin AR6 running prototype was spotted at what was then the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon in 2007 looking a little bedraggled, but still very much in one piece. In the metal it looks pert and attractive. Interestingly, it doesn’t sport a K-Series engine under the bonnet, but a Maestro/Rover 216-spec 1.6-litre S-Series, and much of the interior came from a Maestro Vanden Plas donor car.

Does that mean the AR6 wasn’t as advanced as we thought, or this is an early development model? The B-plate suggests it’s from around 1984, somewhat earlier than the scoop shot, which could well have been K-Series powered – as always, if you know the answers, please get in touch…

BL Technology was a hotbed of design talent - this car was a motorized version of one of Roy Axe's styling models, but looks like a viable production prospect in many ways...
BL Technology was a hotbed of design talent – this car was a motorized version of one of Roy Axe’s styling models, but looks like a viable production prospect in many ways…

Interestingly for a prototype of this nature that they haven't gone for a carry-over door-handle. It did still have Metro-style Bendy Keys, though...
Interestingly, for a prototype of this nature, they haven’t gone for a carry-over door-handle. It did still have Metro-style Bendy Keys, though…

You'll have seen this wheel design before on the ECV3 prototype...
You’ll have seen this wheel design before on the ECV3 prototype…

The interior is certainly commodious, and a useful pre-cursor to the move towards larger superminis during the 1990s.
The interior is certainly commodious, and a useful pre-cursor to the move towards larger superminis during the 1990s
Maestro dashboard suits rough-and-ready prototype interior.
Maestro dashboard suits rough-and-ready prototype interior

Let's play spot the parts-bin components on this minimalist door casing...

Prototype sports prototype fuelling system...
Prototype sports prototype fuelling system…
Curved rear screen might have been would probably not have made production in unmodified form...
Curved rear screen might have been would probably not have made production in unmodified form…

Rear end may have needed a little more work...
Rear end may have needed a little more work…

Austin AR6: The 100mpg ambition

Simon added: ‘The target was for the three-cylinder to get 100mpg – a long time before others were targeting that figure. The light weight, roomy interior and improved quality combined with Roy Axe’s excellent interior/exterior styling skills would have surely created a true world-beater. It was to be the only car to carry the Austin name, with the Mini set to be discontinued at its launch.’

The rest of the AR6 was also pushing forwards. The 1985 product plan identified that the AR6 would hit the market in 1988, with the diesel version (powered by a dieselised S-Series engine of 1.6-litres) following on in late 1989. By this time, fully engineered prototypes were nearing completion, and the three/five-door hatchback was looking all set for production.

However, the Government of the time was now becoming increasingly set on selling the company at the earliest opportunity, and the poor 1985 sales figures pushed them into action. They decided that the sell-off had to happen sooner rather than later, and negotiations with Ford quickly ensued.

Sidetracked by privatisation plans

Later fully engineered prototype on test at the Gaydon proving ground scooped by CAR magazine in late 1986. Little did anyone outside of the company know at the time, that the car was so close to death. In profile, the rake of the windscreen looks pretty radical for its day, and many of the advanced features pictured on the earlier two models had been watered down somewhat for production (i.e., door handles, rear lamps, wheelsize). All told, the AR6 looked like a fantastic little package, that had it reached production would have demonstrated that the British company had lost none of their magic touch in producing small cars.
Later fully engineered prototype on test at the Gaydon proving ground scooped by CAR Magazine in late 1986. Little did anyone outside of the company know at the time, that the car was so close to death. In profile, the rake of the windscreen looks pretty radical for its day, and many of the advanced features pictured on the earlier two models had been watered down somewhat for production (i.e., door handles, rear lamps, wheel size). All told, the AR6 looked like a fantastic little package, that had it reached production would have demonstrated that the British company had lost none of their magic touch in producing small cars

Many executives including Ray Horrocks and Harold Musgrove were dead against selling out to Ford, when they were on the cusp of producing some genuinely exciting cars, and made their objections pretty clear. As we all know, the sell-off to Ford did not happen (for political reasons) and the management of BL, and therefore, Austin Rover was handed to Graham Day. Day’s mission was clear: get ARG into shape and sell it off ASAP.

Graham Day made it clear that he felt that Rover’s future lay upmarket, and that its relationship with Honda was the, ‘only part of the company worth a damn’. In other words, projects such as AR6, AR7 and AR16/17 – those not committed to production were going to be put under serious scrutiny.

In the case of AR7 and AR5, they were replaced by the AR8 (R8, as it would soon become), and the AR6 would be cancelled due to the huge costs involved in getting it into production. This was a very sad decision to make on a couple of levels:

  • AR6 proved that in-house design skills were still very strong, and that to dismiss them so readily in favour of Honda did all concerned a great disservice.
  • Without AR6, the company’s small car presence – still its strongest point at the time – would be severely compromised.

From Austin AR6 to Metro reboot

The rest of the story is well-known and covered in the Rover 100/Metro development story: the AR6 gave way to the R6 – and this car received the Alex Moulton changes to its Hydragas suspension system. It also received the excellent K-Series engine which would have powered the AR6.

The last chance of an exciting body would have been the R6X, but even that project was considered too much of a luxury. So, the question remains: was the AR6 a missed opportunity? Well, yes it was, because although the car the replaced it, the Rover Metro/100 was a fine car, its Metro bodyshell and floorpan shortened its shelf life considerably.

The AR6 would have appeared a vital couple of years earlier, was an altogether larger package and was undoubtedly more advanced. As in so many cases, this car’s non-appearance compromised the company’s chances significantly in future years.

From AR6, we got the R6, which in light of what could have been, was frankly a disappointment. Thankfully, its terrific chassis and classy interior rescued it from obscurity.
From AR6, we got the R6, which in light of what could have been, was frankly a disappointment. Thankfully, its terrific chassis and classy interior rescued it from obscurity

Blog : Austin AR6 and me

In 2016, Ian Nicholls blogged about his close encounter with the Austin AR6 prototype at an event in Gaydon.

Austin AR6

The BMC/Leyland show at the newly-branded British Motor Museum at Gaydon on 3 July was my first sight of the Austin AR6 prototype, the car that was meant to replace both the Mini and the Metro in around 1988-89. Until I saw the AR6 in the metal, I was in no doubt that the main reason for the axing of the AR6 was on budget grounds – there was talk of a £400 million price tag for the project, though no doubt a great chunk of that was for the new K-Series engine.

Back in 1986, the new BL Chairman, Graham Day, had been charged by the Margaret Thatcher-led Conservative Government with the task of getting the company fit enough to be sold off before it consumed any more taxpayers’ money. The three years before Graham Day arrived at BL were dramatic to say the least, with the pendulum of fortune swinging away from Austin Rover when victory seemed within its grasp.

For perhaps a year from the spring of 1983, Britain seemed to endure ‘Maestro mania’, with both BL management and media pundits convinced that Austin Rover was back to rude health. The Montego followed on in April 1984 but, instead of the recovery programme gaining momentum, in the second half of 1984 it actually went into reverse. Now obviously quality on these cars was a consideration, as AROline’s Mike Humble, has testified, but the vicious price war in the showrooms was another factor as the big American-owned giants, Ford and Vauxhall, slugged it out for sales supremacy.

The decision by Ford to retain rear-wheel drive for its Cortina replacement, the Sierra, was exploited by Vauxhall, which had the excellent front-wheel-drive Cavalier MkII, and a sales war broke out, with both companies offering incentives to attract the big fleet sales. Many fleet buyers were so impressed with the Cavalier that they then began looking at the Astra as an Escort alternative, and sales of that model increased too. Indeed, I recall an Autocar magazine road test where the 1300 Astra MkI was preferred over both the Escort and Maestro.

Throw into this mix the new Maestro, which everyone thought would be superb and make the same sales impact as the earlier Metro, then you had a recipe for Car Wars. Ford and Vauxhall were not going to give up market share easily to the newcomer from Austin Rover, and the cutting of margins hurt Austin Rover more than its American-owned rivals. This sales war effectively neutralised the Montego in 1984, and its impact sales-wise was minimal. When Graham Day took control of BL in May 1986 Austin Rover could no longer compete as a manufacturer of bread and butter cars.

Such was the nature of the 1980s car wars, as the decade wore on Ford actually increased its UK market share as Vauxhall wilted, despite the General Motor’s subsidiary arguably having a more advanced range. The Ford Fiesta may have been upgraded to a five-speed gearbox in 1983, but it was a 1976 design, the Escort dated from 1980 and, whilst the Sierra was from 1982, it still retained rear-wheel drive when the rest of the industry had by and large adopted front-wheel drive. What this showed was that investment in advanced technology counted for nothing if the showroom price was not right.

Graham Day was therefore confronted with a conundrum: bring the AR6 to production and hope for the best, or opt for a cheaper option and re-engineer the existing Metro to accept the K-Series engine.

The problem for advocates of the AR6 was that Ford were now selling more Ford Fiestas in the UK than the entire annual production of Metros at Longbridge. How many AR6s would Austin Rover have to sell annually to make it viable and, in the then pertaining market conditions, was it feasible? Also, because of the abortive attempts to sell Austin Rover to Ford in early 1986, Ford probably had a rough idea of the AR6’s economics.

They certainly knew what it cost to make the existing Metro at Longbridge and had incentivised buyers towards their own Fiesta. By January 1987 the media was reporting that Austin Rover was going to axe the AR6 and install the K-Series engine in the existing Metro. The BBC even devoted an edition of The Money Programme to it. Labour MPs John Smith and Doug Hoyle raised the matter in the House of Commons.

In the aftermath of the Westland affair, there was an anti-foreign ownership of British business atmosphere, a notion that incompetence and under investment as long as it was British, was preferable to takeovers by foreign companies with managers thoroughly trained in whatever it took to get the job done properly. The demise of the AR6 and Rover’s further embrace of Honda with the AR8, which became the 1989 Rover 200, along with the arrival of Honda, Nissan and Toyota as UK-based manufacturers caused a resentment in some quarters that now seems laughable.

The demise of the AR6 was seen as a tragedy, the end of Austin Rover’s ability to individually develop a small car to follow on from the Austin 7, A35, Mini and Metro. Austin Rover never officially acknowledged the cancellation of the AR6 and the last mention in the news files appears to be the April 1987 of CAR Magazine, where Rover Chairman Graham Day was interviewed.

On AR6, the ‘new Metro’, Day insisted that the questions were much more complex than ‘chop Metro‘ or ‘dress-up Metro’ as they had been portrayed in press discussion of the product up to then.

That, he said, was simplistic: ‘We don’t have to take the low-end decision for some time. When we do, we’ve got a series of decisions to make. Just take a look at the basic class. You’ve got competition from places like Korea. You’ve got Eastern Europe. And we have to take a decision at the Metro level, which will last at least 13 years. So we’re trying to make it a very careful one. That base car has got to be price competitive…’

‘One of the small car issues – and I’m not prepared to draw a firm conclusion – is that if you push for a larger product at the low end, you risk vacating the class altogether. We know that some of the cars in the Metro’s class are bigger than ours, but we’re not sure we should follow them up. That’s just a cheap way of using the other fellow’s market research. What if it’s wrong? Or he hasn’t done any? Our research says the Metro is seen as a particularly handy little car.’

Having now seen the AR6 for real, what Graham Day said makes sense. The surviving prototype at Gaydon is a five-door car and, when photographed in isolation, it looks okay. But when seen alongside other exhibits, the AR6 is a big car for a supermini, even by today’s standards. It certainly looks larger than the Ford Fiesta MkIII of 1989, which would have been its main rival in the market place. The decision to re-engineer the existing Metro with the K-Series Metro, because Rover believed consumers wanted a smaller car, was backed up by Nissan with the K11 Micra, which was also a compact super-mini, and a very successful one at that.

I can now see the coherent thinking behind the axing of the AR6. The AR6 was too big, and would have been sold at a budget price in a cutthroat market dominated by the Ford Fiesta, which after a decade on sale now had strong brand values.

On the other hand the AR8 collaboration with Honda was only a little larger than the AR6, was cheaper and could be sold at a premium price. Roy Axe signed off the AR8 design in August 1986, but it was not until December that year that Rover and Honda officially agreed to develop the car. From then on progress was very rapid indeed, with the AR8 being renamed the R8, and announced to the public in October 1989.

Fortunately, despite the apparently rapid development programme, the second-generation Rover 200 had none of the quality issues which had come as standard with previous BL cars – that then begs this question: how much of the AR6 was in the R8? Certainly the K-Series version of the R8 probably owed a lot to the AR6, which had thoroughly evaluated the new engine.

So, was the cancellation of the AR6 a disaster? In hindsight, I think not. An all-new supermini with a K-Series engine was a good idea, but the AR6 was not the right car for the job. Its cancellation in favour of the AR8 resulted in the Rover 200, which sold 950,000 cars at a premium price.

Moreover, the AR6 was not the only British car under development at the time which never made it to the showrooms. Sir John Egan, the Chairman of Jaguar, was telling the media that an XJ-S replacement, called the F-Type, was in the pipeline. This was the XJ41/42, which met its demise after the Ford takeover in 1990 when it did not meet their criteria for a successful sports car.

In the end, Rover did produce an all-British small car with the K-Series engine. This was the third-generation Rover 200, the R3 of 1995, and it was still smaller than the AR6. In 1997 Rover built more than 144,000 of them, impressive, but not Ford Fiesta-type volumes.

Those who decry Rover for failing to bring the AR6 to fruition should remember the ludicrous volumes which BMW expected the Rover 75 to achieve in order to pay its way – volumes way in excess of any previous British executive car. It was BMW which solved the problem of selling a small car manufactured in a higher-cost European country. Buy a brand associated with small cars – in this case MINI – and design a new car which retailed at a premium price.

That was a strategy which worked…

Wedgy stance would probably not have made production. Note the dramatic angle of the windscreen - in the 1980s, this would have been very radical indeed.
Wedgy stance would probably not have made production. Note the dramatic angle of the windscreen – in the 1980s, this would have been very radical indeed

Gallery: Austin AR6

An amazing number of design themes were created during the AR6 programme – here are some of the less well-known prototypes.

1982 teaser prototype

Austin AR6

AR6 gallery
The five-door aspect of the double-sided model shown to the press in 1982 – and not commented upon by Roy Axe

AR6 gallery

AR6 gallery
Three-door styling is clean and crisp – with major Italdesign overtones…

1983 styling proposals

AR6 gallery
Once the AR6 programme was underway, a number of advanced styling schemes were concocted, including this one-box model

AR6 gallery

AR6 gallery

AR6 gallery
The proposal was further developed into a full-sized ‘see-through’ model for evaluation

AR6 gallery

AR6 gallery
More conventional model from 1983 wasn’t progressed

AR6 gallery


Original design developed for production

AR6 gallery
Early see-through model retained much of the 1982 car’s avantgarde styling…

AR6 gallery
See-through model was further developed for production – note the side skirts and Rover badging

AR6 gallery


1985 and the design direction changes

AR6 gallery
The previous car’s advanced glass-house was abandoned for a more production-feasible AR6

AR6 gallery
Three-door AR6 now looks rather conventional

AR6 gallery
Rear of five-door model looks plain to the point of anonymity

AR6 gallery
AR6 three-door was a more modern, airy variation on the Metro theme
Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up 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 Classics 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 unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

21 Comments

  1. AR6 was a casualty of the Maestro/Montego debacle , the ramifications of which were far reaching .
    I am sure a production AR6 would have been a great car , but would anyone have bought it ?

  2. The 1.6 S-Series diesel sounds intriguing and wonder if any potential high-powered version would have superceded the 62/81 hp 2.0 Perkins Prima or even be compared against the 54-79 hp 1.6 Volkswagen (from the mk2 Golf) 1.8/1.9 PSA XUD engines.

    As for AR6, it would have been interesting to see what the finished product would have looked like though I somehow suspect the styling could have adopted elements from the stillborn R6X that appeared after AR6 was canned or be given an more attactive production ready body.

  3. Graham Day’s cancellation of AR6 seems another example of the key problem – short term strategy, thinking.

    OK, build on the Honda link and go ahead with R8 but to cancel AR6 was short sighted – it would leave the company without a wholly new car in a key market segment. R6 was a remarkable update but at the end of the day that’s all it was – a revision of an elderly car which would only have short term appeal.

  4. What about those black graphics around the windows in the R6 (last photo)? I’m tempted to give my white rover Metro this treatment! The bumpers look good with a mix of black and body colour.

  5. Only in recent years have premium manufacturers managed to make an effective business case to use Aluminium construction, and the means to actually build cars with it in a mass production environment. What chance did Austin Rover have to achieve this in 1986 with a super-mini? Another waste of time and money. If this car had been designed to be built in steel with carry over engines or Honda power plants it would have probably made it to market and your average Metro buyer wouldn’t have cared what it was made of or powered by.

  6. Sometimes, it is very hard to take this site seriously! How can you say (in a caption under a picture) “Some work to do but the fundamentals are there” The fundamentals of what are there? A Citroen Visa that was launched in 1978? That is exactly what it looks like.

    The prototype looked quite futuristic, but by the time of your photograph with the number plates on, it looks quite similar to the Citroen. It even has the single windscreen wiper and the shape of the rear wheel arch is the same. Perhaps it is a Citroen Visa that they bought(second-hand of course) and then modified to look like a prototype.

    As for launching it in 1988 – that was when the Citroen went out of production (after 10 years). It would have looked like Austin Rover had bought the tooling, slightly face-lifted the Visa and started re-making it! Instead they slightly face-lifted the Metro and kept selling that.

    • You have a point though both the 1983 One-Box styling proposal (in Gallery: Austin AR6 – albeit with a bit of work on the front-end) and the radical “Mouse” proposal by Stephen Harper looked modern enough for the 1990s and beyond.

  7. A Roverised Honda Jazz would have been nice, especially as Honda had not been able to make much, if any, money importing them.

  8. In the picture entitled “AR6 design shared between Stephen Harper and David Saddington.” at the top right the profile looks very much like the first generation Audi A2. That had an aluminum body too.
    The read window in photo entitled “This running prototype of the AR6 from c.1985…..” is like a Citroën C4 (first gen 3 door). a be it this car teh rear window was a bit larger.

  9. Aluminium panels such as door skins bonnets etc are a disadvantage, even the most minor supermarket carpark knock leaves a stretch mark dent or crater which is extremely hard to remove, even by experts, steel panels are so resiliant and reparairable in comparison

  10. Going off topic, a little, but in the mass market MM’s point is an important one. Makes you wonders how (by way of example) A2 owners get on.

    For me, it’s bad enough with my steel-bodied 1998 “S” Rover 400 and 2005 “05” MG TF. Thankfully (I suppose), it’s “only” dents on the MG, but over the years there have been a few such scrapes on the Rover which have broken the paint.

  11. I have an aluminium car, I rarely take it to the supermarket, and when using a public car park its the furthest lonely corner and the long walk for me

  12. I have an Audi A2 and there are no more dings in her doors than anything else I have owned. The prone areas- wheel arches and bumpers- are plastic.

    There are a number of similarities between the “Mouse” and the A2.

    A shame it wasn’t put into production…

    • There is a chance that AR6, like the A2, would have been too advanced for the market to succes, especially in the conservative and critical British market.

  13. It’s all such a shame. With AR6, 16 and 17 the company really did seem to have found its way, struck on an appealing quality design theme. Miles ahead of Maestro, Montego in terms of appeal. Produce these cars in conjunction with R8 and XX and bingo – a cohesive, appealing range of cars with a slight premium edge. This would have been a better plan than further Honda reliance – 600 (as attractive as it was) and HHR.

    • Let’s not forget that AR6 was to also form the basis of the AR7 Maestro and AR5 SD3 replacements, the latter two likely becoming two versions of the same model (e.g. Escort / Orion) below AR16/AR17 which might have better served Rover in later years.

      Assuming though the Maestro and Montego were successful enough to realise the above projects, how would that have affected Rover’s ties with Honda beyond the Rover 800 (XX)?

      Would a successful Rover by that point be able to stand on its own two feet without government support or being sold off to BAe, let alone give to another carmaker?

  14. The problem with the AR6 is that it’s a continuation of this BMC / BL obsession with recreating innovation of the Mini, so resources over the years expended on creating innovative designs for small cars that could never be built at a price and sold in quantities to make them viable. How many Mini replacements did we have in total? Yet all we got was the parts bin rehash of the Metro. Embarrassingly the BMW design team nailed the Super Mini market at its first go!

    The place for introducing bonded aluminium construction was (after the sale of Jaguar) the Range Rover, yet that their highest margin product soldiered on with its 70s body shell with its ladder chassis and embarrassing panel gaps and then only received a cut price re-skin over its live axle underpinnings.

  15. The issue regarding the size of AR6 compared to rival superminis could be resolved by the fact the platform was allegedly intended to replace the Metro, Maestro and Montego in one swoop.

    Can understand the concerns though given it appears the engines planned for the Metro replacement where the K-Series (pre-enlargement beyond 1.4) and the 1.6 S-Series in petrol/diesel forms.

    Would like to believe a role could have also been found for R6X in better circumstances to target both the small and large supermini sectors, similar to one possibly two other carmakers.

  16. Now if the AR6 came into production in 1987 with K series and Peugeot diesel engines, it could really have cleaned up, especially as Rover’s quality was improving, and the company would at last have a modern supermini that didn’t use engines from the Mini. I’d imagine the AR6 would have received the same reception the Metro did 7 years earlier.

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