The Austin Metro turns 40 years old on 8 October and, to celebrate, we’ll be sharing your best memories of one of the most iconic cars of the 1980s.
Here, in the first set of memories, you’ll find BSM cars, collectors and recollections of when they were brand new. Post your own memories below – we’re sure you’ll have plenty, good, bad and ugly…
Metro: in your words
It’s fair to say that no other car from ‘the Firm’ epitomises an era than the Austin Metro does. Launched in 1980, its production run neatly bracketed the entire decade and, in doing so, it encompassed the hopes and dreams of its maker. You can, of course, read all about the Metro’s gestation and subsequent production run in the comprehensive development story – needless to say it went through many twists and turns, but the wait was worth it, given how effective the final product was considering its compromised mechanicals.
And it really was brilliant, because from the perspective of someone who was there, having lived through the turbulent times that led up to its introduction, the Metro really was a breath of fresh air. And as a car that caught the imagination of a nation, it touched so many people’s lives that, even today, it’s hard to bump into someone who doesn’t have some interesting tale to tell about the Metro… not bad for a car that popular culture tends to dismiss.
So, instead of writing more about this history of the Metro – this page is yours. I’ve collated a number of memories from you, and would invite you to write your own in the comments below. It really is fascinating listening to how these little cars shaped your lives in one way or another – and I suspect the’ll continue to do so, as the years roll by.
We’ll add more of these pages in the coming days…
David Robertshaw, car enthusiast
I have fond memories of these cars, especially the one my Mum ran from 1989 to ’94. Purchased brand new, I still vividly remember going with her to pick G445 RVU up from the dealer on 1 August. It was a dealer special edition based on the City, gaining a Unipart pop-up sun roof, radio cassette and some ‘fashionable’ stripes (above). It proved to be a very good car and never let us down although it did suffer water leaks through the rear quarter window seals. It became my job to regularly mop up the pools of water that accumulated under the boot lining.
It resisted corrosion quite well compared to the earlier ones, but a random small rust hole appeared on the inner edge of a rear door at about three years old – my Dad showed me how to ‘fix’ it with Isopon P38. I still have a good few of the grey trim grommets in my toolbox that seemed to appear with surprising regularity in the boot and footwells – but with no obvious signs of where they’d come from!
It was also the first car I ever drove. Jerkily on and off the drive and into the garage. It taught me the basics of clutch control and that the steering was surprisingly heavy. I remember (as a passenger) that it was quite noisy on the motorway and it wasn’t really that happy above 65 mph, but I think the transmission whine and general noise was part of the appeal of it to me! I’d recognise the sound of one now instantly. I was sad to see it go when it was replaced by a Golf. However, I did get some more Metro experience as my driving instructor’s car was a Rover 100, and my first car renovation was a friend’s J-reg Metro 1.1 C.
John Boulton, former Austin Rover Sales Executive
I was working as a young salesman in a fairly small Austin Rover dealership in Heswall on the Wirral (James Edwards) at the time of the Metro launch. We had held a launch event on the eve of launch day in 1980 and it has been a spectacular success, we were swamped, the champagne flowed and a good time was had by all. I had been allocated a new demo car to use thereafter, a Vermillion red 1.3 S with the grey block interior. The following evening I proudly took my girlfriend at the time out for a drive and, later in the evening I visited a shop in the outskirts of Liverpool, parking the car outside around the corner.
I went back to the car and found Sue sitting hunched in the front seat with a crowd of at least 10 people gathered around it for their first look at a Metro. (I don’t think Sue enjoyed the attention). I can honestly say no other car launch had the same impact for me. The TV campaign was genius at the time and I particularly enjoyed the later ‘Batman drives a Metro’ campaign for which we held an open evening selling 13 cars including an MG Metro Turbo to a 79-year-old Grandmother! Happy days…
Stuart Collins, ex-Longbridge worker
I remember my Metro well as it was the first new car I bought, I used my employee discount as I worked at Longbridge at the time. I treated it to a sunroof, Hella spotlamp grille and a Selmar car alarm (remember them?).
Robbie Brown, his first ever car was a Metro
As a very lucky 17-year old, my parents bought me a secondhand Metro in 1993. It was yellow, with a black passenger door, a red driver’s door, and a silver bonnet. Fortunately, my cousin sprayed cars for a living, so when I first saw it, it was black. That is, until you went inside and saw the inside of the doors still in their original colours. Unfortunately, I failed my test first time around (passing at the second attempt a few weeks later), so the car sat in the street for a month or two. During which time, a neighbour called my mum to accuse of me of joyriding (such a 1990s phrase) without a licence – in fact, I was out underage drinking at the time!
Anyway, when I finally passed my test, I passionately pleaded with the headmaster of my school to let me use the school car park. After a weekend of consideration, he acquiesced. For my final year of school, I was (initially, at least) the only pupil with a car allowed to use the staff car park, and brought a few of my mates to lessons every morning.
Tom Morley, Metro enthusiast
Been driving Metros for 20 years after learning to drive in my Mum’s one. I had one as my first car, had my current Clubman Automatic (above) for 10 years and GS for eight years. I love them!
James Alexander Hallowell, car enthusiast
We had one new! A Green City X. I remember my dad being proud of the fact it was the first new car he ever owned. Unfortunately it’s also remembered as the worst car he’s ever owned. It was back at the dealership so many times that eventually they gave him the Blue loaner City X he’d been given while the other was in for repair – which ended up being a great car! First build and all.
Simon Woodward, car enthusiast
I learnt in a BSM Metro in 1983. As a lad growing up in King’s Heath Birmingham, our school went on a trip to the Austin to see the Metro being built. I later bought one in 1985, it was 1983 1.0 L on a Y plate. I liked it, great for city driving with lots of glass and you could really chuck it about which was just as well because it was very slow. Steering wheel angle was odd, but at 6ft 3in, I found it easy to get into.
But it wasn’t all good. The front footwell used to flood because rain water would fill up the heater box if the drainage pipe got gunned up. Mine spent a lot of time in the garage, it was never expensive just inconvenient. So at three-years old and 10,000 miles, the coil cracked, the radius arms wore out, the water pump failed and finally 18 months after purchase I broke the main shaft in the gearbox literally on the way to a garage to part exchange. Did I like it, well yes it was great fun to drive and cheap to own. People have rose-tinted views about some cars – okay mine had a few problems, but so did many cars from that period.
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