Unsung Heroes : MG Metro 1300

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble on the continuing series of iconic cars that once littered the highways and by-ways of the UK. There was nothing exotic or high tech here with our very own MG Metro, but it really caught the imagination of a buying generation.

It might not have been the fastest, or the coolest, hot hatch – but the Metro was one of the most fun.


Back on top for the Octagon

MG Metro at launch in June 1982
MG Metro at launch in June 1982

Sometimes, going back to basics can be fun – even John Major told us so, but in the hurley whirly world of cars, nobody offers a simple, fun and jolly four-seater car. Everything is fitted with three-way catalytic coverters, fuel injection, ABS and other baffling abbreviations, when sometimes all you need is a steering wheel, a seat and a ruddy big smile on your fizzog.

It’s nice to have all the bells and buttons in your car but now and again I yearn for a simple box of fun on wheels that can even make the most mundane of chores like doing the shopping run – a joy. Our very own Sir Alec Issigonis for all his foibles and notorious temper gave the world a huge smile with the Mini. And for all it’s faults (and there are hundreds of them), the Mini was quite simply a brilliant hoot to drive. It was quite possibly the only English car to connect all human senses together once you pulled the door shut and fired up that A-Series engine.

Like eating a doughnut without licking your lips, driving a Mini without being a little hoolgan was quite simply – impossible.

My own Mini was an A-plate 1100 special, which sported an Allegro 1300 engine. It was truly a death trap. But I didn’t care. Still sporting its 10in alloys, and almost useless drum brakes, she would scream and whine her way to over an indicated 95mph, but trying to stop the thing would almost make you pee yourself. After two good tugs on the brakes, they would fade away just like end of a favourite record – and just as quickly. But I didn’t care.

At any speed over walking pace, it was impossible to light a cigarette thanks to the spine-destroying ride (dis)comfort, and holding a conversation at motorway speeds was akin to making yourself heard in a nightclub – equally impossible. But again, I didn’t care.

The car burned oil, misfired like old blunderbuss in the wet and the demister was pathetic – but guess what? I didn’t care.

Why not? simply because everytime I took it out, I felt great and almost child like. Being a single man with a snappy looking Mini and not being the fat grey haired lump I am now, caused my single bed in my shared terrace house to have room for just one more on top – I loved my red Mini.

The arrival of the Metro in 1980 ushered in some badly needed confidence for BL, and for a short while it looked like the Mini was living on borrowed time. Austin had a winner on its hands, capturing the essence of the Mini in its handling, driving position and drivetrain. The Metro sadly lacked a cheeky sporting model – a feature customers cried out for. The two range-toppers at launch were the 1.3S and HLS. The former was a luxury oriented model, with plain and pleated velour seats; and the S had nothing more sporting than a horrid striped interior trim, and seats shaped like patio furniture.

With BL’s budget of £275m, the fact that it had launched a genuine world beating hatchback car along with a new A+ engine, was no mean feat. It was to be another two years before a real sporting version would arrive in the showrooms, but this was possibly down to politics more than marketing. Besides, 1980 was one hell of a year for BL – a year of tears as well as joy.

BL had a busy time in 1980. the launch of the Ital and the Metro kept the sales and marketing guys busy, and certainly in the case of the miniMetro, had a serious hit on its hands. Sir Michael Edwardes had to a degree quietened down the union unrest by stating that the company would be shut down if unrest continued. Many a bitter pill was swallowed by management and shop floor workers since the arrival of Edwardes, but there was no denying that BL was a leaner fitter company as this new decade began.

There was of course some sad times with the closure of MG in Abingdon, but to be honest both the Midget and MGB were about as modern as the iron age, and made skydiving a less draught free way of travelling at speed. The MG range had become a bit of a laughing stock, the hardy, but antiquated B series engine was thirsty, heavy and made listening to a badly scratched Bucks Fizz LP more pleasing on the ear. They handled with the finesse and precision of a shot Giraffe while rusting faster than a beer tin in a Soviet salt mine.

The marque was far from dead, and in 1982 the Metro range gained the peppy, go kart like sporting MG-badged model it had been crying out for – followed a year later by the Turbo version. On a personal note, the 1300 model seemed the more genuine article with no frills, no fancy turbochargers that tended to strip the gearbox quicker than a team of WRC mechanics. No gaudy body kits but just a simple uprated engine, rowdy exhaust and some cute styling touches to the interior – and oh, didn’t those 12in pepper pot alloys look awesome?

The A+ 1275cc was upped from just over 60bhp to 72 thanks to a cylinder head topped off with a glorious ribbed alloy valve cover. That head was ported, gained bigger valves and the camshaft had a slightly peaky profile that aided engine breathing at higher revs. An exhaust with a larger bore and slashed tail pipe looked better that the pea shooter of the cooking models, giving the new MG a nice rorty soundtrack. The strakes fitted to the tailgate added a certain cheeky look to the rear while aiding aerodynamics at the same time, nothing at all looked cheap or garsish to the Metro’s clean uncluttered lines.

Gone were the shapeless seats inside – the MG 1300 looked a treat with herringbone tweed/dark velour faux Recaro front seats. And that shirt button-leather clad steering wheel looked far better than the hard four spoke corporate BL items we were all used to seeing. And check out that interior – wonderful red carpets, red seat belts and a non-slip mat on the passenger side complete with the MG logo moulded into it. Even the dash dials had a different font to the other models, adding to that simplistic sporting feel.

Who cares if it was badge engineering, this is what fun was all about. Yes the Mini was great fun, but any journey over 100 miles on a cold damp day could make you sore, miserable, tired and deeply deeply depressed. With the MG Metro, you could fit four people with room to spare, drive all day long and not wish you had taken the train. Even parked up switched off, it had a terrier type naughty puppy look that begged for a run.

Upon its launch, some traditionalist fans and dyed in the wool motoring journos bemoaned the use of the MG brand to spice up an erstwhile car. But big deal. When they got behind the wheel and drove the thing like it was stolen, many of its critics shut up. All of a sudden that noisy whine from the antiquated transmission seemed perfect with the exhaust note and sit-up-and-beg driving position, sublime cornering ability with decent servo disc brakes inspired confidence.

It wasn’t even that quick either – top speed was just over the magic ton, with 60mph coming up in around 11.5 seconds, only a shade quicker than the standard 1.3 models. But that was missing the point – it felt and sounded so much quicker. Even its equipment levels seemed sparse – taking away the radio, rear wiper and alloys, the Metro was left with very little But as they say, sometimes less is more.

So did Austin Rover create the modern day Mini Cooper with the MG Metro? I think so. The MG Metro’s mix of superb handling, cheeky looks and bags of character was everything the original Mini had in spades.

Austin Rover had seemingly found its mojo with the two MG Metros and SD1 Vitesse, within 18 months of each other. The Rover range was updated and new models were in the pipeline, was the old doom and gloom of British Leyland now just a memory?  Maybe not, but this new found confidence and feel good factor at least got BL off it’s knees and onto it’s feet, the ’80s were indeed a busy time for Austin Rover.

Just two years after the MG 1300 arrived, the entire Metro range was improved and updated with a new five-door shell and brand new interior. The minimalistic yet slightly flimsy dashboard with instrument pod gave way to a brand new, high quality facia with chunky switches, centre console and smart plastic bumpers on certain models that looked oh so much better than the original rolled steel items of earlier Metros.

The 1275cc engines gained electronic ignition, while all models (even the 1.0 City) sported vented front discs and four piston calipers – a system that was amazingly over-engineered at the time.

Keeping to its sporting roots, the MG Metro remained a three-door car, with ARG skilfully updating equipment or exterior graphics, right from its launch up to deletion, the MG was a strong selling car. Many may have ended up being rusty heaps or badly customised, but for me anyway, an original 1982 MG 1300 in solid red or blue metallic is the epitome of the wind of change for the better for Austin Rover in the 1980s.

For sure, the MG Metro Turbo was a fantastic little car with awesome performance, but for me, a simple car with charm in abundance is more than enough to have you grinning like a Cheshire cat.

MG Metro Turbo's chrms were eclipsed by the original 1300 for Mike Humble.
MG Metro Turbo's chrms were eclipsed by the original 1300 for Mike Humble.

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

74 Comments

  1. “So did Austin Rover create the modern day Mini Cooper with the MG Metro? I think so.”

    I think they certainly created a spiritual successor, though it didn’t take long for Mini enthusiasts to realise that if you got the engine from a written off MG Metro you could drop it straight into a mini. In 1989 one particular Mini enthusiast proved Rover’s engineers wrong and convinced Rover group management to start dropping the engine into minis on the production line, Some bloke named John Cooper.

    Sadly the similarity to the mini is why there are now so few left. Most now have the engine ripped out and dropped into a mini.

    The Metro VDP had the same engine and horse power as the MG version, but 2 extra doors and a more luxury orientated interior. Many would tell you it’s a different engine or different cam, head etc. But the Rover technical and parts literature says differently.

  2. A brave attempt to get into the hot hatch market, and for the money, the MG Metro was a decent little hot hatch that didn’t cost the earth to insure and economy was the right side of 40 mpg. Bear in mind 101 mph was very respectable for a 1.3 litre engine in 1982, considering a 1.6 Cortina could only reach 97 mph and the MG Midget struggled to reach a ton.

  3. The MG Metro is probably the reason why I still have an affinity with MG…..why ? …..because my first ever brand new car was a red MG Metro “C” registered. If my memory serves me right it was £5200. For same money Ford could only offer me a Fiesta Popular. It saddens me there are so few left (would love to have another drive in one for old time’s sake !)………….and what do I drive now …..an MG ZR.

  4. I always thought the first MG Metro and Turbo were great to look at, the later face lift coloured version became a bit to pretty for me, however the last of the line ‘A’ series engined GTA’s looked really great and probaly closer to the original concept. Finding a neat MK1 MG Metro or a nice ‘A’ series GTA, you know the type old lady from new etc, is frequent search on my e bay account.

  5. I remember a mate of mine that bought and sold cars got one of these (a white D reg) at auction in the mid 90s and loved it so much that he sold his 205 GTI 1.6 (which guzzled petrol like a supertanker when driven spiritedly) and kept the little MG Metro 1300 (35-40 mpg no matter how it was driven) for eighteen months, enjoying it’s peppy performance and lovely interior (we we so surprised at how nice the interior was, having been used to XR2s etc). When he sold it to get a Strada Abarth 130TC he didn’t lose a penny on that little Metro. I was really impressed by it – a cracking little car.

  6. I know that a lot of people prefer the Rover Metro onwards, but there was a simple, refreshing honesty about those pre-1990 Metros that I much preferred to the social climbing Rover ones.

  7. Would have to agree Mike – The early MG Metro 1300 got it just right. I too prefered it to the Turbo version and whilst I liked the 1984 facelift of the Metro range I thought the original MG 1300 looked best. Somehow the facelifted version lost some of the original’s charm.

    I can vividly remember viewing the MG Metro 1300 when first launched, as boy of 13 years. At this time, I thought it the coolest car I had ever seen!!

    What Car? magazine voted the MG Metro 1300 their Car Of The Year in 1982/3.

  8. I loved the GTa model they did towards the end of the Eighties (1275 engine with cross spoke alloys and clever black masking on the side windows if I remember rightly – I preferred that to the MG. Mind you, I always seen to prefer the looks of the warm version – I preferred the Nova SR to the GTE, the Astra SRi to the GTE, the Fiesta 1.4S to the XR2, the Polo GT to the G40 etc.

    I also remember that when I was at middle school* (aged about 12 0r 13) a kid’s mother had a brand new bright red MG Metro 1300, the one with full colour coding and several MG stickers on the side with bits missing if you know what I mean. It looked the business – we were all proper impressed!

    *Don’t know if the rest of the country had these, it was a strange three stage school system, defunct now. Ours was the first purpose built middle school in the country and was quite well designed for the time, well it was until some local scumbags burnt it down along with most of the other schools in the area. People moan about the youth of today, they were far worse in South Yorkshire twenty years ago!

  9. “What Car? magazine voted the MG Metro 1300 their Car Of The Year in 1982/3.”

    I remember that.

    The tragedy was that it was left far behind once the likes of the 205GTI came along. It is rather depressing that the Metro had to make do with the A-series and the in-sump four speed transmission. Read somewhere that there were thoughts of engineering an overdrive unit for the Metro once it appeared that competitors were going to have five-speed transmissions, but nothing ever came of that of course. You wonder if the car could have been re-engineered with the A+ hooked up to a bought in end-on box (like the Maestro.)

    A tragedy, too, that the interconnected Hydragas set-up as developed for the 1990 R6 Metro wasn’t on the car from Day One. I don’t think anyone would have complained about the grumbly old engine and whiney gearbox if it had been the best handling and riding small car in the world.

    But as a Mini fan first and foremost, the worst thing of all was that they didn’t put the 72bhp A-series unit in the Mini. They could have done that in 1984 when the tin brick went over to 12″ wheels and front disc brakes. What on earth stopped them? They’d then have had sporting products from the Mini Cooper to Rover Vitesse: nice.

    • Agreed the MG Metro 1300 was not properly developed, on top of the mentioned advances would have been interesting for the MG Metro 1300 to feature the 83+ hp A-OHC version (along with the 72 hp 1100 A-OHC).

      Though understandable why the Metro made do with the existing in-sump transmission, it makes one wonder whether it was possible for the original Metro to use an end-on gearbox.

      While the Maestro A+ and End-On gearbox was considered too tight to fit into the Mini during the Minki project, given the A+ was roughly equivalent to a K-Series three 1/2 cylinder engine in length and that the Minki was later widened / lengthened by 2-iches to accommodate the K-Series (plus end-on gearbox) creating the Minki-II, the above suggests that an end-on gearbox for the original Metro should be doable in theory (as it is already larger then the related Mini).

      At least an original Metro with an end-on (instead of in-sump) gearbox would have made it less likely to have its engine and gearbox immediately harvested for spares / replacements.

  10. “I preferred that to the MG. Mind you, I always seen to prefer the looks of the warm version”

    The GTa was the same performance as the MG as was the Metro 1300 Sport. At the end of the 80’s Rover dropped the Austin and MG badges from the cars. They gained a plain Shield badge with the model name on it. So Metro, Maestro, Montego etc on a Grey shield. They renamed the MG version ‘1300 Sport’ then later decided on GTa. When the K-Series model was introduced, they used the GTa badge on the warm version and the GTi badge on the hot version.

    When A-Series Metros were ten a penny in scrap yards a few years ago, i researched the engines quite a lot to see which ones were worth rescuing. Basically the MG 1300, Vanden plas, 1300 Sport and GTa all used the same high compression 70 odd bhp engine. Interestingly the Vanden Plas Automatic also used the same state of tune, so it gave the option of a sporty automatic for those that couldn’t drive a manual.

    “*Don’t know if the rest of the country had these, it was a strange three stage school system, defunct now.”

    Until about 3 years ago they still had Middle schools on the Isle of Sheppey here in Kent.

    “whilst I liked the 1984 facelift of the Metro range I thought the original MG 1300 looked best. Somehow the facelifted version lost some of the original’s charm.”

    I must admit i thought the 1984 facelift had better lines, it looked more finished. But the interior on the earlier ones had a much better looking dashboard, made the car so roomy inside. Much more coherent switchgear, were as the later ones, had the heated rear screen switch stuck in that odd place and the mismatched fan switch. Odometers on the later ones were less reliable too.

  11. “the worst thing of all was that they didn’t put the 72bhp A-series unit in the Mini. They could have done that in 1984 when the tin brick went over to 12″ wheels and front disc brakes. What on earth stopped them?”

    They stated technical reasons, that it wasn’t possible. In about 1989 John Cooper approached them about it, putting a case for a new Mini Cooper as his factory approved conversion kits had been selling so well. Rover engineers said it was impossible!? Mr Cooper yanked the engine out of a metro and dropped it into a Mini then took it to the factory to prove them wrong. A few months later the Cooper RSP arrived the rest as the say is history.

  12. I have never owned a Metro, but I hired a 1.0L and test drove three – a 1.3S, a 1.4GTa, and a 1.4 diesel. They all had a puppy-dog cheerfulness about the way they drove. I also rode in the back of a 5-door once, and was amazed at the amount of room back there.

    I suspect you won’t find any new hatch of the same size that has as much interior room, nor is as much fun to drive.

  13. @Dennis

    I never realised that the GTa was a rebadged MG! The Vanden Plas in it’s day must have been quite a car, with the MG engine, wood trim, central locking and electric windows.

  14. “@Dennis
    I never realised that the GTa was a rebadged MG! The Vanden Plas in it’s day must have been quite a car, with the MG engine, wood trim, central locking and electric windows.”

    Indeed, the Later K-Series Models with GS trim came with a full leather interior too. The leather seats were apparently an option on the Metro VDP, but very expensive and i’ve only ever seen one.

    I have a handbook for the optional equipment on the pre-84 cars and it describes a trip computer, with economy, mpg displays, as well as electric door mirrors, Cruise Control, Air Conditioning, interior light delay, Electric Tailgate release and door flood lights. In 1980 they were extremely high end options, not even standard equipment on the likes of Jaguar!

  15. To this day I still kick myself for not buying the little red MG Metro I had the chance of getting and buying a Peugeot 305 GT instead

  16. now wouldnt this be a something cool the new owner of mg makeing a small car thats fun quick so they could do a hot hatch new engine maybe a 1.6 or 1.8 but not the one used in the mg6 something brand new. then fit a turbo style it around fun so that would be fun power hmmm maybe something like that would sell and even maybe put small engines in that dont have turbos and make that cool as well hmmmmm turbo 🙂 mg6 🙁 lession in that some were

  17. now wouldnt this be a something cool the new owner of mg makeing a small car thats fun quick so they could do a hot hatch new engine maybe a 1.6 or 1.8 but not the one used in the mg6 something brand new. then fit a turbo style it around fun so that would be fun power hmmm maybe something like that would sell and even maybe put small engines in that dont have turbos and make that cool as well hmmmmm mg metro turbo 🙂 mg6 🙁 lession in that some were

  18. the metros sold well im sure weve been advised, and if the tubos were only a small percentage of these im sure ARG would have been happy. also the metro turbo probably would have let the public have something akind to the Metro 4×4 v6 turbo, and lest we also not forget the 90hp Mini ERA turbo, which made some people very happy, apparently…. the metro was always a nicer place to be than a fiesta. alex

  19. We got one of the first of these in Edinburgh in May/June 1982. As someone else says, it’s sad they ended up being engine donors for Minis rather than restored as they deserved to be.

    Still on my ebay wish-list too……

  20. I bought a new one in metallic light blue in early 1984. Great little car. Full of character with a comfortable ride, eager handling and a characterful economical engine. The 4-speed gearbox would have been better as a 5-speed but in practice the lack of the 5th speed wasn’t a great loss. The gearchange quality was much better than the A-series of the 60s. The body was solidly welded together but the bigger problem with them was rust bubbling out from various places. The stories about lack of fuel tank baffles, leaky breather and plastic gearbox components can wait for another day. Would love to drive one again and relive old memories.

  21. @ Dennis:

    @ Steve Bailey:

    Looking at the original A Series Metro range (1980 until early 1990), the MG Metro 1300 was not replaced by the GTa or Sport. Indeed the very last A Series Metro to be built in 1990 was a British Racing Green MG Metro 1300 which formed part of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust’s collection until July 2003 when it was sold off at their controversial auction.

    That said, in the summer of 1989, the MG Metro Turbo variant was quietly dropped. The other MG variants in the ‘MMM’ range such as the MG Maestro 2.0i and MG Montego 2.0i and Turbo were discontinued in November 1991.

    In October 1988 (for the 1989 Model Year), the A Series Metro range was given a subtle facelift, with new bodyside graphics for the MG variants and a Rover-style shield for the front grille with the word ‘Metro’ written across it. Other enhancements included the introduction of the Sport and GTa derivatives featuring the same 1275cc spec engine as already found in the MG 1300, but with a reduced level of equipment specification and different colours and trim. This approach reinforced the MG variants as the ongoing halo sporting models.

    The K Series powered Rover Metro range launched in May 1990 did not feature MG variants, just the 1.4 8-valve GTa and the flagship GTi powered by a 1.4-litre 16-valve unit. You could argue that the new Rover Metro 1.4 GTa was the spiritual successor to the MG Metro 1300 and the GTi to the MG Turbo.

    @ Steve Bailey: If you want to spot a really rare Metro Vanden Plas then look out for the limited edition (of 500) VP500 launched to commemorate the 500,000th Metro rolling off the assembly line in 1982/3, or a two-tone Vanden Plas available between October 1987 and October 1988 in a choice of three two-tone colour combinations.

  22. @Mike Humble
    “To clarify…
    Post 84 Metro VDP 71 BHP
    MG Metro 72bhp
    Reason? Different rear silencer.”

    That’s hilarious! All that effort involved in designing a different rear silencer to gain 1 BHP. Bet they were gutted when they dyno’d it. Hopefully it sounded better as a consolation.

  23. MG Metro was a great brand, and would have fitted nicely on the Metro GTa of the late ’80s rather than competing with it.

    1983 – they year when you could buy the Metro as an Austin, MG, Vanden Plas or Morris (van). Rover was a fifith brand, a few years later. Badge engineering – the only consistent name was Metro, until that too was dropped in 1995 in favour of 100 (or was it Kensington, or Knightsbridge?). Compare that to the reputation for consistency gained by the umpteen generations of different cars called VW Golf.

  24. @Paul T

    “Still on my eBay wish list”

    Take a look at these two then!

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MG-METRO-MET-MOONRAKER-BLUE-1986-D-21000-MILES-NEW-STUNNING-/260876893874?pt=Automobiles_UK&hash=item3cbd797eb2#ht_2303wt_934

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/MG-Metro-/160676027587?pt=Automobiles_UK&hash=item2569099cc3#ht_802wt_934

    I’m really surprised at how cheap AR stuff is – if they were Fords in that condition they would be far more, despite not being any better cars (and some would say worse).

  25. Steve Bailey – Comment 12

    Know what you mean – The warmer versions are often somehow more appealing, especially when viewed as an overall package.

    I bought a five year old 205xs in 1994. This car was half way to a GTI. As I remember, the 5 door was badged GT and the 3 door the XS. The XS certainly looked the part – GTI seats, dash, front air dam. The engine was a warmed over 1.4 with 85bhp compared to 70’ish for the cooking models. The suspension may not have been full GTI but certainly had a more sporting set up than lesser models.

    Great car – fun to drive, excellent handling and surprisingly fast. I can remember rep mobiles of the day leaving lights, roundabouts behind me and expecting to pass. Not a chance!!

    All the fun of the GTI but far cheaper to insure & fuel!!

    I had set my heart on one and saw an ad in the local paper. When I rang up, the guy at the other end of the phone, in trying to explain who he was, said “Do you know Stobbart’s Haulage?”. At this point, the car was all but sold!!

    As said above, I loved the MG Metro 1300. By 1994, it would have been Rover Metro Gta as the alternative buy. I loved these too! However, with the oldest being 18 months newer than my Peugeot it was unfortunately beyond budget!

  26. @David Dawson

    I too thought that the 205 XS was a cracking car. I always fancied the 205 D Turbo – basically an XS or GT with a 90bhp 1.8 turbo diesel – oodles of torque and cracking economy. I’ve always regretted never buying one but they held their value for ages, being one of the first sporty diesels.

  27. “Like eating a doughnut without licking your lips, driving a Mini without being a little hoolgan was quite simply – impossible.”

    Brilliant quote! Sums up my experience with the mini, always preferred bigger cars for day to day use but the mini was so much fun at (relatively) low speeds.

  28. Nice Mike, “Even parked up switched off, it had a terrier type naughty puppy look that begged for a run.”
    – I couldn’t agree more Mike. I had had a 1984 MG metro, in black.
    I loved it’s rorty, cheeky appeal. Even the engine block looked the part. Painted red, with a shiny alloy rocker cover. 🙂
    It was simple, cheap but above all – FUN! 🙂
    Yes it wasnt made very well, yes it rusted away but the MG Metro was great fun.
    Perhaps MG motor could learn a thing or two from the MG Metro?

  29. When it first came out always fancied the turbo, good little hot hatch with very repectful permormance.Although the face lifted MGs were also good, but I feel the GTA with all the trims looked a bit better than MG version. The GTA s do ommand a high price on ebay these days, I did have one for a while 31000 miles G reg in red, was given to my ex when parted compamy. Its was a shame that it was quitely droped with the other models as the the company being fully “Roverised”. I fancy a Metro Vanden Plas with those MG metro alloys!

  30. For years, I had resented, loathed and possibly even hated the Metro. This is because of my first experience with one:

    Metro #1 was a 1985 C-plate MG Metro that I ended up with around August/September 1992 – it saw me through to February-ish 1993, so all the strongest memories are around Christmas – driving to parties with friends and the latest Sisters of Mercy album on, finding those lovely alloys had once again let all the air out, going Christmas shopping – all that sort of stuff.

    I didn’t want a Metro. My Chevette had become uneconomic to repair and dangerous, apparently (it wasn’t, but I didn’t know too much about maintenance and brakes scared me). I wanted a BX19 TRS. So this Metro started off being resented, right from day one.

    88mph in third, IIRC. It was driven hard, and actually, I quite enjoyed it – but the oil pump went, then the replacement engine was simply broken, then the third engine had a faulty oil pump too. Again, with hindsight, I really was being given a massive runaround by the garage, but there weren’t many choices in the Borders.

    With replacement engine number three in it, I was then told that the subframe was rotten and the radius arm was about to part company with the car. I traded it in for a BX 16RE.

    Despite two intermediate Metros – a VDP (I always liked the way they made door cappings to integrate the dash on the Mk 2 VDP, and cant understand why they left them off the R6) and an ARX which had such awful engine mounts, you could change from 1st to 2nd simply by being really violent with the throttle – I dismissed all of ’em as a bad bunch.

    Then I encountered an R6 – a 1.1i Rio Grande. What a fantastic little car that was, amazing handling, smooth engine, great gearbox. The R6 showed what the Metro should have been.

    And now I’m fonder of them – I didn’t have bad experiences whilst owning it, it never actually stranded me, and I miss the red carpets, seatbelts and so forth of the MG model. It was a good handling car that took a lot of abuse.

    I tried a Turbo, but really didn’t see the point over a regular one. And now, of course, I’ve got that oddity that is a 114 Cabrio, and I rather like it. Most of the time. Sometimes I wish it was a TR7 or X1/9, or a Citroën XM. Only sometimes, though.

    I can’t imagine 17 year old drivers now get to enjoy anything quite as visceral with their typical first cars. Corsas and Saxos are simply horrible, in my opinion – and yes, I’ve driven lots of ’em.

  31. “Indeed the very last A Series Metro to be built in 1990”

    Point taken, you’ve obviously researched it more than i did. I only really looked at the engines. So really the GTa/Sport was the thinking man’s MG Metro, i assume it was cheaper, but offered the same performance.

    The last A-Series metro was built long after 1990 though, when the R6 metro was launched it replaced the ‘manual’ A-Series metro. However Rover continued building Automatic A-Series models for about 18 months until the CVT version of the R6 was launched. Which is why you saw a K reg Austin every now and then, they’re automatics. Although it’s possible the factory stockpiled them prior to that.

    “The GTA s do ommand a high price on ebay these days, I did have one for a while 31000 miles G reg in red, was given to my ex when parted compamy. Its was a shame that it was quitely droped with the other models as the the company being fully “Roverised”.”
    Dropped? Rover as had been said above the GTa badge continued on the R6 as the 8 valve sporty looking one.

  32. I did wonder why there seemed to be bit overlap with Metros, the earliest R6’s were G reg but the earlier ones seem to go on to a J (often vans), I’ve never seen K reg one.

    I did think they were surpless stock that took a long time to sell with a new design of Metro joining them in the showrooms.

  33. The Metro was such a good car that it was ‘Roverised’ and allowed to become Rover’s smallest car. The Maestro and Montego did not receive this treatment.

    There was to be a Metro Cooper, John Cooper Garages made one but BL got antsy and banned it.

    The early MGs did seem to have more of a ‘pure’ look to them whereas some of the later models seemed to just be Metros with bodykits, they even sold them sans alloys!

  34. Always loved those red seatbelts on MG Metro’s, Maestro’s & Montego’s. When I was a lot younger and owned my first Mini 850 I aspired to own a 1275GT Clubman (never did!). I suppose in later years I would have desired an MG Metro, but by then I was into buying Datsuns.

    The MG Metro did seem to be the right sort of range topper at the right time…

  35. The MG Metro was a great marketing exercise and sold like hot cakes in 1982-84. the black model looked best until the all white mark 2 came out in 1985. I ran an MG 1300 at the time with a very similar engine (cooper S) and drove both regularly. The MG Metro was more a successor to the Mini Cooper but never quite had the image to compete in the GTi class especially after the 205 came along – but in 1982 it showed ARG had some good marketing up its sleave and the Vitesse Rover also acted as a halo model. MG 6 – you need a little of that marketing magic

  36. I like the “roverised” metros too, and fully aware that GTA was used along with the GTi. I understand that John Cooper did “Cooperised” a Metro, but BL-ARG didnt take the offer up.

  37. I have a 88 metro turbo sat in my garage, im giving it a full rebuld and hopefully will be road ready for the summer, and if i’m honest i can’t wait to relive my youth i owned a all white metro turbo back in 1989 90, and i loved it.

  38. “I wonder if I could put red seatbelts in my Cabrio. I should measure and check them…”

    They should fit yes. most parts behind the A pillar were carried over from the earlier cars.

  39. As far as I remember the GTa wasn’t simply a rebadged MG 1300. It had the 1300 engine but the Turbo suspension.

  40. Dennis: Yeah, but the belts are fitted differently – cross-over belts fitted on the parcel shelf, and lower A-pillar mounts with rails on the sill. I’d be surprised if they were bespoke, but a remarkable number of Cabrio bits were!

  41. Great days indeed.Working in a Rover workshop at the time I remember the MG with fondness,lumpy idle (occasional running on),rorty exhaust,whining gearboxes,peeling transfers,slipping heating controls on facelift dash,water leaks.It’s what kept us busy.They were cars people enjoyed despite problems and had massive showroom appeal with their fab interiors.Even the motoring press liked them !.

  42. “Dennis: Yeah, but the belts are fitted differently – cross-over belts fitted on the parcel shelf, and lower A-pillar mounts with rails on the sill. I’d be surprised if they were bespoke, but a remarkable number of Cabrio bits were!”

    All the 3 door metro’s had the rails on the sill. Belts being too long isn’t normally a problem, as if you remove the belt from the car the reels will take pretty much all of the free belt before they become over full. The only thing that might be a problem is the angle at which the inertia reels are fitted, if they’re mounted at a different angle you may find they don’t lock/release.

    “I remember the MG with fondness,lumpy idle (occasional running on)”
    The later ones were fitted with Anti Run-on valves, which was carried over to the RSP and Mainstream Coopers. Usually fitted somewhere near the brake servo, they vented the inlet manifold to the air when you switched off.

  43. I had a new one in August 1987, so it had the improved interior. Inside it was very nice and the seats were excellent. It handled well, but the performance, MPG and noise were poor. It was a pity the Rover Metro didn’t badge the sports model MG instead of GTI. that was a totally nicer car.

  44. To quote a competitor manufacturer “Terrible thing, Envy”

    This article takes me straight back to 1988 and the heady days of the Lower Sixth when my friends and I started driving. A schoolfriend’s mum had a MG Metro 1300 and he was allowed to drive it to school occasionally. I, on the other hand had access to my mum’s D-plated Metro Mayfair (three doors and 998cc). How I envied those red seatbelts…

    When I was finally started earning “proper money” my first car was the spiritual successor to the MG Metro that other have alluded to here, namely an early Rover GTA. I still think that this was more of a prototype than a proper model, with an odd combination of single cam K-Series engine and SU carb. Mine was first sold in May 1990, but IIRC by late 1991 the GTa had gone single point injection and the model name no longer made sense. The best thing about my GTa was that you got fantastic performance (not that much slower than the GTi and if you set up the carbs right you could leave XR2s and Nova GTEs standing at the lights), but for Grannys’ shopping cart insurance prices.

    Although only driven occasionally since 1999 and not at all since 2008, I still have the little darling tucked away in the garage beneath the detritus of life that accompanies parenthood. My three year old daughter “discovered” my Metro this year, and with the innocence of childhood asked “Is that your new car, Daddy?”

    I wish! I’ve had VWs Pugs, Fords, and currently a Honda CR-V since “growing up” but none of them have captured me as completely as my Metro GTa

  45. I remember inheriting my parents Metro Turbo in bright red with grey lower half. Exchanged it when I bought a 220 turbo coupe with 120,000 miles on the clock and it still went like the clappers. A joy to drive over alpine passes and was a nasty surprise for many bigger cars, always put a 🙂 on my face.

  46. “Exchanged it when I bought a 220 turbo coupe with 120,000 miles on the clock”

    Couldn’t you have found a 220 Turbo Coupe with lower mileage? (joke)

  47. I loved the MG Metro when is was new – the original model as shown at the start of this article. Am wanting to buy something as a winter supplement to my Midget later next year when finances allow – but salty roads and Metros are not a good mixture. Does anyone have any suggestions for either a way to proof a Metro against salt attacks (apart from tuck it away in the garage – or any interesting alternative cars that are more resistant to our winter roads?

  48. Dinitrol in all the cavities much like you would with a midget. But pretty much all pre-1990 cars (from any manufacturer) have rust problems. About the only exception are Volvo’s, which were built with salty roads in mind.

  49. In fairness, the R6 Metro is pretty good for rust resistance. Most of them lasted a decade before showing really poor bodywork; the 100-series models were less resistant around the arches, but even those are at least 12 years old.

    Worst areas are jacking points and rear arches (fairly obvious). Unless you’re desperate for an A-series and non-interlinked suspension, get a Metro 1.4 8v MPi with tidy arches, rust proof it, don’t be daft with the salt; keep it clean and waxed.

    Dennis: Volvo 480. 7 years old, FSH. Rust in door apertures along roof, door skin, inner panel behind bumper. 440s similarly, but less obviously afflicted, 340 sills. 66 floors and sills. 740 wings (cosmetic). 850 wings (when mine was 9 years old I leaned on the wing whilst fitting new upper mounts and went through the wing).

  50. “In fairness, the R6 Metro is pretty good for rust resistance. Most of them lasted a decade before showing really poor bodywork; the 100-series models were less resistant around the arches, but even those are at least 12 years old.”
    True, but i did say pre-1990 😉 They cured the front end rot on the R6’s, the arches at the back and front jack points were usually the first bits to go though. Trouble with the R6 was the stone guard paint was a double edged sword, made them last longer, but if it got a small pin hole in it, then it wasn’t long before the stone guard was the only thing left holding the carpet up!

    To clarify of course Volvo’s do rust, they are after all made from Metal. However it’s not unusual to find 80’s Volvo’s with no rust at all, whereas most 80’s Fords, Vauxhalls and AR group products from the same era are exactly the opposite. You still see a lot of old 700 series Volvo’s knocking about, because generally they don’t rot out, more than can be said for Montegos, Sierras and Cavaliers.

    Surely the 1.4 16valve MPi is the R6 to go for, if you can find one? 109bhp, even more grunt than the MG Turbo and little difference in weight. Though a 1.8VVC lump should be an easy swap!

  51. @ Dennis 56
    Thanks for that- I have never heard of Dinitrol – is like WaxOyl – I use that on the Midget. I remember early Metros being really bad with rust especially arounf the a posts and headlmps on the front wings.

  52. Dennis: I don’t like the 16v’s power delivery – much prefer the 8v one! And the 16v is a more complex head to work with should the car do the inevitable – my experience of 8vs is that they’re less likely to cook fully (though they all have the flaky thermoswitch, there’s no excuse for cooking it – it’s got a gauge on the dash to tell you!) and if they do, they’re a little easier to fix. Or, indeed, throw away the engine and put a VVC in.

    Wonder if I could get a rotary into the 114 Cabrio. *looks at the NSU*

    I think that the survival rate of premium cars has quite a lot to do with the type of owners they attracted – I’ve had plenty of rotten Volvos, with no apparent reason beyond the care taken of the car. And I’m as guilty as the next man for letting a car rot – a 1997/8 Scorpio (the rarer, black-headlight facelift version) which in 2004ish was showing signs of surface rust on the sills and lower doors. The same rust that showed on my 480 at the same age. The 480 got the doors repainted and fixed, the Scorpio was allowed to rust.

    Right now I’m debating whether my gf’s 10 year old Fiesta gets proper attention on the rear arches and sills, where tiny bits are showing (about the same as my X1/9 when it was four!), thus giving it maybe another 5-6 years, or gets ignored, maybe 2 winters, then beyond reasonable repair. It wasn’t exactly expensive to begin with. It’ll probably cost as much again to get the sills done nicely, the arch tidied, and do the appropriate preservation.

  53. “I think that the survival rate of premium cars has quite a lot to do with the type of owners they attracted – I’ve had plenty of rotten Volvos, with no apparent reason beyond the care taken of the car. ”

    It’s possible, however Volvo’s from the 80’s seem to fair better than say Mercs or BMW’s of a similar age. Of course another problem is where the car is parked, if someone lives on the seafront somewhere, that can kill any body work pretty quickly. Scorpio’s are anther 80’s Ford though, the basic bodyshell was the same as the old mk3 Granada. Granada’s they used to rot like hell, wheel arches and sills again.

    “I have never heard of Dinitrol – is like WaxOyl”
    Dinitrol is similar to waxoyl, but dinitrol is easier to apply and has a longer effective life. Dinitrol have a more complete system too, with different products for different areas of the car. It’s available from http://www.frost.co.uk/ but there are other places you can buy it. I used to be a big user of waxoyl but have never looked back since switching to Dinitrol. Waxoyl is cheap and does the job, if you’re on a budget, but Dinitrol is much cleaner lasts longer. Of course the bargain basement treatment is blasting old engine oil everywhere, but that’s really messy, not to mention highly toxic.

  54. The final Scorpios are a bit of an oddity, apparently. The suspension and so forth was being revised and tested as part of DEW-98, and I’m lead to believe there’s a fair bit of Jaguar S-type development lurking under those facelift ugly Scorpios.

    My last XM lived on Mull. The front subframe rotted out 🙁

  55. “those facelift ugly Scorpios”
    Glad i’m not the only one that thought that! Nice place to be in, but you have to wonder how much they’d had to drink when they signed off the design for looks! Personaly i think the old MK3 Granada was a looker, the 5 door was the best.

  56. Here’s my old one:

    Much, much prefer the Granada Scorpio Estate to any other Mk 3/Scorpio model.

    This one cost £100, plus £180 on new tyres and £60 for a complete factory CD changer system. It had 195K on the clock when I got it, was a 2.9i with black leather, I drove it until it had 205K on it – gave me 33mpg.

    It went when it was rearended; written off but still totally usable – needed a bumper and an exhaust. Got £1210 for it and kept the salvage, which I swapped for an XM Estate.

    Last time I saw it was a few months after that, in a scrapyard, properly written off this time. I’d swapped it with a locally-known backstreet trader. The clocks displayed 77K… and to be fair the interior wouldn’t have betrayed the real mileage.

  57. A neighbour had an MG metro in a kind of mettalic silvery blue colour on an A plate I think complete with colour coded bumpers, body graphics, the red seat belts the lot! it looked amazing and I remember thinking “wow” when I first saw it aged 9, it looked truly amazing! I also liked the Metro turbo’s in black, they looked mean and purpussful,, and I wished my parents had got one. The only 2 Metro’s they ever owned did not look a patch on either of these two, the X registered “mini metro” looking the best in metallic silver/blue, a base 1.0 model which had after market mods done (heated rear window, rear wiper, radio etc) it still really shifted though, 90 pluss apparently according to my dad. the C plate City X which followed was in Moonraker blue, but had those naff City X stickers on the sides at the back and just didn’t look as good or perform as well, and had none of the mods either, but apparently was a step up as they’d bought it from new.
    Oh, and as a side topic, why do older fords rust so badly? I ask as a diesel Fiesta LX on a K plate which they bought in 1996 2nd hand and sold on in 2000 was scrapped in 2003, when we sold it, there was rust on the door pillars, front valance, a tiny bit on the wheel arches, and the start of some on the boot lid, however this car was well looked after, waxed and pollished regularly and given a thorough clean underneath at the end of each winter to get rid of any traces of salt. Similar aged Punto’s did not show any rust, and there are quite a high number of Micra’s on L and M plates knocking about. Similarly the 206 SW HDI they drive now was registered in 2003 and has no rust that I’m aware of. so why were the Europeans and Japenese getting it so right when we here in the UK were getting it so wrong?

  58. Really the whole rust thing is down to panel joins and paint coatings. Ford just seem to have taken their time to get it sorted. The more cynical would say it was so you had to buy a new one after a period of time. 10 years seems to be a life of a Ford, but by then they’d quite like you to bin it and buy another.

    Wax injection in the body cavities and underside make a big difference, i’m not sure Ford used it much.

    Though you say in the UK we get it wrong, when relating that to a Spanish assembled car produced by a US manufacturer. Then say the Japs get it right when relating that to a UK built Micra. The old bubble shape Micra’s get rotten sills and front cross members, they’re in exposed locations and water traps.

    The Rover’s developed after 1990 are very good for corrosion protection, bear in mind the R6 Metro was still basically a body shell designed in the late 1970’s.

    Italian cars used to be truly terrible for rot, Alfa Sud, Lancia for example. I think Lancia even recalled one of their models (delta?) for Rot! There was a big push, within fiat to get the rust problem sorted, The Tipo was the first one to be galvanised and it carried on from there. PSA use a lot of plastics and Ally in their cars, the steel portions are normally coated in a galvanic primer, same thing Volvo used to use.

    The other real issue is where a car rots, Metro front jacking points/Floors are a doddle to weld up neatly, sills are simple to replace. But rear wheel arches are a nightmare to repair properly on any car.

  59. hi to you all i have a mg metro turbo 1988 i am doing a lot of work on her to bring her back to new i have loads of new parts to go back on her like back end 2x floor/s and so on i am giving to my son went it is all do and back on the road i love this cars and i hope mg/s go on for a long time to come thanks dean

  60. The MG Metro was an amazing little car, I had two, one in white in ’82 when launched with the original Black upholstery and a 2ndin ’84 in red with the new grey MG look.
    They were both such fun little cars and bring back so many memories, I ended up owning up to 6 metros in different guises, the four door was best when the family came along. I will have another MG Metro again, when I can afford it and find a good one. I want a white or red 3 door model please with pepperpots as when new!

  61. The real shame is that the engine did fit in a mini, as then number or engineless but clean MG Metros that were seen on ebay a few years ago will testify, that bit of part shareing has probbly killed more MG Metros that rust did.

    However to slate the MG’s as ‘The MG range had become a bit of a laughing stock, the hardy, but antiquated B series engine was thirsty, heavy and made listening to a badly scratched Bucks Fizz LP more pleasing on the ear. They handled with the finesse and precision of a shot Giraffe’
    idicates no experiance of the cars in question. I’m not much of a ‘B’ fan but the Spridget is a totally differnt propsition and capable of showing the metro a clean pair of heels as it was the Mini even though it had slighly less power. I’ve owned metros and they are great cars, and I still own a Mk1 Sprite and MkIII 1500 Midget.

  62. @70, Adrian – the mini-Metro badge was applied to the car for the first year only. After that, it was Austin Metro. mini-Metro was never used in the advertising, oddly, which does call into question why the mini bit was used at all. Something about linking it to the charismatic, if fading older car, I suppose.

  63. I had the mk1- LATE 82 model metal bumpers- fantastic car with a roar of a beast from that exhaust! Fantastic car and quick. Had it exported to Zimbabwe and owned it for 10 plus years before moving it on. I too loved the marque owning now a MG TF160. Just fun cars to drive and own…

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