The car that was instrumental in the development of the Rover Metro/100 has been sold by Bonhams for £1035 at its final auction of the year. The 1981 Austin Metro 1.3S was owned from new by Moulton Developments and, like so many of the good Doctor’s cars, was highly modified from original specification. Aside from the Longman-tuned engine, the most significant alterations were to the suspension, which would end up being adopted by Rover in the 1990 Metro/100.
The story of the car’s development is interesting and apart from what we already know, Bonhams added a little more flesh to the bones of our story. Moulton’s sister, Dione, was one of the first purchasers and Alex, having tried her car, decided to buy one for research and development purposes. Moulton Developments had contributed to the suspension design but, against Alex’s advice and purely to save costs, BL did not fully interconnect the Hydragas system front-to-rear as it was originally designed to operate, opting instead for independent suspension at the front with side-to-side interconnection at the rear.
Although this gave an acceptable ride it was far from perfect, and Alex was determined to do it properly. In 1986-1987 HHR 499W was stripped down and fitted with a prototype front-to-rear interconnected Hydragas system which BL, by then Rover Group, adopted when the Metro was facelifted in 1990, following a very favourable drive story by Richard Bremner in CAR Magazine. The Rover Metro and later 100 Series incorporated front-to-rear interconnected suspension, giving a vastly improved ride, which was the result of development work carried out on HHR 499W.
The engine’s modifications are by Richard Longman, whose plaque is on the rocker cover. Further investigation would be needed to verify the cubic capacity and mechanical specification. It has not been modified to run on unleaded petrol. A replacement (manual) gearbox was fitted in 1995. Other modifications include an MG Metro tailgate spoiler and seats; later-type TD (metric) wheels; and a later steering wheel. In 2001, following a period of storage, the original carpets were replaced with the current set.
A file of paperwork was included with the car, consisting mainly of old MoT, insurance and licensing papers together with V5C registration document and a letter from Austin Rover dated 11th June 1987 indicating that the vehicle was then in their custody undergoing evaluation. A copy of a garage record card from E W Stone Ltd. lists work carried out over the years. The last MoT expired in September 2011 and the car is currently SORN’d.
The new owner, Paul Vincent, who is a regular on the Metro Owners’ Club forum, has already confirmed there’s a bright future for the car. ‘Good news for those of you that have been watching the Moulton 1.3S is that it has joined my fleet and will, in time, be tastefully restored with appropriate trim etc. as near as possible to that originally fitted by the factory. Expect to see it on the show circuit within a few months when we will also be displaying some Moulton-related memorabilia to complement it.’
Hat tip to Martin Bell