I love AROnline. When people say to me that we must be running out of new things to talk about after all these years, I smile. That’s mainly because new stories do keep coming out of the woodwork. In a recent conversation with ex-engineer Peter Bourne, one of the men who helped develop the Minki 1 and 2, the subject of the Bob Knight Metro came up again. Not heard of that one? Neither had I until quite recently, but I do now I want to know more.
Pete said, ‘I actually worked with Bob on this project. It was known as the ‘Bob Knight Metro’. He constantly smoked and ate tinned spinach and tinned meat every day. The car was specially built at Canley then transferred to Bob’s bungalow just up the road for tuning work on his homemade ‘Shaker rig’. I was asked to support this work and travelled everyday to Bob’s. I was met every morning by Bob in his vest and underpants and of course smoking!’
Can you imagine that? But the idea was a sound one. Can you get executive-car levels of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) from an existing supermini? If anyone can do it, it would a combination of a Rover Engineer and the former Managing Director of Jaguar Cars – and the driving force behind the company’s continued engineering independence under the direction of British Leyland.
Bob Knight: a fascinating character
Pete went on: ‘We would then spend around two hours at his kitchen table drinking tea, him smoking and telling me all about his work at Jaguar. He was a fascinating man, but I was young and he almost drove me to give up. But I kept supporting him throughout his work, and the car was well received by the Rover assessment team.’
The changes to the Metro were actually quite widespread considering it was literally a homebrewed project. ‘It involved a very stiff mounted powertrain within a suspended subframe which was attached to the BIW via four homemade spring/damper units,’ Pete recalled.
‘The damper valving was done by screwing a needle valve up and down. There were great leaks of damper oil through the threads and Bob’s solution was to use his used fag butts as seals! This improved the oil leakage greatly, but I don’t think he ever told the Rover management. I recall lots of issues with powertrain vibration coming through pipes and cable into the BIW and we spent a lot of time isolating things with foam, rubber and springs. From memory the project cost Rover £100,000.’
Question is – does anyone know more, and is there even the slimmest chance that the car or at least some artefacts from it have survived? We’d love to know. If you do, please email me at email@example.com. ‘Not sure how much Bob earned from it,’ Pete said with a smile on his face. ‘But it was an interesting part of my automotive career,’ he grinned. No kidding!
Editor’s Note: The Vanden Plas Metro is just there for illustrative purposes!