The Rover Metro/100 Series (R6) was about the most brilliant low-budget revamp of an existing model in automotive history – it really was extraordinary how the wide-track wishbone front end and the proper interconnection of the Hydragas transformed it.
Regarding the Euro NCAP safety scare which effectively caused the car to go out of production in 1997, I think it should be pointed out that the basic Austin Metro (above) of 1980 was actually ahead of the safety game by the standards of the day – it did get the Don Safety Trophy at launch because of its many safety features, such as the high sills interlocking with the doors and H-I split brakes.
Of course, 17 years later, things had moved along, though not always in a good way. Yes, an NCAP Five-Star car might be better in a 40mph shunt, but you are that much more likely to have a shunt because of the awful effect on vision of the tree-trunk A-pillars. And while you might survive a 40mph shunt, you wouldn’t necessarily survive a 45mph prang with 20% more kinetic energy to handle. These things are all relative…
You can thank the Safety Research Vehicle programme
You’ll see much of this work was a result of the Safety Research Vehicle programme. One of the key Engineers on the BL contribution was Jack Daniels, the guy who made Sir Alec Issigonis’s ideas work. It should perhaps be pointed out that the ‘pedestrian catcher’ (seriously, click the earlier link to understand what I mean) BMC 1100/1300 was built at the request of TRRL, and was really only intended as a ‘first approximation’ to see if the idea might work when tested with dummies. Had it been pursued, it would have been considerably refined!
Regarding the programme’s sill/door interlock, BL did in fact follow up the basic idea, but at much lower cost – if you look at the Metro (and 100 Series later) you will see that the deep sill and door base have a a ‘double step’ interlock profile which considerably increased the side impact strength without having to add any extra components or weight.
The idea carried across to Maestro and Montego. The Rover SD1 originally had compression struts in the doors just below the waistline, not for side impact protection but to provide a load path down the side of the car to help preserve the integrity of the cabin under front or rear impact. This is why the earlier cars had little metal buttons welded inside the door shuts, called ‘proximity pads’ which were positioned so that they contacted quickly during the initial impact crush to link the struts together. When the car had been in production for a while, and the bodyshell construction standards had been fully proven, it was found in impact tests that the struts weren’t needed, and they were deleted.