Rover Metro

Rover Metro

In the autumn of 1994, Rover scrapped the Metro nameplate, replacing it with a new name, Rover 100, which had been adopted on continental Europe on the Rover Metro's launch in 1990, due to the weakness of the Austin marque in Europe.

The mechanics of the car remained much the same with 1.1 and 1.4 petrol engines and Hydragas suspension, but there was now the option of a Peugeot-sourced 1.5 diesel. The exterior was altered to disguise the car's age, meet the increased cooling requirements of the Peugeot motor and to offer a reduced-format Rover family grille. This was achieved through fitment of new front and rear bumpers, sill covers, rear boot handle & lamps headlamps, bonnet and grille.

A variety of bolder paint colours and the use of chrome trim helped give a more upmarket appearance. The interior trim was revised to give a greater impression of quality and luxury, but as there were no changes to the basic architecture it was considered by many as being short on space and outdated in comparison to its most modern rivals (most of which had been replaced with all-new models since the launch of the Rover Metro). Overall, the 100 series was considered a rather typical facelift of a car which had been a class leader on launch but had now been overtaken by events.

In February 1998, the Rover 100 suffered poor performances in EuroNCAP crash tests (despite the improved safety features, including side impact bars in the doors and an optional driver's airbag, the 1970s design was showing its age) - it was at the time the only car tested to receive a one-star Adult Occupant Rating. Other superminis tested at the same time recieved 2 or 3 stars out of four. The passenger compartment was subjected to severe structural damage in the frontal-offset test and results showed a high risk of injury to all body regions for the driver. Meanwhile, the Side impact test showed high injury risks also.

The Rover 100's dismal safety showing was not its only problem by 1998. It was fast falling behind the best cars in its sector when it came to design, build quality, refinement and specification, although it remained strong in terms of fuel economy and affordability. Unlike the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Corsa, the Rover 100 could still provide sub-£7,000 motoring.

Facing a complete collapse of sales, Rover withdrew the 100 from production. It marked the end of nearly 18 years of production, during which time the Metro had proved itself to be one of the most important British cars of all time.

There was no direct replacement for the Metro/100, although the 1995 Rover 200 had been developed inside Rover Cars to serve as a replacement for the 100 as well as the previous 200 model, which was slightly larger. The 100 and 200 were sold concurrently until 1998, when the former was cancelled. When the Rover 200 was facelifted in the autumn of 1999 and rebadged as the Rover 25, Rover marketed this as a supermini reflecting the continued,steady, growth of all car classes. The plan was for the both the 100 and the 25 to be on the market until the launch of the true replacement for the Metro in the shape of the MINI. However, BMW's sale of Rover put an end to those plans. BMW kept the MINI design and MG Rover's notional successor to the Metro was the Rover 25 and its MG ZR badge-engineered relative.

The gap left by the Metro as a true Rover supermini was not filled even in the autumn of 2003, when the CityRover was launched - it was a 1.4 engined supermini built in India alongside the Tata Indica. This model was nowhere near as popular as the Metro or even the Rover 100, and was not included in the revived product range by Nanjing Automobile following MG Rover's bankruptcy in 2005.

Metro 6R4 Rally Car

Created for the short lived Group B race category, the 4WD mid engined MG 6R4 (6-cylinder, rally car, four-wheel-drive) Metro of 1984 was a world away from the best selling supermini on which it was based. The competition car bore only a superficial resemblance to the production Metro as it featured a four wheel drive transmission, and only two seats. The development of this vehicle had been entrusted to Williams Grand Prix Engineering.

The resulting car was shown to the world in May 1985. It was powered by a David Wood designed bespoke 3-litre V6 powerplant which used some of the engine architecture of the Cosworth DFV. It featured twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. The engine was a break from the norm, as it wasn't turbocharged as the majority of its competitors were. The engine was mounted back to front in the car, with the forward end of the engine facing the hatchback and the gearbox attached conventionally behind it and, therefore, in the middle of the vehicle. The four-wheel-drive was permanently engaged, and drove separate propshafts to the front and rear differentials. The rear differential was mounted on the side of the engine sump with one driveshaft running through the sump to the nearside rear wheel. Much of the outer bodywork was made of GRP, with the only exception being the roof panels (which were aluminium) and the steel doors. These were, however, concealed by plastic airboxes. Indeed, models now on show generally have stickers demonstrating where it is safe to push from when moving the vehicle, so as not to damage the bodywork.

The 6R4 appeared in two guises. There was a so-called "Clubman" model which developed in the region of Auto bhp|250|0, of which around 200 were made and sold to the public for £40,000 (the homologation version). A further 20 were taken and built to International specifications which had a recored output of over 410bhp

At its launch in 1985, Rover announced that it would complete the necessary number of cars required for homologation by November of that year. This was undertaken at the group's large manufacturing facility at Longbridge. The car was to participate in the Lombard RAC rally in November 1985, and an example, driven by "works" driver Tony Pond, finished a highly respectable third, behind two Lancia Delta S4s.

This good start was unfortunately not repeated, and although a 6R4 was entered in rallies at Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal and Corsica during the 1986 season, none of the Metros managed to complete a course. The majority of these problems were related to the V6 powerplant which suffered teething issues Indeed, since that time there has been a lot of talk of the engines have being underdeveloped before being entered into competition. Halfway during the 1986 season, Group B was banned (following a series of fatal crashes in which both competitors and spectators lost their lives). From that point on, the 6R4 was always going to be limited in front line competition, although they were run with limited success for the remainder of the year. A number passed into private hands and have proved formidable rally and rallycross cars. Despite the expiry of the cars homologation the MSA still allow the cars to run in competition although engine sizes have been limited to 2800cc (single plenum engines) and 2500cc (multi-plenum engines).

Austin Rover withdrew from the rallying scene at the end of the season, but in 1987 all the parts and engines were sold to Tom Walkinshaw Racing, whereupon the V6 engine reappeared under the bonnet of the Jaguar XJ220, this time with turbochargers added. [cite book | title = Supercars | last = Lamm | first = John | publisher = MotorBooks | isbn = 0760307946 | year = 2001 | page = p. 91]


The Metro remained one of Britain's most popular cars throughout its production life, even during its final year when it was among the oldest designs on sale in the country. During its early years the Austin Metro was Britain's most popular supermini, often outselling the Ford Fiesta. 1,370,000 Austin examples were sold in the first decade of productionFact|date=June 2008, over 100,000 a year.

This popularity endured in spite of the Metro failing to match the durability of key rivals, notably the Nissan Micra and Volkswagen Polo. This is illustrated well by the findings of Auto Express's 2006 surveyFact|date=June 2008 which named the Metro as Britain's seventh most scrapped car. Just 21,468 were still in working order at the time of the survey, approximately 1.5% of all those registered.

Many Metros (particularly the pre-1990 Austin models) have been scrapped as a result of rust and corrosion. An equally large number of Metros were scrapped as a result of theft: Early Metros were notoriously easy to steal. Later Rover badged models however had better anti-theft equipment (including an engine immobiliser) which addressed this weakness.

Lady Diana Spencer (later Princess Diana) owned a red W-registered Metro before her engagement to Prince Charles. [ [ Retro MiniMetroland article] ] This car is in the Museum of British Road Transport, Coventry.


External links

* [ The Club for MG Metro Enthusiasts]
* [ Unofficial Austin Rover Web Resource]
* []
* [ Top Gear (1991) review of the 1980-1989 Austin Metro]

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