*Featured Image By Vauxford
October 8th saw the Metro turn 40 and whether you love or loathe this iconic little supermini you have to admit that it has a brilliant history with plenty of special editions and a memorable launch advert, even lady Diana owned one!
The Metro was launched by British Leyland brand Austin on October 8th, 1980 to a rather wonderful reception. The Mini had been the companies flagship small car for decades and they felt that something needed to be done to provide a more practical family supermini offering to the market. The idea had been toyed with for years, but never quite seemed to come to fruition. By late summer 1974 British Leyland was struggling financially, their hopes of survival were pinned on adding an all-new supermini to their line-up. Although the company collapsed prior to the launch and was partly privatised, eventually the vision was realised.
The Metro was first shown to the public at the British Motor Show held in Birmingham and initial road tests praised the little car with reviews putting it level with, if not slightly ahead of the Ford Fiesta, which was a firm favourite here in the UK. High praise indeed!
With a range of trim levels from the basic model to the top-level HLS, the Metro had a wide-reaching appeal in its segment. There was even a 1-litre HLE model that claimed to get 83mpg based on an AA steady-speed test. This was fantastic news to British motorists who had recently been through the second fuel crisis in 1979.
The Metro launched with a truly patriotic TV ad which claimed it was a British car to beat the world. The car was received with excitement by dealers, journalists and the motorists alike, even Lady Diana owned one while she was courting Prince Charles! What better endorsement could a car receive than being driven by a future Princess?
Over the years and the changes after the collapse British Leyland, the car went from initially being an Austin Metro, to simply Metro for an interim period when the Austin brand was dropped and then a Rover Metro, before finally being renamed the Rover 100. The MG name was even revived and a special sporty little MG Metro.
Sadly, the fate of the British car brand had probably been sealed long before the launch of this plucky little car the company had pinned so much on came to production. BMLC fought long and hard but eventually poor reputation and failing finances saw the complete collapse of the companies final Iteration The Rover Group and with it the end of Britain’s hopes of having a successful car brand.
The Metro was one of the most popular cars in its early years, with over 1,500,000 Metro’s sold before it became the Rover 100. Over the years there were many trim levels and special editions, including the infamous MG Metro 6R4 rally car which was developed with Williams Grand Prix Engineering.
British Leyland marques had a terrible habit of rusting, coupled with a reputation for poor reliability; it was, of course, a shame to see the blighted company which was The Rover Group passed to BMW before being consigned to the history books. BMW kept the mini, which they still produce today, the MG brand was sold to a Chinese owner and many of the British Car Industry was been lost.
So, as the Metro turns 40, we remember the little car with a chequered history as one of the last true British cars. You don’t see many about on the roads today, perhaps they rusted beyond repair, or fell victim to scrappage schemes, but those that are still out there in the wild bring a little smile to our faces.