Throwback Tuesday: 1987 MG Metro

Fancy a hot hatch you can actually afford to buy and run? Dismiss the stereotype and you’ll live happily ever understeer with an MG Metro

After the political nonsense squeezed out of Longbridge in the 1970s, the Metro arrived in the nick of time; even if Red Robbo had been removed by MI5 for convenience. The humble Allegro had the panache of Bernard Manning, so it was clear that BL desperately needed something to save it.

Sir Alec Issigonis had stepped up to the task having conceived the sensational Mini back in 1959, but in true British tradition Leyland ran out of pennies. Four concepts and prototypes of what would eventually become the Metro came and went, with some cracking designs. This was a sin, as Leyland nearly had the rare pleasure of getting its product out first as opposed to following its usual development schedule of being a decade too late.

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Sadly money talks, and after Issigonis’ retirement the Renault 5, along with the Volkswagen Polo, ended up prompting Leyland to stop its dithering. It needed to forget sensationalist ideas of grandeur and luxury products, and get the milk and bread on the table first before eying up a Sunday roast.

Having been picked in a ballot by the consistently striking Longbridge employees, the name Metro was chosen over Maestro and Match. Maestro sounded stupid – as if BL would call a car that.

With only a few years to go before the model’s launch, a focus group pointed out to Leyland that the prototype design was distinctly unsophisticated. A lot of heavy breathing and a few quid later, every single panel was re-designed to somehow produce Leyland’s saving grace – literally.

When the Metro was launched in 1980, it was an instant success. At its peak, Leyland was gluing together approximately 6000 models a week. Over the course of the car’s production run, more than two million were made.

Despite the Metro’s build-quality shortcomings, the public was absolutely infatuated with it – although that’s likely to be because the taxpayer inadvertently funded it to the tune of £275 million. That could explain why the future Princess Diana had one – strutting her ‘everyday’ image to win favour with the common man – although, as with most Metro owners, custody didn’t last long.

We suspect the XJ-S that replaced it in Diana’s garage was down to her Metro disintegrating one evening when no one was looking. Rust could affect models less than 12 months old, sending most of them off to the crusher. Still, two million people bought Metros across all its guises.

As the ’80s slowly rolled on, Leyland decided to put some more muscle into the little bread van’s loins. This move was despite the company having canned development of a revised A-series with overhead cams, due to yet more money troubles.

An MG badge was found in the bin, along with some truly glorious red seatbelts, and the MG Metro 1300 was born. With handling dynamics, ride quality and performance that are considered superb to this day, the MG Metro is a genuinely fun and frugal little car; we just like giving the little monster a good ribbing like you would an old friend.

What’s this one like?

The example we’ve found in the Auto Classics classifieds caught our attention as one of the more desirable MG Metros. The second-generation model brought many improvements, of which Austin-Rover proudly boasted.

Build quality improved year on year, and the styling was smoothed to create the little weapon sat here. With prices on the rise, our example is the best combination of value for money and outright condition that we have seen in a while.

For £3650 you could have this gorgeous silver model with just 36,000 miles on the clock. And as if anyone needed any more convincing, our Throwback Tuesday offering boasts just two owners from new.

Considering the metallic paintwork, we must applaud the previous keepers for how well they have looked after the little chap, especially as Metros had a propensity to disintegrate within a year of manufacture. The lack of a brown-coloured leprosy effect is quite the spectacle.

Although we’re sure many will be questioning the Metro’s reliability, just remember that although utterly archaic, the A-series was first produced in the 1940s. Auto Classics even drove a Maestro with the exact same 1275cc engine to Kazakhstan and back last year, returning via the Arctic Circle. It never broke down, and drank one litre of oil over the 11,000 miles, while coping with up to 50 degrees Celsius. So if you don’t buy the one featured here, we will.

Get a closer look with the AutoClassics classified advert

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