Back To The 80s: Austin Metro

Fri 24th May 2019

When we think of the classic eras of motoring we might cast our mind back to stylish cars of the 1950s, the muscle cars of the 1960s or the super cars of the 1970s. What might not spring to mind however is the motors which were produced in the 1980s - an era which certainly favoured practicality over power, style and sophistication.

But the cars of today owe much to 80s, it was decade which brought us turbochargers, multi-valve engines and hot hatchbacks, an era of the people-carrier and the rise of the SUV. Digital displays and electronic gadgetry, were the norm as designers pushed the boundaries of of what was capable in a production vehicle.

So let's celebrate the 80s, a period of huge change across Britain as a whole, and one which had incredible landmarks in the motor industry.

Austin Metro
Believe it or not, at the start of the 1980s, there was a feeling amongst the leaders at Rover Group that there may eventually be a time when the famous Mini would need replacing. The iconic small but practical car had enjoyed more than 10 years at the top but times were changing and Rover had learnt plenty of hard lessons in the 1970s to know not to rest on their laurels.

Rover’s answer was the Austin Mini Metro, a city car which offered a shining light during a time of great doom and gloom for the British car industry. Built under the codename LC8, the Metro shared many elements of the Mini, including the drivetrain and with it the awkward drive position. It did fare better than its contemporaries though with the Ford Fiesta, Renault 5 and Volkswagen Polo looking on enviously as the Metro’s ample interior space and urban road handling.

The Mini Metro, had plenty of admirers, with Lady Diana Spencer often captured by the paparazzi when getting out of early edition Metro. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was also linked with the innovative British car, after she attended the British Motor Show at which it was launched.

Though it was launched as the Austin Mini Metro, it later morphed into the MG Metro, the Rover Metro and later the Rover 100. But whatever the badge on the front, the Metro proved to be hit with the critics and car buying public at large. With almost 1.5m sold by the time it was rebadged as the Rover 100 in 1994, the car was selling in excess of 100,000 a year.

After 17 years of city living, the car was withdrawn from production by Rover after the 100 performed dismally in the EuroNCAP crash tests, and with the Fiesta, Polo and Corsa all thriving, the supermini market was a crowded place for a vehicle which had been born from desperate times at the end of the 1970s.

There was no real replacement for the Metro, the plan had been to replace both the Min and the Metro with a new hybrid, but the acquisition and later sale of Rover by BMW put paid to those plans, with BMW retaining the rights to the more iconic and culturally superior MINI.
Manufacturer: British Leyland and Rover Group
Assembly: Longbridge, Birmingham
Designer: David Bache and Harris Mann
Place In History: Launched on Friday 8th October 1980, on the same day, Bob Marley collapsed in New York’s Central Park after playing two shows at Madison Square Garden.