Another One Bites The Dust

DTW recalls BL’s last stand: the 1980 Austin Metro.

1980 Austin Metro. (c) voiture.motorlegend

Friday, 8th October 1980 was the day. The car: most commonly referred to as Metro, others ADO88 (Amalgamated Drawing Office – from when Austin and Morris tied the knot in ‘52) with only those in the know as LC8. Forty years have now passed since the car hailed as Blighty’s answer to the inflow of foreign imports was launched. We deal here with the Metro’s tentative first twelve months (amidst some background) of being.

Any story concerning British Leyland inevitably must invoke the company’s changes of name and ownership, not to mention the impossibility of not mentioning crippling strikes, poor workmanship and the demise of the domestic car industry. Peeling back (most) of the bad apple nevertheless reveals a passion for this new project to succeed.

With experienced hands Spen King and Charlie Griffin at the helm, the Metro plan got off to a better start than most. Perennially cash strapped yet astute at finding talent, Griffin stipulated strict guidelines: larger than the original Mini, smaller than the competition, do not encroach on the (only eighteen month old) Allegro.

Griffin reported to higher management the car would be production ready for 1977, using Mini-aping aspects such as front wheel drive, gearbox in sump and the A-Series engine, a throwback of nearly forty years itself. Changes from the Mini included a simplified version of Dr. Alex Moulton’s Hydragas suspension system, allowing for better packaging along with more internal room, though it became increasingly clear that whilst providing excellent roadholding, Hydragas development should have continued.

(c) wheelsage

As to that mill, the venerable A, an old side project to update the engine with an overhead camshaft stalled due to inconclusive results. A spending pot containing £30 million brought about the much improved A-Plus which would later power the Metro.

Mechanically resolved, the 88’s looks came under very close scrutiny. When head honchos Edwardes and Horrocks first clapped eyes on the model in January 1978, both realised changes needed not only to be swift but scathing. Backed up by frankly terrible reports from European held customer clinics, where comments such as bread van, slab sided and plain odd precipitated an emergency re-style. Under David Bache’s leadership, Harris Mann, Roger Tucker and Gordon Sked took thirty five days to sculpt the Metro proper, lending some coherency to proceedings.

The Metro was no Fiesta, nor Polo but then again it was never meant to be. At this juncture the code name changed to that of LC8 along with a whole new raft of testing and proving at goodness only knows what cost. A new nose, bumpers and chiselled sides, an echo to the SD1, encompassed an aerodynamic, handsome (enough) wee bolide. As a youngster of around ten, I remember the adverts though the jingoistic rhetoric was lost of this pre-teen.

The British Leyland company of 1980 was in truly dire straits. The Marina, Maxi and (barely alive) Allegro were plainly, beyond hope in more than just sales terms. The Mini still sold well, both home and abroad, but brought in little revenue whereas the all new (bill footed by the U.K. tax payer tuned to approaching £300M) Austin miniMetro (it’s very short lived first moniker) was more than a shot in the arm – the car gave real hope.

(c) Car

Built by an admittedly smaller workforce than before, commitment and standards raised the productivity bar – early days witnessed 2,500 per week. If the Allegro could be ditched, plans were afoot to ramp that figure to (with hyperopia) 8,000. An insatiable British public could not order a Metro fast enough.

Of course we now reach that point of the story where industrial action’s blue touch paper was ignited. Just six weeks into Metro production, a walk out over making (and unloading) seats and differences in shift production figures caused a violent reaction, with far more than tempers flying. Sympathetic colleagues downed tools; some were sent home. The strike lasted two days equating to six thousand Metro’s sans des places. Eight men were dismissed.

Early December saw plans to increase the workforce by an extra thousand souls to meet demand, with a push into European territories. Build figures were impressive – 3,500 per week. The Allegro somehow limping along with just 600, the Mini almost 1,200. These figures remained fairly constant, even with the unrest. Sadly, poor build quality leading to reliability problems increased warranty costs and bad publicity in the press, gaining only ill feeling and the wrong kind of momentum.

(c) honestjohn

A week before Christmas saw another ugly standoff due to those eight seat men not being re-instated; 1,300 men walked out, effectively halting production until January 5th 1981. Production lost approximately 5,000. An uneasy truce was called.

The settled period did not last. Managerial hopes for upping production rates from 25 to 28.5 Metro’s per hour went down like the lead balloon. Nearly two thousand workers downed tools once more leading to over two thousand more being laid off, the strike lasting days. Longbridge was once more stock still. Yet actual production numbers remained high. Harold Musgrove defended the Longbridge plant and its workforce, especially since the plant’s weekly output of 6,000 cars (combined) was equalling if not bettering their rival European efforts, doubling the beleaguered plant’s numbers in recent times.

A performance Metro (MG badged) was news for Summer 1981, but those first twelve months ended in yet more industrial misery. A November pay dispute lasted but two days, swiftly followed by a full four week walk out named the Tea-Break strike, crippling those figures with around 24,000 cars lost, mainly Metro’s.

The title refers to Queen’s rousing music single, placed at number one in the charts the week after Metro’s launch. One possible reference could allude to Allegro, now all but itself moribund. Or maybe the decline in power of those trade unions once Red Robbo had himself succumbed to Michael Edwardes’ resolve. Finally (from me), a reference to the power of the Metro, seeing off those imports (initial sales were far greater than expected), a machine gun to those Johnny Foreigners, so to speak. I leave you, dear reader to form your own opinions.

A first anniversary should not end on a sad note but one more mellifluous. Road tests read positively – the engine, though based on something approaching antiquity assuaged decent economy with (in 1.3 variants, at least) performance that contemporaries baulked at. The exterior will forever remain a moot point though that interior was light, airy, offering excellent visibility with a modern style and quality designed features. And it sold like the proverbial hot cakes. Clinging steadfastly to these latter points, Metro was the final British winner. Surely that alone is worth celebrating?

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

55 thoughts on “Another One Bites The Dust”

  1. Interesting how Britain´s post-War history is refracted through the vicissitudes and victories of the UK car industry. It isn´t refracted through ship building or shoes or tweed coats or information technology (“IT”). Since the UK still makes quite a lot of cars, one has to conclude the British can build them and they can design them too. We ought not to conflate the woes of BL with the UK though a large company like BL does correspond to a large chunk of UK society. BL´s mash up of forced marriage and mergers is the background for the trajectory of BL´s sad life. If we can point to one aspect of British society that confounded BL, it perhaps the tendency to tribalism and class division. The tribalism resulted in some the BL stew never feeling they had a stake in the whole show (I imagine the Triumph and Jaguar people felt badly treated). The class division meant management and the line-workers did not feel as much loyalty to the enterprise as mistrust of each other. I haven´t even discussed the car of the day.

  2. A nice retrospective, particularly of the troubled environment into which the Metro was born, thank you Andrew. Those who didn’t live through it will struggle to comprehend just how corrosive those endless disputes were to confidence and it’s amazing that the Metro was such a success in spite of all this.

    The Metro was a thoroughly decent little car and the last minute restyling was a terrific effort to rescue it from irredeemable oddness. It really was brilliantly packaged, with great interior space for its overall size. The only downside was that it retained rather too much of the Mini’s bus-like driving position and gearbox whine.

    In its various iterations, it lived on for eighteen years, which was, of course, far too long. The 1995 Rover (R3) 200 should have been positioned (and priced) to replace it directly, but Rover Group got greedy after the success of the R8.

    The Rover 100, as it had become, had an ignominious end with that disastrous Euro NCAP crash test which forced it’s withdrawal from the market. It really deserved better.

  3. I am wondering if you’ve gleaned this information from contemporary copies of The Daily Telegraph or The Sun as it certainly has a one sided bias to it. Do you think workers whose livelihoods depended on the success of their employers would be prepared to sacrifice their pay and potentially their jobs by going on strike for no good reason? Pay and conditions at that time were poor, especially compared to other North European countries. BL and its predecessor, BMC had been hampered by appalling management who had a short termist, greedy attitude of not investing in the long term future, not planning for known changes such as joining the EEC and the dimishment of protected markets in the Commonwealth in addition to an arrogant and confrontational style typified by the deeply unpleasant Michael Edwardes. The Metro was an absolute pile despite the hype by the ever faithful Autocar and Motor. The whole concept was wrong as it was too small, which no amount of clever packaging could disguise. The powertrain was hopelessly dated and the build quality was of the usual BL quality. I was a teenager when it was launched and remember my classmates ridiculing it and saying it looked like a milk float.

    1. At the time the story was about truculent unions always agitating for something. These days I see the mess as another part of Britain´s unresolved class struggle. That´s a dreary Marxist-sounding phrase which obscures the alternative which is boring old co-operation between different bits of an enterprise. Rhineland capitalism is one expression of this and as far as I can see, the Rhineland did very well out of it so it´s not as if the alternative to Anglo-Saxon capitalism is Cuban imiseration. I go with that old pinko Churchill who felt trades unions were a valuable pillar of society. I still haven´t talked about the car. It´s not an easy one to like, lacking much charm or gaiety. The Italians did small and cheap much more convincingly. That said, the design team had a hard time, no doubt about it.

    2. You say it was an absolute pile but the sales figures suggest otherwise. The main problem BL faced was underinvestment by the Government. You can’t make a purse out of a sow’s ear. Yes- poor management and bellicose unions didn’t help.

  4. I always thought the Metro looked frumpy and over-inflated next to the competition, to the point of almost looking like those specialist mobility cars for the old and infirm. Definitely that air of institutional functionalism that pervaded UK public design at the time – hearing aids in beige, grey walking frames, National Health glasses frames.

    The most problematic areas of design for me are the big wheel arch / small wheels that made it seem heavy and overbalanced (Read as ‘Clown Car’) , the oversized scuttle that makes the windscreen look too narrow and the bonnet line too high.

    Plus with all the talk of tiny glasshouses on modern offerings , I feel this is one of the only cars in history where the opposite is true and it has an almost cartoon-like exaggerated window depth and low belt line.

    It also suffered from the penny-pinching ‘pov spec’ light problem – the nicer models had the flush integrated light/blinker unts, while the City models had the sealed beam oblongs in different, bowled fitment trim.

    I suppose the rounded window corner radius’ were a little ahead of the time, foreshadowing the Sierra and the K11 ‘organic’ Micra – but for me this was a car that dropped the ball in so many the details and was par for the BL course at the time made for an slightly tragic looking ‘also-ran’ that seemed to only really appeal to old ‘buy british’ duffers who’d choose the homegrown product out of patriotic duty rather than logic 🙂

    I did a bit of a remix a while ago that I thought might be of interest – fixing a few details in an attempt to make it a more appealing time-appropriate offering:

    Also – apropos of not much, I thought I’d also share this renowned almost mythical image, oft discussed on my favourite automotive forum – the mysterious ‘Tall’ metro. Clues and theories as to its origins, authenticity and purpose abound – I wondered if any DTW readers have any new clues as to the reason for its existence?

    1. Those re-workings show an interesting effect. The little cat-walk running between the wheel arches is very disruptive. Without it one can see better what little character the car had. Next, the drooping DLO is now visible and it need not be there. Lastly, the one single remaining line (going through the door opening handle) is revealed to be tilting a degree or so the wrong way. Still, there´s not much there to look at. I had a look at the 1979 Polo, another econobox, and by comprison with the Metro it is almost regal and even has some character (it´s very watered down).

    2. Good morning Huw. That’s a worthwhile reworking of the Metro. Coincidentally, I was looking at exactly the same image earlier, thinking about what worked and what didn’t on the original. For me, the most problematic area is the scuttle and windscreen. The windscreen is too shallow and rounded and I dislike the way the drip-rail appears to stop suddenly and awkwardly one quarter of the way down the A-pillar. (It’s actually where the roof pressing meets the A-pillar.)

      I don’t dislike either the large glass area or the bodyside crease between the wheel arches. Without it the car looks rather bland and, as Richard points out, the upper crease is sagging a little towards the rear of the car. I would actually go for a combination of your windscreen treatment, keeping the standard side glass and lower bodyside crease, but getting rid of the upper bodyside crease instead. I might try it out later and see what happens.

      You’re right about the nasty looking poverty spec headlamps and that continued even after the first facelift, when the Metro was given a smoother front end. Was that a peculiarity of British cars? Maybe not: one of the most blatant was the Mk1 Escort with the ‘dog-bone’ front grille that was clearly designed to accommodate rectangular headlamps, but only the XL model got those as standard. The rest had 7″ round units, literally a round peg in a square hole.

    3. I believe the ‘tall Metro’ is a photographic anomaly; amusing, though.

      I think everyone’s being a bit hard on the Metro – I can see plenty of character in it and it sold well in the UK, at least. I guess other markets were well served by their own superminis.

      Re the headlights, Lady Di’s Metro must have been a pretty basic one, as it has the non-flush ones. I believe it was a present from the Prince of Wales – a bit mean of Chazza.

    4. Nice Photoshop chop! Really good work, it really works for me! Just the right amount of pert aggressiveness. It looks like a slight upkick in the window-line, making the DLO leaning forwards? It gives the car a sense of speed and determination, like it was a Wile E. Coyote kind of cartoon character just waiting to accelerate away in a cloud of dust. It’s the same trick VW used for the first generation Scirocco to give it just a little bit of edge. Speaking of VW, the whole car now speaks of VW to me? I don’t know what it is in the tweak that makes it, but it now looks like it could’ve been an offshoot from an obscure VW subsidiary in a parallel universe.

  5. I was at the motor show when the Metro was launched. The crowds around the BL stand were immense. I had 2 over the years, a ‘88 1100 5 door and then a ‘90 1300 3 door. The first Metro replaced a FIAT Uno 45, which was a backward step in many ways. The FIAT had a much better engine and a 5 speed box. The 1300 was the better car of the 2 and slighter more economical too if I remember correctly. They were both good little cars, never broke down, unlike the FIAT, but were lagging behind the competition in many ways.

  6. Andrew seems to have (inadvertently?) prised the lid from a can of worms here… Britain’s post-war history continues to generate strong feeling – the “deeply unpleasant” Michael Edwardes seemed to me, at the time, a long-overdue breath of fresh air and as for being confrontational, that was precisely what he was employed do: confront the unsustainable situation at BL. Yes, management was appalling but workers were far from blameless – the tail wagged the dog throughout the ’70s. And I recommend reading Edwardes’s “Back From the Brink” before rushing to judgement either way.
    And the car? Although a vast improvement on the Mini, it didn’t do it for me. But that didn’t stop it selling – in the same way that the Morris Minor found buyers who loved it as a family member, long after it should have been pensioned off, the Metro managed to project the same ‘cuddly’ image. I doubt it could ever have been a choice made by DTW writers and commentators, but it had its time and place in the market; a market which was never going to be a world one.

    1. The one Metro I have time for is the glorious Vanden Plas: walnut panels and the same seating as in the Silver Shadow. In my imaginary classic car magazine I´d have a Giant Test of the Metro Vanden Plas, R5 Baccara and maybe the Lancia Y.

    2. Richard, I’ve always thought the original MG Metro was quite a sharp-looking thing.

    3. I read “Back from the Brink” and while a little self serving I think Edwardes did manage convince Thatcher not to sell the whole business in a fire sale. In fact the reason why Thatcher did not renew his contract in 1982 was that she believed Edwardes was preventing privatisation of BL.
      On balance Michael Edwardes did a good job in keeping BL afloat.

  7. I don’t think this car sold well in the Netherlands. One of my kindergarten teachers had one in burgundy, but as a kid I was more interested in the Alfasud 1.5ti that one of the other teachers had. Wonder how many are left. both Sud and Metros.

  8. I don’t believe I ever saw a Metro in Germany over the course of those 37 years I mostly spent here.

    However, I vividly remember seeing ‘strange Opels’ and even stranger cars I knew nothing about (such as the Metro) for the first time when visiting London for the first time as a child. Truth be told, I thought these were Eastern Block cars, as they reminded me more of something like a Skoda Favorit or Lada Samara than, say, a contemporary Fiesta.

    1. Britain presents many faces to the world. One of them is the rarified refinement of Rolls-Royce and regal buildings populated by well-dressed ladies and gents. The other is the spartan and charmless world of mass consumption married occasionally to well-meaning democratic ideals. That gives us low-rent vehicles like the Metro, the grim housing estates of the 1960s and the unhappy modernism of public transport. The Metro is missing a human touch, in part because it was not considered necessary and also because a human touch was also thought inappropriate. I still think Ruskin´s Seven Lamps casts a wretched light on British design, especially when linked to narrow conceptions of social justice. I see a version of that in Denmark when I see the just-a-bit-too-Spartan buildings offered as social housing. There is this idea that putting a human touch on a designed object is somehow robbing an unknown other person of some material need, and minimisation is what is behind the low ceilings, treeless carparks and uniformity.

  9. Has Mr Herriott had one too many anchovies? He seems to be feeling a little liverish today; the Britain he describes sounds, if he will forgive me for saying so, myopically observed. Certain elements of what he describes can be found, for sure, in parts of this country – just like any European country. But they do not represent the rich variety of cultural influences that abound and thrive in modern Britain – clearly visible if you look beyond the obsessions of those who control the media….

    1. Liverish or not, the expression “the unhappy modernism of public transport” hits a nail firmly on the head for this child of the 1950s. Compare the warmly furnished and softly lit interior of a Routemaster bus with, well, pretty much anything since. Garish colours, blank spaces and unforgiving light is the order of the day now. It is true that the ride quality on a modern, air-suspended train (and on welded rails) is vastly better than it’s cart sprung 50’s equivalent, but the ambience is definitely not.

  10. Mr Herriott seems to be feeling a little liverish today; I hope he feels better tomorrow. I hope he will forgive me for saying that the Britain he describes seems myopically observed. Not to mention unfairly….

    1. And now I have to apologise – my first comment disappeared entirely from view, hence my second – at which point my first miraculously reappeared! I shall now retreat to my cardboard box…..

    2. I have spent a fair amount of time in the United Kingdom, most recently in Sept 2019, in Manchester. While there are flashes of loveliness and bursts of brilliance, all too often there is pervasive air of mediocity and dilapidation somewhat spoiling the overall picture. Were it not so, I say; the tragedy of the UK is that it is so close to being excellent and yet defeat is pulled from the jaws of victory by same habits as Dickens, Orwell and Hogarth would recognise. The tailoring is often excellent and you can´t beat a British bowler hat (I own one!)

  11. The Metro arrived at a point when BL’s rivals were finalising the next generation of superminis, which would go on to dominate the European market (Uno/205/SuperCinq to name just three). By 1980, BL had finally achieved basic parity – but with the outgoing generation. Not that it was a bad effort really, especially so given the strictures King and Griffin were dealing with. However, despite the expensive and extensive pre-launch restyle, the production car’s stance was perhaps its biggest weakness, combined with the small diameter wheels it was running. This was rectified in the 1984? facelift which took place under Roy Axe, when the Metro gained larger diameter wheels and a slightly wider track, in addition to some bodywork and cabin changes. (Not forgetting the five-door version).

    However, I do wonder just how badly the initial ADO88 would have fared had it been launched, say 18 months earlier? Was it really that bad? Yes, it was a little characterless as shown, but it wouldn’t have taken a great deal to have added a little more visual pizzazz at far less expense. To my eyes, the original design would have aged better, (being less fussy), especially knowing now just how long it would have to live on.

    Looking back, what I discern is the shadow of dear slighted Alec, brooding over ADO88/ Metro and its predecessors. His austere sensibility inhabits the prototype vehicle like a dank cloak. It’s not difficult to envisage the design team being somewhat cowed by history, and instead of producing a competitive vehicle from first principles, felt obliged to give it the essence of Issi. (Wilfully spartan – non-styled). You’d have to wonder if Alec ever read Ruskin?

    Not wishing to stray into the political, but viewing the jingoistic launch ad for the Metro, while the UK stumbles out of the EU, knocking the tea service over as it goes is grimly ironic. Splendid Isolation was not a concept forged either today or yesterday.

  12. Looking at the Metro again I wonder why they chose to put the fuel door and filler cap so low on the body. Is it just for packaging reasons? Must be rather annoying to refuel these cars and somehow a side impact seems like a bigger disaster in the making than it has to be.

    1. I’ve just spotted that they moved the fuel filler on all of the updated versions that Daniel has shown us further down the page.

  13. I never thought the Metro was that bad, so have being playing with it to see if I could improve it without changing it too radically. Here’s the original and with my adjustments:

    I’ve pinched the better resolved windscreen and A-pillar from Huw’s work above and enlarged the headlamps, adding indicators that wrap around into the wings to make the car look wider across the front. The only other change I’ve made is removing the rubbing strip to clean up the sides a little. Is this better balanced looking than the original?

    1. Daniel: your version is better and also achieves the state of how one remembers the car rather than how it is. If I was editing it I´d delete the feature between the wheels and straighten the DLO lower edge and make it converge with the remaining feature line somewhere ahead of the car.

  14. The Metro/100 actually had four different front ends over its lifetime, all requiring different sheet metal:

    1. Versions two and three look best by far. The original with its strange bulge at the front looks weird and the last has a Far Eastern tough to its ovoid headlights.
      But in all four the windscreen looks like the cutout in an old full face helmet and the sagging window line is strange, the wheels are too small and the whole thing looks like a toy compared to the contemporary Polo of Fiesta, let alone an 104 or R5 or 127.
      One of the photoshop experiments above looks like a Polo Mk2 coupe from the B post back.
      Why did they have to make it so smallP? Was there any proper reason for that or was it done for the sake of it because Greek Al liked his cars as small as possible?

    2. Will also have to go with 2 and 3, as for Issigonis he had virtually no involvement with the Metro in spite of the latter carrying over much from the Mini. He was too busy impotently trying to get the company to produce 9X long after it was dismissed and even fitting a 100 hp 1.3 inline-6 9X engine into a MG Metro Turbo.

    3. Bob: Allow me to elaborate. I was not suggesting that Alec had any direct involvement in either ADO88 or LC8 – he was brooding in his skunkworks by then and would have disdained anything he himself had not invented. However, his influence and ‘shadow’ was still cast upon the designers and engineers who were creating these cars. Griffin in particular, having worked with Issigonis in the past, can’t have not imbibed some of his principles along the way. Issi might have metaphorically been locked in the attic, but his spirit stalked freely.

    4. Eóin Doyle

      To be fair Issigonis did not do himself any favors when he was asked to look at ADO74 (that could not be salvaged – an alternative Michelotti-styled front proposal being the only worthwhile thing about it IMHO) up to even dangerously rallying against the Rover K-Series against his own 9X engine (at a time when the government were less willing to fund the project), even if he was not decisively told to stop building 9X by management and grew increasingly bitter at how he was being treated by management with nobody to fight for his cause like in the past pre-BL (that made him lose any inclination for compromise).

      The approach Charles Griffin and others took with ADO88 / LC8 was something that Issigonis himself should have done earlier on to restore his tarnished credibility after the 1800/2200 and Maxi (the same goes with the Allegro – that along with better styling and a hatchback could have also done with his involvement), since it seems management would have still been more inclined to hear him out had he seen the writing on the wall with 9X (instead of keeping it alive for 16 or so years) and realized the company could only afford a linear development of his ideas (with much carry over as opposed to the clean-sheet develop he truly wanted for his Gesamtkunstwerk moment before finally retiring).

  15. Can appreciate the Metro’s dimensions and visibility as well as the circumstances it was developed under, otherwise it was compromised in other respects with the suspension, gearbox and the carry over nature of the car actually making it quite heavy for its size relative to other larger supermini rivals that still managed to be some 50-130kg or so lighter than the Metro (something that could have been remedied in better times).

    The Metro was a product of the 1970s being launched in the 1980s that should have really appeared around the same time as the original Ford Fiesta, while many deride the A-Series as dated despite receiving a slight update it was surprising competitive in other respects against more modern engines and is a testament to the engine’s capability than anything (though was capable of much more the belated A-Plus should have really appeared in the 1960s).

  16. I remember renting a Metro at Heathrow in 1980, so I could visit my mother while passing through London. It was OK, but nothing special – lacked the roller-skate charm of the Mini.
    Many years later I briefly spannered one for a workmate – I remember it as having twin hydraulic lines to the brakes, which is unusual.
    I don’t understand why the fuel filler is on the wrong side of the car…..

    1. I didn´t date-stamp my memory of the last time I saw one; it might have been Dublin between five and ten years ago. At one point they were ubiquitous.
      This is an Ascot version of the car:
      Perhaps the closest thing to it after its debut was the Citroen AX. It´s also a very basic car with little opportunity for formgiving. Yet it does have a clear signal; the early Metros achieve the rare state of being simple and a bit fussy. With small cars you need to be subtle and decisive at the same time. The current VW Up achieves this while the Suzuki Celerio doesn´t.

    2. Hi Mervyn. Is there a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ side for a fuel filler? I thought that it would make sense to have equal numbers on either side, so that the pumps on both sides of a typical filling station forecourt would be used most efficiently. Our current generation Mini has the filler on the right-hand side, but the two previous generations had it on the left.

      My Boxster also has it on the right (front wing), as have all four Boxster generations, but the 911 switched from left to right with the switch from air-cooled (993) to water-cooled (996).

      Oh dear, I feel a new obsession coming on…

    3. The fuel filler can surely be on either side of the car; you just park the car with that side nearest the fuel pump when it comes time to refill. Of course Jaguar had the right idea years ago with the XJ where there were two fuel filler caps. Was that the only car that featured that?

    4. Not just two filler caps, two fuel tanks (with one dashboard gauge and a toggle switch). Then slavishly copied by DeTomaso for the Deauville. Here’s a GT40 with two filler caps, though I suspect a number of race cars…

  17. The original Lotus Europa had two fuel tanks with and two filler caps, as did the Lancia Stratos and I also think the Lancia 037 had those, but not sure.

  18. Filler cap position originally on near-side (dependant upon which side of the road you were supposed to drive on). This was to enable the local chemist to empty the cans into your tank from the pavement. Then came dispensing pumps and petrol stations.
    Post WW2 anything remotely resembling a sports-car had a centrally positioned filler with a knock-off spring-loaded cap, allowing the unwary (or plain careless) to splatter 5-star all over the boot lid.
    The tidiest – as in best-proportioned – Metro was surely front end number 2, in 4-door form? Might go well with a bowler hat, if it wasn’t for the fact that they’d disappeared from daily life in Britain well before the Metro first appeared on the scene. They do still occasionally appear at fancy dress events…. but rarely, if ever, at the Goodwood Revival !

  19. the 60s Mini Cooper S, at least as assembled
    and sold in Australia, had two fuel filler caps.

  20. Come to think of it: the Gordon Keeble had two fuel tanks, each with its own filler cap.

    1. Hi Richard. The DTW Bumper Holiday Quiz is all done and dusted, and on the way, so make sure your neural connections are all firing correctly, and not soused in sherry!

    2. Thanks for reminding me about the sherry. Most recently I´ve been sampling vermouth and quinquina aperatifs; sherry has fallen off the radar somewhat. It´s been months since I had any of Jerez´s finest.

  21. In the subject of unusual fuel tank arrangements, the rear-engined Renault 8 Gordini also had two, the standard one at the rear and an auxiliary tank in the front boot. Which one was in use was controlled by a manual valve by the gear lever. To achieve optimal weight distribution, it made sense to empty the rear one first.

    Interestingly (to me, at least!) when they relocated the three-door Metro’s fuel filler to a position higher up the rear quarter panel, it was no longer covered by a flap, presumably to reduce its incursion into interior space. The five-door had a neater solution, with the filler under a flap beneath the rear quarter light.

    I’ll go with the majority and agree that the second iteration of the Metro’s front end was the neatest. The last was horrible, with those piggy little lights and grille!

    1. I heard in a Youtube video that the Rover 100 grille and lights were actually taken from one of the unused proposals for the last generation of 200 (the one that was facelifted to become the 25). No idea if it’s true.

  22. I always had a soft spot for the Metro, having been caught up in the hyperbole at launch as a 13 year old. My Mum and Step-Father bought a Y-reg ‘standard’ in Opaline Green from new and it seemed very decent at the time (this was the car that wasn’t the Citroen Visa Platinum, of which I have written here a long time ago now). With hindsight, it was less brilliant than it seemed at the time, although the competition when it was launched was all very previous generation (as Eóin states above). The narrow track and toy-town wheels didn’t help in terms of that fair-ground-car-ride look, and you can tell that end design was hobbled by the original ADO88 starting point. I think the VdP and MG versions were well executed trim wise (I loved the red carpets and belts in the original MG versions).

    The Metro was quickly overwhelmed by the 205, Uno, Supercinq, AX, etc. The 2nd version which brought in the 5 door version was a nice update to the looks, inside and out, but the underlying technology was basically enhanced Mini. The R6 was a case of what might have been, but was a remarkably effective silk purse from a sows ear with the Moulton approved version of interconnected Hydrogas and the K-Series engines … but should have lasted only 3 years, and the Rover 100 version was dead on arrival.

    1. Hello SV – I’ll second your comment on the interiors – Austin Rover were good at doing really pretty plush interiors – imaginative, nice quality materials and pretty good design, excepting some slightly wobbly dashboards. Ford went through a relatively good phase at around the same time – I recall upper-spec fiestas having good sound deadening and comfortable seats.

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