MG Rover Metro Profile

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MG Rover Metro General Information

The basic FWD road version of this car was the Austin Metro, or in a sporty - actually turbo charged - road version the MG Metro. Following a face lift the car was marketed as a Rover, taking on typical Rover nomenclature of the time. Hence depending on engine size it was also known as Rover 111 or 114.

This was one of the most unusual groupB cars of the lot. The whole project started in an unusual way. A long time has gone since the Mini successes and one thing was clear: for the MG Rover brand to return to rallying, it had to be with the Metro, the car that was on the road the spiritual successor to the Mini (in itself a task the Metro never succeeded in). And MG Rover understood that groupB was all about extremes in technology. So they indeed went to a Formula 1 team to ask for advice! Indeed, the groupB MG Metro 6R4 was designed by the Williams F1 team! This in itself was already 1 of 2 big mistakes by MG Rover:

Mistake #1: Without doubting the abilities of Williams, it is a simple fact that rallying is nothing like F1, not even in high tech groupB age. All the experts within the scene agreed that the Metro 6R4 wasn't designed for the punishment and abuse it had to take even on tarmac rally stages, nor was accessibility and easy servicing a highlight of the car. As only one example it still had a normal tailgate where all other mid-engined groupB cars could open the entire engine compartment. In the WRC, the Metro's only full season 1986, it was severely hampered by engine and transmission failures and even smaller problems seemed to be impossible to attend in time limited road side services.

Mistake #2: For some reason MG Rover was convinced that a turbo was not the way to go - they insisted so even when the car was way into its program and regularly failed to be on the same pace as the Peugeot 205 T16, Ford RS200, Audi Quattro & Lancia Delta S4. It was actually an interesting engine, as what MG had done was to take the big 3500cc V8 engine of the TR7 V8 & Rover SD1 and because of the short size of the Metro, despite the mid-engine layout, they chopped 2 cylinders off to end up with a 3000cc V6. MG Rover kept telling everybody that they had the better solution as turbo may have a huge torque and weight advantage, but the atmospheric engine was far better responding and more drivable than a turbo (e.g. no turbo lag) and as well in the mid-engine configuration it would have less thermal problems than a turbo. All makes sense first sight, but that this calculation was simply wrong is easily proven with a look at any 1986 stage times. It's a shame in a way, the car was certainly characterful, even if boxy and by some argued to be ugly, and the whole team consisted of very likeable people. Yet at the time it felt that about every single press release by the team read like a book of excuses why deciding against a turbo engine was the way to go, when the results so clearly proved them wrong ever again.

Interesting, the Metro 6R4 started and ended life very slowly on British national rallies. Already in early 1984 a pair of Metro 6R4 competed in British national rallies as a final shakedown and test before its WRC debut. However at that point the Metro had a massive handling problem through too thin tyres and this could not be addressed easily for FIA WRC regulations. At that point the Williams design still had a 2500cc V6 engine. This was increased to 3000cc, which then would allow wider tyres. And only then coming the extreme wheel arches as a side effect. In return one advantage the Metro had, was that it was not over-tuned and it's price tag did not go through the roof as on other groupB constructions. After the groupB ban on international level, the MG Metro 6R4 lived on as a privateers car in British national rallies even for decades!

Note: We don't actually have a data file for the 2500cc version. For one because we couldn't find the exact specs. But as interesting as the existence of the 2500cc version is without the slightest doubt, the car had its first roll out in February 1983 and after still a long development period did its first rallies with Tony Pond & Colin Malkin about a year later in early 1984. But indeed only 2 1/2 such cars existed. 2 1/2? Note registrations A656 NJO, A657 NJO & A658 NJO, the first two were competing on national events in 2500cc spec, while "658" served as a test and development bed and ever more evolved into the final version over the many months. Already the next prototypes on national rallies B196 XUD & B197 XUD were proper, wide bodied 3000cc ones. However the drastic change in spec after the first cars were rallied also explains a huge delay for the project. When this pair of Metro 2500 6R4 already competed on national events in 1984, even before the launch of the Peugeot 205 T16, the MG Metro 6R4 concept might actually have been competitive, yet it took another 2 years until the car would have its WRC debut! Interesting also that the 2500cc prototypes where the only works Metro ever painted in classic Mini red with white roof.

Despite all this, the Metro 6R4 actually had a fantastic and promising WRC debut: it was the Lombard RAC 1985 and Tony Pond finished on the podium with the new car first try! But this was to be the Metro 6R4's best ever result. To assume it could never match this performance again would be misleading - it never performed in the first place! The Metro debut was on one of the strangest rallies of that era: As usual in 1985 3 Peugeots would storm away up front followed by 2 Audis and even Björn Waldegaard's Toyota next - but incredibly, none of these cars would finish even the first forest day, mainly through accidents! Lancia won that event but they had so many problems, that the Metro didn't manage to beat it was nearly an embarrassment. Indeed, going into the last day of the long 1985 RAC a heavy flu sufferring Tony Pond was still 2nd and ahead of later winner Toivonen. When leader Alen went off, Pond and the Metro could so easily even have led and won their debut event, had a broken propshaft not interfered moments before Alen's off!

Still 1986 would never see the car in a podium place at WRC level again, but more stand for many silly retirements. On national level it worked slightly better, young David Llewellin C996 LCA gave the 6R4 its first international victory on the asphalt of the Circuit of Ireland, Marc Duez C97 KOG had a fine victory on the ERC Hunsrück Rallye and Tony Pond C98 KOG even a dominant win on the Manx. But even here the WRC gremlins slipped in. For example on a very dusty Scottish Rally no less than 6 works or semi-works Metros started: Malcolm Wilson, Per Eklund, Jimmy McRae, David Llewellin, Harri Toivonen & Mike Stuart, and all 6 of them retired with identical engine problems! This however proved, possibly linked to the F1 design origins, that it was a tiny problem with big results: Dust and tiny stones would make cambelts snap or find their way into the combustion chambers. And some propshaft issues aside, this was the only major problem ever found on these cars. Unfortunately by now time was running out until the groupB ban on WRC level. But as late as RAC 1986 Alistair Sutherland and David Gillanders were testing a works supplied "Pepper Box" on their Clubman spec 6R4's. You must be British and Austin Rover fan to come up with this, but Pepper Box was an official parts name from MG Rover and described a new air box and induction system that would not only increase power, but reliably avoid the dust into engine problem. MG Rover insiders promptly claimed "What a brilliant idea, let's sell reliability as an optional extra!". The reality is that otherwise the Metro actually was a very reliable car, just having so many blown up engines is something big to stick in people's memories, but indeed it was tiny cause, big result.

With the Pepper Box "reliability as optional extra" the Metro became a reliable and cheap to run car. And another curiosity outside of MG Rover's control helped it further. Many national authorities, including the British ones, following the groupB ban still allowed groupB into national and such non-FIA sanctioned events, but only if they were not turbo charged. These authorities obviously were not keen on groupB supercars and their often fire related accidents, but were clearly thinking of cars like Opel Manta 400, Nissan 240RS and the many remaining ex-group4 cars that were re-homologated into groupB as i.e. the Escort BDA. This rule however meant that once the 6R4's biggest downfall is suddenly its asset: the lack of a turbo means it is the only 4x4 supercar still legal for a large number of events! Lucky for MG Rover and their competitions head John Davenport. Because another idea, originally intended for cost saving, that made the Metro 6R4 one of the most unusual groupB cars of the lot: While every groupB car manufacturer kept worrying for years how to sell their 200 homologation special road cars, MG Rover never intended to sell any of them in the first place! For example - and not that this meant the Metro was a dangerous car, it had more steel than most groupB cars - other than any other groupB car the Metro 6R4 never went through the highly expensive FIA write off crash tests. Meaning in virtually every country outside UK the Metro 6R4 never was legal for a road registration, leaving MG Rover competitions department no option but to sell every single one of them as rally cars - and they did! Not only that, the 200 base cars for homologation were at 250BHP more powerful than most groupB base cars, the Pepper Box increased power further to 300BHP and with not such a big step left to get it to full groupB spec. If you bought one of the 200 "road" 6R4s, you could drive it straight to the start line of the next stage! And you still find some on British stages today!

So after all, I am sorry some of the lines above sound negative. Well, you can't say 1986 was a massive success for this car. But it was only small problems that could easily be addressed, if only groupB would have lasted a little longer. Leaves the lack of a turbo as its biggest downfall, but exactly this downfall meant it had a unique, throaty sound and could carry on in national rallies until even today, where many fans are thrilled to still occasionally see and hear it, me included!
 

MG Rover Metro Related Content


MG Rover Metro Evolutions

 
 
Model & Evo. (Activity)
 
BHP@
RPM
Torque
(Nm)@
RPM
Length
Width
Height
Weight
(Kg/BPM
Ratio)
 
Trans.
(W'base)
MG Rover Metro 6R4 (85-86) 390/8200 370/6500 3657.1836.1650 1040 (2.7) 4wd (2391)

Random MG Rover Metro Photos

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MG Rover Metro Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
7th. 1986 WRC Rally of Finland P. Eklund D. Whittock #8 [UNKNOWN] 3:43:43
8th. 1986 WRC Rally of Finland H. Toivonen C. Wrede #17 [UNKNOWN] 3:52:19
10th. 1986 WRC Rally of Finland M. Wilson N. Harris #9 [UNKNOWN] 3:56:02
6th. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond R. Arthur #4 [UNKNOWN] 5:30:14
7th. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Eklund D. Whittock #17 [UNKNOWN] 5:33:12
8th. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. McRae I. Grindrod #15 [UNKNOWN] 5:35:08
9th. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain D. Llewellin P. Short #14 [UNKNOWN] 5:40:38
17th. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain M. Wilson N. Harris #10 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
3rd. 1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond R. Arthur #10 [UNKNOWN] 9:34:32

MG Rover Metro Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain M. Duez W. Lux #19 [UNKNOWN] SS9 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain H. Toivonen N. Wilson #20 [UNKNOWN] SS38 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Teesdale G. Horne #23 [UNKNOWN] SS26 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye San Remo M. Wilson N. Harris #15 [UNKNOWN] SS99 event disqualified from WRC - 4th
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye San Remo M. Duez W. Lux #19 [UNKNOWN] SS2 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye San Remo T. Pond R. Arthur #3 [UNKNOWN] SS32 crash
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally of Finland M. Arpiainen . UNKNOWN #19 [UNKNOWN] SS16 crash
Ret. 1986 WRC Rally New Zealand T. Teesdale G. Horne #9 [UNKNOWN] SS9 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Tour de Corse D. Auriol B. Occelli #12 [UNKNOWN] SS2 oil pipe
Ret. 1986 WRC Tour de Corse M. Wilson N. Harris #9 [UNKNOWN] SS10 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Tour de Corse T. Pond R. Arthur #3 [UNKNOWN] SS14 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye de Portugal M. Wilson N. Harris #12 [UNKNOWN] SS3 boycott
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye de Portugal M. Duez W. Lux #16 [UNKNOWN] SS3 boycott
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye de Portugal T. Pond R. Arthur #6 [UNKNOWN] SS3 boycott
Ret. 1986 WRC Swedish Rally P. Eklund D. Whittock #7 [UNKNOWN] SS2 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Swedish Rally M. Wilson N. Harris #9 [UNKNOWN] SS14 engine
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo T. Pond R. Arthur #5 [UNKNOWN] SS7 crash
Ret. 1986 WRC Rallye Monte Carlo M. Wilson N. Harris #11 [UNKNOWN] SS12 transmission
Ret. 1985 WRC Rally of Great Britain M. Wilson N. Harris #13 [UNKNOWN] SS23 engine