The termination of production of the MGB and the closure of the Abingdon factory in 1980 had provoked a huge outcry among enthusiasts around the world - a response which probably took British Leyland by surprise. The group had never given the marque the support it needed and almost certainly were not aware of the following enjoyed by MG cars of all types and vintages.
The Mini-Metro was introduced in 1980 and was quickly seen as a good car in the small car range, but it was not to displace the Mini which remains in production today. Powered by the ever faithful A-series engine, mounted transversely with the gearbox in a unit mounted underneath the engine. In 1981, much to everyone's surprise, British Leyland announced an MG version of the Metro saloon. This was greeted by some MG devotees with the usual cries of despair! However the front-wheel-drive small car was to prove very popular. It had all the essential design features of a fine small car, with a wheel at each corner and no overhanging bodywork to upset the balance, the MG Metro was almost guaranteed good handling characteristics. The cars suspension was provided by the well developed Hydragas system, which gave good performance under normal circumstances but needed to be made much more stiffer for any competition use.
More than 20 years of development in its transverse location had made sure that there were no problems with the 1275cc A-series engine, which had been used in the Mini Cooper S and the MG Midget. The Metro's gearchange was much more refined than in the Mini, whilst the steering may not have been quite as direct as the Mini but it was still exceptionally responsive. This resulted in making the MG Metro feel much like the Mini Cooper of old.
The MG Metro had been given a high level of exterior finish, and alloy wheels fitted with low-profile tyres distinguished the car from its cheaper stablemates. Kimber may not have approved of the plastic interior and stylised instruments, but it was certainly in keeping with the flair of contemporary sporting car designs.
The MG Metro was proving to be a sales success, and few of the general public expected a higher performance version, but just one year after the introduction of the MG Metro, the MG Metro Turbo was announced. Exhaust-driven turbochargers were becoming fashionable on production cars following a considerable effort which was being put into their development for Grand Prix racing. As far as the road-cars were concerned, the use of turbochargers was largely made to increase the sporting appeal of otherwise fairly mundane saloon cars, and the turbo was only used to increase power by a modest amount in the interests of long-term reliability. Also, there had always been a liking for the notion of getting significant increases in power output for little extra input.
The new car provided a top-of-the-range model to the Metro series, and the car was distinguished from the cheaper
MG model by its better interior trim, distinctive exterior "Turbo" side flashes, and ultra low-profile tyres.
When fitted with the turbocharger the engine output was increased by a useful margin, power was up from 72 to 93bhp, but this highlighted the inadequacies of the "long-legged" wide gearbox ratios, especially if the turbo was not producing its full designed measure of boost.
At the time, competition in this field had moved from the modified standard cars of the sixties to a breed of highly developed homologation specials, featuring large engines, four-wheel drive, and all sorts of devices undreamed of twenty years earlier. The Metro developed for this kind of competition was code named the 6R4, and was a mid-engined four-wheel drive saloon, which beared a resemblance to the Metro although it was actually built on a Maestro floorpan!
The engine was a V6 unit which had been derived from the Rover V8 engine which has been seen in numerous vehicles including the MGB. The engine had effectively had two cylinders removed, was fuel-injected, and had been mounted in what would have been the back seats of the Metro model. This whole package was offered in limited production, for homologation purposes, at a price of around 25,000 pounds.
As a competition car, the MG Metro was only a mild success, winning only one major rally, before it was ruled out of contention by changes in rallying's international rules just as the development was beginning to get the car into success.
Even though the car was ruled out of international rallying scene, it was still ideal for a number of other areas of motorsport. This is especially true in Rallycross, where the 6R4 continues to be successful, and a major force today. Other areas of motor sport where the 6R4 is still used include : one-make race series, hillclimbing, and sprinting, where it's sheer brute force, light weight, and aerodynamics continue to make it a very competitive car.
A Little More History
The International career of the MG Metro 6R4 was a short one, but not as a results of the car being a failure. In fact it was the cars success and other rally cars like it, that led to it being banned from World Championship Rallying. It is only now being reconised as one of the 'classic' Group B rally cars of the mid eighties, and it is also taking it's rightful place as a genuine part of MG history.
Back in 1985 the Lancia Delta S4s dominated the RAC Rally, taking first and second overall, other cars that should have been contenders to finnish in the top three were the Peugeot 205 T16's and the AudiSport Quattro's, but it was a British car in third place, and it was the MG Metro 6R4, driven by Tony Pond and Rob Arthur.
The other works Metro driven by Malcolm Wilson failed to finnish, with variuos problems which could not be repaired, these being a front differential failure, a dodgy gearbox and the power steering also gave some trouble. The car had in fact come a long way from it's early development, after starting life as a 2WD car, powered only with a 1500cc engine. After the success of the 1985 RAC Rally, Austin Rover opted to compete in a limited number of events in the World Rally Championship of 1986, with the intention of making a bigger effort in 1987.
But after a series of tragic accidents, the governing body of the sport, FISA, took measures to halt any further chance of more fatal accidents, which were attributed to the speed of the cars, and Group B Rally cars were banned as of 1 January 1987. (Is it really ten over years ago?)
Motorsports governing body the RAC, allowed the MG6R4 to continue in National events, in the Clubman form, this meant that former works cars had to be fitted with a de-tuned engine. For a car to be eligiable to compete for World Championship events, 200 cars have to be built, these could be purchased, ready to race for 40.000K (UK pounds), and of course when the ban came into force in 1987, Austin Rover still had a lot on the shelf!
So as the little car's career came to an abrupt end in the International arena, it was just begining it life in the Uk's rally scene.
The 6R4 Today
Several of the original 'Works' car survive, and in near original condition, many found new homes on the Rallycross circuit.
The Works cars which were entered from Cowley, ran in the very distinctive Blue & White, 'Computervision' livery.
During 1995 one of the Works 6R4's came up for sale at auction and sold for 18,500 UK pounds.
If you fancy one yourself, then there are some still around in the form of the 'Clubman Car'. Some 200 were produced, and they do come up for sale now and then. How much?, well like all cars thats dependant on its history, and condition. You sould expect to pay between 12-15k (uk pounds) for a good 'tidy' example, the more well used Rallycross examples will be well below this.
Opportunities to use one in competitive anger are limited, no longer are the Group B cars allowed to compete in the British Rally Cross Championship. They can be used in club rallying, and people do, and yes they are still winning trophies!
|1985||Tony Pond/Rob Arthur|
|1985||Malcolm Wilson/Nigel Harris|
|1986||Monte Carlo Rally||Tony Pond/Rob Arthur|
|1986||Monte Carlo Rally||
||Malcolm Wilson/Nigel Harris|
|1986||Swedish Rally||Malcolm Wilson/Nigel Harris|
|1986||*Portugese Rally||Tony Pond/Rob Arthur|
|1986||*Portugese Rally||Malcolm Wilson/Nigel Harris|
|1986||1000 Lakes Rally||Per Eklund/Dave Whittock|
|1986||1000 Lakes Rally||Harri Toivonen/Cedric Wrede|
|1986||1000 Lakes Rally||Malcolm Wilson/Nigel Harris|
|1986||**San Remo Rally||Malcolm Wilson/Nigel Harris|
|1986||***RAC Rally||Tony Pond/Rob Arthur|
|1986||***RAC Rally||Perr Eklund/Dave Whittock|
|1986||***RAC Rally||Jimmy McRae/Ian Grindrod|
|1986||***RAC Rally||David Llewellin/Phil Short|
You can now order Video's featuring the 6r4 from Amazon.CO.UK, Click Below
1985 Lombard RAC
Genesis To Revelation - The Story Of The 6R4 (1986)
Rally 1986 - World Review
Useful Contacts For Futher Information
The MG Car Club
Po Box 251
|The MG6R4 Enthusiast
|| ||The Group B Car Club
The Granary, Star Lane
MG Metro and MG Metro Turbo, by TSB.
Collection of road tests and data. 86 pages of photocopied A4.
TSB are on 01473 270376.
METRO, by Mark Steward, 128 A5 pages of with lots ofphotos and little text.
By Osprey. ISBN 1855321807.
MG ENTHUSIAST mag, MG Metro article in February 1993 issue, Vol 11, No5.
Good coverage of the car by Martin Wise.
Back issues on 01294 499261.
MG Metro, flying the flag, Enjoying MG, April 1998. Back issues from MGOC 01954 231125.By Richard Ladds, brief description and buying guide.
Rover Metro, Practical Motorist, August 1990. The car that followed the MG. Good read for enthusiasts. Back issues 01202 823581.
MG Metro Turbo, Road Test. MG Enthusiasts Magazine, Vol 1, No. 1.
MG metro Turbo, fifth anniversary, MG Enthusiasts Mag, Vol 5 No. 4.
MG Metro mini-profile, MG Enthusiasts Mag, Vol 11 No. 5.
MG Metro 6R4, MG Enthusiasts Mag, Vol 11 No.2.
MG Metro 6R4 Rallycross, MG Enthusiasts Mag, Vol 14 No. 5
Ex RAC Metro 6R4, MG Enthusiasts Mag,Vol 17 No 4.
MG Metro Buyers Guide, MG Enthusiasts Mag, Vol 20 No.1.
**All available from 01924 499261.
MG Merto going LEADFREE. All you need to know, by Roger Parker and Neil Cairns, MGCC magazine Safety Fast, October 1998 issue in FWD News. Back numbers from 01235 555552.
Austin (MG) Metro ('80 to May '90) Author - A K Legg
Haynes Publishing Hardcover - February 1996
ROVER METRO, part number AKM6139, two books cover up to 1987 cars, and another 87-90.
Very good. ISBN 1 85960 165 1
Available from your dealer.
METRO, by Autodata, out of print, found at autojumbles cheap.
Average cover. ISBN 0 85666 412 X
Austin, MG & Vanden Plas METRO,
By Haynes. ISBN 0 85696 978 8
Found in most motor factors, Good!
Tuning BL's 'A' Series, by David Vizzard.
Lots on the Metro engine and LOTS on the Metro TURBO.
Very good book indeed.
By Haynes ISBN 0 85429 414 7