Thursday December 6, 2018
‘No frills - no radio, head rests rear wiper or glove box’ - that’s how Paul Thomson describes his 1983 Austin Metro Standard which is ‘one of nine base models left on the road’. 35 years ago, such a lack of distracting fittings was about par for the course in a low-budget family car.
This was a time when you might ask of someone not ‘what is your number?’ but ‘are you on the ‘phone?’. A video recorder was a luxury item, black and white television sets were still not uncommon, and as for a car with electric front windows, that were generally reserved for the branch managers of this world.
Paul bought his Metro in February 2018 - ‘it was in “9 out of 10 condition with 18K on the clock’. Power – ‘43 hp of it’ – is from the A-Plus engine and during a 1981 test Autocar thought the Standard model a better buy than the slightly more expensive Ford Fiesta Popular Plus (£3, 156 as opposed to £1,360) due to ‘it’s more civilised ride/handing compromise, and its remarkable blend of performance with economy, both in mpg and in running costs’
Of course, the City was the entry-level model of the Metro range while the Standard at least came with a heated rear window and a passenger sun visor. However, anyone who craved the decadence of split rear seats or a radio would have to work hard and/or grovel to the fleet buyer in order to be allotted an L-spec company car.
Alternatively, you could make a trip to your local Unipart outlet and deck your Metro out in all the fashionable accessories. Paul himself has added a rather vital after-market fitting; ‘I've added a passenger door mirror so I can spot cyclists zooming up on the inside’.
One BL PR car had the misfortune to guest star as a “Police Panda” in The Boys in Blue, one of the most fascinatingly awful comedy films of 1982 or any other year. The Austin Metro also featured on a regular basis as ‘this week’s star prize!’ in quite a few ITV quiz shows; the Independent Broadcasting Authority had very strict rules regarding the value of the jackpot. Here ace announcer John Benson rhapsodises about the City version on Sale of The Century -
Spoiler alert – the winner left the Anglia TV studios with a pair of mopeds.
The Thomson Metro ‘featured on Flipping Bangers in June this year’ and Paul likes its ‘rarity’ plus the fact that ‘most people can relate to them’. There was indeed a time when that distinctive transmission whine could be heard on virtually every school or, shopping trip, plus the fact that the Metro was one of the most eagerly awaited British cars of its day.
The HLS and, slightly later, the MG and Vanden Plas models were the aspirational versions while the City and the Standard often that served as a police panda car or economical transport for government departments. And today the likes of Paul’s Metro Standard are guaranteed to turn more heads than many a Ferrari or Rolls-Royce.