British Clunkers on the cusp : Rover Metro / 100 series 1989 to 1998.

Mike Humble:

The first of a look at past motors once seen as tomorrow’s razor blades, but now quickly becoming retro gems with rising values as a result. 

 My friends, Romans and Montego Countrymen….

THE ROVER METRO & 100 Series.

 

metro gta
Once we laughed… Now they’re getting sought after. The Rover Metro and 100 series

 

Once the darling of the urban middle class pensioner about town, the Rover Metro & 100 series was banished to the pages of history almost 18 years ago. Yes… that’s right, 1998 saw the once great saviour of B.L blink its weary eyes as it trundled off the Longbridge assembly plant in to the West Midlands overcast and damp daylight for the last time. Being old enough to remember the original Austin version and its blaze of glory enter the fray in 1980, it almost seems it was built forever, but it became good nine years later.

They must have some weird kind of staying power – you still spot (if you keep a really good eye open) more post 1989 Rover Metro or 100 models limping around than the legacy shape Mini… despite the latter selling millions more over a longer timescale. I’ll let you into a secret too, if you drive even a half decent one, they still put a massive smile on your face in terms driver appeal. From the Metro 1.1C that was more basic than a blank sheet of A4 to the tastefully trimmed 114GSi, they all went like the willies and offered an utterly brilliant balance of handling and ride.

Having heaps of past exposure to the oily bits and a lot of K series engine experience, I’m happy to say these post `89 cars give the best show of Rovers clever (but flawed) all alloy power unit. The range topping Metro GTi 16v with its 95 or 103bhp twin cam is seriously laugh out loud fun to drive… punchy, torquey, happy to rev till it almost pops and yet still agreeable on the fuel too. Even the simple 1120cc with a KiF carb and 60bhp picks its revs up like a two stroke Yamaha and whips along in a fashion that made a absolute mockery of an equivalent 1.1 Fiesta.

100 press image
Later GTa or GSi cars can look really cute and snazzy in nice order and right colour. Buy NOW… they are on their way up these days.

 

 

For me? Well the pick of the lot has to be the GTa or GSi. The former offers a sporting cache without the bills and the latter is very tastefully trimmed inside with its walnut garnishing and sumptuous upholstery. With the exception of rust, the build quality feels quite solid and the quality of the interior fixtures and fittings, despite echoing the older Austin variants after 1984, were possibly Rovers zenith along with the R8 series Rover 200. Some reverse engineering took place to bring the costs down in production such as the deletion of the over-specified vented front brakes on lesser models, but the whole of the range just felt that little more posher and smart than even the equivalent VW Polo of the same era.

 

But it wasn’t NCAP that killed the 100 series with “that famous” photo of a 100 being crashed into the promised land. Quite simply the car was hopelessly out of date in all area’s except under the bonnet. Rover killed the car and saw fit not to replace it until 2003 when MG Rover gave us the amazingly crap City Rover… a car converted from a no frills Indian small hatchback. Very quickly, the model became even less popular than Ian Huntley branded bubble bath and most rusted away into oblivion dying a slow and unloved death. That was… until recent times where the car is becoming rather respected in retro classic circles.

Metro Ncap
This famous and well publicised NCAP image wasn’t really death of the Rover 100. By 1998 it was plainly and simply out of date – nothing more nothing less

 

“Avoid and watch out for rear wheel arches that resemble a packet of broken brandy snaps, rear wheels that sit akin to a Triumph Herald when viewed from behind that indicates knackered trailing arms and you’re half way there

Values now are on the up and even though a few look they have been ram raided into the Rip-Speed section of an out of town Halfords, a standard Rover Metro or 100 can still be bought for the right side of a grand. Ascot or Kensington SE models in the right colour look really jolly nowadays – their colour co-ordinated interiors of oyster velour still stand out in terms of quality. But a red or metallic racing green GTa in standard appearance without comedy alloys or a Howitzer exhaust have a stance cuter than a chocolate Labrador puppy. Time does heal old wounds and these motors are genuinely on the rise in terms of costs, despite the negatives of a lack of safety kit, rust and dreadful rear legroom.

Avoid and watch out for rear wheel arches that resemble a packet of broken brandy snaps, rear wheels that sit akin to a Triumph Herald when viewed from behind that indicates knackered trailing arms and you’re half way there. Cylinder head gaskets can fail though nowhere near as known as later Rover K series products, but on the whole they are simple to mend, cheap to run and more than happy enough to hop around in as a daily driver. Even the diesel powered by 1.5 Peugeot TUD engines scoot along really well. I once ran a `96 115SD that would literally would run from Northampton to Derby just by showing it a photograph of a gallon of juice, let alone on the smell of an oily rag!

Here’s the lowdown:

  • Built from 1989 to 1998 (100 series from late `95)
  • 1.1 / 1.4 petrol or 1.4 / 1.5 non turbo diesel
  • 4 / 5 speed manual or automatic CVT
  • 3 or 5 door hatch / 2 door cabriolet

Pick of the litter:  Rover Metro or 114 GTa

Runt of the bunch: CVT or 1.4D – the latter is painfully sloth like

What’s Good: Brilliant handling – smooth driveline – Easy to DIY fix – Cheap at the moment – Posh or upper models are oddly still classy looking – Cracking performance – Good ride quality – 5 speed models are really quite good at soaking up long journeys – Values now creeping up and cars slowly becoming sought after… ACT NOW!

What’s Crud: Rust – Rust – even more rust – Neglected cars can suffer badly worn out rear suspension and coolant problems – Very poor occupant safety – Rear legroom is pitifully tight – Auto CVT models that sound like a Leggo brick jammed in the Hoover can require specialist and expensive repair – Cabrio models in need of structural repair should only be dealt with by a regarded and experienced bodyshop – Only the top line GSi is reasonably equipped inside.

Want to know more on Metro? CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 


3 thoughts on “British Clunkers on the cusp : Rover Metro / 100 series 1989 to 1998.

  1. Your affection for them is obvious and you’re right, they are a hoot to drive. The steering, and the steering wheel on the higher spec cars, is a joy!

  2. Loved my Kensington SE. MG Rover post BMW and pre City Rover seriously looked at putting the 100 back into production.

  3. BRANDY SNAP ARCHES

    I laughed for ten minutes there Mike. But seriously, despite the origins being as old as time itself we had a few on the driveway. my wife ran three Metro and two 100 models. We had very little trouble with any of them and when my youngest son learnt to drive we gave him the last one as a present – a 114SLi.

    It was running until last year and only parted after an argument with a kerb that ruined all the front suspension.

    Thanks for the laughs. Terry

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