Peugeot 106 GTI: Point Me At The Sky

The following is a re-edit of a piece posted by MotorMartin on DriveTribe under The Junk Yard banner run by Tony Yates, perhaps better known as @Xinterceptor.

The Peugeot 106 can easily be seen as the forgotten GTI, a car overshadowed by many but bettered by few, a car rather cruelly ignored and consigned to the hard shoulder of history as it’s prettier and better known rivals sail on past. But is it time to revisit this little gem of a car, to recapture some of the fizz that Peugeot hoped would capture the public’s imagination?

A little history I think. The Peugeot 106 was an entry-level supermini produced between 1991 and 2004 which made it one of the longest running production cars ever made in Europe, a fact that many still find surprising today. The 106 arrived on the roads of our green and pleasant land with, for the time, modern styling, great handling, decent ride quality and low running costs, all of which combined to create a popular choice as the ideal city car. And then, in 2005, the 106 was replaced by the Peugeot 107, which itself was replaced by the Peugeot 108 in 2014.

Peugeot certainly have history when it comes to taking a standard commuter car and giving it a thorough going over, a fact covered in a previous article posted on DriveTribe’s The Junk Yard under the title Peugeot 205 GTI: Party Hard and one which looked into the cult of the 205 GTI and it’s lasting effect on the consciousness of the hot hatch fan. And that really is a problem for Peugeot as by default, every car with that they have produced since, with that fabled GTI badge on the boot lid, has been and will always be compared against the genius of the original.

The 106 GTI was available to buy from May 1996 and lasted in the range up until 2003, testament to the correctness of Peugeot’s original design. Taking inspiration from the design decisions that created the original, the 106 eschewed vast power for an emphasis on light weight and exceptional handling. With it’s 1587cc engine producing 120bhp and having to haul along just 950kg, the 106 GTI was certainly fast enough for most, providing the enthusiastic driver with a 0-60 time of 8.6s and a top speed of 128mph. Figures that certainly won’t instil fear in the hot (or even warm) hatch driver of today, it’s the way that the Peugeot feels out on the road that is so impressive.

Now compare the 106 GTI with the original 106 and the differences start to become very clear indeed and provide an idea as to the difference that Peugeot had made to their sensible, but popular, entry-level supermini when they turned the wick up to 11. Taking a 1124cc Zest Edition 106 as a comparison point, the differences brought about to create the GTI are plain to see, starting with an engine shoehorned under the bonnet who’s capacity was now 1587cc and produced double the power whilst keeping to roughly the same weight. At nearly 6 seconds faster from 0-60 and a top speed that added nearly 30mph on top of the Zest’s 101, it’s quite amazing the changes Peugeot brought about on this most humble of starting points.

As anyone with experience of fast cars will tell you, it’s the lack of weight, rather than outright power, that can often have the greatest effect. After all, light weight equals better handling, less stress and strain on the various suspension components, better fuel economy, faster acceleration and a greater top speed. However, it was the effect on the handling that allowed the 106 to try and hold on to the coat tails of the competition, often exceeding all expectations through the twists and turns of the average A and B road as the GTI made best use of the 120bhp on offer.

Contemporary reviews of the Peugeot are consistently complimentary of the car’s handling and ride as it far outshined expectations, surprising many with the surefooted manner upon which this little GTI could traverse down the road. And it’s here where we find the true spirit of the GTI, as this is a car designed to be mercilessly thrashed. With peak power being found at 6600rpm and nimbleness that would embarrass a pair of rollerscates, the 106 could and did run rings around larger and more powerful opposition and, if you can find a good one, would still have the ability to do so today.

With the pool of good 106 GTI’s becoming smaller as the years roll by, there is a growing number of people willing to give this oft forgotten hot hatch a second chance. Maybe it’s those that couldn’t afford the car or insurance back in the day, or perhaps it’s those that cherished the Peugeot’s good looks, enhanced as they were by bodykit and alloys, either way, it’s got to be time for the Peugeot 106 GTI to finally step out from the all encompassing shadow of the 205 GTI and gain recognition for a job well done.

After all, with supermini dimensions, subtly aggressive looks, light weight and good power, what’s not to like?

Where will you go?



Jaguar Land Rover have been on the up and up for a considerable length of time now and has completely banished the bad old days of unreliable and poorly made products of the distant past. The vehicles being produced by Jaguar Land Rover are, in MotorMartin’s opinion, to be celebrated for being the technologically advanced driving machines that the critics and public love. 

Vehicles that exude quality, desire and power mean that, unsurprisingly, Jaguar Land Rover has once again been named the largest automotive manufacturer in Britain, accounting for more than 30% of all domestic car production last year. The news follows today’s announcement from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) that UK car manufacturers set a new record in 2016, producing 1,727,471 vehicles.

Jaguar Land Rover have explained to MotorMartin that their three vehicle manufacturing plants in Liverpool and the West Midlands increased the company’s UK production output 8% over the previous year to 544,401. Jaguar Land Rover vehicles account for five of the top ten British best-sellers globally. Impressive.

The latest figures further demonstrate the dramatic transformation undergone by Jaguar Land Rover, which has increased production from its British plants by more than 240% since 2009, when total annual production stood at 158,000 units.

Andy Goss, Jaguar Land Rover Global Sales Director, shared with MotorMartin that:“Jaguar Land Rover has once again shown that investment in new models, skills and advanced technology are critically important to ensure Britain has a thriving automotive industry – even in the face of current uncertainty.

“To be the UK’s largest automotive business once again is a tremendous achievement. We are proud to call ourselves a British company and are committed to ensuring manufacturing remains the backbone of the British economy.”

All of this success has not been given to Jaguar Land Rover but is a result of the hard work undertaken by all staff throughout the business as the company’s record year was driven by its unrelenting investment plan, with 15 all-new and significantly enhanced models hitting the market. The Jaguar F-PACE – the brand’s highest-volume model – propelled Jaguar production forward by 67%, while the Range Rover Evoque, regained the position of Land Rover’s highest-volume car following the introduction of the Convertible.

Rather incredibly, since 2010 Jaguar Land Rover has invested close to £4billion in its four British manufacturing plants, which together produce ten model lines and the company’s advanced Ingenium diesel engines. This investment includes the installation of Europe’s largest aluminium body shop, two new state-of-the-art press lines and significant technology upgrades across all assembly lines. To support this considerable expansion, the company’s manufacturing headcount has grown from 7,700 in 2010 to more than 19,000 today, demonstrating its commitment to job creation.

With more than £3billion committed to product creation this fiscal year, Jaguar Land Rover has no plans to slow down, creating yet more exciting products to delight customers around the world, which is good news for all.

Where will you go? 

Peugeot 2008 GT Line 1.2 PureTech 130 s&s : Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy

What follows is an expanded review from that posted previously under the title: Peugeot 2008 GT Line 1.2 PureTech 130 s&s : Waltzing In The Moonlight as, in MotorMartin’s opinion, the 2008 is more than deserving of a little more flesh being added to the bones of the original piece to create a more thorough and rounded review. 

The Peugeot 2008 GT Line 1.2 PureTech 130 S&S takes all that is good about the traditional SUV and gives it a sporting slant, producing a crossover that compliments it’s off road styling with a black front grill and sporting features. I particularly like the Pearlescent white paint finish that provides a contrast to the superb 17” Eridan Brilliant Black alloy wheels and that’s not all as the added height of Peugeot’s newest SUV allows for a far more aggressive stance than some of the smaller cars in their range. Based on the evergreen 208, there are familiar touches all around with the front and rear lights in particular showing the direct lineage back to the smaller car. Highlights for MotorMartin are the raised roofline and roof bars, high waistline and those oh so subtle curves that accentuate the rear wheel arches and by definition, rear wheels. This is a thoroughly modern, good looking Crossover and for that, Peugeot should most definitely be applauded.

The engine choices for the 2008 are numerous, including both diesel and petrol with power output ranging from 75bhp up to a very healthy 130bhp. The 2008 GT Line on test arrived with it’s quick revving 1199cc petrol engine delivering the full compliment of 130bhp at 5500rpm and emissions of just 110g/km, meaning an annual tax rate of only £20.00. Combine that with claimed mpg of 58.9 and this will work out as a cheap car to run everyday and when mixed with a top speed of 124mph and a 0-62 time of 9.3s, you end up with that perfect combination of both fun and efficiency.

The 2016 edition 2008 GT Line is a willing performer out on the road. The engine provides plenty of versatile power, pulling from low down in the range and spinning up quickly once the revs begin to build. In and around town, the Peugeot provides a good quality ride, soaking up most road imperfections and this being the GT Line, the handling once out of town is far better than you expect as the lack of body roll through the bends provides a safe but exciting package. 

What’s so impressive is the real sense of surprise that accompanies each and every journey in the 2008 GT Line, in much the same way as with the exceptional Peugeot 308 SW GT Line BlueHDi 120 reviewed last year, Peugeot would appear to have cracked the trickiest of ideals and created sensible, practical ‘real life’ motors that can still stir the emotions and excite in equal measures. That GT Line badge not only creates a sportier look to the exterior and interior of the 2008 but, perhaps more importantly, adds character and verve to the overall driving experience. 

The real innovation however, arrives with Peugeot’s Grip Control, a feature that optimises traction in low-grip conditions, adapting to the road by acting on the front wheels, using the electronic components already present on the vehicle. Crucially, Peugeot say, the driver remains in control and can decide at any time to move from Standard mode using the dial located on the centre console, choosing instead Mud, Sand, Snow or ESP Off. And you know what, it really works. The conditions throughout MotorMartin’s week with the 2008 could be described as slippery at best but with a quick turn of that magical dial and the Peugeot hunkers down and just gets on with the job of maximising grip. Deeply impressive.

With the GT Line including a Celio Panoramic Glass Roof with Electric Sun Blind and Ambient Lighting, Aluminion door sills and pedals and GT Line mats, this is a sporty cabin which matches the exterior for style whilst providing excellent comfort for up to five adults. Peugeot have also included cruise control and speed limiter, Rear parking aid, Visibility pack (automatic headlights, windscreen wipers and electrochrome rear view mirror), Electric Rear Windows, ‘One touch’, anti-pinch, electric windows (All), Tinted rear and rear side windows, reversing camera and satellite navigation. Peugeot haven’t scrimped on safety either as the 2008 also includes Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Anti-Lock Braking (ABS), 6 x airbags (front driver & passenger, side airbags and curtain airbags), ISOFIX location mounts and Tyre Pressure Sensors. There really is nothing that you could realistically want that isn’t already included in this Peugeot 2008 GT Line 1.2 PureTech 130 s&s and what MotorMartin really likes is that all of this technology has a point, it’s not just there to create headlines but actually helps and aids the driver in the day to day use of this Superb SUV. Added to the above, the Peugeot has an impressive 422 litres of boot space and rear seats that fold down to create even more space.

The Peugeot 2008 is an impressive performer amongst the competition and deserves to do well as it has impressive manners combined with a willing and efficient engine. If you’re in the market for a good value crossover, one that offers exceptional manners and practicality and a starting price of just £13,970, in MotorMartin’s opinion, it’s definitely worth a look.

Where will you go?


For a relatively new team and car combination, the success enjoyed by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing was really quite staggering, culminating in some quite staggering achievements which will be detailed a little later. MotorMartin has been following the all new Ford GT and it’s racing derivative since the start of last season’s FIA World Endurance Championship, where it’s been in direct competition with the Prancing Horse, recreating their classic battles and excitement from the 1960s. For a fast Ford fan like MotorMartin, it certainly was a season to remember.

Twelve drivers. Four cars. One team. It’s become a common refrain for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and remains at the core of the effort as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship teams unite this month for one goal – to win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Ford have shared with MotorMartin that their history with the most prestigious sports car race in North America stretches back to the birth of the event in its current 24-hour format.

In 1966, drivers Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby drove a Ford GT40 MkII to the win the first time the race featured 24-hour racing. They went on to win the 12 Hours of Sebring that year before Miles finished second at the Le Mans 24 Hours with co-driver Denny Hulme, where Ford went down in history for using single-minded determination to win at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing have explained to MotorMartin that this year they will field four cars of three drivers each, each one as impressive as the last. INDYCAR aces Scott Dixon (NZ) and Tony Kanaan (Brazil), who won the event with Ford in prototype in 2015, join the fulltime lineups of the #67 (Ryan Briscoe/Aus and Richard Westbrook/UK) and #69 (Andy Priaulx/UK and Harry Tincknell/UK) Ford GTs.

Sébastien Bourdais (France) returns in the #66 Ford GT with drivers Joey Hand (US) and Dirk Müller (Ger), with whom he won the GTE Pro class title at Le Mans last year. Billy Johnson (US), who helped develop the production Ford GT and won the IMSA Grand Sport championship last year in a Shelby GT350R-C, returns in the #68 Ford GT.

While Kanaan makes his first race start in a Ford GT, fulltime driver Tincknell is a Rolex 24 At Daytona rookie – although certainly not a newcomer to sports car racing.

That’s not to mention the returning fulltime drivers of the cars in both series, all of whom battled for wins at every race last season. In 2016, the Ford GT program won six races and started from the front of the grid eight times, with victories coming at Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Mosport, Le Mans, Fuji and Shanghai. Superb.

As before, leading the team is Chip Ganassi, the only team owner in history to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.

Ganassi says the Ford GT team has unfinished business in Daytona after last year’s disappointing start.

“Overall, when you look back at 2016, I would say ‘mission accomplished’ when it came to debuting this program with Ford,” Ganassi informed MotorMartin. “We won races, competed for the championship in both IMSA and WEC and of course won in Le Mans. Like any new program, you’re going to have some growing pains as we did here in Daytona but we have worked through all of those and finished 2016 strong. This year is a totally different scenario. Not only do we have four cars instead of two, we also have a 24-hour win under our belts and a season’s worth of experiences with this car. I can’t wait to see what this year’s race brings.”

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will again campaign four Ford GTs full time for its second year of competition – two in the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and two in the global FIA World Endurance Championship.

“We’re ready to get this second season started with Ford GT,” shared Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance with MotorMartin. “We walked away from last year happy with what we were able to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean the job’s done. The team did a great job preparing in the very short off-season and we believe we’re prepared to compete for championships in 2017.”

And you can’t say fairer than that.

Where will you go?


Honda themselves stated the following regarding their all new NSX: The road to success is no easy feat; it twists, it turns, and leads to challenge after challenge. Blending the pinnacle of sports performance with everyday driving comfort took time to achieve. It came with its fair share of setbacks, too. But if accomplishing perfection meant starting over again, and again, and again – that’s what we’d do. It’s why the car took years to perfect, and why the NSX only got better with time. That’s quite a mission statement in MotorMartin’s opinion and shows just how dedicated Honda were to achieve their aim, that of creating a car with: Timeless lines, one that’s Designed for pure performance, wherever you drive.

And with the first Honda NSX customers taking delivery of their vehicles, Honda UK have informed MotorMartin that they have appointed Chiswick Honda as their second approved NSX dealer.

Chiswick Honda will join Crown Honda Hendon as NSX supplier and aftercare specialist from April 2017, giving additional capacity to ensure an exceptional sales and aftersales customer experience.

Honda UK have shared with MotorMartin that the NSX is the epitome of Honda engineering innovations. Developed over years of testing and racing, the NSX blends the pinnacle of sports performance with everyday driving comfort.

A powerful sports hybrid, the new NSX uses a twin-turbo hybrid drivetrain, while utilising a hand-built, twin-turbocharged, 3.5-litre, V6 petrol engine – mid-mounted to the aluminium chassis. It produces more than 550bhp, distributed via all four wheels, and features a brand new, nine-speed, Dual Clutch Transmission for instant response. Additional power is added via a rear electric motor and twin mounted electric units at the front. 

For those lucky enough to be able to drive off the forecourt in their brand new NSX, the support you’ll receive from Honda will be second to none as their NSX aftercare services include a dedicated dealer point of contact, access to factory-trained technical specialists deployed within 24 hours, European Roadside Assistance (including accommodation if required) and a three-year or 100,000km warranty. Impressive.

Chiswick Honda managing director, David Grainger, explained to MotorMartin that: “It is a privilege to become one of only two NSX dealerships in the UK. The NSX is a very special vehicle; it is a different kind of super car, providing the highest level of driving experience, with an aftercare programme that goes beyond the norm.”

Tim Dibbs, managing director at Crown Honda, commented to MotorMartin that: “These are exciting times for Crown Honda and the whole dealership is buzzing to be able to sell these super cars. Media response has been fantastic; the car is a real head turner and we are delighted to have it in our showroom.”

This is one heck of a car, as a quick view of the short film below, kindly shared by Honda from their excellent YouTube channel, will show.

I want one so bad. How about a loan Honda?

Where will you go?


It’s that time in the month that My Car Check’s valuation experts reveal significant trends in the UK used vehicle market and choose a car and bike of the month, an event that all of us here at MotorMartin Towers look forward to every time. The expertise upon which My Car Check base their thinking upon is the stuff of legend and is certainly to be trusted whether you agree with their choices or not.

Without further ado and with the appropriate level of anticipation, it gives MotorMartin great pleasure to announce the following to all interested parties.

Starting then with the car side of things, Head of Valuation Services at My Car Check, Gavin Amos, shared with MotorMartin that: “Initially badged as a Citroën, and now under the DS brand, the DS3 has a premium feel and is widely considered a fun alternative to the Mini. There’s an array of engines, including sporty options, and when you add in the strong build quality and running costs, a used example starts to make real sense. If you stick to popular colour combinations you won’t go far wrong come resale time, or you could target the weirder combinations and push for a price reduction. There’s plenty of choice in the used market, and of all the DS3s we checked in 2016, 22% had been previously written-off and 20% were still on finance.”

As to market trends, Amos explained to MotorMartin that: “Activity has picked up following the lull over the festive season, but typically used car sales slow again in February as dealers focus on the new plate coming in March. This, though, will generate a fresh influx of part-exchanges to boost the used market throughout spring and into summer.”

On the motorbike, scooter and moped sector, My Car Check’s Rob Hobson, commented: “The Honda VFR800F is a fantastic do it all motorcycle. You can load it up to hilt and set off on holiday, go for a blast and open up that sublime V4 engine, or use it for the daily commute. Better still, perhaps due to its looks, which some consider slightly bland, decent used examples can be bought for not a lot of money in today’s marketplace. As always, check before you buy because 12% all VFR800F models we checked last year had been previously written-off.”

As to market trends, Hobson informed MotorMartin that: “The dust still needs to settle before we can properly assess the consequences of the new Euro4 regulations. Traders and consumers alike have been trying to get their heads around which bikes are and aren’t compliant. The new market finished on a high, partly due no doubt to a rush of pre-registrations on non-compliant models. Several contacts in the trade have reported struggling to buy used stock over the last few weeks, traditionally a period when they would have bought heavily. As a result, clean, low mileage stock remains very much in demand.”

For those who aren’t aware, with information from the police, DVLA, insurers and finance houses, My Car Check holds comprehensive data on every vehicle on UK roads – things that buyers should be aware of before making an offer.

CDL Vehicle Information Services, which owns My Car Check, performs over a million look-ups a day for companies including AutoExpress, CompareTheMarket, Go-Compare, Moneysupermarket, Swiftcover and Tesco.

Where will you go?


It’s often been said that at the end of time there will be just two things standing, Cockroaches and an old Range Rover, and you know what? That’s probably not that far from the truth as Range Rovers, and Cockroaches for that matter, were always built to last. News then that a 1973 Range Rover driven on an epic 14,000-mile, five-month expedition from Johannesburg to Somerset is on-sale now at JD Classics was not so much of a surprise more a heartwarming ode to the longevity that was built into these old classics right from the word go. 

JD Classics have explained to MotorMartin that the trip was undertaken by ex-ITN Chief Foreign Correspondent, Michael Nicholson in 1981 and that this Range Rover has survived the Nyaki Mountains in Malawi and elephants in Dar es Salaam – all chronicled in Nicholson’s book Across the Limpopo.

Nicholson was sold the Range Rover by its first owner, none other than Le Mans-winning racing driver Duncan Hamilton, who specified it in Lincoln Green with a Palomino interior and a number of factory options. Full leather upholstery and a Webasto sunroof were both fitted as extras by Nicholson who bought the car in 1976, before shipping it to Johannesburg where he was working as ITN’s Chief Foreign Correspondent.

After four years of daily use in South Africa, Nicholson was due to head back to England but couldn’t face the thought of simply waking up in the UK the next day. Instead of the 16-hour flight, he packed his family and their belongings into his Range Rover and set off for home. Incredible.

From South Africa, Nicholson headed through Zambia to the Nyika Plateau of Malawi, where he camped fearing for his family’s safety, staying up all night with a machete at hand. The Range Rover took them through Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conversation Area, where they travelled side-by-side with wild rhinoceros, and saw them through dangerous encounters with bull elephants in Dar es Salaam.

Nicholson’s unstoppable Range Rover then crossed the Serengetti to Kenya, where it had to tackle the Weiwei Drift, a series of boggy washed away bridges where the average speed was 2.5 hours per mile.

Following its final route through Egypt, Sudan, Greece and the rest of Europe to the UK, the car was dry stored for many years. Recently it was subjected to a comprehensive bare shell restoration, completed by Range Rover specialists Bishops 4×4.

JD Classics Managing Director, Derek Hood, shared with MotorMartin that: “The classic Range Rover market is hugely popular at the moment, and this is a wonderful opportunity to own a very special part of it. From its Le Mans-winning racing owner to its incredible journey through Africa – chronicled in a book and many photographs accompanying the car – this Range Rover has perfect provenance. Add to that the recent impeccable restoration, and it’s easy to see why this Range Rover is perhaps the most desirable on the market today.” 

Not just your average Range Rover. 

Where will you go?


Thank goodness that’s over, the gap between the one MotorSport season ending and another beginning may well be getting shorter but for MotorMartin, it’s still too long. A fortunate glance at the TV Guide showed that this Years World Rally Championship is being shown on BT Sport throughout the three days of the rally and this year, for those with access to terrestrial TV only, Channel 5 are showing a pretty comprehensive highlights package. Excellent news.

But on to the good stuff as the first Round of this years championship has been and gone, the new rules and regulations have proved to be a success with wider and more powerful cars looking rather spectacular and the usual merry-go-round of driver changes creating increased interest and a more even playing field than that which the last few seasons have thrown up.

That said, the old order was soon restored as Sébastien Ogier eased through the final leg in the mountains above Monaco to claim his fifth Monte success in total by 2min 15.0sec in a Ford Fiesta World Rally Car. Congratulations as always.

Accordingly, it was a dream debut for the Frenchman with the M-Sport World Rally Team, for whom this was a first win since November 2012.

Another result that cannot be underestimated has to be that of the all new Toyota team, whereby Jari-Matti Latvala finished second in a Yaris on the Japanese manufacturer’s return to the WRC after a 17-year absence.

And yet the World Rally Championship showed that it can still deliver surprises as final day engine problems for Ott Tänak denied M-Sport a one-two as he slipped from a guaranteed second to third, a further 42.8sec behind.

Ogier took the lead late on Saturday’s penultimate leg when event-long leader Thierry Neuville broke his Hyundai i20 Coupe’s suspension after an impact.

With a comfortable gap, Ogier took no risks through the final snow-hit speed test over the famous Col de Turini.

“I was hoping to win but to take it from the first rally, after only one month together and with so little preparation, feels really amazing,” he said.

“The conditions didn’t make our life easy this weekend, starting first in the snow on day one and finishing with more and more snow.”

Latvala struggled to find a good rhythm initially but changes to his car’s set-up revitalised the Finn.

Third overnight became second when Ott Tänak dropped time with a broken ignition coil pack in his Fiesta and Latvala sped by.

With no service, Estonian Tänak worked furiously to make repairs and did enough to hold onto third, fending off Dani Sordo’s i20 Coupe with a spirited downhill drive to the finish of the last special stage in falling snow.  

Craig Breen finished fifth in a Citroën DS 3 with Elfyn Evans completing the top six in another Fiesta.

The Welshman won three stages on Saturday to offset a disappointing start when he dropped several minutes in snow and ice. 

More snow and ice are in store for competitors at the second round next month. Rally Sweden is based in Torsby on 9-12 February and MotorMartin can’t wait.

Where will you go?

How To Replace One Icon With Another: Had I Known You Better Then.

The following is a re-edit of a piece posted by MotorMartin on DriveTribe under The Junk Yard banner run by Tony Yates, perhaps better known as @Xinterceptor.

Here’s a quick quiz to get you thinking today. I was born in 1980 and soldiered on until 1991, there were once over 1.5 million of me but today there are only 478 registered on U.K. roads, I continued with a different name but was basically the same right up until 1997. What am I?  

Given up yet or just want a clue?

According to the Austin Metro is seriously endangered. If it were an animal there would be adverts and pamphlets asking you to sponsor a Metro to receive a monthly newsletter and photos as it limps along into its dotage. But this isn’t a soft and fluffy animal that looks at you with sad, wide eyes, it’s the much maligned eventual replacement for the universally revered and adored Mini.  

Picture the scene, hoards of sobbing Mini enthusiasts, continuing to bury their heads in the sand regarding the Mini’s (ahem) shortcomings, awaiting for their first glance of the all new Austin Metro. A car that, upon launch, was set up to compete against the Fiestas and Novas of this world and was expected to be British Leyland’s exciting saviour. Then, after the drip, drip of leaks, official leaks, rumour and misinformation the car that actually appeared in the hallowed halls of the NEC Motor Show on 8th October 1980 was actually rather good. 

Car Magazine at the time even went as far as saying the following regarding the all new Austin Metro, “At last a British Car that no-one needs apologise for.” Which wasn’t all that surprising as the Metro was initially available with trim variations ranging from the 1.0 Basic model right up to the 1.3HLS model. What a beauty that was. Indeed, in the first few weeks and months of production the Austin Metro was the best selling car in it’s segment, only being eclipsed once the updated Fiesta was being bought by the fine people of Essex in their droves.  

Now put aside your prejudices and look at the facts. Here was a car that was British built, spacious and modern looking. With Hydragas suspension giving the Metro surprisingly good ride and handling and it’s updated A+ series 1.0 and 1.3L OHV engines producing 48bhp at 5500rpm and 60bhp at 5250rpm respectively, hardly the cutting edge of performance but they were certainly not outclassed at the time. Indeed, with an extremely patriotic advertising campaign seeing the Metro repelling all foreign invaders in a manner that even Churchill would have been proud of, the British public kept on buying and putting the Metro on drives and in garages all across this green and pleasant land of ours. 

And then, in 1982, Austin introduced the World’s car buying public to the car they didn’t realise they wanted and the car that they most certainly did, the luxurious and superbly titled Vanden Plas and the higher performance MG versions. The Vanden Plas, as it’s name implied, featured higher levels of luxury and equipment, while the slightly more powerful MG Metro 1.3 was sold as a sports model with impressive stats of 0–60 mph in 10.1 seconds and a top speed 105 mph. The Vanden Plas received the same MG engine from 1984 onwards apart from the VP Automatic, which retained the 63 bhp 1.3. The luxury fittings marking out the Metro Vanden Plas took the form of a radio-cassette player, electric front windows, an improved instrument panel with tachometer and a variety of optional extras such as trip computer leather trim, remote boot release and front fog lamps. Steady on there British Leyland. 

Just over a year later, the Metro Turbo was added to the MG line-up, becoming a big seller, too. Featuring a Garrett T3 turbo, the engine was worked on by Lotus to develop 93bhp. It could have been more, but power was capped to prolong gearbox life. MG Metros never really overcame the car’s humble beginnings though, especially with fans of the marque who saw the car as badge engineering of the worst kind but despite this, the MG improved upon all predictions, with sales making up around 25% of the Metro range at the time. 

With the Mark II refresh being released in 1985 and the eventual dropping of the Austin name, the Metro was still being improved and remained a bestseller on the forecourts despite increased pressure from the opposition. The Metro was eventually available in a variety of different forms ranging from the basic through to a cabriolet stopping off at the ludicrously fast and furious 4WD mid engined MG Metro 6R4 Group B, World Rally Car of 1985.  

Despite the Metro’s worrying reputation for unreliability and an almost Lancia like propensity to disappear in a pile of rust, the Austin, MG, Rover Metro and subsequent Rover 100 are becoming really rather collectible and display an retro image that is becoming rather more appealing as time marches inexorably towards this British Icon’s fortieth anniversary. 

Where will you go?