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Austin Metropolitan (1954-1961)

Published: 22nd Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Austin Metropolitan (1954-1961)

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 1489cc/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 47/4100
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 74/2100
  • Top speed: 76mph
  • 0-60mph: 22.9sec
  • Fuel consumption: 31mpg
  • Transmission: 3-speed manual
  • Length: 12ft 5.5in (3.8m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 1.5in (1.56m)
  • Weight: 1874lb (852kg)
  • Books: The Metropolitan Story by Patrick R Foster. Krause, ISBN 0-87341-459-4
  • Clubs: http://www.nashmet.com
  • Websites: http://www.stevvia.demon.co.uk/moc.htm
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If you’re after an unpredictable classic that puts a smile on your face every time you take it out – and gets everybody around you grinning – this is the car for you. This has to be the cutest looking car ever made; that short wheelbase, those scalloped doors and the two-tone paint give the car as much presence as anything costing 100 times as much. You’ll be the centre of attention wherever you go, so this isn’t a car for shrinking violets – but if you can stand the attention, you should be preparing to fi nd a Metropolitan of your own.

What to look for?

Since the last Metropolitan was built there’s been little in the way of spares support for owners. Panels were obsolete within 18 months of production ending and most things that are specifi c to the car are hard or impossible to fi nd – at least on a new basis. Therefore, if lots of bits are needed or the car is rotten, be wary – especially as a car that looks superfi cially rusty can actually be rotten underneath. Post-1960 cars are most likely to dissolve; pay particularly close attention to the area behind the rear lights. These are a pain to repair properly, so some owners just bodge the panelwork to sell the car on. Obviously you need to check everything for wear in the usual way, but aside from a tired engine or transmission, there’s only one weak spot, and that’s worn kingpins if they’re not greased often enough. This wouldn’t be a problem except the parts fi tted to the Metropolitan are unique to it; the club can however sort out reconditioned units.

Values

Despite no more than 250 examples currently residing in the UK, there are usually a few Metropolitans for sale at any one time. Apart from half a dozen or so examples, all are right-hand drive – which means they’re automatically Series 3 or S4 cars with the bigger engine. Just 1 in 13 Metropolitans were convertibles, so rag-tops command higher values. Restoration projects occasionally come on the market; if complete it’ll command at least £500 whether it’s a convertible or a hard top. Roadworthy coupés in need of tidying are worth around £3500; add £1000 for a convertible. A really good hard top fetches £5000, with equivalent convertibles worth £6000 – but concours convertibles can change hands for as much as £11,000.

Driving one

For such a small car, the 1.5-litre engine ensures there’s better performance available than you’d expect. It’s no slingshot, but you don’t have to row the car with its three-speed gearbox; ratios are swapped by stirring a lever on the dash. With such a short wheelbase, handling is entertaining, with independent suspension up front but a live axle and cart springs at the back – and the whole set-up is ridiculously soft. Major understeer is the order of the day, but once you’ve got to grips with it, the Metropolitan is fun to punt along – just avoid routes that have too many really twisty bits. Things aren’t helped by those enclosed front wheels; the turning circle is 37 feet, which doesn’t help much with the manouevrability!

Evolution

1953

The fi rst Nash Metropolitans are built; although the car is exclusively for sale in the US, the bodyshells are built by Birminghambased Fisher & Ludlow, while the mechanicals are fi tted by Austin at its Longbridge factory. Two cars are offered; the 541 (convertible) and the 542; (coupé), powered by Austin’s 1200cc A40 engine.

1956

The Metropolitan gets a facelift, with the1489cc B-Series powerplant superseding the A40 unit. Two-tone paint schemes are standardised while the exterior brightwork is revised.

1957

The Metropolitan goes on sale in the UK, but few cars fi nd owners.

1960

The boot gets its own lid; until now the rear seat back was tipped forward for luggagebay access.

1961

The fi nal Metropolitan is built; the fi nal production tally is 104,000, just a handful of which were sold in the UK. Incidentally, the car was only sold as the Nash Metropolitanin the US, where it could also be bought as a Hudson Metropolitan. Cars sold in the UK were marketed as Metropolitan 1500s.



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