The time I normally spend looking for a technical subject for Bob’s Garage was used up on a trip to England. As I’m more in a driving mood now that summer is here anyway, I thought a new car review might be of interest. The car in question, the MG Metro Turbo, isn’t exactly new, isn’t available in the Slates and most likely never will be, but it does say MG on the steering wheel and it had only 2700 miles on the clock. That’s a lot fewer miles than any other MG I’ve driven.
Some of you are already saying, “But it’s not a real MG.” All right. I’ve been heard to say that real MGs have overhead cams myself. There is no correct answer on that subject, but we should establish a definition. Here goes…An MG, whether badge engineered or a completely unique design must posses certain sporting characteristics. The car must be fun to drive, even at the expense of comfort, it should be faster than its contemporaries and handle better too. Physical appearance is a purely subjective matter best left to individual tastes. Yes, you’re right. I’m a driver at heart.
With the perennial exception of Morgans, the old rear drive, low slung, short gear lever British sports car died at the end of the 1970s. Modern day front drive, practical econo-box pseudo sporty cars just don’t seem the same, but Austin Rover (now the Rover Group) decided they could call one of these new contraptions an MG. The cars have sold quite well despite a higher price than the standard model. This is very much in keeping with past MG history. They go faster and handle belter than the standard Metro too. Unfortunately, we will wait in vain for them to reach our shores. I found out why pretty quickly.
Upon arrival in Darlington (home of the first ever railroad) I was presented with an almost new Metro Turbo. I was told I could not keep it, and that the mileage would be recorded. A quick look under the hood revealed an old friend. Remember the A-Serics 1275cc Sprite/Midget motor? There it sat under an MG valve cover. The turbo blows through an SU carb. so much for meeting our smog standards. The only thing wrong was the fact that this friendly little package was mounted sideways under the hood. I guess no one ever told them which way to put it.
My first assignment was to carry three passengers. “What? In an MG?!” Yes, it can be done, with a reasonable amount of rear leg room. The car went all right, but definitely felt the weight. A great deal of clutch slip was needed to get under way up hill and top speed seemed to be about 85-90 mph. That’s still none too shabby for a 1275. Once the touring duties were fulfilled, I had a chance to run solo.
The modern day Midget screams when allowed to do its thing. Power comes on lower down the scale, but with much more snap than a normally aspirated car. As with any front drive, a certain amount of torque steer could be felt under hard acceleration. I used a round-about for handling tests. Round-abouts are these wonderful little circles of pavement. They are equipped with six million poorly marked access roads which radiate out like bent spokes. To enter a round-about, you simply ignore the “Give Way” signs and blast on into the traffic flow. Indicate your desired exit by outrunning everyone else to get there and voila, you’ve gone through the round-about. Of course. I usually found myself doing several laps before spotting the desired exit. This gave me a chance to test out the handling.
Metro Turbos come equipped with big fat sway bars and wide tires. The resultant lack of body roll is quite noticeable, and I found myself going awfully fast before the car would drift. Most of my experience is on cars with tall, skinny tires. The Metro’s handling would make any MG owner lake notice. Steering is quick and precise, but the gear shift lever is typical front drive–long and willowy. There is no substitute for a short, stout gear lever.
The high speed runs were done in an attempt to keep up with traffic on the Ml. I never went over 100 mph, honest. No problem getting up to 55 here, but most British cars still don’t have a 5th gear and at higher revs the whole dash starts to buzz. From 70 (the national speed limit) on up you can’t make it slot. The high speed runs pointed to one essential problem.
Austin Metros are not expensive cars, and the MG version is built to the same standards as the basic Austin. My car was losing its headliner at only 2700 miles. Overall fit and finish were fair at best. Rumor had it that my car replaced another which lasted but three weeks before dying. This poor car didn’t feel happy at high speeds, the Abingdon touch just wasn’t there.
On that sour note. I’ll sum up. Where is the bloody release for the convertible top? What, it’s a hard top? Oh well, I guess it isn’t a real MG, but it sure was fun to drive, but you can’t buy one here, but I like right hand drive, but but. but…It must be a real MG. An almost new car was falling apart around me and I couldn’t bare to leave it behind, just like all those old octagonal wrecks I’ve brought home before. Maybe I should have talked about the joys of driving around England instead.