1983 Austin Metro HLE: new arrival

I bumped into an acquaintance in Tesco. Having not seen him for a few years, conversation wasn’t forthcoming, so I excitedly told him about my latest purchase. “I’ve bought a Metro!” I said, showing him a few snaps on my phone.

“Oh,” he said. “Well it’s a set of wheels to get you from A to B.”

I looked for a hint of humour on his face, but it wasn’t there. He genuinely thought I’d fallen on hard times and resorted to BL’s ‘British car to beat the world’ as a way of getting about.

So why have I bought a Metro? Well, can you think of a more significant classic car I could have bought for less than £1,000? Significant for British Leyland, yes, but also significant for so many of us. We all know someone who owned a Metro. So many of us learnt to drive in a Metro. Many of us had Metros stolen back in the day.

Passing my test aged 17 in 2009, I missed out on Metro mania back in the 80s. But I still think it’s a culturally significant car that too many are happy to see go extinct because they were a bit rubbish.

But are they still rubbish? My latest purchase, bought unseen over the internet from the secretary/treasurer of the Metro Owners’ Club, is the HLE no less. That means it’s the economy model – with an extra long fourth gear (or ‘E’ as Austin called it) and various aids to aerodynamics. It’s the bigger 1,275cc, though – logic being that a bigger engine will be less strained at higher speeds.

1983 Austin Metro HLE: new arrival

And, having never driven a Austin Metro before, I’m surprised how fun it is. Not only does it keep up in traffic, I’ve even seen the speedo nudge 85mph on occasions. In the interests of preventing the comments light up with wannabe law enforcers, I should point out, 85mph on the Metro’s slightly erratic speedo is somewhere around a GPS-verified 70mph.

I’ve driven it 300 miles this weekend – doubling its mileage over the last couple of years according to the MOT history. And talking of history, there’s loads of it. With one lady owner from new, it’s been serviced yearly – sometimes with just a few hundred miles between services. It’s covered a total of 45,000 miles over its 32-year lifespan.

Plans? I’ve not got many. There’s a bit of rust (of course) that needs sorting. It’s only cosmetic – on the wings, mainly, but I’d like to get it seen to before it gets more serious.

Have I bought a dud or is it a genuine classic car that deserves saving? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @_MRFleet.