By on July 9, 2019

Ever wanted a rally car from 1985 which is brand new and pieced together from an old hatchback? Well now’s your chance. Let’s take a look at the MG Metro 6R4.

By the late Seventies the Mini was showing its age, and the folks over at British Leyland realized it would eventually need replacement. The car they came up with was, in theory, similar to the Mini. It was front-drive, the engine was at the front, and it was very small. And focus groups hated it.

At the last moment BL redesigned their new car, made it larger, and altered its purpose: It would now sell alongside the Mini, rather than replace it. The new Metro (a name chosen by employees) went on sale in 1980. Though never achieving the cult following of the classic Mini, the Metro sold well enough to remain in production through 1998. By then it was called the Rover 100, but at times was also sold with Mini and Morris badges. Not much about the Metro was interesting, apart from a couple of very special versions made in the mid-Eighties.

At the time, BL needed a car to go racing at the World Rally Championship. The company had recently retired the rally versions of the TR7 and TR8. It was just as well, because about that time Audi showed up with their four-wheel drive rally car… and changed the game. The Austin Rover Motor Sport division saw the Quattro, took a look at the Metro, and an idea began to form. A Group B rally car was in order.

In the prototype stage by 1982, the finalized 6R4 version was shown to the media in 1984. The Metro’s original drive train was dumped, and replaced with a 3-liter V6 mounted in the middle of the car. Said engine was loosely based on a Cosworth unit, and was naturally aspirated. Just like Audi, the four-wheel drive system was permanent.

BL made 200 examples of a 250 horsepower road-legal version called the Clubman to satisfy WRC homologation rules. Beyond that, 20 more were built to actual Group B specification. The rally version had slightly more horsepower: 410.

Rover had the 6R4 on track by late 1985, but suffered engine issues after a strong initial showing at the Lombard RAC rally. Subsequent races never saw a 6R4 complete a course, usually due to engine issues. By mid-1986, Group B racing was finished — banned due to crashes which took the lives of drivers and spectators. The company withdrew the 6R4 from racing entirely at the end of 1986. BL’s efforts for the 6R4 were not for naught, though. The special V6 engine lived on, where a few years later it sprouted a couple of turbos and powered a car called the Jaguar XJ220.

Today’s Rare Ride is one of the 20 Group B cars. It was sold immediately to a collector who never drove or raced it. With seven total miles traveled since 1985, it’s ready to become static art in someone’s garage. It goes on sale at Silverstone on July 27th, and is estimated to fetch around $250,000.

[Images: Silverstone Auctions]

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25 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1985 MG Metro 6R4, a BL Rally Car Experiment...”

  • avatar

    I didn’t think it was possible to find a road going vehicle uglier than a Civic Type R; not only does this pull off the feat, it makes the CTR look like an E-Type.

    • 0 avatar

      The main difference is that the CTR looks like it does on purpose. I’d say this thing looks the way it does out of necessity and practicality. Sure doesn’t make it any prettier, but at least there’s some explainable reason.

    • 0 avatar

      This has the aura of Group B cool though, the Type R (won’t ever call it a CTR, that’s a RUF) has no reason to look the way it does.

      The Metro is undoubtedly the ugliest and least desirable of the Group B cars though.

  • avatar

    My sister used to own a metro (she traded her Mini for it) and I often drove it. To me, it was the perfect example of design by committee: even judged by the standards of the time it was a bland and boring car. Sort of like an British version of a Lada, but more awful. It also wasn’t very reliable.

    This Metro would probably be a lot of fun to drive, but would still have the stench of mediocrity permeating it. Not sure it would be worth it.

  • avatar

    Lol, ok ;-)

    I’ve noticed that people have been asking absolutely off-the-wall prices for absolute junk. Are there that many idiots out there with money falling out of their pockets to buy this nonsense?

  • avatar

    What happened to the other 219 of them?

  • avatar

    Is it just me, or is the engine bay and cabin way too dirty to be “never driven”? It’s not dust from static display or at least doesn’t look it to me.

    • 0 avatar

      The whole thing looks pretty used to me

      • 0 avatar

        Seven miles? It’s either an odometer rollback, or they swapped in a speedometer from one of the other cars.

        The black relay (top relay) on the relay/fuse panel in front of the shifter is marked “LUCAS”, and the thing is missing lug nuts from some of the wheels. I’ll be interested to see what this thing brings at auction. There’s a sucker born every minute!

  • avatar

    Way too late for April Fools.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    ‘Subsequent races never saw a 6R4 complete a course.”
    Pretty much sums up the BL experience.
    And this car is a living example, of much of Bl’s issues, and abilities.

    It is a shame because the Brits working in small industrial units put together some capable ‘exotic’ vehicles.

    Jag and Aston were still capable of designing interesting vehicles.

    Triumph still had some potential. And the Mini as we have seen, still had decades of life left.

    Compromise, design by committee, a lack of long term commitment, awful management and an entrenched class system were just too much for it to overcome.

  • avatar

    The way it is designed, it makes it look like a beige piece is missing from the door.

  • avatar

    The Homer.

  • avatar

    “It was sold immediately to a collector who never drove or raced it.” [add: or looked at it, or thought it was a good idea to be seen in or next to it…]

    This looks like the end result of a major meth bender involving days without sleep, a stolen credit card, multiple trips to Pep Boys, a junk yard, and a buddy’s chop shop, glue (for adhesion and inhalation), and what was at the time, considered a good idea. And if someone plunks down $250,000 for something that even a museum of modern art might pass on for being too gaudy, well then make peace with the deity of your choice because the world is likely coming to an end.

  • avatar

    Like an automotive version of “NAILED IT”

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Looks like it was designed by Leggo.

  • avatar

    I’m pleased with the quality of comments thus far.

  • avatar

    I agree $250,000 is probably too much for a car that looks to not be in great shape and has no racing history. But Group B Rally still produced by far the greatest race cars of all time, and it’s not even close.

    If I won the lottery anything from this era would be top of my list.

  • avatar

    I guess they’re looking for a REALLY devoted rally fan to cough up a quarter mil for this thing, ex museum piece or not.

    Best of luck with that!

  • avatar
    Dan R

    A last ditch effort.
    Only attractive because of that.

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