Rare Rides: The 1985 MG Metro 6R4, a BL Rally Car Experiment

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1985 mg metro 6r4 a bl rally car experiment

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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2 of 25 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Jul 09, 2019

    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!

  • Dan R Dan R on Jul 09, 2019

    A last ditch effort. Only attractive because of that.

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