Friday, 13 March 2015

Miss the Austin Metro? Don't worry, you can still commute, British Leyland style

A CAR NUT somewhere has just bought the entire set of development blueprints for the Austin Metro off the internet.

On the one hand, I’m a tiny bit envious of whoever’s just snapped up this intriguing bit of British Leyland history – imagine being able to go to a car show and tell your chums you own all the diagrams necessary to put an entire car back into production. In a way, you’d own an entire national motoring institution, but don’t even think about using the blueprints to bring the poor old Metro back from the dead. Largely because nobody in their right mind would buy one.

It was a great car in its day, but even if Princess Diana’s supermini of choice did somehow sneak past the Euro NCAP safety boffins into today's showrooms you’d immediately dismiss it because it’d be 30 years out of date. None of British Leyland’s offerings are being used en-masse any more.

Unless, of course, you get the train into work. If you ever use the Wigan to Southport or Kirkby to Southport lines, then chances are you’ll be all too familiar with BL’s handiwork.

You might not know it but the Class 142 Pacer is the Austin Metro’s distant cousin, because both were developed by the then state-run motor manufacturer. Like its four-wheeled relative, the Pacer wasn’t bad in its 1980s heyday – it actually replaced some truly ancient railway relics dating back to the 1950s. The difference is that while the Metro was pensioned off 17 years ago, the now utterly outdated Pacer is still chugging its way around the British rail network every single day, making commuters miserable.

My colleagues at the sharp end of The Champions news pages have for the last couple of weeks have been calling for the Pacer to be given its marching orders, echoing calls already made by Southport MP John Pugh. I’d agree, because if the powers-that-be are serious about convincing petrolheads like me to give up cars even for a single trip to Manchester they’re going to have do better than a wheezy, clattery, uncomfortable old jalopy of a train badly wrapped up in bodywork stolen from a Leyland National bus.

The Austin Metro is a car we Brits should be proud of, but if I told you to give up your brand new Fiesta for one you’d tell me where to get off. It’s the same with trains. You’re not going to convince a single motorist to change tack if the best you’ve got are those infernal Pacers.

1 comment:

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