1992 Rover Metro GTi – Project Profile

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By Dale Vinten

The Metro was a car fit for a princess, apparently, with Lady Diana famously owning one, having been gifted a red Mini Metro by Prince Charles as an engagement present back when they had an Austin badge affixed to the boot lid. It was quite the gesture but then he did opt for a rather vanilla, 1.0-litre car. Perhaps if it had been ten years later he would have gone for the 1.4-litre Rover Metro GTi like the one we have here. Maybe he didn’t want to appear too keen as aside from the turbocharged MG version, the GTi was at the top of the pile when it was released in 1990.

With the Austin badge now removed the Metro was re-launched with new Rover branding and although it was still based on the old British Leyland supermini the car was heavily revised with the chef d’oeuvre GTi featuring a 16-valve, twin-cam version of Rover’s brand new K-Series engine producing 95bhp and propelling the mighty Metro to 60mph in around 9 seconds. It wasn’t blisteringly fast but it was a characterful motor with decent low-end torque and combined with the car’s excellent handling made for an incredibly enjoyable drive.

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A new engine, ant-roll bars and a different badge on the bonnet were not enough however and after just a few years of production the new Metro was becoming severely outgunned by the current breed of small, nippy cars from the continent like the Fiat Punto and Renault Clio. The Rover was based on the old Metro bodyshell and struggled to remain competitive despite being hailed Car of The Year in 1991 by What Car? magazine.

What is it? 

This particular Rover Metro GTi is a 1992, two-owner car with less than 50,000 miles on the clock. It’s an early multi-point fuel injection model which means its a tad quicker to 60mph than the single-point injection variants. An all original car with decent service history it does require some work to get it back to its best. Unsurprisingly it does need some welding (did you really think an early ’90s Rover would be solid?) but the car does come with a whole host of parts to make your life easier should you choose to take this project on and the GTi body kit is fully present and correct. The advert write-up is fairly detailed and highlights the problem areas so hopefully there won’t be any nasty, unforeseen surprises but you’ll still need to deploy that fine-toothed comb before handing over any cash.

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People are waking up to the Rover Metro GTi and decent examples are selling for good money nowadays. While perhaps not as exciting as some of the more revered hot hatches from the era the Metro is still a great little car and a bit of a hidden gem. For how much longer though is another question entirely so this could be the project for you. We think it’s definitely worth saving and you could easily double your initial investment.

Why is it a project? 

It’s a bit crusty but then it’s a Metro and although the ad states the shell is ‘fairly solid’ we would take that statement with a rather large pinch of the salty stuff. Thankfully a lot of the parts that need to be replaced are included in the sale such as a new fuel filler neck. The usual areas that tend to need attention need attention, such as the sills, floor pans and inner wings, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and the work required wouldn’t be much for any competent welder.

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Thankfully the interior appears to have fared a lot better than the bodywork and pending a decent valet looks to be in good shape. The car last had an MOT in 2018 but there is no mention in the advert as to whether or not this Rover Metro GTi still runs and drives. If it does and the mechanicals are sound then it looks to be just the bodywork where the money and attention are needed. It’s a low-mileage, complete car for under three grand which is an enticing proposition – depending on how much body and chassis repair is actually required of course, but if you’re good at permanently sticking bits of metal to other bits of metal then this could be the project for you.

Five things to look for:

1) Rust

Bodywork repairs are always inevitable with these cars and it’s all well and good being told what needs doing but it’s another thing to get up close and personal with the car yourself so make a comprehensive list of everything that needs to be repaired or replaced as the costs can quickly rack up.

2) Engine

We don’t know if the car has been running or even started since 2018 so it would be pertinent to find out. If it does then scrutinise the motor for any evidence of head gasket failure – it is a K-Series after all. Also check the history folder for regular servicing and maintenance work as a well-maintained motor will obviously be far less susceptible to such issues.

3) Interior

The Metro’s interior with its ‘Lightning’ fabric covering is original, complete and in excellent condition according to the seller but the driver’s seat does need a clean. Inspect all of the switchgear for missing parts or damage and make sure the electrics and gauges all work as they should.

4) Suspension

The Hydragas suspension is effective (if a little bouncy at times) and was greatly improved by linking the front to the rear but pipes can corrode causing them to leak. If this is the case the car will sag and you should be able to tell by eye but nonetheless get underneath the car and have a proper look. The system can be repaired and and re-filled easily though.

5) Parts

As mentioned, a lot of spare parts are included in the sale but is it a complete list? We know the windscreen is damaged and will need to be replaced but what other parts will need to be added to the shopping list? Many bits and pieces are still available but some trim parts, especially for the GTi can be hard to find.

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What should you do with it? 

An argument could be made for turning this Rover Metro GTi into a weekend track toy – if you’ve got the welding gear out it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to stick a roll cage in while you’re there. The K-Series might not last though and with such low mileage it’s probably better to get all of the bodywork done and bring it back around as a useable, everyday classic. With many of these cars having disintegrated a decent, original Rover Metro GTi is becoming a rather rare thing and, in our humble opinion, worth a little time, money and care.

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