A trio of MG Metro Turbos is set to be driven in anger at Silverstone for the first time in 30 years as part of Tin Top Sunday at the upcoming Silverstone Classic, which takes place at the Northamptonshire circuit from 29-31 July.
Former Austin Rover Group stalwart Patrick Watts has spent the past three years tracking down and restoring three of the five factory cars, and will take to the wheel himself in the Historic Touring Car Challenge.
“The cars are jewels,” he enthused. “The first one was built at Cowley alongside the 6R4 Group B rally car, with which it shares some design features. Thereafter, the project was handed over to Roger Dawson Engineering, which built a further four cars in its workshop at Silverstone – three of which return to where they were born 33 years ago for the Classic. Sadly, Roger himself is no longer with us but I’m hoping his family will join us to share in the very special moment.”
The Metro was campaigned in period by the likes of Tony Pond and Martin Brundle. Despite producing as much as 190bhp, reliability problems led to the project being canned mid-season in 1984.
Many of the Metro’s mechanical weaknesses have now been put to bed, while improved tyre technology will also help their cause – in period, tyres would only last three to four laps asserts Watts. The three cars also benefit from a power increase of more than 30bhp thanks to Mini ace Nick Swift. “With the advantage of better knowledge of A Series engines, improved intercooler cores and the use of high-tech materials, Nick Swift (of Swiftune Engineering) has rebuilt these engines to run more boost, without any problems – so far so good, anyway!” said Watts.
Nick Swift will be sharing driving duties with Patrick Watts, while Malcolm Harrison and Paul Taft will revive their 1980s partnership to pilot the second Computervision-liveried car, which was recently uncovered by Watts in Greece. The third car will be driven by Till Betchtolseimer, whose grandfather owned the company that sponsored the car during the 1984 German Touring Car Championship.
What of the two missing Metros? “It’s a long story, but there is one car we are hoping to retrieve from the USA where it ran in the IMSA series in Budweiser livery, and the last one is in the UK, and I am close to finding it,” said Watts.