Today’s tale begins with the humble Austin Metro; a small, boxy, no-frills economy car designed to carry small, boxy, no-frills pensioners back and forth to the bingo hall. In the 1980s people “in the twilight of their lives” were selling their Minis in order to buy Ford Fiestas and Renault 5s which were a little easier to get in and out of and didn’t have quite such a harsh ride and British Leyland didn’t want to lose their customers.
Keeping with the theme the Austin Metro featured absolutely no young technology. It was powered by the ‘A-Series’ engine, a pensioner in it’s own right that had been first produced in 1951. One could either have a 998cc 1.0 engine or, for those without a heart condition, 1275cc 1.3 engine.
However, as with the Renault 5 and the Ford Fiesta, the small light weight platform of the Metro made it a perfect candidate for the transformation of the ‘hot-hatch’. In 1983 MG introduced the MG Metro which featured some styling differences from its parent car and, more importantly, got a fair amount more horsepower from the little A-Series. The naturally aspirated MG bumped power up from 63hp to 72 and the turbo charged car made 94hp. Not exactly mind bending figures but considering the size and weight of the car the additional power certainly transformed the car from a boring grocery getter into a little go-cart you could have some fun with.
Then in 1982 the FIA introduced Group B rallying. Group B was a short lived period of insanity in rallying history that produced some of the most exciting cars in motorsport history such as the Ford RS200 and the Audi Quattro. The new regulations inspired British Leyland big wigs, who I assumed were high on cocaine and synth-pop music to turn this innocent little car into a fire breathing monster.
Behold the 6R4. Bequeathed to the world in May 1985.
Gone was the ancient A-Series, replaced with a bespoke 3.0 V6 built by David Wood, which oddly started life as a 3.5 Rover/Buick V8 and had two cylinders chopped off. It put power down to all four wheels. Talking of power the 6R4 would have either 250bhp if it were in the road going (yes you could buy these things for the road for £40,000) club spec or 410 if it were in International Spec.
Nearly every body panel was replaced. The massive boxed arches covered the super wide wheels and the rear arches led into plastic airboxes bolted to the steel doors which provided air to the mighty V6. The wing and front splitter were an attempt to make the boxy Metro a little more aerodynamic.
As an international rally car its career was sadly short lived. It’s debut was at the November 1985 Lombard RAC Rally in Wales where it was piloted to third by Tony Pond. Unfortunately the success didn’t last in 1986; a 6R4 was entered into rallies in Monte Carlo, Portugal, Sweden and Corsica but wasn’t able to finish a single course due to engine issues then, halfway through the 1986 season, Group B was banned due to a number of fatal accidents.
The 6R4 lived on as a rallycross car, albeit with a smaller engine, until the early 1990s. It was a successful little car in Rallycross then and can still be seen at historic Rallycross events up and down the country to this day.
Despite not being the most successful car I think it deserves its popularity. The thing is, in my opinion, the maddest of the Group B cars and is an important part of the history of Motorsport.
Thanks for reading!
(all pictures are from Google and belong to their respective owners)