MG Metro 6R4 #58 – Ixo

1986 MG Metro 6R4 #58
Pilots: G. Fielding / J. Robinson
Team: Sanyo-Comet
Race: DNF at the Lombard RAC Rally in 1986
Ixo - RAC361A (diecast)

John Davenport, competitions director at British Leyland (the huge British automotive conglomerate), wanted to seriously get into rallying. Back then, British Leyland owned a lot of local car brands. Davenport believed that rally racing would bring press exposure. So in 1981 he approached Williams Engineering to develop a Group B rally car. They decided on using the Morris Mini chassis as the base car, with four-wheel drive and a powerful engine. For the power plant they went against the grain: they would use a big atmospheric engine. No supercharging meant a simpler engine (and more reliable) and would avoid the dreaded turbo-lag. For the prototype, they used the Triumph TR7’s engine, a big 3.5-liters V8 from Buick. To fit the engine in the small Mini, they chopped off 2 cylinders, leaving it with 2991 cm³. With 24 valves and DOHC, it could deliver up to 184 kW (250 hp).

Some say that the V64V engine was the first (and only!) engine specifically designed for rallying.

The chassis consisted of two main longitudinal chassis members, with an integral full roll cage. The body was a three-door body shell made of fiberglass, with reinforced wheel arches and sills, and front and rear airfoils. The work on the prototype began in 1981, which was ready in 1983. Called MG Metro 6R4 (6 cylinders R rally 4-wheel drive), MG had to produce 200 cars for homologation. The production engine, called V64V (V6 + 4 valves per cylinder), allowed a 0 to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds. The final production version was a lot different from the 1983 prototype, and was ready only in 1984. MG produced a total of 205 6R4, most of them as the “Clubman” version, for the streets. The “International” version was the Group B spec car, with power output of at least 283 kW (385 hp). 

With that huge engine basically inside the cabin, the Clubman version was extremely hot and noisy to drive.

The Metro 6R4’s rally debut was in early 1985, in a local British rally, and it came in first. However, it used the prototype engine. FIA homologated the car in November of 1985, in time for the Lombard RAC Rally, where it finished in third. The team was confident for 1986, however reliability issues plagued the car throughout the season. Despite the presence of a factory team and the car being popular amongst privateers, the 6R4 had terrible results. For instance, the Metro 6R4 #58 here, in a privateer team, was in the 1986 Lombard Rally. Unfortunately though, engine troubles in the sixth stage took the car out of the race. Of the 13 6R4 that started the race, eight broke down and DNF. Only the five works cars finished the race, with the best result being a sixth place.

By the time the 6R4 arrived, turbo engines were already overcoming turbo-lag issues.

Considered as the ugly duckling of the Group B era, the Metro 6R4 was an ambitious project. Too ambitious, in fact – MG put too much trust on an untested engine. Besides, the whole project took too long, with no time to test and adapt the new car. The 6R4 was a solid idea on paper, however in races it just couldn’t deliver. And then, in December of 1986, FIA banned Group B… Terrible results notwithstanding, being a (quirky) Group B car was enough to catch my attention. In scale it is terrific, with Ixo delivering a very credible model. Once again, for the price you get an awesome deal. Therefore, if you have a thing for Group B cars, this is a GREAT buy.

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