Boxy Beauties: A Quick Look At The Liveries Worn By The Metro 6R4 Rally Car
What do you get when you cross a boring city car with a Jaguar XJ220, a special edition VW Polo, and the Williams F1 team?
The answer: a complete Frankenstein of a car. Or anyway that’s how some people still view the MG Metro 6R4. Not me though. While I harbor a life-long hatred for the blandness of the Austin/MG/Rover Mini Metro, I was totally shocked when this car emerged from an extended stay at the plastic surgeon’s, and the only connection to the pedestrian Metros was in the name. “Blandness” couldn’t be further from the truth for the monstrous box-flared 6R4.
However, this story isn’t about the car’s development timeline nor will we get into who drove it in what races during its motorsport career. Instead, I want to take a look at some of the liveries worn by the 6R4 during its brief competitive life in Group B and in the Rallycross series that followed. Let’s look at the car in question in regards to the question at the start of this article: those ingredients I listed were in reference to the Metro 6R4’s 3-liter David Wood V6 (which used some of the engine architecture of the Cosworth DFV) that was eventually passed on to Tom Walkinshaw and placed in the XJ220 with a couple of turbos bolted on. Williams Grand Prix Engineering had been entrusted with the development of the 6R4, and that just leaves the VW Polo I mentioned in the same list. That’s a reference VW’s harlequin edition, the multi-colored car that resembles a certain Metro: the Lawrence Gibson Autos and P&O Ferries sponsored car.
Now, the harlequin Polos were commonly the butt of jokes about salvage panels and junkyard repairs, but this is why the P&O Metro works so well from a design perspective. Almost any example of this car painted in a single color just doesn’t look right unless it’s a factory fresh body-in-white. This rings true when you look at the most famous liveries—the Rothmans Racing and Computervision cars—they always split the design in two. Rarely does a designer so many options when it comes to picking a surface to paint on an automobile. How many cars let you place graphics on a side panel that’s just about parallel to the ground?
I love the way this P&O design literally highlights the bolt-on composite and plastic panels, and I always like to think that if Benetton ever went Rallycrossing, this would be the the kind of livery they’d choose. Full compliments to the chef of this particular mix.
That car never raced in Group B though, where the 6R4 was bred, and it did differ slightly in bodywork. I refer in particular to the front wing. Along with spoilers, wings, scoops, and skirts to put everyone else to shame save for the Pikes Peak specials, the Metro lived up to its metropolitan foundations by sporting endless “billboards,” with the front spoiler being akin to a 96-sheet poster site. This huge space never let anyone forget who was sponsoring the car and thus allowed the designers to keep the rest of the livery looking relatively simple and clean to compliment those boxy lines. There was no fear of the client asking for the logo to be bigger when it was on the front of a Metro! This is how we get the blue and white centre line (if you can find it among this LEGO pile of a car) split; it looks as though every brief was to simply highlight the various bulges with a contrasting color to the rest of the body. Because this division between colors acts to trace the visible separation between the standard car with the rally version, it enhances the sense of a raw, barely-held-together-but-wickedly-quick race car
It’s interesting how some cars seemingly have just one scheme that looks good on them. Something about certain bodies just makes it inevitable that the prettiest liveries all follow the same layout. In cases like that, some still go against the tide, and that’s no different in the 6R4. I’ve already mentioned how a single color looks off somehow, and the Sanyo-liveried car is a perfect example. Note how on the Rothmans car, the side stripes run along the tops, facing upwards along the length of the wide arches, going with the flow of the car’s shape compared to the Silkolene and Belga liveries for instance. On any other car both of those sponsors’ standard paint schemes work very well, but on the odd Metro their application results in a battle of too many lines competing for your attention.
As with just about any serious bout of plastic surgery, the patient usually goes back for more, and the 6R4 was no exception. It had more facial work done with the addition of the front spotlight covers later on, and these new blank spaces added yet another perfect spot to plop the sponsor logos away from the rest of the hectic and graphics-distorting bodywork. If it’s fair to call the 6R4’s body a dog’s dinner, at least it had a few tasty cherries on top.
As I was writing this, I only fell more in love with the unabashedly purposeful look of this barely recognizable MG Metro, and I hope it’s had the same effect on you if you weren’t already an admirer of the flying cube of British motorsport engineering known as the 6R4.