Think the Aston Martin Cygnet was the first car of its type? Think again; the Frazer Tickford did it 35 years ago, with an Austin Metro as its donor car
Matt Burt
7 April 2016

Remember the Aston Martin Cygnet? Turns out it wasn’t the first attempt at creating a vehicle that melded city car practicality with Aston Martin style and luxury. In 1981 a new car company called Frazer (no relation to existing British sports car company Frazer Nash) took the humble Austin Metro and gave it a plush makeover.

Frazer teamed up with Tickford – at the time a new division of Aston Martin Lagonda set up specifically to develop and rework existing cars to a higher standard of finish and performance – as an engineering partner. The revised car was called the Frazer Tickford, losing any reference to Metro to reflect the fact that it was rebuilt from the ground up.

Tickford took a Metro 1.3S, gutted the body and removed the engine, wheels and much of the front suspension. The body was then resprayed in high-gloss silver, with ‘Tickford’ emblazoned across the rear and Aston Martin enamel badges in lacquer to leave no doubt as to the name of the car and its lineage. The car received glassfibre body panels that formed side pods, a front air dam and a skirt at the rear.

The Tickford’s interior was a sea of silver-grey leather, which adorned the redesigned high-back, high-grip seats, the 14in steering wheel, the wraparound fascia, body trim and even the rear parcel shelf. Wilton pile carpet lined the boot and floor area and tweed cloth lined the roof. Extra standard equipment included Veglia gauges for oil pressure, battery charge and manifold vacuum and an Uher hi-fi system.

All this added 90kg to the kerb weight, so Tickford’s engineers tweaked the 1275cc A-plus engine to produce 80bhp-plus. The result was a hatchback capable of a claimed 100mph and 0-60mph in less than 11 seconds.

The standard tyres and steel wheels were replaced with Pirelli P7s and alloy wheels. An anti-roll bar was fitted to the rear and the one at the front was stiffened, while the Hydragas suspension units were repressurised to return the heavier model’s ride height to that of the standard Metro.

Autocar’s David Mills took one of the pre-production Frazer Tickfords away from the press launch and was quite impressed. “So were my passengers,” he wrote. “There was something rather opulent about the leather trim and that unmistakable smell. I felt very secure in the high-back bucket seats, and the smaller, padded leather steering wheel reduced the trucker-style feel of the Metro driving position.”

The made-over Metro continued to impress Autocar’s man on the public road: “After exiting the first roundabout, it dawned that I was nowhere near the limit of adhesion; the Tickford turned in beautifully and moved around the curve as if it were on rails – a worn cliché that really does apply.

“All this adhesion and yet the ride was comfortable, soaking up all but the most violent high-frequency bumps, when the tyres’ lack of compliance dictated small jolts. Add that ride to the immense driveability of the engine and it represented an entirely civilised performance package.”

The Frazer Tickford had charm, but for its £11,608 tag you could buy a Rover 3500SE or a Porsche 924 with change for a Citroën 2CV6. “How can one possibly justify such an outlay for a three-door hatchback?” asked Mills rhetorically.

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 November 1978 - Fiat 131 Abarth rally car road test

15 March 1986 - Renault builds a Porsche rival

2 April 1986 - Figuring the MG Metro 6R4 rally car

26 April 1986 - Rover's sleek CCV concept

18 October 1989 - VW's vision of a 21st century Golf

10 March 1979 - A Rover SD1 with a difference

4 September 1996 - The original Porsche Boxster driven

5 April 1986 - Audi Quattro vs Porsche 944 Turbo 

16 May 1987 - Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet

Individual copies of Autocar with free next-day delivery can now be bought through Magsdirect.

Our Verdict

Aston Martin Cygnet

The Aston Martin Cygnet is perfect for inner-city fans of the brand. For the rest, it's an expensive and quirky distraction

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Comments
11

7 April 2016
Curious little car who's concept is probably more relevant now than it was at the time.

I remember the car being shown at the time and couldn't help thinking it was an expensive polished turd. Ultimately it still looked like a Metro despite the re-engineering that had gone on underneath.

Today we seem to be more accepting of badge engineering and things like this. In saying that manufacturers tend to be a little more careful on the models they choose to modify.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

7 April 2016
TegTypeR wrote:

Curious little car who's concept is probably more relevant now than it was at the time.

Absolutely.

On a somewhat related note, any idea if Mini will do a follow up on the Mini by Goodwood they did a couple years back?

 

 

7 April 2016
Think again, again: the Wood & Pickett Mini did it all before

8 April 2016
I'm surprised they missed that. Young people, eh. *rolls eyes*

7 April 2016
Didn't realise polishing turds came at such a high price...

Interesting article though.

Another thing's just occurred to me... A decent 2CV6 is probably now worth more than a Porsche 924. Strange old world...

7 April 2016
All that work, and it still looked dreadful

7 April 2016
Quote:

All this added 90kg to the kerb weight, so Tickford’s engineers tweaked the 1275cc A-plus engine to produce an extra 80bhp

I think that should read "to produce 80bhp", not 80bhp extra. Otherwise we're talking about a Metro with 140+bhp!

7 April 2016

Thanks cymrogog,
Original copy reads '80bhp-plus' - have tweaked above story to reflect that.
Matt B

7 April 2016
I'd rather have this than a Cygnet. And I think this is crap.


8 April 2016
I saw one at the classic show in the nec last year, I quite liked it, @ beasties_boy, you are probably right, I sold my 924 with fresh mot and in great condition for just over £2k earlier this year, though they are starting to creep up slowly, I reckon an equivalent 2cv could be double? And this metro a lot more. Is it any different in concept to earlier vanden plas models? The allegro vanden plas I saw at the show was styled differently and incredibly plush in side compared to the standard cars.

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