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.
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