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The History of the Metropolitan

The Metropolitan was built in England to American Motors specifications. (American Motors grew out of the 1954 merger of Nash and Hudson motor companies). All of the 94,986 that were manufactured and shipped to North America were built by Austin in England (later known as British Leyland Motor Corporation, and now known as Jaguar Cars, Inc.). Metropolitans were sold by Nash, Hudson and AMC dealers in the USA and Canada from 1954 to 1962.


Two models were offered a two-door convertible and a two-door hardtop. The "MET," as it is affectionately called, was an outgrowth of the NXI and NKI experimental models developed in 1949 through 1950 by Nash Motors, then a division of Nash-Kelvinator. To test public reaction, prototypes were shown to selected audiences across the country over an extended period of time. Many of the features subsequently found on the Metropolitan were results of the national survey.


The wheelbase of the Metropolitan is 85 inches, the length is 149 inches, the width is 61 inches, and the height is 54 inches. The Metropolitan is of all-welded unitized body construction.

The original Metropolitan (known as the A-1200) was powered by a 42-hp. Austin A-40 overhead-valve four cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 7.2 to 1. The engine had a bore of 2 37/64 inches and a stroke of 3 inches. Displacement was 73.17 cubic inches. Standard tires size of the 1200 series were 5.20 x 13. The Met also had aluminum pistons, fully counterbalanced crankshaft, Zenith (British) downdraft carburetor, 12-volt electrical system with a positive ground, Borg & Beck dry-disc, single-plate-type clutch, and Hotchkiss drive.


The transmissions in all series were a steering post mounted 3-speed synchromesh in 2nd and 3rd gears.

On April 9, 1956 American Motors announced the 1500 series Metropolitan which incorporated many new features, including a 24% increase in horsepower to a 52-hp. motor. Compression ratio was increased to 8.31 to 1. Styling changes included a new hood and grille. Early in 1959, several functional improvements were made, including a new trunk lid, glove box door, window vents, seat adjustment mechanism and larger tires.


Though it was small and economical, the Metropolitan did not have a "cheap" image. Its standard equipment was actually more complete than what was offered on most American cars of that time. At the time that Metropolitans were introduced (March 1954), suggested delivery prices were $1,469.00 for the two-door convertible (Model 541), and $1,445.00 for the two-door hardtop (Model 542). Standard equipment included leather and nylon cord upholstery, foam-rubber front seat cushion, sun visors, turn signals, two-tone paint on the hardtop models, map light, windshield wipers, oil bath air cleaner and a continental style mounted spare tire with cover. Optional equipment included a heater, a radio with a mounted antenna, and white wall tires.


The color options on the 1200 series were Spruce Green, Canyon Red, Caribbean Blue and Croton Green. The hardtop was available only in these colors on the lower body and Mist Gray was on the upper body (top). The convertible was available with a Tan top only with a Spruce Green body. The black convertible top was available only with a Canyon Red and Caribbean Blue body. Beginning with the 1500 series, Black, Snowberry White, Sunburst Yellow, Coral Red, Berkshire Green, Mardi Gras Red, Frost White and Autumn Yellow were offered.


A Metropolitan properly restored should have no difficulty in today's traffic, and can cruise between 55 and 60 mph without any problems.


copyright (c) 2003

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