Time was running out for British Leyland in 1980 after years of industrial strife, under-investment and general mismanagement.

Who on earth wanted to buy a Morris Ital or Austin Allegro, models which were famed for being rubbish at launch and years later had not improved at all?

Something had to be done and fast. The answer was the Austin Metro.

On the face of it this was a bit of a breakthrough. The hatchback design was roomy and the car actually looked modern.

But scratch the surface and the 1950s-designed A-Series engine was still there, offering pathetic performance and about as dependable as a gigolo gatecrashing a hen night.

Yet this was heralded as the saviour of Blighty’s motor industry. Margaret Thatcher turned up at the launch and adverts claimed it was “the British car to beat the world”.

In fact they went on to describe the competition such as the Renault 5 and Datsun Cherry as “invaders” and the Metro was the car to “send the foreigners back where they belong”. Er, right...

Immersed in this joyful wave of xenophobia, sales were good as, conned again, the British motoring public backed the car to the hilt.

But the reality soon kicked in as the car’s unreliability floated to the surface and rust chewed up the bodywork faster than the car could reach 60mph.

I remember crossing a small stream in a Metro. Not only did it die immediately but water started sloshing around my feet through the holes before I got out to push.

Over the years the car was given facelifts, called different names such as the Rover Metro and finally the Rover 100 and it did eventually receive the more modern K-Series engine.

But like its predecessors, under-investment meant the Metro was soon left choking in the dust of rivals such as the Peugeot 205 and Ford Fiesta.

By 1997 when the car went through a crash test, it scored so poorly that it left its dwindling customer base terrified they would be decapitated if they clipped a kerb.

Sales collapsed and the car was killed off after almost 18 years. No-one cared because they were all behind the wheel of “foreign invaders”.