IT is 40 years ago this week since Margaret Thatcher drove the first Mini Metro off the production line at Birmingham and the anniversary, fuelled by the British Motor Museum’s online exhibition, has launched a wave of nostalgia for the once mocked motor.

The Metro was British Leyland’s upgrade of the Mini, and, billed as “a British car to beat the world”, it was going to save the car industry. It was also hailed as “the perfect family car of the 1980s”, and it is as much part of the psyche of that decade as bad mullet haircuts, Blue Monday drumbeats and Flashdance sweatbands.

There were 2,078,219 Metros produced over 17 years, and I owned three. But these were also the days when “twockers” stalked the streets of Darlington, and all three were taken without my consent in quick succession.

My first – FDU 237Y – was an MG Metro that was 50 shades of silver. It rusted badly, and I amateurishly resprayed it in patches. Its handbrake had the exhaust beneath it and so became untouchably hot on long journeys, and the radio cut out everytime the car went over a bump, needing a slap to restart it – my record was 53 slaps on the A1 between London and Catterick until I gave up counting.

That car was parked in Priestgate one day in 1989 when it disappeared, leaving just a sprinkling of smashed window on the pavement to show how it had been brutally taken. It turned up in Middlesbrough with its seats broken. In the back was a half-eaten packet of custard creams and a game of Mastermind with only three pegs in it – I had visions of the twockers speeding down the A66 with custard creams crammed in their mouths trying to work out to break the Mastermind code with only two red pegs and one blue.

The MG Metro was replaced by a bog standard Austin Metro, which was taken from Tubwell Row within a few months and burned out.

My third was a fetchingly red MG with speedy silver stickers down the side. The fuel gauge rarely worked and the radio only tuned to Radio 4 and Russian shipping forecasts. This may have been because the aerial was a triangular wire coathanger as vandals frequently snapped off the proper one.

This Metro lasted 18 months until my up-and-over garage door in Stanhope Road broke. I had a new door delivered and took a day off work to remove the old door and paint up the frame ready for installation. At the end of my preparatory day, I put the new door, still in its wrappings, at the back of the garage and nosed the Metro right up to it because I feared someone would steal the door.

Next morning, screwdrivers in hand, I returned to the garage to resume my work and discovered that the new door was still there, but the Metro had gone, its wing mirror leaving a slight graze on my new paintwork as it departed.

Thankfully times, and cars, have moved on, and we no longer live in Metroland.