Concepts and prototypes : AR7 Maestro facelift

The industry norm for the mid-1980s was for a car design to last about three-to-four years before it received its first facelift. In the case of the Maestro, the first facelift was planned for even before the original hit the streets.

With thanks to Stephen Harper we now know just how radically they were thinking when it came to de-scolloping the Maestro. Looks exciting, doesn’t it?


How to beautify the Maestro…


Step one:
Existing sheet metal
Existing screen roof, door panels and tailgate
New smooth applied front end incorporating air intakes and spoiler
‘Service band’ around scollop feature incorporating all lamp units, number plates, etc
Aerodynamic mirror design
Flush side glass incorporating Medusa-type opening lights
Aerodynamic sill design with particular attention to yaw requirements
Rear tailgate lip spoiler
New rear quarter panel or cladding to achieve fully enclosed rear wheel
Rear lower panel spoiler, if required
Aerodynamic wheel design with Ford Probe style flexible wheel skirt
Flush front and rear screens
Smooth underside.

IT is a widely known fact that back in 1982, BL’s newly appointed director of design, Roy Axe was shocked to discover that the company’s vitally important new car, the LM10, was somewhat stylistically challenged. He put it in these terms, “I thought this design to be something of a disaster. The proportions were bad and the detail awful and clumsy. The concave sides made the design look weak and the whole thing looked totally dated.”

If that seemed a little unfair on the Maestro, it must be remembered that in 1982, the industry’s style-lead had been set by the handsome Ford Escort III. In many ways, the Maestro was of the generation previous to the Escort (it had, in fact, been styled in 1975/1976), but due to delays, it would be hitting the market very late.

After being told firmly by management that there was little that could be done to improve the Maestro in the time left (it was due to be launched just over a year after Axe’s first viewing), the task of putting the Maestro right would have to wait until its first facelift. in 1983, this project was defined as the AR7, and given that this was a facelift (and therefore, no major mechanical or structural changes were contemplated) it centred on putting right the two main areas of the Maestro’s styling that most disquieted Axe.

Firstly, those concave sides: the scollops may have been functional (they added a degree of strength to the door pressings, whilst also keeping the door tops cleaner in mucky weather), but they also managed to date the car terribly. As Roy Axe stated, it also made the car’s flanks look weak. Given that, AR7 would receive re-profiled sides – smoothing off the scollops and wheelarch panels.

Secondly, there was the matter of the dropping shoulder line (the point where the doortops meet the windows). For the Montego, Axe devised some Heath-Robinson window cappings that disguised this, but it was something that would need to be fixed at the facelift. For AR7, therefore, a more traditional rising shoulder line was drawn in, giving the Maestro a more pleasing “wedge” design to it. Subsequently, Roy Axe has described the facelifted Maestro as a pleasant looking car, somewhat redolent of the 1991 General Motors Astra.

Austin-Rover’s designer Gordon Sked knew Ian Beech’s Maestro shape intimately – he was one of the designers involved with styling the saloon variation (initially called LC11, then LM11 before being launched as the Montego), and when asked to come up with a de-scolloped version in 1981, he produced a number of pleasing variations. Here are two that manage to move the Maestro forward considerably, although many would say that there’s a more than a passing resemblance to Ford’s Eltec concept. Except that car was first shown in 1985…

Sadly, AR7 was cancelled in the light of the emerging Rover-Honda AR8 (and budgetary pressures in the lead-up to privatisation), and the Maestro was left to soldier on in its original form.


Step two:
Existing sheet metal
Existing screen roof, door panels and tailgate
New smooth applied front end incorporating air intakes and spoiler
‘Service band’ around scollop feature incorporating all lamp units, number plates, etc
Aerodynamic mirror design
Flush side glass incorporating Medusa-type opening lights
Aerodynamic sill design with particular attention to yaw requirements
New tail door incorporating 15 degree angle with roof spoiler applied at vertical face of tailgate
New rear quarter panel or cladding to achieve fully enclosed rear wheel
Rear lower panel spoiler, if required
Aerodynamic wheel design with Ford Probe style flexible wheel skirt
Flush front and rear screens
Smooth underside.

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

12 Comments on "Concepts and prototypes : AR7 Maestro facelift"

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  1. KC says:

    The second option especially looks like it was based on an enlarged Citroen Visa.

    One thing I’ve seen frequently on AROnline is that artists impressions of a new model usually looked much better than the reality which appeared on the roads. I wonder if that would’ve been the case here – they look very much of their time so it’s difficult to judge today

  2. Simon Hodgetts says:

    I’m not altogether sure that these proposals would have improved on the Maestro – the big problem being the odd proportions of the car – it was after all intended as a Maxi replacement, and so it never really had the more conventional proportions of a Golf or Astra. Having said that, the Maestro had one thing both the Golf and Astra lacked – character. I’m not sure how the changes would have translated to the Montego either, a car which I always found quite handsome.

  3. pigeons99 pigeons99 says:

    I am reminded of a Citroen Visa and to an extent the AX. I never really have found the Maestro to be to bad looking, I think a lot the features proposed here would make the model look rather dated and `firmly` from the 80`s. I like the direction AR took with the Maestro.

  4. Engineer says:

    Switching to flush glass and window ports would have have been far too expensive to engineer on a face lift… all manuafactures leave the greenhouse out of face lift (look at the VW Golf from Mk5 to 6). Filling the scalop with a big platic moulding would have looked very heavy handed. The car would have looked liked it belonged on the dodgems at a funfair!

  5. Dave P says:

    Judged against the competition there was nothing wrong the the Maestro’s style. It was certainly better looking than the Escort and was a better car all round.

    These “update” proposals looked like nothing but a waste of badly needed funds

  6. Ross A says:

    Fundamentally, I think the body design was good on the original Maestro, despite being compromised by sharing with it’s bigger brother. The problems for me were largely minor cosmetics. Newer curvier bumpers front and rear, as well much rounder door mirrors can soften and modernise a look (just look at the very last LADA Samara sedan and Niva 4×4 cars), perhaps looking closely at the headlamp/tail-light arrangement could have had an impact too.

    The trouble is the proposals shown above are very much a vision of future motoring stuck in the 80’s, and given how cars were to be designed in the 90’s this would have dated horribly worse than the Maestro.

    No, I like the Maestro. When the examples are clean, and tidy, they have a distinctive shape to them with ever line having a sharp functional edge to them. Brutalism in a car? It may not have been totally successful but it still seems to retain a character – love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it.

  7. simon_hodgetts says:

    Interesting how both proposals claim to use ‘existing sheet metal’ – I assume that this means the inner body structure – especially on the 2nd proposal – the rear 3/4 is clearly a completely different shape to the original. In hindsight, the best improvement ARG could have made to the Maestro was to re-design the front end to lose the unfortunate sag where the wing fell away to the indicator, and lose the distinctly ’70s front lights – a truncated Montego treatment could have worked, with a reduced overhang – the Chinese Maestro/Monty mash-ups look ill-proportioned. Re-designed rear light clusters and rear bumper wouldn’t have hurt either. Having said all of that, the original MG1600 looks pretty much ‘right’ IMHO!!

  8. francis brett francis brett says:

    @7 i agree the original MG maestro did look good at launch,in fact even the EFi and tickford models looked good,the turbos were proper savage pigeon catchers.

  9. Nate says:

    In light of the fact that the Rover AR16/17 prototype was based on the Montego, why didn’t AR7 simply adopt styling elements from AR16/17 and the neat-looking facelifted LM10 by Roy Axe together with slight hints of the Honda-derived AR8 / R8?

  10. mm says:

    i thought the Maestro and Montego were intended to be ‘modular’ in that there would be a Maestro saloon and hatchback, and a Montego saloon and hatchback, plus estate car version of both.

  11. Paul says:

    I think this would have made a good Motorshow concept circa 1986 and a CAR magazine feature – “Scoop New Maestro for ’92” but doubt it could have ever made production.

  12. Steve says:

    The original Maestro was a good looking car, these proposals would have made it look ugly and dated. I never understood why people slated the design of the Maestro/Montego range of cars, I always thought the Montego in particular was a very handsome car that still looked quite fresh even in ’94 when is was discontinued. Try saying that about a MK2 cavalier or Passat or that era!!!

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