Concepts and prototypes : Austin Maestro Cabriolet (1983)

Stephen Harper was responsible for this fascinating Maestro convertible sketch – could it have added much-needed glamour to the range?

Here’s its story as told by its prolific creator.


Maestro cabriolet: an unusual solution

Maestro Cabriolet
Four-door Maestro Cabriolet was an interesting concept…

Looking back now, the Austin Maestro seems like an unusual base car for a chop-top, but this was more than a flight-of-fancy – there was a serious purpose behind its creation.

During the early 1980s, there had been design upheaval at Longbridge and Canley which had brought in the changes, and some felt that Austin – as a marque – was in danger of being left behind.

Stephen Harper, the Designer who produced this sketch recalled, ‘At the time at Canley Design Studio, with Harris Mann, Roger Tucker, Robin Owen and others now out of the picture, there was only a few of us ex-Longbridge Designers (myself, Adrian Griffiths, John Gregory) still ‘flying the A-flag’.

‘There had been an invasion of Whitleyites from the Chrysler studio when Roy Axe had taken over from David Bache, the likes of Gerry McGovern, David Saddington, David Arbuckle, and many clay modellers…’

‘Maestro Cabriolet was an idea to create an internal concept car, on which we could test new ideas, and give Austin/MG a convertible, even if it was more boulevard than sports car…’

‘So, in the spirit of not letting the brand lose its identity, whenever I could, I would try new ideas, to keep interest alive for development of the existing product range (after all those cars were still paying our wages).’

‘The Colour and Trim Group (John Stark, Michele Wadhams, Colin Parson) would keep the Metro alive using numerous specials, and so the Maestro Cabriolet was an idea to create an internal concept car, on which we could test new ideas, and give Austin/MG a convertible, even if it was more boulevard than sports car.

‘At the time there were pitifully few open cars. The Citroën Visa Cabriolet had provided me with a technical solution of how to maintain the rigidity, as had the Stag.

‘But the Product Planners, down the corridor, were too involved with XX, to take time for such a niche market car.’

Would it have added much-needed appeal to the Maestro range? It might be easy to sneer now, some four decades later, but hatch-based cabriolets were quite the thing for a short time in the mid-1980s…

Question is, would the Maestro’s lack of body rigidity been a killer? Most likely…

Citroen Visa Cabriolet was the inspiration behind the Maestro Cabriolet.
The Citroën Visa Cabriolet was the inspiration behind the Maestro Cabriolet
Keith Adams
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10 Comments

  1. My first reaction when seeing the topic heading was ‘this is going to look bloody awful’, but, on seeing the ‘artists impression’, it actually looks ok.

    That said, I doubt whether it would have sold well. I do like the idea of a 4 door cabrio, and the rag top Visa looked pretty good to me (hope it handled better than my early 2 cylinder Visa Club did).

  2. Yuppies, estate agents, big hair, shoulder pads, two faggots and a synthesiser pop songs, XR3 cabriolets.

    The 1980s were so full of trash.

    • Some of those synthesiser bands really fancied themselves as being high art. I suppose you’ll remember a band called Japan, who were a pretentious set of poseurs and who released one of the worst singles of all time, Ghosts. More of a Spandau Ballet fan at the time, who were four honest London lads making decent pop songs that stand up well today.

  3. just seen the TV advert for the new Citroen DS3 cabrio, strange to think 30 years later the idea has come full circle, just a shame it wasn’t a Rover product.

  4. The “artists Impression,” is a good example of why people think Harris Man’s Allegro design was sleek. No Maestro ever did not ever would look anything like that. The axonometric is much truer to what would have happened and shows exactly why it shouldn’t have. For all we go on about the ugly Allegro, the maestro IMO was uglier, much uglier even if it was a better car. I do think a Montego convertible might have worked

    • Disappointingly would have to agree and the same could be said with the Maestro 3-door hatchback sketches.

      For all the Maestro’s ugliness, as a design originally done in the mid-1970s would it’s exterior or certain aspects have really looked out of place had it been applied on the Allegro?

  5. Four door Cabriolets – Ugh!just Ugh!!

    The last people who looked good in them were the likes of Hitler and Stalin standing in the backs of their 4-door parade cars.

  6. What an exceedingly odd idea. The Maestro was an almost ruthlessly logical car, and appealed to many previous Maxi buyers; no styling fripperies, clean, staid styling, and plenty of space. The Maestro seemingly ignored fashion, and so a cabriolet version, let alone a four door one, would have seriously struggled to find trendy cabrio buyers. One to be left on the drawing board, for sure.

    A two door Rover SD3 cabrio, along the lines of contemporary Escort and Astra cabrios would have been a different matter though, and a similar concept worked well a few years later with the R8.

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