The MG Maestro is one of the more misunderstood hot hatchbacks from the 1980s, and for those who don’t get them, it will come as a shock to hear that it was actually one of the most capable of the lot.
However, with its two-litre O-Series engine, delivering oodles of torque married to a chassis of surprising capability, it had the beating of many of the more established players. Jonathan Sellars, website editor of www.maestro.org.uk certainly loves his – and wouldn’t change it for the world.
Words and pictures: Jonathan Sellars
Red braces, sensible shoes
Longbridge backdrop – in slightly happier times…
I’M often asked what it was that got me interested in Maestros. I still can’t find a rational answer, but the desire to own an early MG grew on me throughout my school years. After missing out on an A-registered MG Maestro 1600 by a day (they were rare even back in 1998), I stumbled across a 1987 EFi model in my local paper. Being just minutes away it would almost have been rude not to go and have a look…
D428 CHO (known simply as CHO among friends) became my first car. At £200 and with no MoT, it was going to need some work, but to a car-crazy 17 year-old that was all part of the fun. Some might say it wasn’t the most sensible choice, but that first £1700 insurance premium seemed a snip compared to what other young drivers at the time were paying for their nearly-new base model Corsas.
Digital dashboard, that defining Maestro feature is actually a retro-fit…
The car was originally supplied by Henlys of Salisbury and after a couple of years on a company fleet, it passed into private ownership. I’ve had CHO for almost nine years now and it’s fair to say that it holds a lot of fond memories for me since that first, nervous drive to the MoT centre soon after I passed my own test.
I remember once having severe toothache during a driving weekend in the Yorkshire Dales with the Maestro & Montego Owners Club. The sheer elation of unleashing the MG on roads that seemed made for it was enough to make me forget the pain completely. They really are fantastic cars to drive.
Of course it hasn’t all been such fun and Maestro ownership has had the occasional frustration. The car spent the best part of a year off the road with an inexplicable loss of power (which turned out to be a sheared exhaust manifold to head bolt) and a leaking fuel tank that cost £280 to replace – probably the only one Rover sold that year!
As a company car only minimal options were specified from new. I’ve carried out a few subtle upgrades to the original specification including the later style “cross spoke” alloys (which are a nightmare to clean), electric sunroof & front windows, Philips R750 and CD Changer from a Rover 800, remote central locking and immobiliser, MG Maestro 1600 front grille and clear side indicator repeaters (both of which work well on the Azure blue body) and the famous digital instrumentation and talking trip computer from an early car.
This is one feature that always caught my imagination, although it’s been temporarily removed from my car while I work out how to get the speedo to read normally instead of double. “I was only doing 140, officer!”
We all loved our first cars and I simply couldn’t bear to part with mine. It’d be nice to think that it’ll still be around in twenty, thirty… maybe forty years to come.