Stephen Harper was responsible for this fascinating Maestro convertible sketch – here’s its story…
Looking back now, the Maestro seems like an unusual donor 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 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 testbed 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 & 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 testbed new ideas, and give Austin/MG a convertible, even if it was more boulevard than sports car.
“At the time there were pityfully few open cars. The Citroen Visa cabrio 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.”
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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