Concepts and Prototypes : Meet the LM family

The LM family

Sometime in 1979, the Austin-Morris product planners would have met with BL’s upper management to explain the LM10 strategy. This model set perfectly demonstrates how the Montego saloon and estate were developed from the Maestro and, more intriguingly, how an upper middle market hatchback was also planned.

The modular model is comprised of a centre section and several front/rear sections, which can be added and removed as neccessary. It is amusing to think that, in some high level strategy meeting, a member of the Austin-Morris team would have been juggling these models in order to demonstrate the possibilities.

Thanks must go to the nice people at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon for allowing us to photograph these models for posterity.

The models…

LM10 hatchback


The LM10 – or the Austin Maestro that we all know and love. The shape had been settled in 1976, signed off in 1978, and this forms the basis for the schemes demonstrated in the modular model set…

LM11 saloon


LM11 LM11

Saloon model scheme is almost an identical replica to the full-sized prototype that Roy Axe set eyes upon the second day after he joined BL.

This model clearly illustrates how the LM11 was pretty much set for production and that the breadth of Axe’s changes to become the Austin Montego were rather limited.

LM11E estate


Estate version was changed a great deal between this model and the final production version: thanks to the drooping Maestro shoulder line, the rear side windows were extremely deep, as was the tailgate glass.

This was subtly changed following Axe’s arrival, thanks to the door top ‘moundings’ used in the production Montego. Also, the rear end of the production version, designed by John Ashford was significantly more characterful than this bland effort (which looked eerily similar to the stillborn SD1 estate prototype.

LM14/15 fastback




Here’s the one that got away: strikingly similar to the Chrysler Alpine, this model would have been pitched above the LM10 and LM11, perhaps being aimed specifically at the European market.

Certainly, it would have been conceived as a direct replacement for the upcoming Austin Ambassador, where (it would be hoped) a premium could be charged over its saloon brethren

Keith Adams


  1. I’ve yet to see a really attractive Roy Axe designed car, although his reworking of the Monty estate was better than the effort above, which looks rather Ital-like. The Monty hatch was far too similar to the unhappy Alpine, which was known for its rust and its awful engines- hardly a car worthy of copying, not to mention poor packaging (the boot floor on the Alpine was very shallow and therefore impractical). Oddly, however, on the Monty hatch the scallops actually add character though.

  2. Imagine if these LC 10/11 had been introduced in ’76 (When styling had been settled)what a big noise they would have been? i never thought the montego looked unattractive when launched-i had a roverised 1.6 SL when i was on my arse and it was a good car.

  3. With key competitors being the Cavalier, Sierra, Alpine and Passat the 5 door hatch LM14/15 should have neen a no brainer. Why on earth didnt they do it?

    • Yes, why on earth was the LM14/15 not launched? A good proportion of sales in this sector (Cavalier, Sierra) were 5 door. Even if not launched early on, surely a new 5 door version would have been a great (and relatively inexpensive) way to boost flagging Montego sales in the late eighties.
      The above car is not bad looking in terms of proportions. Just needs different detailing, a bit of character injecting.

  4. Not sure if the Roy Axe revisions to the Montego saloon were ALL right. The front end looked pretty good I always thought. However, the ‘opera’ rear window looked better more as above. Stepped out of line with the other side windows it gave a ‘dis-jointed’ look. The MG’s spoiler helped though.

  5. Yep, Lc/Lm 10-14/15 were launched far too late, mind in 1976, Allegro was only 3 but it would have been useful to launch the long versions ASAP, 78? to replace Marina and maybe 79-80 to take over the Allegro… No need to waste money on the Ambarasor. What on earth was going on in the highest spheres?

    • There’s a really simple answer….we simply didn’t have the money to move forward as you describe. The SD1 disaster had taken all the money. We had enough left to do LC8 but that was it. By 78, the Ital was the best we could afford, to keep some sales kicking along until we could afford Maestro and Montego. The Acclaim was a godsend and really helped to. The Ambassador didn’t cost much at all – it was designed with a lift-gate in the first place…..but Mr King put a stop to that, in case it took sales from the SD1…..result? ADO71 was launched with a boot lid, Maxi had to carry on for another few years….and still SD1 lost money hand over fist.

  6. Very interesting models! As soon as I saw the LM14, I thought they had borrowed an Alpine model from Chrysler!

  7. Recently been to Gaydon (a real must for everyone on this site, I’d say, really moving to see all those lost opportunities in reality), these models (except LM14?!) are currently on display.

  8. BTW, I remember talk of a LM12 MG Coupé, seems it was not in the original planning, or maybe not as just some 2/3 door variant, but possibly with own sheet metal?

    Could anyone shine some light on this??

  9. Though there was the later AR6, could the LM family have also spawned a smaller A/S-Series powered supermini variant to plug the gap between the Metro and the Maestro?

      • Minus the Honda input as well as 15 or so years prior and around 5-10-inches shorter, essentially being a larger conventional Supermini comparable to the then contemporary Peugeot 205, Fiat Uno, Vauxhall Nova and mk1 Nissan Micra in terms of dimensions.

        • Sorry just meant there was a lot of LM10 in the 200/25 which sat in approximately the same slot that you suggest. And that the 200/25 or an 1980’s variant could have been produced just like you suggest. The Metro was a good car but was essentially a mini replacement not a supermini. There was a gap between the Metro and the Maestro.
          There seems to have been a struggle between conventional engineering and hydrogas/lastic.

        • Seems rather unlikely: most contemporary supermini’s were significantst narrower than LC10, so it would have needed a lot more flexibility there than we ever witnessed.

          • Guess so. Appears the closest superminis of that era in terms of width would be the mk1 SEAT Ibiza (itself derived from SEAT’s version of the Fiat Strada) followed by the mk2 Volkswagen Polo and mk2 Renault 5 (itself derived from the Renault 9/11).

  10. The Montego always suffered by not having a hatchback, while the Cavalier came in three body styles. I’m sure the LM14 would have helped sales and made the Montego look more contemporary.

  11. I think LM 14/15 would have feated a lot better!!
    (Is that Harris Mann’s design??) It looks far more “with it” and substantial!! I know the alpine it might have had poor rust and mechanical problems!!As Chris Baglin says, but it looked far more the part!!

  12. There appears to be some confusion regarding LM15 as while denoting a stretched Montego-based FWD saloon, the codename also appears to overlap with the rebodied SD1-derived Rover Bravo project.

    LM14 meanwhile appears to simply denote a 5-door fastback hatchback Montego just like the AR16 5-door fastback prototype as opposed to a direct replacement for the Ambassador, which based on the fact the Rover Bravo was to feature a wheelbase of 105 inches like the former suggests the stretched Montego-based LM15 could have also more accurately served as a direct replacement for the Ambassador.

    However a production LM15 would have definitely needed a V6 engine. IIRC commenter Kev mentioned a projected V6 planned for ADO77 known as the K series V6 though it was neither derived from the Rover V8 nor apparently related to the later KV6 engine, so not sure what the story is behind that engine or if that V6 would have been suitable for a production LM15 compared to the Honda V6.

  13. LC10/11/14/15 were designed to replace the Allegro, Maxi, Princess and Marina so were originally planned for 1979-1980. The SD1 had originally been planned for launch in 1974 but was delayed until 1976 and it’s financial cost caused 14/15 to be dropped and meant stop gaps had to be launched in the form of the Ital, Maxi 2, Allegro 3 and Ambassador while priority had to be given to LC8 while LC9 which was the 4 door version which would have replaced the Allegro but was not launched until 1985

  14. I may be missing the point, but the Montego saloon was simply a booted Maestro ‘on the cheap’. The Alpine-looking hatch of the Montego would have been in direct competition with its sister hatch – the Maestro! The Montego estate was a fine car, but the saloon inherited from the Maestro the spare wheel arrangement, which made access in the boot well-nigh impossible. I also always had doubts over its structural strength – weren’t there horror stories of Montegos in collisions which split in half?

  15. The investment in turning the Princess into the Ambassador makes a lot more sense when you consider that LM14/15 was part of the planning in 1979, which is presumably before most of the work had been put into the Ambassador.

    Instead of being a standalone product only in production for two years, Ambassador would have continued in production until LM14/15 was launched (1985?) and ARG would have had continuity in that market sector.

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