Chinese Maestro : Lubao CA6410

The aquisition of production rights for the Maestro by Etsong intended to signal the beginning of a new venture. However, it was the First Auto Works (FAW), who took over the Etsong project.

This was not their first ex-BMC>Rover product…

Etsong, first

Following the ill-fated Bulgarian adventure, the Maestro/Montego found a new home in China.

Etsong is an important Chinese tobacco company, but they also have an industrial division, a construction group, a travel agency, and own a football club and gymnasium, but are not licensed for car production. Having acquired the production rights and tooling for the Maestro and Montego, they embarked on the construction of a factory to produce them in March 1998. These two Maestros vans are prototypes built in December 2000, having Toyota engines and Nissan-sourced dashboards. The prototype vehicles shown below both bear Qingdao test registration plates, and show the Etsong company logos on their sides.

In April 2001, MG Rover executive John Dalton recalled: ‘I was aware that the Maestro had gone into production in China from a contact in the Rover parts business. Etsong has built a new factory for car production to diversify its activities. The units produced should not be classed as semi-knocked-down (SKD), as built-up (BU) units to base them on have not been made for five years. Rover sold the tooling to a third party a couple of years ago and this company has supplied it to Etsong. Etsong should now have all the body tooling for Maestro and Montego and should be in a position to build four body types: Maestro van, Maestro five-door hatchback, Montego four-door saloon and Montego 5-door estate.

‘It may also be possible to produce a Maestro pickup from the van body. Vendor tooling for components is being transferred to China to support the project while guaranteeing the supply of parts needed by Rover. The Maestro van was the first model to be produced back in December (pre-production/prototypes). It would appear they have now started producing Maestro hatchbacks. The comment that Etsong does not have a licence to build cars intrigues me; as I understand it this is part of the five-year plan to diversify the business which has government approval.’

The Toyota-powered Maestro vans, as shown in the Chinese media.

Specifications, as produced by YIZHONG (ETSONG)
Engine type: Toyota 8A-FE 4-cylinder
Engine capacity: 1342cc
Maximum Power: 63KW at 6000rpm
Maximum Torque: 110Nm between 5000 and 5400rpm
Top speed: 145 km/h (91 mph)
Acceleration (0-60mph): 22 seconds
Fuel consumption: 5.5 l/100km

Prototype hatchback versions of the Maestro were also produced, which differed cosmetically in minor ways (wheel trims, and the lack of black paint on the door frames). under the bonnet revealed the Toyota unit, and inside, the new steering wheel and in car entertainment differentiated the Etsong from any other Cowley built LHD Maestro.

Prototype van and hatchback – again, only minor cosmetic differences between these and the Cowley-built versions. The plastic front bumper on the van looks good.


However, it appears that Etsong revised the car between the first showing of its prototype, and the launch of the production version.

In May, 2003, a production version of what was the Etsong was revealed to the local press. According to Erik van Ingen Schenau, “Production will take place, as First Auto Works (FAW) took over the project. The new version is named ‘Lubao CA 6410’.” It is very interesting that FAW have acquired the rights to this car and Etsong, given their former production of the Ital-based CAC 6430. Like the re-cycled Morris, the re-born Maestro’s name means it is registered with Beijing as a “bus” (6000-Series) and is classified as 4.1-metres long (the “410” part of its name). One can only hope that given FAW’s previous record, it will sell in reasonable numbers in Western China, and that the Maestro’s long wheel travel and soft suspension will prove to be just the ticket on less than perfect roads.

Lubao CA 6410
Pictures of the fascinating Maestro/Montego half-breed.More…


According to an insider (speaking in 2002), the plans to produce Maestros overseas were always weighed down with problems – in Bulgaria they were blighted by other – human – problems, “Doing business with overseas parties always seemed to end in tears. Like the attempt to build Maestros in Bulgaria. I spoke to the guys running that project, and they said it was just impossible to work with the Bulgarians – they didn’t attend meetings, forgot what they’d promised to do and so on. Think there are still one or two Bulgarian kits awaiting assembly in garages over here [in the UK]!”

With thanks to Erik van Ingen Schenau and Juan Cheng of AUTOCAR China for the information, Graham Arnold for his assistance and Neil Turner for the photos.

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. I saw a Maestro in Shanghai in 2005. It was good to see a familiar face. I also saw a Rover 75 and a Jaguar XJ40. I saw the JLRover showroom and the MG Rover showroom from afar.

  2. I remember somebody tried to sell “brand new” Bulgarian Maestros on the UK market back in 1998. Honest John was warning punters away.

  3. Our Montego was superbly built, completely rattle free and over 100k on it when we got rid. I think memory tarnishes the image somewhat in some cases

  4. I still own a Maestro and love them.

    Just a shame that the need to supply Rover with the necessary parts for Maestro and Montegos, particularly body pressings, dried up many years ago. There are quite a few Maestro and Montego owners in the UK who would love to be able to buy new bodyshell components that are no longer available to keep their cars alive. Despite the efforts of some enterprising individuals here in the UK, dealing with the Chinese has proved at best, to be difficult.

  5. The publicity shot of the one with the Montego front end looks so sad, the shut-lines are all over the place, droopy lights, bonnet that hardly appears to close. Horrendous! What a horrible way for the Maestro/Montego to spend it’s final days.

  6. To be fair, much as I enjoyed owning and driving MG Maestros and Montegos in the ’80’s and very early ’90’s, while the panels lined up nicely, the panel gaps were in the same league as those on an early Disco or a Defender! You could see the hinges clearly, even when the doors were shut!

  7. Good Lord, these cars were outdated junk when they were launched in 1983/4, If the Chinese want to update old ‘tat’ they should have contacted Peugeot Talbot and got the rights to the Horizon (but with a better engine), that chunky little fella would have done them proud

  8. @Spud.

    No they weren’t.. They just weren’t. Read the site, you may (and i’m not holding out a massive amount of hope) learn something

  9. the Bulgarian Maestros were simply uncompetitive – they were sold ( in Bulgaria) against cheaper and more desirable Skoda Felicia and cheap used cars, and they were quite antiquated – 4 speed gearbox etc.

  10. Stand corrected. For some reason i remembered them being 4 speed, maybe it came from the inadequate bulgarian press. From what i remember all the once that i’ve seen were government cars

  11. Working at Rover I was involved with dismantling the tooling and getting it onto lorries out of Cowley in the late 90’s. By that time the bodies were built in low volume in two old war time buildings. The jigs were only semi automated by then as each body was almost hand built. I imagine the automation was never used again as the control cables were removed when the jigs were seperated.
    We were all amazed to see the cars back in production years later. Incidently, we had one of the five Maestro Pick-ups that were made in 89, ran it for years keeping it on the road using an old Bulgarian KD kit. It was used briefly for a photo shoot for the Chinese (after a quick paint job!)I think it eventually went to Longbridge after the Rover sell off.

  12. This is making me very nostalgic for my old 1.6 Mayfair. Bought for £175, which was about the value of the tax and the petrol left in the tank. It was only meant to last a few months, but it just kept going. It could carry anything, though I once loaded it so heavily it took out the exhaust on a speed bump. Power steering died early owing to an incurable tendency to leak fluid – still handled reasonably well once it got above 20mph, but was a nightmare to park.
    Parts availability was terrible by 2002 though. Had to scour ebay for bits. Sadly too many things went wrong at once and it had to go – I’d only just had the head gasket replaced too. Bloke from the Midlands took it as a runaround for his wife, but I think he ended up scrapping it.

  13. Well fantastic to see Maestro… Montego hybrid lived or lives on.
    How people can be so negative against our British car industry is beyond me. Hence now we no longer have one or near enough anyway. The Maestro back in the day was no worse than many of the cars I have driven or owned. Blimey I had plenty of Vauxhalls, Fords BMW’s that were below par, if you don’t believe me think back to 3 series BMW’s not perfect so how could the fiats or alphas any manufacturer be, I rest my case.
    Not just being nostalgic cars are cars but when you think how things were back then, Austin/Rover had some fantastic engineering that was back engineered or took away from them.
    If people still push the point these were badly engineered for the moment they were designed and built for that’s there right, But I say we have a right to reply. The engineers and teams of designers from rover were good, Bloody good. If you don’t think so then why is the Mini BMW’s great seller today as would been for rover up till the time it got pillaged away in yet another bail out mistake for the flagship company.
    We had great car industry hence why all the older cars or lots any way are rovers? 200’s 400’s etc.
    Ok I have said my piece. Thank you to all that took time to read. All I meant is by getting involved in writing my view is the Maestro wasn’t perfect but what cars were back then. For the record if china Maestro was in UK I would go have look lol… Why not be nice to enjoy the sit up and beg driving style.
    Happy new year all.

  14. i bought a ledbury maestro van in 1999 for £4500 and have just completed 380,000 miles not kilometres in it,mileometer reads 607,000kms…i’m a courier..i got it converted to gas when i bought it and get 500 miles to a tank of 70 litres of lpg….it had a brand new engine at 180,000 miles so 2nd one has done 200,000 miles and pulls like a train at the moment.
    Would love to get my hands on another low mileage one…will pay up to £1200

  15. I just wanted to throw in a few memories. “Since I’m thinking of buying one of the NEW Mini Mokes.. made in China.

    I used my Maestro, Montego’s, Sharp’s etc for many, many years.. from my first drink in lesson in a JR4, to m6 last freight Rover. BL,Leyland, Rover, Triumph etc.. etc.. it is a clear fact that without the “British automotive industry” the WORLD’S would not have progressed as quickly in the 21st century.

    Mini. Transverse mount.
    Austin A35, first hatchback.
    Metro, First split rear seat.
    Dolomite, first 16 valve engine..
    the lists of automotive firsts from the British industry is endless… BL/Austin etc. created modern cars as we know them.

  16. I just wanted to throw in a few memories. “Since I’m thinking of buying one of the NEW Mini Mokes.. made in China.

    I used my Maestro, Montego’s, Sharp’s etc for many, many years.. from my first drink in lesson in a JR4, to my last freight Rover. BL,Leyland, Rover, Triumph etc.. etc.. it is a clear fact that without the “British automotive industry” the WORLD would not have progressed as quickly to the 21st century.

    Mini. Transverse mount.
    Austin A35, first hatchback.
    Metro, First split rear seat.
    Dolomite, first 16 valve engine..
    the lists of automotive firsts from the British industry is endless… BL/Austin etc. created modern cars as we know them.

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