Unsung Heroes : Montego Turbo Diesel

Mike Humble takes a sideways look at one of the sheds that littered the highways and by-ways of the UK. The Montego might have been a little tired by 1989, but the addition of a turbodiesel breathed new life into it.

And for Mike Humble, that record breaking economy and unburstability should be celebrated.

New Light Through Old Windows

Montego Turbo diesel was a 60mpg mile-muncher.
Montego Turbo diesel was a 60mpg mile-muncher.

Now I know for a fact that many people out there will be either laughing or shaking their heads at the thought of a diesel Montego being described as a ‘hero’. But, I ask for a bit of hush and to bear with me as I try to decipher the reasons why the utterly average Montego Diesel rates as being a past master in its field.

I have often regarded the Montego as Austin Rover’s turning point. Where a slim profit was almost within grasp, by throwing away BL traditions of grease nipples and displacers à la Ital or Maxi and replacing them with high technology cars and innovative ideas, which even made Ford sit up and rub its eyes. Soon after launch however, it became obvious that the Montego was not the super car ARG hoped it would be. The launch of the MG Turbo in 1985 picked up morale somewhat, but in all fairness, the Montego was left to soldier on with only very minor revisions until it’s major re-vamp for the 1989 model year.

Since 1986, the Maestro van had been available with the Austin Rover MDi/Perkins Prima 2.0 diesel which was one of the first high speed direct injection for use in a van (the Fiat Croma beat it into car production, though). Perkins, a world leader in diesel technology. It built the engine in kit form in Peterborough, with raw castings such as the engine block, crank and cylinder head coming from Longbridge.

The engine was based on the 2.0-litre O-Series unit and shared its bore/stroke as well as having a visual similarity, but here was where the comparisons ended. The Prima had an amazingly rigid crankcase and strong cylinder block resulting in a low mortality rate. Even in hard use, Perkins really tested and developed these engines to the hilt.

In standard naturally-aspirated form, the Prima developed an average sounding 60bhp but also had a torque curve that started to peak just a few hundred rpm above idle speed. Fuel economy was outstanding – with mpg figures in the high 50s even in a van, the engine was well within it’s design limitations and developers were soon testing turbo versions in secret.

Plans had been afoot for some time regarding a new diesel engine. The only small BL diesel was a derivative of the 1800cc B-Series – and as we know the petrol unit gave way to the O-Series in 1978. And that resulted in the new diesel having a direct bloodline with BMC.

The Montego was fighting its corner in the most aggressive sector. In the mid-’80s, diesel cars were still pretty much the mainstay of taxi fleets – company car drivers would still pound the tarmac with petrol vehicles. But sales of diesels were slowly gathering momentum and Austin Rover – for once it seemed – was on top of the situation with plans in hand for a mid-range diesel car. With revisions to its fueling systems (using a Bosch fuel pump over the traditional C.A.V system) and Garrett turbocharger, the MDi/Prima now developed 80bhp along with an improved torque curve.

My own Monty Diesel – This had 240.000 in the clock when I sold it

In one fell swoop, Austin Rover now had a superb low-cost engine to fit the needs of not only the car range of Maestro/Montego but also Freight Rover with this engine being ideal for the 200 series van. The 1988 motor show was a big event for ARG – now simply named The Rover Group – with a range of improved Maestro/Montegos now sporting diesels and turbo diesels.

The main recipient of this engine was the Montego. For the ’89 model year it sported a revised dash with updated heater controls, clocks, seats, gearboxes and engine management systems – and of course, a turbo diesel. Rover was now back in private ownership being now owned by BAe – and considerable attention was given to quality and branding. It now seemed that Rover could almost, just almost, be a viable long term winner.

Morale at both Longbridge and Cowley was at an all time high. Thanks in part to a good pricing structure, low servicing requirements and class leading fuel economy, the Montego turbo diesel was an instant hit with the public and of course, the motoring journalists.

What Car? magazine named the Montego Turbo Diesel as its family car of the year; quite amazing considering by this time the range was viewed by many as being staid and tired – certainly when compared to the Cavalier and Sierra. Fleet companies were keen to get into the Montego Diesel as no rival could offer 12,000 mile servicing intervals and a cam belt change requirement of an unbelievable 70,000 miles. Even more staggering was the fuel consumption – the Montego Diesel would achieve over 60mpg at 56mph. This was not only class leading, but also a World Record. And Rover wrung the most publicity out of this fantastic engine by doing an AA sponsored economy run gaining over 100 mpg – none too shabby even by today’s standards.

Obviously, with only 80bhp on tap, performance was at best described as average and certainly quicker than the 1.6-litre Cavalier or Peugeot powered Sierra. Early models suffered from gearing that was slightly too high for the engine but Rover saw wise to cure this by altering the final drive and closing the ratios – thus giving much better in gear acceleration while still offering a relaxed top gear for cruising.

At the same time, Perkins engineers with help from Bosch developed clever two stage injectors which drastically reduced the loud diesel ‘crackle’ under heavy engine load. This gave the Montego a quieter drive both in and outside the car. The principle behind this improvement was due to fuel was injected softly at the start of the combustion cycle followed by a high pressure burst to complete the power stroke. Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) also became a standard fit helping to reduce the smoke under turbo boost, a visual effect which the Montego became famous for.

Soon after introduction, sales of the Montego soared both in the company and private sector. The most popular model was the carvernous estate in LX trim, and often specified with power steering – the Montego diesel was a difficult car to manoever at parking speeds.

So in all, the Montego was given a healthy boost by the fitment of this engine. Costs were low, thanks to collaboration with Perkins and – above all – the engine was reliable with recorded mileages in excess of 300,000 miles being regularly noted. The Montego Turbo Diesel officially died in 1995, but the spirit of this engine lived on for another 10 years in the form of the L-Series which was a major re-work of the Rover/Perkins unit.

Mike Humble


  1. Parents looked at the Montego to replace a VW Jetta diesel in 1991 but were put off by a Caravan Club Road Test in which they claimed it could not tow a caravan onto or off a car-ferry. I’ve since found out that this is the same Caravan Club who made the (virtually torque-less) Rover 416 a Towcar of the Year!

  2. I think I remember the Montego TD winning a CAR magazine group test against rivals including the Audi 80 and (then trend-setting) Pug 405. CAR was not naturally inclined to heap praises on Rover products, either, so there can be little doubt this was the Montego “coming good”.

  3. Some time back I drove late Diesel Montego estate countryman, found to be very good workhorse, good on fuel, love to own one, good feature as always. Well done,

  4. Makes you wonder what may have been, if ARG had updated the Monty TDi with some better clothes (although I always found the Monty a pleasing shape) – that engine and performance could have given VAG a serious run for its money. However, oddly, it was too far ahead of its time – TDi engines were still seen as mini-cab stalwarts in the late 80s / early 90s. For the Monty TDi to shine, it needed to be re-skinned in 1995 and re-launched as a Rover 500 saloon / hatch / estate…….

  5. The engine could be a bit agricultural at idle (though probably no worse then others of the time), and i seem to remember it was common to wind the pump back to get them through the MOT then turn them back up again afterwards to give it more power.

    They were a hardy little beast though, it’s just a shame the cars used to rust away around the engine. Many of these lumps have found their way in to Land-Rover Series 3’s though.

    “The Prima had an amazingly rigid crankcase and strong cylinder block resulting in a low mortality rate.”

    I seem to remember though, you could stick the head off an O-series on to the Prima block and convert it to a Petrol engine though. Pretty sure at least one of them was done in the workshop to replace a U/S engine. The O-Series it self was capable of pretty high mileages, i remember an MG Montego with 146k on the clock, the engine was still fine, it’s just the car wasn’t worth anything and the body was getting shabby so it got scrapped.

  6. A bit of a rose tinted perspective in my opinion.
    From what I can remember arg were around 5 years late in entering the field which pug/citroen, gm & ford had sown up.

    Draws parallels with mg of today, mg6 with a 1.8 petrol were anybody with a budget is buying diesels.

    The montego diesel was indeed a fine effort sustained in the later l series diesel rovers but far to late and underrated even by rover themselves.

  7. ‘No rivals’ isn’t strictly true because when I was in the market for a diesel back in 2001, I was looking at the figures for late 80’s/early 90’s diesel engines and the only engine to come close was Fiat’s JTD, which I believe, was fitted to the Croma. In fact, on paper it just trumped the Perkins but only by a really tiny margin. However, what Prima lacked in grace, it more than matched in longevity, and it’s ability to receive such punishment. As an example, I borrowed my mate’s Maestro TD and did a flat out trip between Coventry and Penzance. Now that’s a good 350 miles at night and given the speeds I was able to do, the unit thought nothing of it. And I still had loads of fuel left for the week….

    I loved the low down punch around town, and out in the open you could always feel a gentle pull of the turbo that seemed to provide a constant subtle surge all the way to the top of the rev range.

    I suspect, much like the T16, it was limited in what it could do because of the maximum safe continuous torque that could be put through PG1 thus preserving servicable life of the transmission.

    All in all, if anyone gets to keep a Maestro turbo, hold onto it for dear life and make sure that the bodywork stays good. Totally and utterly dependable beast.

  8. @ dennis no7. I’m pretty sure people did. I know of at least one tuner that managed something in the order of 400hp from what he called was his ‘special O’. I never took a look but he said it was tougher than the normal petrol engines used even in the standard turbo petrol.

    Actually, could anyone tell me if this block was used as the basis for the T16….?

  9. The prima was a masterpiece of 80’s diseasel engineering and its noise output compares favourably with some of todays engines. Remember, this was before the huge padded acoustic engine covers were developed – try putting your head under the bonnet near a JTD with the covers off and your ears will soon be bleeding.

    As a driving experience the mongo turbo was let down by poor ratio selections in the PG1. On the ones I have driven, 1st is too low for smooth starts and in 5th the turbo contunally cuts on and off boost at 60mph making constant speed difficult. You find yourself doing either 80 or 50, bad for progress and keeping your licence.

  10. ROSS A

    Yes the O series block formed the basis for the Mi16 & T series.

    Also, I had friends and relatives who worked for Cummins Diesel back in the 80`s at the Darlington engine plant. On a visit to the factory (at a time when they were tooling up for the Roadrunner truck engine) they were inspecting a batch of Prima diesels they had somehow aquired, owing to Cummins considering a car diesel of their own – sniff ahem!

    I was told the design brief was so harsh and attentive that these engines had to withstand a 25% overspeed test which lasted 2 hours with 15 coolant temperature fluctuations / thermal load, varying from hot to cold over a 5 minute period.

    On a training visit to Peterborough, I was told that the only reason stopping the engine revving even higher was the inability of the fueling system to provide a fast enough shot of fuel into the bores and getting a “clean” enough burn. They were good for 5700rpm under tests – EEK!

    The only bug bears from a technical point of view were shearing of the glow plugs (even though they will always start without them) – water pump leaks and HGF, though the latter was quite often as a result of the gasket fire rings corroding because of no anti freeze being present – a knock on problem of a leaky rad being topped up with plain water!

    A nice engine to work on too, Perkins realised that pattern fit timing belts would be used, so they fitted a vernieresque cam pulley while keeping the adjustable jockey wheel so you could allways get the cam belt tightened without the usual huffing, puffing and swearing.

    Ruddy loved that engine!

  11. I remember a couple of things from my days at Clarks Rover in Leicester regarding the 2.0 O-Diesel.Firstly when the van became diesel everyone commented what a Q-van it was and the measure of it’s performance was how quickly you could wear the front pads out!.Montego’s were very slow in warming up during the winter and the greatest buzz was road testing them after a service and accelerating till the governor cut in by which time you could not see behind you for soot.Great when going past bike riders !.

  12. Collywobs:

    Yes, you could hammer the brakes – I could never understand why Rover never fitted vented brakes at the front as they did with 2.0 petrol engines.

    A parts driver I was “playing a tune” with for a while, said she though the Maestro diesel van was like sitting in a wheelie bin while someone brayed it with two pair of hammers!

  13. Good article, I’ve always regarded the diesel Montego as a bit of a hidden gem.

    Strange to think that only 3 years separated the Montego & the Rover 75..

  14. i think the best small van i ever owned was a maestro diesel it used pull trees up with the torque!didnt the gearbox out of this end up in the frelander?

  15. The Monty TDs were really popular with the taxi boys around my part of the world in the 90s. They were everywhere (usually in black) and recognised so much as taxis that I used to get flagged down quite regularly by people who thought the blue Monty I ran around in for a while was a mini-cab for hire!

    There was one firm/group of cabbies who took a leaf out of the Met Police’s book and stockpiled a few when they found out the plug was being pulled, like the plod did with V8 SD1s.

    They were still running around in them until well into the 2000s. Now the mini-cab of choice is usually Japanese or Korean in origin.

    Good car the Monty. Always had a soft spot for them. never cool, a little staid but did exactly what it said on the tin – as it were.

  16. My mates dad has one as a taxi – nice ride and pretty smooth compared to other diesels in the 80’s. The only prob was that it rusted away after 6 years. He replaced it with a Cavalier – just shows what bad reps do to brands.

  17. Good read.
    It is a shame that the engine was not put in more cars across the BL range.

    Actually why were they not put in more cars ?
    Perkins could have done a deal with other car makers as well.

    Just shows how well diesels have come along.

    Does anyone know what the torque figures were for the 2.0L diesel engine ?

    The figures that I have been reading above make my Kia Rio Diesel seem like a pocket rocket (1.5L, 109Bhp and 176ft/lb torque).

    • kia reo now there’s a dead boring crap so not interesting out of date car that should never have graced britain’s roads.no where near as interesting as anything with the rover V8

  18. I was very lucky to work for Perkins Diesel engines from 1988 until 1991, and have great respect for the Perkins Prima diesel engine. I used to borrow Montego Disel estates for business trips and found them superb, so much so that I would have one now if they had not all rusted away. The Montgo series 2 was excellent with very comfortable seats and stylish trim. The estate became almost trendy which was unheard of for an ARG product and many mourned its passing in 1995. Just wish Roy Axe’s Rover 600 reskin had gone ahead for 1989 which a hatch, saloon and estate to take on the Cavalier – I think it could have been market leader in the upper medium sector. Soon afterwards I owned an F reg Montego 1.6 SL which I bought for 1000 pounds with 100k on the clock. I ran that car for 3 years and sold it for 500 pounds with 152,000 miles on the clock!! Happy days.

  19. @ Mike – No.12

    ah now that makes perfect sense. I remember reading an article where a tuner had produced about 1000hp from a high tuned T16 and he’d mentioned that it had roughly the same characteristics as Ford’s YB Cosworth engine, yet was a fraction of the price. Article was in Cars and Car Conversions sometime ago and I’ll try and dig it up. Are they under Octane’s publishers? Keith might be able to find the article to and get more information..

  20. ^^ another popular conversion was putting the T16 into Rover 25’s since the diesel was used in the early R3’s.

  21. @Mike

    thanks for that. I would be interested in an article on the diesel engine section.

    if anyone has time, I would enjoy a good article on how the O series was dieselised.

    I bet its not a simple process.

  22. We had a 2.0DSL was my dads and the car I learned to drive in. Owned by my Grandad from new. Super car and I’d have another tomorrow

  23. Funnily enough, one of these old beasts just clanked past me on my lunchtime run. Memories flooded back of the mid and late 1990s when we ran a Monty diesel and a 1.3 base Maestro at the same time. It’s easy to understand why the Maestro handled better, but harder to explain why mine cost next to nothing in repairs, whilst the Monty removed almost £2,000 from my wallet in parts costs over 18 months. Both cars were at a similar age and mileage.

    I think many aspects of the Monty’s design were overstretched with this engine and the life expectancy placed on the car as a result. Apart from the rear wheel arch rot – which seemed worse on the estates with different stresses – other design faults included flimsy wiper linkages made from sheet metal and door mirror springs. Wheel bearings were also reckoned to be weak, but mine never gave problems.

    Other faults with mine like a knackered master cylinder, heater matrix, clutch and even the head gasket could have happened to any older car at any time and I was probably just unlucky. Even fifteen years later, I’d rather not return to Montego Bay, as I named the area surrounding the Perkins Prima on my rainy West Midlands drive.

    It may not have been a VW rival, but it was probably on a par with French models of the era and similarly priced.

    I thought EGR was only fitted to later models – mine was a late 1990 model but didn’t have it.

    Didn’t the MoD buy a large fleet just before production ended? Many were L and M registered, and I suppose most private punters would have preferred the R8 or the 600 by then. Wonder if any survive?

  24. Bobby: I had a diesel and an MG Montego in a short space of time. The diesel didn’t handle badly at all; it wasn’t as good as the MG, but it wasn’t a horrible contrast either.

  25. Someone did post on the old forum a picture of a P reg Montego, which was ex-MOD.

    I guess it was stored for a time before being registered, a bit like the last Met Rover SD1’s & even some Royal Mail vans.

  26. The Perkins Prima is a great engine – the lack of Montegos fitted with same still surviving is undoubtedly due to the fact that the engine is highly prized as a transplant for elderly Series Land Rovers, where it fits well and is suited to the gearing.

  27. A very economical engine, but a bit rough. Was it really so agricultural that they had to use the Peugeot diesels in R8 instead?

  28. I suspect the Peugeot diesels ended up in the R8 because of the scuttle height and packaging dictated by the Honda genetics.

  29. “Perkins could have done a deal with other car makers as well.”

    I think although the work was done by Perkins the IP was actually owned by ARG who actually wrote the cheques.

    “I suspect the Peugeot diesels ended up in the R8 because of the scuttle height and packaging dictated by the Honda genetics.”

    Possibly something to do with new car emissions regs too, the old Prima’s used to struggle a bit come MOT time. XUD’s were generally a cleaner running lump.

    The Prima did live on though. The L-Series was a development of the Prima.

  30. The rebodied Montego, with styling by Axe, would have been a formidable prospect with this engine and the Rover badge.

    I’m sure I should know this, but was the G-series diesel descended from the L-series, and therfore the prima?

  31. I well remember test driving a Maestro DLX with a naturally aspirated Prima, I came away completely underwhelmed.
    I found it slow, noisy and too low geared for dual-carriageway cruising.

    It made my 1300 petrol Maestro feel fast and refined!

  32. “I well remember test driving a Maestro DLX with a naturally aspirated Prima, I came away completely underwhelmed.
    I found it slow, noisy and too low geared for dual-carriageway cruising.”

    I tried a friend’s Maestro DLX and was actually very impressed, it was certainly better than my Escort 1.8 Diesel (wouldn’t have been too difficult…) and pulled like a train from low revs all the way up to the governor. It was better on derv than my Escort, too. It was, however, very noisy, the engine noise was always noticeable. Compared to a petrol engine though, like any diesel at the time it would have seemed unrefined.

  33. “I’m guessing that decision about the Peugeot engine was on BAe-influenced cost grounds”

    Could be, but buying in Pug engines could well have cost more than making your own. Unless the MDi needed some development work to make it compliant.

    “Rover chosing to use the XUD over the Prima IN R8 was CRIMINAL.”
    I think criminal is a bit strong, the Prima was a good lump but the XUD was a superb engine. The XUD certainly ran a lot cleaner.

  34. Well Dennis, in dropped the diesel batton, Rover lost valuable sales ground from which it never recovered. Ultimately it went bust and that is CRIMINAL. Compare that to VAG’s inferior offering at the time and the company’s fortunes…..look too towards PSA diesels which are now in every Ford, Jag, Land Rover and previously, MINIS. They all use the technology pioneered by Austin Rover Group and Perkins. So, how would you describe deleting a world beating home grown offering for a technilogical and financial retreat?

  35. Sorry to be an iconoclast but I reckon Rover was correct in choosing the XUD for R8.

    Peugeot’s diesel was extremely well regarded by the fleet trade as a solid motor, the problem was that the Peugeot cars it was fitted to were not built so well! We had several reps that loved the engine- but hated bits continually falling off the their cars!
    One rep jokingly remarked ‘I could be the first person in history to clock a car forward!’

    Putting that engine in R8 gave the market arguably the best small diesel engine in the best small car.

  36. Looking at this article brought back fond memories of my montego estate from years back – excellent car, versatile and reliable, if a little basic. Anyway had a look on ebay just to see if there are any about and ended up putting in a low cheeky bid on a 216 cabriolet.
    Checked ebay later this evening and now its a trip to….Grimsby. “I appear to have bought a car dear”

  37. XUD was a great engine. R8 (and early HH 400s?). Even Toyota, for all of their quality processes, chose the XUD as their Euro diesel block.

    Much better than the HDi that was in my Pug that just seemed to blow sensors and break mounts.

    XUD Citroen ZX should be an ‘unsung hero’. Was a fantastic car as a student.

  38. Oh no Will, the ZX may be a leap ahead in terms of quality for Citroen, but a hero for the company? I dont think so, about as exiting as Spam and as desireable as a cold sore – rather like the above featured car, but the ZX hardly represented a turning point in the comapany’s survival let alone give any ground breaking world firsts.

    Now… the BX diesel? ahh now your’e talking!

  39. Mmm, BX Diesel. I had a BX DTR Turbo, the hot one with the GTi bodystyling and interior, in white with the Hammersmith flyover rear spoiler option! It went like manure off the proverbial garden implement, and did 45mpg all day long, despite me driving it in a spirited fashion! Absolutely loved that car. A friend had an Escort RS Turbo and he couldn’t keep up with me, the torque was so good in the BX’s lightweight body.

  40. Dont get me talking about ZX Diesels… had two of them, an early one (K reg Advantage I think?) with the sliding back seat, Instrument clocks that illuminated with the ignition, So at night you sometimes drove with no lights on! and the uncovered belt for the vacuum servo pump, It had the lower gearing so quite nimble but a screamer on the motorway, although quieter engine note than a Ford, it did use a fair bit of fuel.

    2nd ZX in silver (special edition Temptation If I remember? ) had the quieter engine (no servo belt on this one) and higher gearing, better on fuel but still behind equivalent escort 1.8D, Both Citroens were fairly reliable apart from seizing brake callipers, fondest memory’s were pushing it too fast into bends then backing off making the rear wheels twitch… such huge fun.

    I cannot vouch for the Prima Diesel but did own the L series Diesel in our rover 220, we had it over 5 yrs and hardly cost us anything, Another early example N reg which also had the 3 glow plugs… wonder why they did that? although it never affected its cold starting ability, In fact it started better than our Golf 1.9TDi.. Had a more pleasant engine note when pressed and quite fun when you kept in on the boil, shame its body was falling apart hence trading it in.

    Never found out why the LDV vans used Peugeot 1.9D and Ford Transit engines instead of the L series? Or did they use them for a short time?

  41. I’ve often heard that the XUD was ahead of the game when it was introduced, did it pioneer any new technology like the Prima?

    The late 1980s – early 90s Citroens (apart from the XM) seem to have a niche in bangernomics circles, I guess being lest gadgety then previous models helps.

  42. @ Darren:

    You are right on the reasons why Rover Cars chose to use the XUD engine in the R8 200/400 Series.

    On the continent sales of diesel engined cars were far more popular compared to in the UK and Rover knew that in order to compete with the best, it would need a very good engine that offered more refinement and reduced NVH levels over the Prima unit.

    From a financial point of view, buying in engines from PSA was not the best answer compared to fitting home-grown units. But on the continent the XUD-powered Rover 200/400 models were very well received, thus rewarding Rover Cars with some useful revenue they might not have been blessed with if they had gone down the Prima route instead.

  43. Quite right David3500

    Perkins were pretty much an unknown quantity in Europe, certainly compared with the likes of Cummins. It made perfect sense to use the XUD, besides, the engine was lighter and available in more than one size.

    Besides, the raw cost of the prima went skywards after LDV opted out of buying the prima, instead also opting for a non turbo XUD for the 200 / Pilot van range.

  44. My dad used to own a 1992 Maestro Clubman D with the Turbo Prima engine, it used the really take off when the turbo kicked in. He used to enjoy burning people off going down our local dual carriageway ,mind you could’t see them for smoke !
    The amount of torque on tick over was phenomenal. He started the car leaning through the drivers window not realising it was in gear and it burst into life straight away and bent the front of the car in and nearly demolished the work bench before he could switch the engine off ! I used to own 1991 NASP Prima Meastro and the fuel cut off soleniod did’t always work and it was almost impossible to stop the engine it had so much torque.Both mine and his used to get through front wheel bearings like there was no tomorrow.The bodywork on both of them was diabolical, they rusted everywhere – A pillars, door bottoms, rear arches, sills and the tailgate. Did they skimp on the rust proofing or use thinner gauge steel on the later ones ?

  45. “early example N reg which also had the 3 glow plugs… wonder why they did that?”

    They did the same with the TD5 engine, it was probably down to cost, but i wonder if it was to do with poor access for the 4th one. On a lot of diesels the pump is in the way of the 4th glow plug, so it seldom gets changed in service, you often find only 3 get replaced.

    “The bodywork on both of them was diabolical, they rusted everywhere – A pillars, door bottoms, rear arches, sills and the tailgate. Did they skimp on the rust proofing or use thinner gauge steel on the later ones ?”

    I’m not sure they did anything different on later ones, they all went rotten just the same really. Thinner steel makes no real difference, if it’s coated properly it wont rust.

    “Never found out why the LDV vans used Peugeot 1.9D and Ford Transit engines instead of the L series? Or did they use them for a short time?”

    The Convoy’s used almost all Ford Running Gear, Gearbox, propshaft & axles, so the engine would already marry to the gearbox off the shelf. I expect it was probably cheaper to buy in all the parts from Ford’s suppliers.

    The XUD may have been cheaper than the L-Series, seeing as Peugeot had the economies of scale making a lot more XUD’s than Rover were building L-Series units. Don’t forget though, by then LDV had no real connection to Rover Group, so had no reason or obligation to buy from Rover. The XUD had a better reputation, whereas the L-Series was still a bit of an unknown quantity.

  46. They used that God Awful Rover 2.5 in the 400 series didn’t they? The one that was so rough it used to shake the vehicle to bits? Was just about ok in the Land-Rover.

    I know Carbodies used them, and they were so bad they were buying back taxi’s and fitting them with Indian Built Austin engines.

    I suppose that might have put LDV off a bit too.

  47. Don’t know much technical detai but do know that the Perkins Prima diesel was a good engine and at the top of the pile where mpg was concerned.

    My comments are more general Montego. Considering it was a stretched Maestro, and in some ways an awkward stretch, the Monty did have appeal. The 89 facelift, Roverisation, was a typical example of what Rover could achieve on a limited budget. The interior achieved an above mass market ambience whilst the exterior if still a bit awkward became definitely Rover as opposed to Austin. And all with so little significant change.
    I’m sure if I saw a well maintained MG or Countryman today I’d think “nice car!”.
    The re-skin as shown elsewhere on this web site would have sold well especially sitting above R8. As always, however, changing management, ownership prevented a long term, cohesive model plan……

    The ’89 Montego facelift typified the high watermark of the late eighties, early nineties. Rover had a definite quality feel, a unique feel at this time. Such a shame it wasn’t successfully maintained, capitalised upon….

  48. Dennis

    The Land Rover 2.5 diesel was last used in the 300 series Sherpa. After they were merged to form Leyland Daf, that engine along with the SD1 derived gearbox were replaced with the Peugeot drivetrain and the van became the 400s series.

    The Sherpa 350 was also available with the ultra rare Land Rover 2.5 Turbo option in the final years of Freight Rover.

  49. David Dawson:

    ” Don’t know much technical detai but do know that the Perkins Prima diesel was a good engine and at the top of the pile where mpg was concerned.

    My comments are more general Montego. Considering it was a stretched Maestro, and in some ways an awkward stretch, the Monty did have appeal. The 89 facelift, Roverisation, was a typical example of what Rover could achieve on a limited budget. The interior achieved an above mass market ambience whilst the exterior if still a bit awkward became definitely Rover as opposed to Austin. And all with so little significant change.
    I’m sure if I saw a well maintained MG or Countryman today I’d think “nice car!”.
    The re-skin as shown elsewhere on this web site would have sold well especially sitting above R8. As always, however, changing management, ownership prevented a long term, cohesive model plan……

    The ’89 Montego facelift typified the high watermark of the late eighties, early nineties. Rover had a definite quality feel, a unique feel at this time. Such a shame it wasn’t successfully maintained, capitalised upon…. ”

    I don’t understand what people saw in the facelift of the Montego; I bought Montegos new in the 1980’s and the facelift of the car saw the seats and their fabric, along with the quality of the plastics in the dash, moved substantially downmarket. My last Montego was a near new 1989 2.0HL estate; one of the very last before the facelift. As far as I was concerned, this was as good as Montegos ever got (the need for leaded fuel aside).

    By the time the 1989 Montego needed replacing, two years later, the market had moved on and the facelifted Montego was not only a backward step, but there were better cars out there.

    The diesels had a huge following, but they did have a reputation for smoking and producing even more noise and shaking than the characterful, but crude, O Series that it was based upon.

  50. There is at least one of these still in use! I pass a diesel estate (dark green) most mornings on the M40, near Banbury.

  51. “”The bodywork on both of them was diabolical, they rusted everywhere – A pillars, door bottoms, rear arches, sills and the tailgate. Did they skimp on the rust proofing or use thinner gauge steel on the later ones ?”

    I’m not sure they did anything different on later ones, they all went rotten just the same really. Thinner steel makes no real difference, if it’s coated properly it wont rust.”

    Remember following a 94 (L reg) Monty estate in 2003, 9 year old and the bootlid had terminal rust!
    Mind you, my 92 (K reg) Orion wheel arches were made of filler!
    Could you imagine it now, a 2002-2003, or even 1999 75 tourer or Focus with rusty tailgates and arches!?

  52. @ Will M.
    Some early Focuses are showing signs of the tin worm around the tail gate and other suspect areas. Then again Ford did have a rust proofing issue in I think in 1998-2001 (can anyone verify that?).
    And a the worst for rust are Mercedes built in the late 90’s to about 02′. They rust on front wings, arches, doors bonnets, boot-lids, underbodies, sills…just about everywhere they bubble up, in particular the W210 E-Class and the W202 and some early W203 C-Classes. It’s a major issue for Merk owners. The best for Rust proofing in that age seem to be Rover (I’m yet to see a rusty 75, 45 or 25) and ironically given their past issues, Vauxhalls seem pretty solid.

  53. I’ve not seen many Focuses looking in bad shape, though some Kas I’ve seen with blistering paintwork.

    I did see a P reg Mercedes with a surprising amount of rust, something I would expect on a car 10 years older.

  54. @ Frankie the 75 nut.
    Don’t forget the earliest Focii are 12-13 years old – but think back to the early Cortina/Escort days when those cars would receive a new set of sills and turret tops for their 7th or 8th birthday!

  55. @ Frankie the 75 nut.

    It does happen, but it is surprising the suspects. 90s Citroens don’t rust, yet my 2002 406 (PSA same company as Citroen) had rust around the bottom of the passenger side doors.

    See a lot of rusty late 90s Mercs, mk3 VW Golfs and mk1/2 Mondeos (especially the oval grille mk2, every one of which seems to have bumpers held together by gaffer tape!).

    90s Rovers have aged extremely well in comparison.

  56. @ Will M. Yes, WHY DO MK II Mondeos have that problem?? I always thought it was only me who noticed that…I can’t say I’ve noticed rust on Golfs, will keep one’s eyes peeled…very odd about the 406 going and not Citrons
    But yes, good ‘ole Rover, they’re doing Longbridge proud!

  57. I liked my Montego 2.0 SLX Turbo Diesel apart from the smokey exhaust which must have harmed the car’s image, and it was a bit noisy and clattery at idle/low speed. It was roomy, it was economical and it rode and handled well.

  58. We had four Montego Turbodiesel estates. My wife and I were doing very big mileages in 1995-2003 and had one each. I bought them at about 50k miles and ran them to 200k or more and replaced them with two more. Utterly reliable, unwilling to do less than 52mpg and very sadly missed by the whole family. Not many cars invoke that sort of loyalty and such fond memories.

  59. In 1992 i hired a 30 ft cruiser on the norfolk broads and that boat was fitted with that very 2.o litre perkins diesel engine, i used it for 2 weeks, it was fab on fuel….

  60. @ Ian S. Yes, that’s a very good point! Most Cortinas would have partially oxidised at that stage…

  61. I ran two of these saloons,
    An ex demo dlx in henley blue…the parts bin had been at work as it came withe GTI Montego trim and back flash but still they came with Marina hinges and door hardware!
    And also an ex MOD dlx in stone metallic standard trim for 500,000 miles as a taxi. No sunroof on these as the MOD needed the rooves on the car for comms equipment.
    I also fitted an anti roll bar at the back from an MG with 15” alloys to improve the handling as the extra weight at the front made it roll a lot. I remember a boy racer going off on a tight bend behind me in an mk6 escort rs-Gti whilst mine was still firm and tight.
    Still using no water or oil at all when disposing for a 405.
    Good points were the unburstable engine and mid range torque and cavernous interior.
    Bad points, rust and general scabbiness despite waxoyling etc and an appetite for engine mountings,lift pumps,clutches, brake pads on solid disc models and several/many bushes. Also the rear shocks would occasionally appear (loudly!)in the boot when the top caps rotted out. My two had manual steering which gave me an 8 hour workout each and every shift!!! Also the cambelt idler was outside of the cover which would drag in the odd failing fan belt or stray road debris on these cars which a few of us suffered, neccessitating in new cylinder heads.
    The good thing was that when they did go wrong , they fixed up fairly easily and cheaply except engine parts.
    Would I have one again..definately for sure.


  62. I’ had a Montego TD, my camshaft broke, then I’ have to change the cylinder head gasket. It was too much for me, I sold it for an Opel Vectra TD!

    • Removing the cylinder head on the Perkins (non-turbo diesel Maestro Van ) very time consuming, 8 hours due to so many parts to unbolt and poor access, and another 8 hours to bolt everything together. The glowplugs were a problem too, oil leaks, the glowplugs did not screw into the heawds, they sat on a copper washer with a flimsy hold down bracket and stud which threatened to shear. The bucket and shim valve clearances settings were another nightmare, you needed a scrap cylinder head upper half which you modified by cutting inspection / access windows to remove the guesswork from the task.

      A very poor engine from the point of view of the repair and service mechanic in my experience.

  63. We used to have a Montego Countryman 2.0 TD on a 1993 L reg. It used to easily do 58MPG and could be started without waiting for the glow plug light to go out and would start instantly every time even when it was well below freezing or after it had been standing for 3 weeks.

  64. and i’ve just found a video on youtube of a 2.0TD been started up. Brings back memories hearing that noise again

  65. Hi, I’ve just fitted a Prima into our 24′ fishing boat. Beats the pants off hand start Listers on every count.Starting,power,economy, silence and vibration.Ran them for years in vans and cars.Shame they’ve all about gone now.Thank goodness we’ve a yard full of them, and I snap up any that I come across.

  66. Perkins allso made this engine for industrial use & was named the 500 series, I have seen it fitted in some Atlas Copco compressors and as marine engines as mark powell said in his comment above, follow this url http://www.perkins.com/cda/files/287332/7/Engine+Number+Guide+PP827.pdf for perkins engine number guide.
    at the time the 500 series/ prima engine was in development Perkins was still owned by Massey Ferguson & as far as I am aware it was never fitted into any of their agricultural products,however the 4.108 engine found its way into bedford vans of the 70’s & one of Perkins main vehicle customers other than AR was RVI (Renault Véhicules Industriels)part of the PSA group who bought Chryslers eurpoean division hence the Dodge name,they used Perkins engines in their range of Dodge trucks & larger vans in the early 80’s. Nowadays Perkins is owned by Caterpillar who have integrated their own range of engines into Perkins, here we see yet again another truly great British manuafacturer taken over by another large American conglomerate.

  67. bizarely theres a vid on youtube of 2 reliant scimitars with diesel conversions- 2.5 psa td & prima tdi unbelieveably the prima is the quieter of the two!!!

  68. A friend of mine in the trade had a XJS with a Nissan Patrol Straight Six Diesel transplanted into it, grim, each to their own!

  69. Edgars Rover were still doing a brisk trade in L and M reg diesel Montegos at the end of the nineties when petrol versions had become worthless as trade ins. I remember seeing an immaculate red M reg one going for £ 3000 in 1999, and for all I had recently bought a different car from Edgars, wished I had bought one of these. 58 mpg, 110 mph, plenty of space, a totally reliable engine and very cheap servicing costs, the diesel Montego was an excellent car and vastly better than the original Montego.

  70. I have good memories of Montego car times and think it would be a pitty not to make them again … it is one of my favourite car models of all time and I especially like the way I can be seen when I’m sitting on the back

  71. The Montego is now one of the rarest British cars on the roads now due to its perceived undesirability as a classic and problems on early cars. Ironically there are more Vauxhall Victors running, another car with rust problems and even older than the Montego.

  72. I had an LDV 200 bus for almost 5 years with the Perkins. It was a frugal and reliable family workhorse. It was my favourite of all the sheds I drove. Happy days! The engine was the best ever.

  73. Lucky owner of Montego 2.0 GTD Estate Diesel – from 1993 and done 300.000Km.
    Only one in Denmark ( it is an ex German car, so LHD ) – and beleive it or not – just to show how strange Denmark is, – it costs the equivalent of 900 UK£ in yearly road tax!! The only reason it will have to die in 2 years time.
    Anybody knows what I should do with it “after death”?? ( will get a 200£ scrap bonus).
    Tbanks for a wonderful car!!

  74. My Diesel montego had 286 thousand on the clock before i retired it. I’t’s now in dry storage and someday I’ll put it back on the road. It needs brake discs, pads and a drive shaft. and theres an oil leak from the gear box.

  75. Sad thing is, good as the diesel Montego was, Ford and Vauxhall had been offering diesel versions of the Sierra and Cavalier since 1983. All Austin Rover offered as a diesel before 1989 was the shortlived diesel Rover SD1 and the mass market cars like the Maestro and Montego did without well into their careers. Yet when diesel versions of the Maestro and Montego were launched, along with a big improvement in build quality, these were rightly praised for their ability to take huge mileages without problems, excellent economy and decent performance in turbo form.

  76. Apparently someone has put this engine into a landcrab (a Morris as far as I know). Anyone have any details or a how to. I’d love a turbodiesel/supercharged diesel landcrab. I was going to go with the BMC B diesel + turbo.

  77. Rather the same as when Talbot( adventurous for the time as diesels were in their early days) introduced a diesel version of the Horizon, a diesel Montego gave the struggling range a sales boost. Here at least was a Montego that was as fast as the carburated 2 litre model, could return over 50 mpg, had an engine that was unbreakable and was easy to maintain. No wonder the MOD and some fleet buyers were won over.

  78. Interesting how diesel economy hasn’t advanced much in 30 years. I had the loan of a Skoda Octavia 1.6 diesel estate( 400 cc smaller than the Montego) and it was averaging 64 mpg on the open road, only 4 mpg more than the bigger engined Montego. Obviously 64 mpg is a very good figure for quite a large car, but diesels seem to have shown little advance in economy in the last 30 years. Maybe as the technology is being phased out and buyers are moving to hybrids and TSI style petrol engines, there’s no point in improving diesels now.

      • It’s not just emissions, it’s performance. The faster you make any icu be it petrol or diesel the more it uses. How quick was a montego? For the time not bad as diesels go but probably not a patch on the Octavia.

        • The Octavia was the base model that would probably reach 120 mph. I think the diesel Montego was good for 110. However, diesels are on their way out, with Skoda largely phasing them out for their smaller cars, so I suppose there’s little point in improving them now.

  79. The Perkins Prima still lives on in many sailboats. Volvo licensed and sold it as Volvo Penta MD22 with a marine heat exchanger for indirect sea water cooling. It was fitted in new boats until 2001. We’ve got one such lucky boat, as the engine is very reliable and apart from a clogged PCV valve we’ve had little problems with it. It’s also much cheaper to buy Perkins parts than Volvo Penta parts!

  80. Tuve un Montego 2,0 TD del año 89. Llegué a instalarle un intercooler de desguace con un par de conductos de goma hechos a medida para refrigerar el aire; a pesar de variar la presión de la válvula waste-gate del turbo, no noté apreciables diferencias de potencia o velocidad. Entre sus virtudes estaba el consumo, unos 5,5 litros a los cien. Entre sus defectos, el alto nivel sonoro del motor y la transmisión delantera, cuyos rodamientos no aguantaban bien el peso del motor y había que cambiarlos cada año. Los cierres centralizados fallaban bastante también. La estética del coche era muy acertada.

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