Words: Dave Richards Photography: Dave Richards and Tanya Field
On 27 April members of the Maestro & Montego Owners Club met at MINI Plant Oxford for their Drive It Day gathering, but the occasion being celebrated was the 30th birthday of the Montego, launched on 25 April 1984, and built at this site, formerly known as Austin Rover’s Cowley works.
Keen enthusiast Tanya Field had put together a spectacular day for fellow club members, which included access to the small museum on the site and a special display of material loaned by stunt driver Russ Swift, who admitted that a TV advert for the Montego featuring him driving the newly-launched car on two wheels was ‘my big break’ and has resulted in a long career of display driving since.
Cars from all eras of production were on view, but included the rare early MG models featuring the famous ‘talking dashboard’, voiced by actress Nicolette McKenzie. Nicolette herself travelled up from London to meet the owners of the cars keeping her voice alive. She entertained everyone by giving live renditions of ‘The boot is open. The boot is OPEN. THE BOOT IS OPEN’ as she had to record them.
She also cut the celebratory cake, made in the shape and colour of the oldest remaining Montego, registered A122TOO and owned by John Corbett. He travelled up from Brighton in the pre-production car. He told AROnline: ‘It was made before the car was launched and, interestingly, doesn’t have the same type of rear seat belt trims in the parcel shelf as the rest of the cars still in existence.’
Tanya Field said: ‘A really enjoyable day with double the number of Maestros and Montegos that I was expecting – a great sight to see. We were also visited by other classics taking part in Drive It Day and lots of former employees – you can’t beat exchanging stories with those who built the cars. Our VIP, Nicolette McKenzie, was just perfect, it really was a joy to meet and speak to her.’
Visitors in other classics – and not all made by Austin Rover – popped in to the celebrations during the day, as part of the FBHVC’s Drive It Day, but at Cowley Works, it was the Montego’s day in the limelight.