Unsung Heroes : Austin Maestro 1.3

Anyone who knows Keith Adams might be a little surprised at this choice of Unsung Hero, especially considering the chequered history he has with A-Series Maestros.

However, despite the dramas, there’s no doubting that Spen King’s post-Allegro Volkswagen Golf remix was far more worthy than the sum of its parts.

The unfulfilled symphony

Podgy steering aside, the Maestro 1.3L was actually quite a good drive...
Podgy steering aside, the Maestro 1.3L was actually quite a good drive…

If we were to choose AROnline‘s signature car, the Maestro would be able to make a great case for itself. On the old HTML site, the Maestro/Montego’s index page was by far the largest of all and, out of all the owners clubs and websites out there, it’s probably the Maestro and Montego’s that we retain the closest links with. I’ve personally owned several Maestros and, although they have provided me with as many downs as ups, there’s a little place in my heart reserved for the car that wore its green and blue chevrons with pride.

When it was launched in March 1983, the Maestro carried the expectations of a nation on its shoulders. Although the Metro had proved a huge sales hit when it burst on to the scene amid a patriotic swell of tearful emotion, with the Maestro would come volume and profit. And with profit would come recovery for BL Limited. It was the heart of what former Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Edwardes described as the company’s ‘product-led recovery’ – one sadly that he’d not witness, neither as a company employee, nor as an outsider, because that recovery never came.

We’ve analysed the Maestro to the nth degree on this website – and, as well as the Development Story, further articles by Steven Ward and Ian Nicholls are well worth spending ten minutes on. However, I think that with all of these Unsung Heroes being written about on the website, it’s high time we mark the 1.3-litre Maestro’s similar status. Why do I think the Maestro as an unsung hero right now, given that we all know how practical, economical and efficient it is? Probably because it’s also as fashionable as a New Kids on the Block cassette played on a Saisho ghetto blaster at full volume on Worksop high street.

The Maestro’s unfashionable status isn’t a recent phenomenon though. It’s March 1983 and, even as those first press cars were unveiled to those international journalists in Southern Spain, there was an uneasy sense that BL had made something of a mistake with the Maestro’s styling. CAR Magazine’s Steve Cropley may have described it as ‘refreshingly modern, with some overtones (and no nasty ones) of the Maxi and Allegro’, but most commentators were deeply unimpressed. This was an exciting era of car design – sharp origami still looked good, but we were moving into the aero era… and the poor old Maestro (with its design signed off by 1976) was a member of neither camp. Optimists might have described the Maestro as timeless, but realists thought differently.

So, it was never a fashionable choice. But one thing the Maestro was – essentially – was well-engineered. The bodyshell was reasonably stiff, with sturdy sills, the interior exceptionally roomy and hardly heavyweight in construction. That interior was also airy as well as roomy – the glass area is huge, and rear seat passengers sit higher than those in the front, for a relatively unimpeded view forward. As for performance and economy – and despite the age of its engines – the Maestro was as quick and economical as an Astra or Escort, and no more unrefined than the latter – an exceptional achievement, especially for the lowly 1.3-litre car.

On the road, the Maestro was pretty good, too. The suspension set-up, developed by Spen King during one of his pragmatic phases, was thoroughly conventional with MacPherson struts up-front and a VW Golf-apeing beam axle at the rear. However, it was carefully developed and blessed with long-travel suspension and supple damping, giving it class-leading ride quality. Of course, the 1.3-litre version, lacking roll-bars and tyre width, lacked a little grip, but the steering (geared at 4.5-turns from lock-to-lock) was light without PAS, and blessed with bags of feel.

In short, back in 1983, it was a better bet than a Ford Escort MkIII – and yet somehow less desirable.

I had my first experience of the Maestro in 1988. As an avid reader of What Car? and CAR Magazine, I was more than aware of the Maestro’s victories in a string of group tests – making it good enough to be the former’s Family Car of the Year in 1984 and 1985. I liked it. I thought this would be the one to have. Even as late as August ’88, the Maestro – now boasting two-tone paint and a much-improved dashboard – was putting in a good performance in CAR Magazine, seeing off the Escort, Golf II and Astra in a Giant Test. Sadly, it also concluded that the class of ’88 was far less desirable than the class of ’71… and that they all had something to learn from the Alfa Romeo Alfasud and Citroen GS.

So during that summer, when my poor, long-suffering brother approached me to find him a 1.3-litre hatchback for about £3000 to replace his long-suffering Ford Cortina 1.3, I completely ignored his desire for an Escort and favoured the Austin. I visited a couple of local dealers, tried a number of Escorts and Maestros, convinced myself I was right to go with a Maestro, and pushed on with the plan to buy one for him. In the end, I chose a Rattan Beige 1.3L with complementing chocolate interior. Registered A783 LNF, it was one of the first off the line and as basic as it came. No rev counter, one door mirror and no stereo – a snip at £2795.

He was away when I bought the car, so for a couple of weeks, I had the Maestro to myself. And have to say, as an 18-year old, it was rather good. It was as quick as I needed (pace of life must have been much more leisurely in 1988 Blackpool), and had an air of respectability that far transcended my real position in life at the time. I was happy with the choice – and sad when he came to collect his car, leaving me to head back to my N-registered Honda Civic. Ah, well.

But A783 LNF would make its way back into my hands a couple of years later, when tiring of his car, my brother was convinced by me to swap for my 1981 Fiat Strada. We were both happy with that deal. I’d obviously seen his Maestro a few times during his ownership, and had been following it keenly. First, I fitted a Motorola stereo to it. Then, in the summer of ’89, I needed to repair the door bottoms for him, which were rusting away (at five years old remember!), and practised my art with the Isopon P38 and Rattan Beige rattle-can. I think it was the first rusty Maestro I’d ever seen!

Anyway, a year later, it was mine and, as a 20-year old, living in the age of the 48p litre of petrol, I ended up driving all over the country in it. By six years old, it was already feeling tired though – and, although I’d happily run it up to 100mph (and beyond) on the motorway and throw it around country lanes, things were beginning to go haywire. It began to break down mysteriously – first, the electronic control of the carburettor failed – and then, one evening driving along minding my own business with my girlfriend alongside me, all the dashboard lights came on and the throttle jammed open. I think, at that point, her hatred of Maestros was cemented – and has remained that way to this day.

Needless to say, A783 LNF moved on. I placed it in the Blackpool Evening Gazette for the bargain price of £1000. And ended up waiting. And waiting. And waiting. As far as I knew, this was the first £1000 Maestro ever advertised, and no one wanted it. But, still, that was the punters’ loss as, in the end, I found a local trader who was initially happy to swap it for an A-registered Rover SD1 in Targa Red – mind you, following an examination of the Maestro’s underside on a ramp which revealed the beginnings of some serious corrosion, he was rather less enthusiastic about the deal.

Luckily, we’d shaken hands before that – and I kept my girlfriend.

Clearly, though, despite her hatred of the Maestro, it was a good car then, and an unsung hero today. I’ve driven plenty since my first, and have always come away admiring rather than loving them. I owned A71 UDM after that – a 1984 R-Series Vanden Plas with talking dashboard – and had many a happy time in that, but somehow felt that the 1.3-litre car was far sweeter. The roomy cabin and supportive seats always impress, and I even have a sneaking admiration for those ‘timeless’ looks (yes, I am an optimist).

The last time I drove a cooking Maestro was in 2003, when Alexander Boucke let me have a play in his LPG-powered 1.3LS and, despite its lack of go and laborious steering, I still liked the Maestro. Far more so than the Montego, which I’ve always considered to be a bit of a ‘bitsa’. Funnily enough, I think over the intervening 20 years, they’ve matured into another one of those sensible first-time practical classics that BL (and its predecessors) seem so good at making.

The 1.3-litre is easy to work on, and easily tuned, while that corrosion only really seems to attack the most visible parts of a Maestro, leaving the structure underneath largely solid and unaffected. With a 0-60mph time of 12.8 seconds and a top speed approaching 100mph, a 1.3-litre Maestro is more than capable of sitting in modern traffic, while 40mpg fuel consumption makes one reasonably cheap to run day-to-day. The lack of street cred probably means that, for years to come, you’ll be able to buy one of the best for an absolute pittance.

But unlike the Allegro, which is an ironic and comedic choice for non-conformists, the Maestro is sensibly dull, and a great way into classic ’80s motoring… without the ‘Fire up the Quattro…’ hype.

Would I have another? Yes, it’s the AROnline cheap workhorse of choice!

Alexander Boucke's Maestro provided a welcome reaquaintance with the breed.
Alexander Boucke’s Maestro provided a welcome reaquaintance with the breed
Keith Adams
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  1. Okay, I admit it. I’m biased, as an M+MOC official. But the 1.3 Maestro is a cracking little car in my opinion, and whilst my daily hack is a 2.0 Montego I’ve a soft spot for the Maestro range’s most ‘Marmite’ model – the HLE.

    Thrifty, with a Yorshire gauge on the dash, you could still make it move it you wanted to and if you were prepared to ignore the red light of much fuel slurpage on the dash. Sure, detuning the engine and providing a stupidly highly geared box was hardly going to win it many fans, but it won me over.

    I know everyone seems to bang on about the MGs, and in choosing an O series plus PG1 (carb) version I’m unwittingly reinforcing the stereotype that bigger=better, but I agree that it’s about time the Maestro 1.3 got the attention it deserves!

  2. When I was young and happy, I ran a achingly stylish Alfa Romeo Spyder S4 (a RHD fettled model no less), then I met my would be girlfriend and seeing the writing was on the (mortgage) wall, I sold it for a home deposit. Enter the free Maestro 1.3LX. Watch as I rack-up 25K miles in a year and move girlfriend 235 miles north with everything including the carpet and a bathroom suite. An outstanding practical, economical and comfortable car, the likes of which we’ll never see again. I’d have another in a heart beat.

  3. Better bet than an Escort, but less desirable? So how was it a better bet? In the mid 80s the Escort was at its zenith of market penetration. It sold by the thousands, was generally regarded as being reliable and a know quantity. The Maestro followed on from the Allegro and Maxi. A car the market didnt really undrstand. A bit big for an Escort/Astra rival, but too small to be compared with a Sierra. It also gained a reputation for unreliability almost from the word go. It was always one of those cars people bought because of the low price or cheap finance, not because they wanted one.

  4. @Keith “With a 0-60mph time of 12.8 seconds and a top speed approaching 100mph, a 1.3-litre Maestro is more than capable of sitting in modern traffic, while 40mpg fuel consumption…”

    Ahead of its time really – those are good figures for a 1.3 petrol engined car that size today. I remember associating them with high technology as a nine year old in 1984 – what with the talking dash, fancy leather seats, electric windows and plastic bumpers a Maestro Vanden Plas seemed far in advance of the contemporary metal bumpered, windy window Escort Ghia. I’ve always been surprised that it didn’t do better in the early days.

  5. I think time’s being quite kind to the Maestro. It was after all, David Bache’s last BL design before he got the chop. Elements of Range Rover, SD1, but unfortunately with Maxi proportions. Would have been awesome in 1978/79 when it should have been launched.

  6. Like others have said the looks really let it down. Design in 1976 for 1976 and criminally held back. How good would have this looked alongside the SD1?

  7. The Maestro was an honest, practical car with enough BL character. It did come out too late, and they tried to compensate for the slightly dated styling with loads of hi tech equipment on the top models. It was the 1.3 that was truer to the original design, though, and the later diesel too. I wonder if the best Maestros were thoese which came out after the R8 in 1989 – better made, great value, and sitting in their rightful place in the market.

    @Simon Hodgetts – do we know for sure that David Bache did the Maestro? As I recall the design was credited to Ian Beech.

  8. @ Steve Bailey.
    The Maestro would have been lighter than modern counterparts and not impeded by catatonic converters and the like. Still decent figures though. My Dad had a dark blue, B-reg 1.3L for a while, but only a while since reliability was a must for him.
    In many ways a good car, but successful cars are the ones which make money for their makers and pay for their own replacements in the model ranges.

  9. Don’t think i’d like to travel @ 100mph in a Maestro. They looked a bit frumpy compared to the Escort and Astra but so much better inside. Mine had that many rattles and squeaks you could hardly hear the radio.

  10. @8 – Dunno – but – it had some Bache hallmarks, notably the front to back scallops housing the front and rear lamp clusters, a la Range Rover, a glasshouse not dissimilar to the Range Rover, and the ‘modular’ dashboard with a separate instrument binnacle. It had a rationality about it that was the hallmark of a David Bache design.

  11. It was a masterpiece of packaging.
    My grandfather traded an SD1 for a Maestro because it had more room inside!

    A brilliant car in most respects, and one of my all-time favourites.

  12. I have to say that a Maestro 1.3 took me all the way to Murmansk a bit over a year ago and then to Ukraine,Romania and back to the UK(tho I bailed out in Lithuania due to lack of time). The A+ is a cracking engine and we also enjoyed nice high ground clearance for Arctic offroading. Can I call it Britain’s Lada? I hope so….does the job and although I hate to admit it,it is considerably better than the Lada.

  13. Had a very low mileage 1.3HLE for a while a few years ago… and it was superb. Plenty fast enough for modern traffic, great fuel consumption, and a with a wide enough track and decent clearance to make most speed bumps irrelevant.

  14. probably the most simplest of all the ‘M’ cars I’ve ever owned and that was the appeal of the car. I just wished it had been much more robust in terms of bodywork.. But certainly an honest reliable little beast.

  15. I drive a Maestro 1.3 to work every day and it’s pretty good. Main problems are deteriorating interior – rattling plastic, sagging headlining and broken sun visors. Also it’s a poor motorway car – okay on the flat but it’s difficult to get round lane hoggers or accelerate in hills. I care little about the image.

  16. A bit fat and frumpy when launched, comparing it to the likes of the MK3 Escort. I always remember thinking it was a let down after the recovery started by the Metro. However, it looks much better in hindsight and has stood the test of time well. Its larger than class average size was ahead of its time.
    A light coloured HLS with the original dash was pleasingly simple and illustrated what a force it would have been if launched a couple of years earlier.

  17. The 1.3 was much better imho as the absolute poverty spec base, with the steel bumpers. That version became like a cockroach, and kept refusing to die. Quite a few Ledbury Maestros keep turning up, and their absolute povertyness does appeal. A 1.3 Clubman turned up on the bay of eee’s very recently, that had been in a garage in the land of Whyayes, along with a Lada Riva 1200 L in brown (with brown plastic interior), and a Skoda Estelle, all genuine one owner cars, with full MOT’s. There is currently a 1275 Mayfair on, which claims to have power steering. Didn’t think the 1275 had this as an option…


  18. Looked pensionable when launched, still looks pensionable now. A car only its mother could love?

    Always disliked it.

    A girlfriend’s parents had a red A-reg 1.3 and I preferred walking or death to being seen getting a lift in it.

    As everyone knows, launched way too late and might have been a solid performer if launched in 78/9.

    70s car launched in the decade of ‘style as god’.

  19. Underated and over critised, easy to fix and always cheap on parts [except the ECU] at the time.One of the main problems was the easy destruction of the front and rear bumpers, one knock and generally they shattered into many pieces, but on the other hand probably the easiest and quickest rear bumper removal of all time two 13mm nuts inside the boot and hey presto slide of its cotton reels side mounts in seconds!.
    The early cars with the R series engine were soon updated for the S series which proved to suffer from bad breathing and would soon block up with mayonaise and blow the oil seals. The solution AR fitted a bit of lagging around the oil filler and on some cars an off shoot breather pipe!.

  20. Sadly the Maestro was just never developed enough to cover the market properly. The Allegro was avaliable in two/four door versions and an estate, the Maestro just a four door hatch and lost sales to the Escort/Astray which were avaliable in a whole range of versions.
    I’m sure the Maestro van could have formed the basis of a two door estate, two door estate cars were popular in the ’80s, indeed the Van version was killed too early in my opinion but that is another story.

  21. I never could see why people hate the styling of the Mony/Maestro. All I see is an attractive car that still looks modern today from some angles, the front end os still imposing and the later dash design looks far better than the horrible, creaky black square mess of the Astras and Escorts of the time. When you think of the flimsy, “pencil and ruler” design coming from Japan at the time you really see how attractive and robust looking the M cars really are… As ever, rust is the main killer of these cars…

  22. I remember my Dad trading in his Princess for A873RFB, a new red 1.3HLE Maestro back in ’83.

    While the styling was always a little frumpy – especially against the sharpness of the Mk3 Escort, I rather liked it. Beatuifully light and airy with all-round visibility that you could only dream of in a modern car.

    As I ended up with a 1.3 3 Door Escort as a company car about 6 months later I was able to compare the two and as a car to drive (if not look at) I always preferred the Maestro with its lighter steering and light airy interior.

    When I got my replacement 1.6 Escort, I have to admit that the Maestro lost a bit of its appeal. Although my over-riding memory of the Escort was its very heavy steering at low speeds – a bit like an R8 without PAS. Sadly PAS wasn’t even an option on MK3 Escort.

    I will say that the second Maestro Dad bought (new again)D878GHY, a 1.3LE, was much better built and finally had a proper 5 speed gearbox instead of the 3+E thing.

    Eventually, Dad traded the second Maestro for an R8 214SEi. It was 11 years old and had done the princely sum of 30,000 miles. I still used to see it round Clevedon up to 2 years ago and it was still very tidy.

  23. One of the things I think of with the Maestro was the then novel talking dashboard, apart from the MG which other models ad this feature?

    Renault also had a talking dash in their high spec models, did anyone else try them?

  24. I had an 83 1.3l and an 84 1.lVDP with the talking dash, god it was dreadful, she would talk to you at the most inconvenient times, “breaks require service” just as your overtaking a lorry at 80 mph, was just one thing that frightened passengers.

    other than that they were both brilliant, comfortable, economical and very very roomy cars, they were underrated cars, and they were not kept up by AR etc. to keep up with the Joneses, would i have had a third one, well yes if I hadn’t bought a brand new Mini 35.

  25. 23. marinast

    Whatever happened to the 2 door estate bodyshape?
    Almost shooting-brake-like.

    My uncle had a mk4 Escort 2 door estate. Fond memories of that car, but it was black and looked like a mini-hearse.

    The mk2 Escort 2 door estate used the mk1 bodyshell.

    Strangely, the mk3/4 Escort 2 door estates were not simple windowed versions of the van.

  26. I had a Y reg Maestro 1.3, bought 2nd hand at six months old. It was without doubt the worst car I have ever had. The dashboard squeaked from the word go. The warning lights would come on randomly, no doubt due to the use of poor connectors. The electronically controlled carburettor was a nightmare, after a while.

    The most amazingly bad feature was the cords that lifted the rear parcel shelf. The had weights on the end to make sure the chord passed through the grommet. These weights hung in free space when thehatch was closed and teh shelf was in place. They then beat very loudly and constntly against the painted metal wheel arches. Unbelievable.

  27. I remember the intense disappointment I felt when the Maestro was originally launched. that awful 2 piece dash (complete with creak), lack of standard equipment and frumpy styling.

    My Dad bought a 1.6HLS straight away and even paid extra for a passenger door mirror. It was so bad he was given a cash refund on the car within 9 months. So he bought an R-sries MG complete with talking dash and 20 mpg (until they did something to it). then he had a montego VDP and two further Maestro Mayfair 1.6s. The first, a D-reg was wonderful; the second which had 2-tone paint did not have elctric windows which the earrlier one had as standard (bizarre). He then had two further Montego 1.6 estates, including a countryman.

    I bought a 12 month old 1.6 VDP Maestro. Nice car, awful plastic wood on the doors.

    So you can say we were sort of fans. I drove a 1.3 once. much better than I expected.

  28. My old C plate 1.3 HL in prosthetic limb champagne beige was a rusty dog of a mark 1 1/2 version.

    Bought just for the hell of it too. Optional 5 speed fitted meant the little bugger would allways top 40mpg. Bitter chocolate marle interior… mmm so dreary, but I loved it!

    That piss poor clunky gearchange and twitching speedo needle… I loved it!

    C773 NAN rip

  29. “One of the things I think of with the Maestro was the then novel talking dashboard, apart from the MG which other models ad this feature?”

    As i remember a lot of them were taken back to dealers to have it disabled once the novelty wore off.

    “That piss poor clunky gearchange”

    Everyone complains about the Maestro’s gearbox, but no-one seems to complain about VW gearboxes, which is where the Maestro one was sourced. From my experience Polo’s & Golf’s of the era were just as bad!

    • Yep, my dad had a Mk2 Golf 1.6 Diesel (pre turbo era) with a 4+E box, horrible struggle getting it into “E”.

  30. The Maestro was a very sensible looking car, but a bit lacking in desirability, instead of advanced engineeering, it was a dull, but reliable family car, but without the reliability.

    Adding in untested gimmicks to make up for the old fashioned styling was a mistake, you used to see so many Maestros with cracked bumpers, which wasn’t a good image to portray!

    Having driven a 1.6 (S series with added Mayo) and 1.3 (5 speed) I found the 1.3 a bit of struggle, a but rough and wheezy, indeed the Citroen ZX 1.9D I replaced it with was much smoother to drive…

  31. My mate and I drove to Prestatyn from Lancashire in the early 90s in his Dad’s B-reg 1.3 L. It used to shake at 70mph but be smooth again at 80mph befor shaking again at 90. They had been to Royan, France and back in it the year before so they can’t be all that bad!

  32. Brings back memories, I brought acshitty brown maestro 1.3l after selling my beloved Innocenti mini, I needed the cash!
    Choccy stayed with me for the best part of two years, iirc I only paid £400 for it, hated the damned thing but apart from a new dissy cap and front wheel bearings (iirc the m cars used to eat these for breakfast) the thing refused to break and flew through its mots, mine was surprisingly rust free!
    I gave the car to my mother after driving her lethal Renault 18, I decided her need was greatest, before selling it at profit for £450.

    I always wonder why the maestro is seen as a successor to the allegro, when clearly stylistically or lack of, and in size it’s clearly a maxi mk2.

    Is a great shame that arg didn’t spend some proper cash to restyle the thing, such a shame as dynamically it was superior to most of the opposition. Sadly from launch it was always args problem child.

    You can almost hear graham day… What do we do with a problem like the maestro.

  33. It wasn’t the gearbox its self that was bad, just the Austin designed linkage for it. The Honda box and linkage was much smoother shifting (I know because I owned a 2.0 EFi). The earliest memories I have of the Maestro was my mates mum’s Y regd (brand new) 1.6 L in ‘midlands brown’. The spec was very poor. No passenger mirror, and cheap stripes instead of bodyside mouldings, and the bumpers that were cracked within a few weeks of owning it. Compared with my uncle’s Horizon of the same age (1.3LS), which came with twin door mirrors, radio cassette, and gasp, a 5 speed gearbox, the Maestro did seem rather miserly on the spec in early years.

  34. “My mate and I drove to Prestatyn from Lancashire in the early 90s in his Dad’s B-reg 1.3 L. It used to shake at 70mph but be smooth again at 80mph befor shaking again at 90.”

    That just sounds like the wheels were out of balance.

    “It wasn’t the gearbox its self that was bad, just the Austin designed linkage for it.”

    My point was though, the Polo of the same era had a horrible gear change too. But you seldom see complaints about it.

  35. Didn’t matter if the car was any good or not , when you saw the choice of colours available. Browns, beige, bronze etc –
    ARG colour range at the time was bloody awful.

  36. I think Dennis hates anything bad said about Austin Rover products in general. It was the Golf gearbox they used, not the Polo, and I’ve driven Mk1 Golfs, and Siroccos and yep its a fairly mechanical change, but nowhere near as awful as in the Maestro. It makes you wonder what the Maestro would have been like if it had been launched with the Acclaim gearbox. If all models had been 5 speed from day one, it would have been one over the competition, far better than the ‘senile Nicolette in the dash’, which turned the VDP & MG1600 into a laughing stock. It could have even given the range class leading economy. Ah well, it’s a wonderful thing is hindsight

  37. As BL enthusiasts we’re naturally one step out of touch with what the masses think makes a ‘proper’ 80’s classic. I’ve driven plenty of 1.3 versions over the better part of the last decade and taken plenty of them to car shows, too. They are quite often a breath of fresh air to row after row of ‘me too’ Fords and Vauxhalls and no one ever has a bad word to say about the Maestro.

    There’s no denying it is a characterful car (maybe sometimes for the wrong reasons!) but at least it has a soul which is more than can be said for a Mk3 Escort.

    My Maestro City X with four speed gearbox punches well above its weight in terms of performance and can put a smile on your face from time to time despite the grandad car appearance. It’s much more at home around town though, than having to put effort into motorway travel. My 5 speed 1.3 Maestro, however might as well be a different car entirely and keeps up with the best of the rest on the Motorway with ease…but some reckon that might have something to do with the air injection rail for the emissions control system!

  38. Got a pre production Maestro 1.3L for my mother and paid just 3k at 12 months old! She kept it 6 years and said it was one of her favourite cars. It was very reliable but the dash creaked badly. However very comfortable and much better than an Escort. Needed further development to be the class leader it should have been. If it had had the Honda box and eventually the 1.4 8 valve K series and a restyle by Roy Axe it could have sat below R8 and sold well.

  39. 38 – Darren

    Yes, beige and brown might be naff colour choices but they weren’t all bad. Opaline Green, Zircon Blue and Targa Red were rather nice colours, especially when paired with the brown, blue and grey interiors!

  40. I sometimes see a worse for wear Maestro which is mostly metallic blue, but with some panels in plain red, both common 1980’s ARG colours.

    Does anyone remember Corgi’s Maestro model with working lights? When the top was slighty pressed down the lights would switch on.

    All the windows were blacked out because the battery compartment took up most of the interior. They only seemed to come in a bright shade of yellow.

    I wanted one after a friend got one, but my parents talked me into getting a Police Rover 3500, as they were never keen on getting toys with batteries.

  41. 38- Darren.

    Those colours were popular amongst other makers at that time too.

    There were thousands of beige Sierra’s, and Escort’s!

  42. @43 – Yes I had one. They were available in red too. You had to push it down into the carpet to make it light up. Get the pressure wrong and only one set of lights came on……I used to make the ‘brake lights’ come on – which made it look like a Maxi with failed Hydragas. Even the Corgi model was unflattering – it was over bodied, and sometimes the electrics didn’t work! And whoever saw a bright yellow MG1600? Do you also remember the Triumph Acclaim model with wing-mirror operated steering?

  43. My wife had an A reg 1.3 HLE when we first met in a burgundy red colour (orporto red?)It would suddenly lose power and die and we would have to wait a few minutes before it would re-start again – perhaps that strange electronic carb? and I remember it was hard to distinguish between 1st and 3rd gear until I was used to it. But the dash design and interior comfort and space was so good. I remember it had a series of red to green lights as an economy gauge on the dash. She had it for a couple of years before getting her Dads 2 litre MG Maestro

  44. @ Simon Hodgets, I had both, and my Acclaim had a steering wheel in the roof too & L plates. Yep the Maestro model did have wonky electrics too. The Corgi Maestro was also available in a more realistic red. It had a stupidly narrow track. I keep looking at em on ebay……Must be bonkers.

  45. New Kids on the Block on a Saisho radio cassette, surely the New Kids were more of an early 90s band? I would say even more unfashionable in 1983 would be to admit to being one of the dying band of Abba fans at the time and play that on a Binatone radio cassette, which was the Lada of electrical goods at the time.
    Enjoyed the article, though.

  46. “I think Dennis hates anything bad said about Austin Rover products in general.”

    No not really, i mean i didn’t and don’t deny the gear change was bad, but i didn’t find the VW ones of the era much better. If you read reviews of the time, they always mention the Maestro’s terrible gear change, but not even a whisper in the VW reviews. Didn’t the Golf and the Polo use the same gearbox? They shared engines after all.

    However this is basically an Austin Rover enthusiasts site, what would be the point visiting it to post negative comments. It would be a bit like going to a star trek convention then walk around pointing out he characters you thought were crap.

    I also highlighted the fact a lot of the ‘talking dashes’ were disabled by owners, hardly singing the praises of it!

    They did a lot of awful colours, but Vauxhall and Ford offered similar colours. I can’t understand why anyone would have wanted a beige or brown car, but a lot were sold! Think back a little further to the 70’s and stripey orange/brown seats were all the rage among the manufacturers.

    The 1.3’s must be pretty rare now, the engines were a popular choice for fitting into Midgets and Moggies, as the engine was although mounted transversely a longitudinal block so could be bolted pretty much straight in.

    Automatic choke was problematic, but then automatic chokes were always problematic on just about anything. Not a lot to go wrong with a manual choke.

  47. Maestro 1.3’s seem to be the cockroaches, as they are the most common survivors. MG’s and Turbos especially are getting down to penny numbers, but fairly regularly, a basic 1.3 or several turn up on ebay. Polos of that era didn’t share much with the Golf at all either. VW were moving on to the Mk2 Golf (smallest lump a 1.3 by then), and the Polo was still with the tiny engines. Also I think the box was one of AR’s ‘built under licence’ jobs and quality control at AR was never top notch, unlike the Germans. Weird how the All Aggro came with a 5 speed box on many versions, but AR in all their wisdom chose not to fit the 5 speed on the Maestro as standard. It makes you think. And the only manufacturer really to have the brown velour interior throughout the range in the 1970s was the one, the only British Leyland! Ford et al based their tacky trim on the much more sombre black. I also didn’t see that many beige Sierras or Escorts either, they seemed to be mainly silver, red or blue. Terracotta was a popular colour on the Mk3 Scrote though, with matching interior until the 83 ‘facelift’. I think BL shared some of their beigeyness with GM, as the Mk1 Ashtray and equivalent Kadett seemed to be available in brown and beige, with matching vomit interior. Green Nova’s were the worst though…Green interiors…oh dear! Vauxhall front drives also were slated for the clunky gearchange too, something they have only recently cured. By the way, a beige 1.3 base on a ‘B’ plate turned up recently, absolutely mint, complete with brown interior, and original Motorola AM push button radio! This car also sports a towbar.

  48. Working at a large motor dealer in the early 90s we got all the AR cars returned from the Mobility scheme. I think the deal was you had to take six Maestros to get one Rover 213 (hot property at the time!). All the Maestros were City or City X spec in non metalic and I think were sold at £2995- not a lot of money for a three year old car sometimes with only a couple of thousand miles on the clock. At a time when even base Sunnys and Corollas had a stereo and PAS these Maestros had nothing- not even a rear wiper. I always dreaded the customer asking “So what’s it got?” – a folding rear seat!

  49. I dont think these were ever for sale in NZL. we got Montegos but not sure about these. hondas very quickly grabbed the market there as both were sold my NZ Motor corp, the then BL of NZ. but I always liked the look of the Maestro it was a great looking car and looked very practical like the Maxi (but better I would expect), and especially looking back at what else was around at the time. it is absolute proof that eurpean cars look better in time that the Japanese ones. I do know where there is a turbo charged Maestro (2.0???) and would love to give it a wirl 🙂 alex

  50. Never forget the day my dad went to look at a C-Reg 1.6L Maestro (think it was 5 years old by then). Went on a test drive with him and it felt like a rolls royce (albeit his car at the time was a datsun cherry so a go-kart would be an improvement!!) So much space and comfort – it won him over. After a couple of months he had to wedge some cardboard between the side of the glove box lid and the dash as it kept creaking and the engine kept getting clogged up with that white cheese thing!

  51. I ran a ‘C’ reg 1.6 VDP in silver for a while, auto…nice car, bit creaky and didn’t like starting again once it was hot…..I then had a blue ‘H’ reg which was a lot better, basic, but better.

    So so many of these cars around years ago, all gone to that great scrapheap in the sky….I could do a nice 2.0 MG Turbo now though deffo future classic!

  52. One of my cousins had a model Acclaim with steering operated by the wing mirrors. It was a metallic blue not too different from the ARG’s shade.

    My Mum’s Metro had a lot of the plastics in brown, which matched the paintwork.

    One of my friends parents had a Maestro with one of those econometers, which would be amusing to watch going up a hill.

  53. I too had one of those Corgi Acclaims, I think it was yellow and decorated as a driving school car. You could steer it either with the wing mirrors or a steering wheel that attached through the roof. It’ll still be in my parent’s loft somewhere (along with a raft of Matchbox cars). I also had a Corgi Police landrover that had a flashing blue light when you pushed it down, a “Kojak” car that did something and the obligatory “Spy Who Loved Me” 007 Lotus Esprit that turned into a submarine with missile launcher.
    My first car was a Vauxhall Nova – a two door saloon in a colour Vauxhall described as “Brazil Brown” (more like sh*t brown!) with the brown “cliff face” dashboard – I wondered what sort of person would have walked into the local Vauxhall dealer and ordered a saloon in the worst colour in the brochure. Fortunately mine had a 1.2 OHC engine (rather than the ghastly 1.0 OHV (Opel?) unit) but still only had a 4 speed box and one wing mirror. Most of the cars I had looked at (mainly Mk1/Mk2 Fiestas) were either shot or the bodywork was knackered (the drivers door used to crack around the quaterlight – those doors were tissue thin!) – the Nova was built like a proper car. The main issue was torque steer – remarkable that such a puny engine caused such issues – just don’t get it on modern cars!

  54. I too had the Acclaim in blue with the wing-mirror steering.

    Corgi made a fair few SD1s too, I had a police one of these.

    Matchbox made a ‘Sterling’ which was the US market Rover 800.

    There seem to be more AR models (and 70s cars/vans in general) now though for the collectors market than there were as toys back in the 80s. (I have in my collection an Austin 1300 estate in Fawlty Towers red, with a model Basil with tree branch 🙂 )

  55. “I always liked the look of the Maestro it was a great looking car”

    Now there’s something you don’t hear every day! :-O

  56. My brother owned a chocolate 1.4HLE for over 6 years. It was pretty reliable too, one wheel bearing and a clutch even though it was stolen, dumped and recovered, it went opn for another 2 years afterwards. It was dirt cheap to run, simple to look after and his 6’1″ frame fitted in comfortably. Yes, it was a poverty spec but it would cruise all day at 70 on the motorway (I borrowed it for a few weeks when my car was hit by a drunk driver) and the heater and radio worked. I don’t remember it being particularly rattly – we must have been lucky! IIRC it did have a rear wash/wipe.

    In contrast I truly hated my dad’s poverty spec Escort Mk3 with Kent engine. You needed a mirror to set the points – something you needed to do every 3-4 months from memory. The interior was even more poverty then the Maestro, no economy gauge and the gearing was very short on the motorway. Oh, and it also didn’t have a rear wiper and only 1 door mittor as standard.

    The Maestro 1.3 wasn’t exciting by any stretch but is was excellent basic transport for a family of 5. The Escort looked better but it was no better built, smaller inside and didn’t ride handle particularly well either.

    In 1983 many of the things we take for granted on modern cars (climate, cruise0 were just not available or else prohibitively expensive. Many lower end cars even came without even a simple radio!

  57. I was surprised to see a Mk2 Astra today (the aerodynamic mid 80s version), a base model too, quite smart looking though the massive grey bumpers age it! Certainly a lot more modern looking than the Maestro.

  58. marinast – comment 23

    Good point. How many sales were lost, not because of the car’s style and image, but because of the lack of different body styles? The 3 door pictured on this site should have made production. Ditto a Maestro notch (also featured on AROnline) as opposed to the stretch which gave us Montego. A compact estate too. Just think of the extra sales at relatively low cost!
    Montego should have been a separate car with a similar variety of versions – saloon, hatch, estate and perhaps even a Montego Coupe!

    It’s back to that same old argument again though. Minimal investment, just enough to keep the company afloat, as opposed to longer term thinking, higher investment and, ultimately, a successful company still trading today.

  59. Richard – comment 55.

    I had that model of the Acclaim – the one where the steering was operated via the door mirrors – novel!!

    Never had a Maesto in my model collection but did have a Metro and Princess – both Corgi if memory serves me correctly.

    • Was it the White with Black Roof princess, if so, then that was Dinky… I have one, and many Metro’s, in both sizes and lots of the Special Factory only editions of the Metro and Rover SD1

  60. I had an oporto red 1.6 VDP C182 RST. really good car good on fuel quiet very nippy comfortable no power steering ate front tyres and front wheel bearings fitted a towbar in 20 mins including electrics rear bumber fell off LoL.

    You could change the rear springs without spring compressors.

    Talking dash that would say the oil pressure was very low just as you switched off the ignition.

    Really good car and was a bit sad when i traded it in for a Citroen BX Diesel (that was when diesel was dirt cheap even if you had to go to the dirty pump in the corner.

    I would frighten the life out of my mother in law by driving at 60mph and switching the display to KPH and told her we were doing a ton Ha.

    My brother has an Allegro 1.5 VDP in the same colour

  61. The Corgi Acclaim also came minus the steering wheel on the roof. My model cabinet sports the blue one with HUGE wing mirrors that turns the wheels!

    There is also a red “CorgiTronic” MG 1600 Maestro which still works the lights when you press down on the roof.

    And of course, my Dinky Marina coupe in red.

    @Dennis – The gearchange, though far from perfect on the VW was far better than the Maestro or Montego. As others have stated, the lateral and cross linkages under the bonnet were specified purely for Austin Rover though using the same nylon pop joints.

    ARG never fitted a counterweight either where VW did, the idea gave the car a lighter more positive feel. TATA did the same with the City Rover, which is why the 100 / 200 had a lovely “weighted” feel as you selected a gear. The City Rover used the same R65 / Peugeot box but without this counterweight on the selector arm, the gearchange felt poorer in quality.

    Whoever thought that bolting the vertical linkage on Maestro & pre 89 Montego to the steering rack needed shooting. The fulcrum pin would wear out after road grime & grit go at it, giving a horrendous ammount of slack to an allready sloppy gearchange.

    From a mechanics point of view, they were great to work on though. The bolted driveshafts meant you diddn’t have to drain the gear oil when changing the clutch. And the remote mounted thrust bearing was a cinch to change, allthough it wasn’t uncommon for the release rod to bore a hole through the clutch deflector plate – another part altered for cost purposes!

  62. @RUSSELL no:56

    WOW! the Kojak Buick Regal

    I had one of those, it had Theo himself half out of the window posing with gun in hand!

    Where you say “it did something”… it had a thumbwheel on the sill which made a SNAP sound when you flicked it to simulate a gun being fired.

    Christ! i’m bloody 40 next birthday!

  63. “The gearchange, though far from perfect on the VW”

    See this is what i was saying! I don’t remember seeing a whisper of that in the reviews of the time. The VW one was bad, the Maestro was worse, but all we ever heard about at the time was the Maestro being terrible.

  64. Dennis

    The vaugue gearchange was a regular gripe of the journo’s of the time.

    CAR magazine ran a 1.6L Montego as a long termer in `85, they were scathing of the gearchange and so were many owners in the user clinic panel.

  65. I wonder how the Maestro compares to the 25/ZR? I haven’t compared the specs or seen them side-by-side, but the 25/ZR has much the same layout and suspension, and they look roughly similar in size.

    Are they actualy similar in size, or is the 25 smaller?

    And has anyone compared the ride and handling? I imagine the 1.4 K series engine would beat any of the Maestro engine options?

    In short, is the 25 an updated Maestro?

  66. Never driven a Maestro, though I’d like to. I’ve driven a 2.0 Monty though many years back which was great. On the subject of gears I used to have a Mk1 Golf and the gear change on that was a pain.. But then again so was my Astra Mk1 and all the Cav’s… Meganes was rubbish too as I recall. Carina E was the best gear change I’ve ever experienced, simply excellent – a dynamic highlight on an otherwise feel-free car.

    On 25/Maestro, isn’t the rear end of the 25 effectively a Maestro? Or am I thinking of something else? (Heads off into the AROnline site to check)

  67. Steve

    According to Wiki
    R3 is 156/157 inches long

    From another site
    Maestro is 157-159 inches long (depending on bumper type)

    So not much in it, which is surprising as the Maestro looks far longer than R3, which is a cut down R8 with Maestro like rear suspension, especially as the Maestro is a proper family car whereas R3 is a large supermini!

    The relative lack of space efficiency of R3 shows how modern rules have pushed vehicle design.

  68. “Better bet than an Escort” – yes, I agree – ok, they don’t like being tapped from behind too much as the rear door apertures close too readily, but in a head-on I’ve never seen a Maestro fold up like a mk3/4 Escort, especially in Maestro v. Escort head-ons.

  69. “Dennis
    The vaugue gearchange was a regular gripe of the journo’s of the time.
    CAR magazine ran a 1.6L Montego as a long termer in `85, they were scathing of the gearchange and so were many owners in the user clinic panel.”

    Yes on the Maestro, we saw them scathing about the gearchange, but the same reviewers didn’t even hint about poor gearchange on VW’s, which while not as bad as the Maestro, they were still bad! This is the point i keep trying to make.

    Maestro Gearchange = Terrible = bad reviews.
    VW Gearchange = bad = not a mention in reviews!

  70. From what I remember about the very early Maestro gearbox was the linkages were prone to getting ‘gunked’ up with road dirt and therefore made the change stiff. I thought this was addressed on later cars, my 86 1600 had a great gear change compared to my Dad’s 83 1300. The car had a lot of room, the handling was good and it was nippy as a 1.6. The press loved to hate it from day one, slagging off BL was a national past time back then but was it any worse than say a MK3 Escort or Astra Mk2?

  71. @Dennis

    Still holds true today. Some of these automotive ‘news’ magazines are little more than a German car industry PR wire.
    I guess the companies with the biggest advertising budgets (which I would guess so happen to be German) get the best writeups?

  72. Was stopped at the lights on Sunday and on the opposite side of the junction was a Maestro. A Mayfair in duotone white. Not mint but tidy.

    My first reaction was “looks good”. In the eighties I thought them a tad dumpy but at the weekend I thought it had an almost contemporary air about it.

  73. If you’re going to buy a Maestro, buy a diesel, preferably the turbodiesel. These Perkins engines are known to last 200,000 miles without any problems, will cruise more than happily at motorway speeds and will return 50-60 mpg. Also rust and interior build problems had been mostly beaten by the time these were launched.

  74. Just to add, rattan beige was the same colour and same material school canes used to made from. Makes you wonder that the person who dreamt up the name for the colour and also the mean interior spec thought the 1.3 L Maestro in rattan beige would appeal to the more masochistic motorist, or someone who couldn’t afford to buy a higher spec model or the far superior Triumph Acclaim.
    If I was in the market for a reasonably priced Escort sized hatchback in 1988, I’d have chosen a Mark 1 Astra 1.3 L or GL. Excellent performance from the Family 1 GM engine, a decent level of spec, 40 mpg economy, decent reliability and plenty of space, this would have been my choice.

  75. I think Steve Cropley of CAR magazine described the Maestro’s styling quite well hen he said ‘…with some overtones (and no nasty ones) of the Maxi and Allegro’. I’m not too sure how modern it was in 1983 though. A clever mix of Maxi and Allegro that would have appealed far more circa 1981.

    Some of the lower spec trims and colours were pretty grim though – I can remember the beige interior, more purple than red 1.6L I viewed at launch. I was none too impressed. The white Metro L thirty months previous had impressed me far more. That said, many other base cars of the time could look pretty grim. A Maestro HLS in a light colour had far more appeal – even the early dash gave a pleasantly practical air in the right colour.

    in terms of appeal, style the Maestro’s biggest problem was that it was launched too late.
    The “product led recovery” line of Michael Edwardes rather amuses me. Such a term implies more modern, innovative cars and a small to medium range of three separate, well spaced models. Instead we had smaller than average Metro, big jump to Maestro and Montego merely a derivative of Maestro. The Maestro and Montego, as part of a “product led recovery” should have been individual designs each with numerous versions, body styles.

  76. ARG seemed to give up on the car after the introduction of the duotone Maestros. The Escort got a serious facelift in 1986. All LM10 received was some new wheeltrims, the Montego dash, and the blackened lower portions.

    No wonder it became something of a forgotten car in later years. Even ARG lost interest in it.

    Going a bit OT, that S-series unit surely deserved a production life longer than ten years? Read somewhere recently that back in the day Darrell Davis raced a Maestro with an S-series bored out to 1803cc. That would have given it a bore of just over 81mm. Assuming that to be correct – and I find it hard to believe somehow – then the unit (what with its E-series provenance and all) was theoretically capable of capacities from 1100cc to 1800cc. Given that we know the company was at work on a 16-valve head for the S I suppose the question has to be asked: who thought the K series was necessary?

    Assuming that a 1.8 S series was achievable – and given the unit’s E-series provenance and all – I don’t suppose Land Rover would have passed up the opportunity of a 2.7 litre six for Discovery and Defender…

  77. The big letdown for the Maestro was poor reliability on Austin era cars. People would have been quite willing to buy one if the reliability was better, but tales of starting problems, trim defects, dodgy ECUs and the like put people off. The Maestro did become a good car by the Rover era, the diesels could go for 150,000 miles without problems, but it was too late in the same way the Allegro came good six years after it was launched.

  78. Saw a Maestro van this very afternoon. Scabby arches, but other than that quite well cared for for a 25 year old.

  79. Glenn – my thoughts as well.

    Alastair – I saw a Maestro van in a similar condition recently.

  80. @ Richard 16378, the Mark 3 Escort wasn’t much better, using ageing engines from the seventies and being a miserable drive if you bought a basic 1.1 model. Also reliability wasn’t that brilliant according to Which reports of the era. Yet since Ford was given the same kind of respect Volkswagen is given these days, motoring magazines overlooked the Escort’s many shortfalls.
    Yet when the Maestro came good with diesel options and Roverisation, this was quite a good car for the money.

  81. I presently run a 1.3 maestro Mayfair, apparently one of only 14 left I really enjoy driving the car and as it is a only a one previous owner its in really good condition

  82. When it was on sale, I often had my doubts about the Maestro’s styling. Usually, I saw MGs, VDPs, Mayfairs and thought “they can look quite good”. When seeing basic models in not the best shades I more thought “oh dear”.

    As time passes, however, I think more and more “it was pretty much right on the mark as a modern day Allegro, Maxi hybrid”. Never used to be too certain about its snout but now viewing that 1.3L in the top photo I think “Good, for what it was meant to be”

    The benefit of hindsight…..

  83. @ Dave Dawson, a lot of basic cars looked dismal back in the day. Basic meant basic in 1983, OK by then vinyl seats had mostly been ditched, but something like an Escort Popular would come with the very slow 1.1 engine, cheap cloth seats, a demister and two speed heater fan, and nothing else to make your journey pleasant. It was still the case a Japanese equivalent for similar money would come with a radio/cassette, clock, cigarette lighter, tinted glass, nicer seats, 1.3 litre engine, and be more reliable. No wonder the Nissan Sunny was always in the top ten best sellers.

  84. Yes, Glenn, I think I’ve commented somewhere here before how all basic Fords, Vauxhalls, Austins really did look basic back in the early eighties.

  85. @ Dave Dawson, for the really masochistic in 1983, you could buy an FSO 1300 for £ 2500, about £ 300 cheaper than a Mini. For your money you got a car with absolutely no creature comforts( except for a rear demister), an engine that struggled to reach 85 mph and was unbearably noisy above 50 mph, a rock hard ride and hard plastic seats, and terrible quality and reliability. This really was basic and unpleasant motoring that no one nowadays would accept.
    Today, for less in real terms, you can pick up a Suzuki Celerio. While no ball of fire, being a 1 litre, this can cruise acceptably at motorway speeds, has equipment like central locking and a CD player that drivers seem to demand these days, will return 60 mpg and costs nothing to tax. Basic motoring has come a long way since 1983.

    • You’re right there, Glenn! Basic motoring really has come a long way in thirty years.

      The FSO !! Whilst a Lada Riva (especially estate) had some rugged charm, the FSO was plain nasty.

  86. Looking at the Maestro styling it is not so very bad with the basic shape having “left field” quality with its glassy cabin that for example many of Betone cars have had, such as the original FWD Skoda Favorite (before VW “sterilised” it), and Innocenti Mini, all designs which have aged well, when more fashionable designs ie Peugeot 104, 205 and Roy Axe Alpine, Rover 200, 800 now all look a little bland to our 21 st century eyes.

    Sadly however the detailing was not there, whilst it avoided the mess of different body lines that the Allegro became it has some clear failings that must have been seen at the time of creation such as the decision to go with an unnecessary high ride height making the Maestro look SUVish now, why that happened I suspect was not because somebody thought it was a good idea, but one of those design cock ups that BL with its limited resources could not afford to address (a miscalculation in a switch between hydragas and conventional suspension I wonder)?

    One aspect that does trouble me was a desire to carry forward a family resemblance to the Allegro, why choose to tie your new product to the thing that in the eyes of your customer (and investor) represented so much of what was wrong with your business?

    I recall first seeing the Maestro when Car Magazine scooped it at the time of the launch of the Metro, at the time I was sceptical of the sketch, whilst I could see what they were doing (high roomy glassy cabin) but could not believe that they would deliver it to the market in a couple of years’ time without a significant update, however the sketch was representative of the Maestro in steel bumper “City” spec and although Roy Axe made a valiant attempt to update it, it looked tired from day one.

    Although if they had styled it properly it could never have done what it was supposed to originally do, which was to return BL to a status of a major European manufacturer, the failure of the Allegro had resulted in the loss of the European dealer network and a massive contraction in the UK network, the result was they no longer had the access to the markets to shift the volume of major European manufacturer even if they had a product capable of doing it.

  87. @ Dave Dawson, the best choice from Eastern Europe then would be a Skoda Estelle, you could get a 1.2 model with cloth seats and a radio for not much more than the FSO. Also these were quite good to drive, could do 40 mpg easily and looked more modern than Ladas and FSOs.

  88. I sold my stylish Renault 5 auto for a 1.3 Maestro when I was 22 in 2003: £250 with 6 months tax and 12 months MOT. economical and on the cheap tax band I ran it until I was offered a Renault 19 1.4. Great car. Shame they have all nearly gone.

  89. So terribly sad, so terribly sad, as Bob Ferris would have said in The Likely Lads. The Maestro could have been a very competent Escort beater( itself a horrible hound in basic form) if it was built better.

  90. I bought a one owner 1.3L in 1995 for £350 to replace the VW Golf sold for the deposit on a flat.
    Kudos ZERO, But It handled well (considering it rode on basic suspension /tyres etc). The performance (for that time at least) wasn’t bad, the gear box was a bit snotty (blame VW), and the load carrying ability probably better than anything available in that categorie then and maybe now.
    Had a bit of cash and traded in for a “cool” Peugeot 205………oh dear! that was a mistake.
    Also had the pleasure of some time in a new 1600 MG with the twin downdraught weber carbs, great fun, 15mpg though with the right foot down.

  91. I still rate the Perkins diesel engined Maestros. These really are tough engines that are capable of 200,000 miles if serviced correctly and can return 60 mpg on a long journey. As a practical classic, a Maestro Clubman Diesel would make sense.

  92. Granada TV (remember them?) had Maestro’s as company cars, I liked them. I remember crossing a foggy dual carriageway in one and not realising the gear linkage had ‘popped’ off, it left you with 3rd and 4th gear only! I always fitted a large cable tie to stop it happening again. I had nightmares of the HGV bearing down on me out of the fog as I revved and slipped the clutch to get to the centre reservation! Happy days.

  93. I know the quality and reliability on early cars was poor( although it got better as the years went by), but I always preferred the Maestro to the Escort in other regards. It rode a lot better, was more economical, the engines were more refined, was much bigger inside and Ford didn’t have an answer to the Vanden Plas. Also by the end of the eighties, the Escort was becoiming very tired and reliability was no great shakes.

  94. I remember the run out Maestro Clubman & Clubman D which seemed to be a booby prize car for anyone getting one as their company car. Equivalent to an Escort MK IV Popular I guess.

    • The Clubman D did offer fantastic economy for the time and had equipment most drivers wanted by then like a five speed gearbox and a radio/cassette. Basic Escorts still came with two band radios in 1989.

      • Right Glenn… my 1988 Escort Pop 1.3 (company car) came with a 2 band Ford Keycode radio and had an optional glass sunhatch (remember those?). I fitted Ford white wheelcovers on to make it look a bit better. With the 1.3 Valencia 60bhp engine it drove reasonably well.

        • Ford dealers always seemed to have some option to sell you. I’d have asked for a radio/cassette, though, as MW/LW radios were becoming old hat by the end of the eighties.

          • I had no choice Glenn – as it was a used car bought by our Managing Director. Actually it came with a push button radio but the Ford dealer changed it tfor FM with LCD display. Did the job if nothing more…

    • The very good 1990s BBC2 documentary A to B featured a sales rep who was given a Maestro for being the lowest performing salesman. He was hoping he had a 200 when he received the keys but was had an unpleasant surprise.

  95. I’ve been driving and owning cars since the mid 1970s, but I’ve never driven – or even been a passenger – in any version of Maestro or Montego.

    Did I miss anything ?

  96. Despite being a bigger and heavier car, what allowed the 68 hp Austin Maestro 1.3 to be quicker from 0-60 / etc than the smaller and lighter 70 hp MG 1300 / Austin 1300 GT?

    Was it simply down to the A-Plus update and end-on gearbox or did other factors play a role?

    • Maybe the 68 A+ ponies were more present and correct than the “70” in the earlier engines? And I hate those in-sump transmissions so always happy to put the boot in and lay some of the blame there!

      • It certainly makes one contemplate what the MG 1300 / Austin 1300 GT would have been capable of had it featured an end-on gearbox (that might have been possible in other circumstances given the large engine bay was originally intended to accommodate a narrow-angle V4) and an early-60s equivalent of the A-Plus, it could have been roughly comparable to both the Simca 1100 Ti as well as the later MG Metro 1300 in performance terms.

  97. I had a Metro 1.0 and a neighbour a Maestro 1.3. I had one of those Gunson DIY CO2 measuring meters , for setting up the carburettor for the MOT emissions test. The figure for both the cars was 2.5%, using the meter the Metro could be set for 2.5% and run well, but my neighbours Maestro would struggle at the same figure, both cars would pass MOT emissions but my neighbour would on return with his pass certificate, retune the carburettor for better idling, something I did not have to do with my Metro. A workmate had a Montego 1.3, afflicted by “running on” when the engine would run for several seconds (coughing and spitting) after switching off the igntion, running on is believed to be due to carbon build up on the valves or combustion chamber in the cylinder head

    • I remember my Mum’s Metro handbook had a problem solving chart for the engine, which mentions running on as a potential problem.

  98. I had two, the first was a 1.3L as basic as basic can be, but it was a great car, roomy, well comfy, loads of boot space quiet and economical, the only issue was four days after passing my driving test, we were on Holiday in Norfolk, and the gear linkage popped off, it was a ball and knuckle joint style thingy, what ever it is called, and it would just pop, so we just cable tied it back and had no issues from that day, one year later i purchased a 1.6 VdP, with the talking dash, was also a great car, even quieter, more comfy and the two issues were, she would tell me that the brakes would require service at 70mph, which was scary the first time it happened, and the old girl suffered HGF, so out came that engine and in went a monty 1.6, slightly different engine, but went as well and lasted me until 1994 when i bought my first brand new car a Rover Mini 35…… now thats a different story…

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