Video of the Week : Citizen Salesman – Austin Montego

We all like to browse and reminisce during our tea breaks, and what better than to enjoy the massive back catalogues of online videos on the internet. Mike Humble kicks of this new feature by going back to 1984 shortly after the launch of the Montego with this corporate film that shows the salesman how to get the best of out of the Montego’s unique selling points and hammers home the importance of knowing your product knowledge.

Well, there I was talking to Robert Lindsay and his stunning wife, Rosemarie Ford, in London’s West End just last week. I actually kid you not but, if the truth be told, it was more purely by chance. My other half gave me one of the best Christmas presents I could ever have wished for to see my all time hero Bruce Forsyth perform at his spiritual home – The London Palladium.

We had some of the best tickets in the house and, upon arrival, we were ushered away from the common folk and guided to a private “by invitation only” area. It featured its own private bar and one of the poshest toilets I have ever seen – there was even a bidet and plush hand towels… none of your paper things or electric hand drier rubbish. It was one of my most surreal experiences in recent years as the room was full of people you can place but battle to name and I am so very glad I took notice of ‘er indoors and dressed up smart in my new suit and tie. Anyway, I sauntered up to the bar just as Rosemarie Ford knocked over a jar of toothpicks and Robert looked over to me and rolled his eyes skywards.

Robert Lindsay swaps his Army jacket and beret for an ARG corporate tie and a suit. He dreams of the riches the new Montego is going to bring.
Robert Lindsay swaps his Army jacket and beret for an ARG corporate tie and a suit. He dreams of the riches the new Montego is going to bring

Later on during the interval while the missus rubbed shoulders with Bruce’s beautiful wife – the ex Miss World Wilnelia Merced-Forsyth and his friends and family (all of which were sat all around us) I went outside for a quick smoke and who was there stood on the pavement? Robert and Rosemarie. We had one of those odd and quickly struck up conversations whereby he asked what I did for a living and this website came  to be mentioned – he likes his cars it seems. I asked him if he remembered a corporate video for Austin Rover and he pondered for a moment and looked up at the blue sky as if to gather his memory files. After a brief moment, he looked straight at me and asked “is that the one with Peter Egan alongside me?”

Despite what the public may think, celebrities star in corporate films all the time as they are quick money and fill in the blanks of their working calendar – they often forget about these throw away roles. Robert – to us old farts, will be best remembered for being cast as Woolfie in the BBC sitcom Citizen Smith while younger readers may know him for playing the harassed dentist Ben Harper in My Family. With a little assistance from yours truly, Robert remembered what the synopsis was to the Austin Rover Group training video he starred in 31 years ago and seemed to enjoy our brief five minute chat shared over those Kings of ice breakers – a drink and a cigarette.

Peter Egan (on right) plays a ghost like "super salesman" who boosts the salesman's flagging attitude. Here they compare the Montego to the runaway success Vauxhall Cavalier.
Peter Egan (on right) plays a ghost-like “super salesman” who boosts the salesman’s flagging attitude. Here they compare the Montego to the runaway success Vauxhall Cavalier

The storyline is of an AR salesman who is dreaming of a Caribbean holiday when, all of a sudden, he is visited by a kind of Ghost of Christmas future-type character played the wonderful Peter Egan – Shrimpy Flintshire in Downton Abbey and Paul in Ever Decreasing Circles. Robert’s character has good intentions but seriously lacks his product knowledge somewhat and his visitor shows him the selling points and advantages of the Austin Montego. He is shown a mock meeting after an open evening goes wrong – it’s here he learns the importance of being prepared and knowledgeable. This video was filmed by BL Cars’ own TV workshop unit and was just one of dozens of training films the public never really got to see. As a bonus it gains points for its early 1980s synth tune which sounds like a wannabe Vangellis impression.

Its now in your hands - The salesman is handed the official training Austin Rover Montego insight manual that will help him sell sell sell.
It’s now in your hands – the salesman is handed the official training Austin Rover Montego Product Insight manual which will help him sell, sell, sell

I have loads of these films going right up the late 1990s and I never tire of watching them. Despite what many people may think, Austin Rover and latterly Rover Group sales and marketing information and training were a force to be reckoned with within the motor trade – a force that other manufacturers were often quite envious of. This particular one is on the Maestro and Montego Owners Club’s YouTube site.

Anyway, to close, enjoy this film with Robert’s blessing as we go back to 1984. Also, keep an ear open for the “showroom-speak” language used with buzzwords like “conquest sales” and “prospects”words that still grind the teeth of showroom sales staff to this day. It is, of course, utterly naff and corny but lovely to watch. You might just spot one or two other rival cars and a couple of other known TV faces.

Travel back and enjoy yourself with this wonderful corporate film by clicking here.

[Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, the Maestro and Montego Owners Club’s YouTube channel now appears to have been removed and so the video featured in this article can no longer be accessed via the link above.]


Mike Humble


  1. At the dealership I worked at as an apprentice, we where rather lucky as upstairs above the showroom we had our own company social club. When you became an employee you automatically became a member, the social club was open from close of business to closing time 7 days a week and was for that time well furnished. 2 full size snooker tables, 2 pool tables, dartboard, TV a fully licensed bar and also the canteen with Ivy knocking up delicious food throughout the day. This was also the place after work where we would watch the BLARG training films. As an apprentice copious notes where taken while sneaking sips from a pint of Double Diamond that my mentor had bought me from under the table, as the training officer was also there and would ask us questions when we had our monthly progress interview with him which was recorded so our progress could be monitored so that when the apprenticeship was drawing to a close a descion was made on the apprentices future if any with the company.
    I was one of the lucky ones that was retained and I stayed at the same dealership which was taken over by TC Harrison then eventually Welptons. The original dealership along with many places no longer exists, it was knocked down when the motor trade community in Hull moved to the priory park motor village, there is a picture that Tanya field has of her maestro Arthur parked in front of the old dealership and there is also the possibility that I could have carried out Arthur’s PDI inspection back in those more pleasant and relaxed times

    • I’ve been in the motor trade in main dealers in Swansea area for twenty years, but was first offered a sales job in TC Harrison in Hull in 1995!

  2. “Topless by day legless by night” now that is a strapline ARG should have adopted for the entire company

  3. “Austin Rover and latterly Rover Group sales and marketing information and training were a force to be reckoned with within the motor trade”.

    I had heard that having BL/Rover on your car sales CV was very much A Good Thing back in the old days, and was viewed positively by other dealers when changing jobs, presumably thanks to all this training.

  4. I spent the first 28 years of my life working in Corporate Film & Video, sometimes making programmes in a similar vein to this. Good to look back at what production styles were like then… basic by today’s standards – but that’s how it was. An enjoyable viewing!

    The Cavalier, Sierra and Montego look so old fashioned now, but again they were working with designs and technology that was at the cutting edge in the 80’s. Hard to think it was 30 years ago

    • Anyone know anything about the promotional film which Anneka Rice presented for the launch of the MG range back in the mid 1980s? (was when the Montego Turbo was launched). I would love to find a copy of that video, can anyone help?

  5. In between Fawlty Towers and his film career, John Cleese used to make training videos for Talbot, the smallest of the British big four, and probably one company whose salesmen had their work cut out to sell someone a Solara over a Cavalier. Indeed I vaguely remember one about how Cleese turns round the career of a struggling young salesman( obviously not by telling him to get a job with Vauxhall or Ford).

  6. I managed to save some videos from the bin when my college was having a clearout.

    They were made in 1982 teaching the basics of computing, with Anneka Rice & Peter Purvis presening.

    I’m sure the makers of The Office had watched them at one point.

  7. PS: the videos included a feature on how the Unipart parts hotline worked, with a few clips of the Cowley warehouse.

  8. Three of the four salesmen who worked at my local Rover dealers in the nineties still work there, the other retiring ten years ago. It shows how good the training was and how the staff were valued. I know British Leyland were sometimes hit and miss and blase with the customers, but the improvements in customer care in the mid eighties and the gradual switch to the Rover brand in the second half of the eighties saw a big improvement in customer care and sales techniques. No doubt this video would have been shown to new staff at Edgar and Son in the mid eighties.

  9. Could I make my last post a bit clearer, the former Rover dealer now sells Nissans and Suzukis and three of the four salesmen from the Rover era and maybe a little before in one case, are still there and well respected for their helpfulness and knowledge.

  10. I’ve come across, and viewed, this video before on previous internet trawls.

    Glenn, I can again appreciate all your comments about Edgars.

  11. @ Dave Dawson, 83 years of selling Morris, BMC, British Leyland and Rover products, although there is almost no trace of the old garage at Rowrah now.

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