Last month, we celebrated the 30th birthday of the Peugeot 205, and most of us ended up marvelling at how the French got it right first time; how well the baby Pug has aged, and how quickly three decades seem to have passed. March 2013 sees the Maestro cross the same landmark, and once again has us asking, ‘where did the time go?’
Remember the weeks leading up to the Maestro’s launch? It was the era of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and Kajagoogoo’s Too Shy ruled the charts. Britain’s great white hope, the LM10 was heading for production, and the weight of Britain’s expectations lay heavy in Austin Rover’s shoulders. Ever since the first accurate scoop images of the LM10 were released to CAR magazine in January 1980, the press had been speculating about the next mid-sized Austin, and how good it was g0ing to be.
I remember seeing that December 1982 issue of CAR with the LM10 on the cover, and extensive pre-launch Maestro coverage. They got some of the finer technical details wrong, but the blurry images were spot on. As a 12-year old car enthusiast who used to digest and analyse every piece of car information I could get my hands on, I was swept up by the Maestro’s pre-launch hype. I still vividly remember staying with relatives on a late-year holiday, excitingly thumbing through that issue, wondering why the styling wasn’t exciting me.
Maybe it was those grainy photos.
In the run up to the car going on sale on 1 March 1983, the press got to drive the cars in Spain, discovering the joys of the Spen King-designed suspension and drivtrain, fully appreciating the car’s excellent dynamics on challenging roads. One PR shared with me this vignette from the launch – and how it didn’t entirely go to plan. ‘Did you hear the story of Chris Goffey rolling an MG on the driving route?’ he said. ‘As the dust settled the electronic voice from the wonder dash could be heard saying “low oil pressure – low oil pressure”!!’
We’ve dissected the Maestro many. many times on AROnline. And I’m not going to do it again here. The initial euphoria, the niggles from the early cars, the disappointing sales, and the eventual decline into sad, neglected banger – it’s a sad epitaph for a car that the hopes of the British motor industry once rest upon. And I sincerely hope that thanks to the efforts of its fans today, that the remaining few nice examples get appreciated for being the excellent piece of industrial design ruined ever so slightly by those side scollops.
Meanwhile, spend a few minutes enjoying these links – we’ll be revisiting the Maestro more throughout its birthday month.
- Unsung heroes: Austin Maestro 1.3L
- Video: 1983 MG Maestro Rally Sprint
- Maestro Reminiscences: Richard Bremner
- Maestro Reminiscences: Ian Elliott
- Concepts and prototypes: LM10 and LM11 facelifts