It’s good to see new stuff appearing after all these years. Casually scrolling through Facebook’s page for the Maestro & Montego & Metro Appreciation Club, these fascinating images came to view.
They’d been posted by Adam Jennings, who had bought them off eBay from a seller who had no idea where the images came from. Well, we can confirm that they were photographed in Longbridge’s Elephant House viewing area, and were shot in 1981 as part of the LM11 project. You can see the full evolution of the car’s design and where this one sat in the Austin Montego development story.
This full-size clay model was a realisation of the original design idea to create a larger three-box saloon from the Maestro, and using its centre section almost untouched. The six-light window arrangement and front-end styling weren’t yet resolved, and it would be re-shuffled several times and significantly at the rear before being given the nod for production.
Although this is a simpler design solution, seeing the car in profile, it’s clear that the production version, first redesigned by Roger Tucker and then tweaked further by Roy Axe, was a more successful and characterful effort than this. These images show the car in profile for the first time, and it looks weak, suffering from the Maestro’s short wheelbase and drooping shoulder line. One wonders how much better it would have been had it not been saddled by those doors.
You can understand why Roy Axe said this the first time he clapped eyes on the LM11 on his third day working for the firm. ‘I was stood in front of it and told that this model was over a year away and so I had a great opportunity to improve it if I felt it was needed! It is hard to know what to say in circumstances like this but my first remarks were that the design should be scrapped and the whole thing done again. This was not acceptable as the plan was well in place but there was room to tweek!’
Roger Tucker’s rear window arrangement and shorter boot might have been fussy compared with more elegant-looking rivals, but compared what it might have been, it was an object lesson in good design – and that’s saying something. Once again, seeing another image of the LM11 in development, it’s hard not to conclude that which ever accountant decided to use the LC10’s centre section and doors ended up giving the Design Team an unsolveable problem.
It’s not as if they hadn’t done it before – or would do it again in the future.
- Concepts and prototypes : Hyundai/Rover Oden (1992) - 9 November 2023
- Opinion : So, maybe the Montego was the best they could do… - 8 November 2023
- The cars : Austin Montego (LM11) development story - 7 November 2023