Why we love the… Austin Maestro

Richard Gelder explains why the Maestro is just his cup of tea…

My first experience of Austin – Rover cars was when I was about four years old. My dad had just bought a Brown 1987 Rover 213. There’s not much I remember about this car, but it marked the beginning of my interest in the cars built by Rover and the other manufacturers associated with it. Over the years, the Rover was replaced by a 1990 216 Vitesse and recently a Rover 218, which is now used by my grandmother when my parents gave up the Rover brand for the likes of Peugeot and SAAB.

During the past few years, my interest has grown; no doubt this website has helped to fuel my passion! The start of 2003 marked the year I turned seventeen, and thus, my attention turned to driving! I quickly started to trawl the ads – trying to find the perfect car. Of course, it wasn’t going to be a Fiesta or a Nova for me; it had to be a Rover or an Austin. After a few weeks of looking, my eyes fell on an ad for a 1994 Maestro Clubman. This car seemed perfect – exactly what I was looking for. The price was within budget and the 1.3 engine would be easy to use and fix, and most importantly – cheap to insure!

One week and £400.00 later, I was the new owner of “Aggie” – my first car. It would be best to describe her as “well used”. Her short 9 years on the road have certainly taken their toll as the collection of Fungi and other living organisms attached to the interior suggested. The missing bits of interior trim and far from perfect paintwork doesn’t bother me, however.

So what made the Maestro so appealing?

It seemed to be the perfect car for me to learn in. The mechanicals are robust enough to handle the harsh driving of a learner and the views form the huge glass area can’t be matched by any other car. Plus, I finally have a car produced by the company that has been the focus of my interest for so long.

Hopefully, myself and Aggie will have many years together and in the few months I have owned her; she has proven to be a very reliable, solid car that just needs a bit of TLC. Looking back, maybe I did pay a little too much for the car she is, but then again, they say love is blind

Keith Adams


  1. How disappointing that since 2004 no-one has left any comments on Richard’s written-from-the-heart article.

    Like him I came from a family of (mainly) BMC/Leyland-associated owners, and (although now a little longer in the tooth than Richard) like him I naturally went on to buy a BMC/Leyland-associated product as my first car – a Triumph 1300TC. I wouldn’t have considered anything else.

    Over the years I progressed through various other Triumphs, Austins, MGs and Rovers, until six years after the downfall of MG-Rover I was finally persuaded into buying outside of the group, and’ve since been loyal to the VAG marques Skoda and Seat. (This was unconnected with the earlier negotiations between VAG and the Thatcher government, which failed to agree the sale of the BL-group to the German conglomerate; interestingly, though, had that sale gone ahead we might still have Austins and/or Rovers, or whatever, still in production on VAG floor pans!)

    Anyway, getting back to Richard’s article, in the 1990s I too owned a few Maestros, and like him I didn’t, and don’t, understand why the design wasn’t more popular. Even here on AROnline, contributors queue up to moan about its “unbalanced” appearance, its scalloped sides, its falling shoulder line, et al. To me it was always an attractive, beautifully balanced, design which has well stood the test of time – even today, it looks less dated that its Astra and Escort, etc, contemporaries.

    Like most cars of that era, some models had their mechanical shortcomings, sure, but in terms of design I can’t fault it. It wasn’t a clone of other manufacturers’ offerings; its design had its own integrity somehow, and a unity exceeding that of any other car I can think of. . . . . The Maestro had character, and oodles of it. All praises to Ian Beech and David Bache.

    My last Maestro has always been my favourite, a 2-litre MDi diesel, in base Clubman trim. It had that strong and reliable, if not overpowerful, direct-injection Perkins Prima engine, and of course the base model steel bumpers fitted to all Clubman versions of the car.

    These were the bumpers which the Maestro was originally designed to feature, and which (to my mind) always suited it far more than the later-designed coloured plastic bumpers that I never felt fitted in with the design unity of the rest of the vehicle. (They worked much better on the Montego.)

    I can’t finish this peon of praise for the Maestro without endorsing Richard’s comment about the Maestro’s huge glass area – no other design, before or since, has ever had anything approaching the wonderful all-round visibility of that from the Maestro driver’s seat. As he implies, a perfect car for a learner driver; or any other driver, come to that.

    I somehow doubt (ten-years on) that Richard still has his “Aggie”; but I have no doubt whatsoever that he will still have his love for that car.

    Thank you for your rare song of praise for a wonderful car, Richard. Come on other Maestro-lovers out there, join in, loud and proud, “we all love the Austin Maestro . . . . . “!

  2. Speaking of fungi… I was riding to work in my flatmate’s Marina in 1983. Hey Andy, I said, what’s that coming out of the side of the floormats? Dunno, he said, have a look. So I lifted the mat and found mushrooms growing from the centre of the mat out to the edges. Presumably spores from mushrooms in a previous owner’s shopping had fallen onto a carpet dampened through a rusty floor. As mushrooms like growing in the dark, they had done just that – presumably using the carpet fibres as food!
    They don’t make cars like they used to – thank goodness.

  3. I had two Maestros in the 90s and amongst all of my chums, mine was the only car that was 100% guaranteed to start in the morning, regardless of season. Many a time we turned to mine because theirs wouldn’t go. I was immensely proud of them, and I will angrily defend them to anyone who attempts to take the **** out of our favourite car maker.

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