Our Cars : Project Maestro – so, what have we bought, then?

Craig Cheetham

Judgement day for the AROnline Maestro - is it fit for the road, or for recycling?
Judgement day for the AROnline Maestro – is it fit for the road, or ready for recycling?

Okay, so it’s taken a while due to commitments with the day job, a family holiday, three unexpected car purchases (one more to go, watch this space…) and diverting attention to my 214 in order to prepare it for Pride of Longbridge but, at long last, I’ve had time to properly investigate Project Maestro and determine if it’s any good or not.

First of all, it’s a project car. I didn’t expect perfection, nor did I want it. Nor, though, did I want a complete basket case.

It's more than a Maestro. It's art...
It’s more than a Maestro. It’s art…

Somewhere towards the better end of the middle ground, then, would be perfect and that’s pretty much what we’ve got. If the car were to be taken apart, nut and bolt, and fully restored, I’m sure you could spend thousands. But then, there are other rarer, lower mileage Maestros that would undoubtedly come before it in the queue.

However, if you were to bring it sympathetically ‘back-up’, from cosmetically challenged (as it is now) to more than presentable, it’s something that I reckon can be achieved on a relatively modest budget, and is, indeed, where we’re going with it. I have a budget of about £300 with which to sort it out – not huge, but the car is mechanically pukka and drives really well, with a surprisingly oil tight engine – other than a quick service, I don’t plan to do anything to it mechanically, and it has new tyres and wheel bearings already.

Cabin is generally tidy, and even comes with original brown Austin-Rover floor mats
Cabin is generally tidy, and even comes with original brown Austin-Rover floor mats

More importantly, most of its less attractive points are purely cosmetic. With just 52k on the clock, the majority of them covered on Jersey, it has escaped the ravages of salty motorways and harsh northern winters. Whilst that’s not enough to have kept Rampant Maestro Wheel Arch Corrosion completely at bay, the underside is reassuringly solid and most of the external rust can hopefully be stopped and tidied up before it gets any worse, rather than run into full rebuild territory. A statement that, I acknowledge, may well come back to bite me on the bum.

In no particular order, then, here are the main items on the to-do list…

1) Source the missing parts of brown interior trim (or try to repair what we have) and affix them to the inner door shuts on both sides – a job that will give a huge cosmetic boost, as the door surround area has previously been welded and, whilst solid, it ain’t pretty. I may have a lead on this already from AROnline reader Darren Tebbitt.

Inner sill welding isn't pretty, but it is strong
Inner sill welding isn’t pretty, but it is strong


Some of the missing trim is in the boot. Some of it is also clearly broken...
Some of the missing trim is in the boot. Some of it is also clearly broken…

2) Mend the blowing exhaust – the pipes all look good, so I think this is simply a case of a gasket or some exhaust paste around the joints.

3) Tidy up nearside rear wheel arch and cosmetic scrape on the bodywork – I may leave this until later, and see how much money is left in the budget before deciding whether to get it done semi-professionally, or give it a go myself (help!!!)

Nearside rear arch clearly has filler within... the scrape is a recent acquisition.which mysteriously 'appeared' whilst the Maestro was parked. Annoying, huh?
Nearside rear arch clearly has filler within… the scrape is a recent acquisition, which mysteriously ‘appeared’ whilst the Maestro was parked. Annoying, huh?

4) Source some rot-free offside doors or, in the absence of such holy grails, attend to ugly, lumpy filler repairs with some less ugly, less lumpy filler repairs. If anyone has any Cashmere Gold Maestro doors and is feeling especially benevolent, I love you. That simple… Bizarrely, the nearside doors are absolutely fine.

Offside doors both have filler in the usual places...
Offside doors both have filler in the usual places…


IMG_0876 (600x800)

5) Nip the scabby front wheel arch in the bud before it gets any worse.

As Maestro rot goes, this could be a lot worse...
As Maestro rot goes, this could be a lot worse…

6) Thoroughly clean and underseal the underside of the car before Winter – I got my local garage to lift it up on the ramps for me, and it’s amazingly solid under there, with only one visible welded repair around the OSF jacking point.

7) Investigate the faint smell of petrol that only seems to occur immediately after the engine is switched off – answers on a postcard?

S-Series is surprisingly oiltight for one of its ilk, but faint smell of petrol is a mystery - it only occurs just after the engine is switched off
S-Series is surprisingly oil-tight for one of its ilk, but faint smell of petrol is a mystery – it only occurs just after the engine is switched off

8) Decide whether or not to keep the ‘aftermarket’ wipe clean headlining, fitted by a previous enthusiastic keeper…

Well, it won't be drooping any time soon
Well, it won’t be drooping any time soon

9) Find a new metal sunroof that hasn’t gone rusty

10) Try to revive the non-functioning nearside electric window

Nearside electric window doesn;t work - there's a click coming from the switch, so something's going on...
Nearside electric window doesn’t work – there’s a click coming from the switch, so something’s going on…

11) Fit the Austin-Rover mudflaps that I’ve had in my lock-up for the past seven years ‘just in case’.

12) Give it a damned good clean (last on the list, most likely to be first carried out…)

Inspection over, time for a quick pint (of Diet Coke, obviously) - though the pub also looks like it could do with some localised cosmetics...
Inspection over, time for a quick pint (of Diet Coke, obviously) – though the pub also looks like it could do with some localised cosmetics…

The verdict – really not that bad overall. The next update will follow in a few weeks, once I’ve got my next new acquisition out of the way and have sorted out my lock-up, ready to get the Maestro up there for some paint…

What happens when you accidentally walk backwards into your tripod. I think it looks quite good.
What happens when you accidentally walk backwards into your tripod. I think it looks quite good


Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.


  1. It’s a decent project to work on and as Maestros are rare now, and a Vanden Plas one is highly desirable, I’d say good luck in restoring it as at least the dreaded rust hasn’t hurt it very much. Also nice to see a period radio/cassette, which should be kept to make the car authentic( I did see a sixties Morris with a modern CD player and it looked very out of place).

  2. That last shot, is a very well used ‘photographic’ technique known as dutching. Dare I say It’s used to add interest to the ordinary! Not that implies a Maestro of course!

  3. I’am sorry but it’s not worth saving,the model,year,colour, even the reliable VW gearbox is wrong.

    • What a peculiar thing to say… Sure, if it were an earlier VP with leather and voice synthesiser it would be more interesting. But this site is all about celebrating, enjoying and preserving older cars such as this. Who’s to say it’s not worth saving? I have several cars that other people might think the same about, but if I like them, who’s to judge? You’ve just made me even more determined to ensure its future is secured!

    • …… low mileage, mechanically sound and just in need of cosmetic touching up.
      As I’ve said before, the Maestro has aged very well. The Vanden Plas spec makes it rather appealing.

      Look forward to reading updates.

  4. @ Robert Bird, if someone likes a car enough, why not save it? I even think the few remaining Ladas on the road should be saved as these were a familiar sight in the eighties.

    • Absolutely. I even craned my neck when I last saw a mk5 Escort based pre-facelift Orion, the worst car I’ve ever owned but an extemely rare car, hats off to whoever was still managing to run one! A familiar sight in the early 90s, but extinct now!

      We should be celebrating older cars which are getting rare, despite what people thought of them at the time. They are a snapshot into recent history.
      This Maestro is nearly 30 years old. To put that into perspective, it would be like running a 1950s car in the 1980s.

      Be it a Maestro, Lada, Orion, Audi 100, Merc W124, Skoda Estelle, Hyundai Stellar – all interesting antidotes to modern “crossover” motoring.

      • Lots of cars which aren’t trendy but are historically significant are in danger of being lost, and that’s a real shame. I’d be far more excited to see a Vauxhall Chevette than a Jaguar E-type, as the Chevette was a real part of the time rather than a plaything for a few, and is probably the rarer or the two now!

  5. Have had similar corrosion on a Peugeot once, it affected the nearside but the offside doors were perfect.

    On closer inspection, the seals along the door sill were incorrectly fitted, seemed to have allowed water to accumulate rather than drain out of the doors.

  6. The maestro is a very underrated motorcar.

    A wonderful piece of packaging for it’s size,hats off to Spen King who successfully carried on where Issy left off with the Maxi. –
    For a passenger: the maestro is a lovely place to be, comfy seats, compliant ride, deep windows to see out of- and it’s just a good in the rear- how many cars can boast that?
    You have lots of luggage? no problem sir, unhook the parcel shelf, tip the rear seats and secure the shelf to the back of the rear seats and then tip the seats forward.
    How many other cars have a stowage place for the parcel shelf when not in use?

    The maestro was a terrific little car, spacious, comfortable, light and agile. Cheap to buy and run and perfect for cruising the streets of Doddington.

    • An interesting piece of design – the parcel shelf usually ends up being put under the folded seats, on top of the carried load, or unceremoniously dumped in the hallway / shed / garage.

  7. Just been watching some old Grange Hill clips and a Y reg Maestro in metallic blue( possibly not Vanden Plas) was the favoured transport of the dreaded Mr Bronson, the school’s feared deputy head. Indeed in possibly not the best advert for the car, it breaks down totally in one episode and is stolen by school bad boy Danny Kendall.

  8. I remember Mr Bronson’s Maestro, in another episode it nearly had a portacabin classroom lowered onto it as he had parked it in the wrong place.

    Originally he had a Marina when he first came into Grange Hill.

  9. @ Richard Davies, obviously Bronco believed in buying British, but I bet when he was paid off from the school in 1989, he would have either bought a new Maestro, which had matured into a good car by then, or bought a Rover 213 S.
    Also I know this isn’t totally on topic, but by the end of his reign, Bronson seemed to turn a lot nicer.

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