Advert of the week : Montego 1.6L

Keith Adams

Russ Swift takes the Montego up on two wheels...
Russ Swift takes the Montego up on two wheels…

When the Austin Montego hit the dealers in 1984, it proved to be something of a compromise choice in the repmobile market. Not quite sporting and dynamic enough to compete with the darling Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2, and not quite fleet-friendly enough to wrestle the value for money crown from the Ford Sierra, it was stuck in a brown velour limbo-land that probably affected its ability to sell as strongly as it could.

And then in 1987, the Kevin Morley under the leadership of Graham Day decided to sex up the Montego, by dropping the ‘Austin’ off its boodlid, giving it two-tone paint (a-la Vauxhall Cavalier SRi and Ford Sierra LX), and pushing out a dynamic set of print and TV adverts. The print ones were memorable enough – pushing the 1.6L’s sub-11 second 0-60mph time (‘the Sierra will be along in a couple of seconds’), but the TV advert, starring stunt-driver extrordinaire Russ Swift was a case of sheer brilliance.

Did the advertising campaign work? Well, judging by the sales figures, probably not. But who cares. They probably couldn’t make car adverts like this anymore – so enjoy this one for the dear old Monty. And remember… driving is believing!

Keith Adams
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  1. Lovely little touch with the jacket getting caught in the door at the end.

    Unusual these days for an advert to highlight performance, it’s all about co2 these days sadly.

  2. I seem to remember that ARG’s share of the fleet market went up from 12% in 1983 to 18% by 1988 so something was working right. Rover 200, 800 and Montego were all playing their part but there was only so much they could do with the Montego that was 4 years old by 1988 and really due a replacement (no hatchback either.

  3. Rover 200 compensated for the weakness of the Maestro and Montego – especially in the fleet market after the 1987 facelift. A bit of a golden opportunity for Rover, that they grabbed with both hands… until the arrival of the HHR (sigh)


  4. “Unusual these days for an advert to highlight performance, it’s all about co2 these days sadly.”

    I think it’s banned to do so now. If i recall Volvo had an advert where a small boy was drawing speedlines on all his pictures. The inference was that the car zoomed by things very fast.
    (But not half as fast as the complaints to the ASA).

  5. Buyers want to know about CO2 (as are using this as an arbitrary measure of taxation) and MPG (as fair enough, dinosaur juice is running out, but also get their greedy mitts in here with taxes).
    MPH is fairly irrelevant these days, as even modest diesel saloons can hit 60 in well under 10, topping out over 100.
    Not that anyone can reach these speeds on modern congested, average-speed-camera’d roads.

  6. “Did the advertising campaign work? Well, judging by the sales figures, probably not. But who cares.” Plenty people care.

  7. Am I right in thinking that the mighty Russ Swift did the driving in this?

    Love the way you see the driver winding closed the slide ‘n tilt sunroof – the ultimate Eighties status symbol I seem to remember.

    I thought that the “sexing up” of the Montego was quite clever. The two-tone paint, red bumper inserts and more modern colour coded front grille (is it grill or grille?) made it look far more modern to my 13 year old eyes. The two-tone paint also drew your eyes away from the scalloped sides and the strange sticky-out sills. I remember at the time berating my uncle who had bought a Sierra Sapphire 1.6L about its lack of performance when compared to the Montego. I also thought that the boggo Sierra was not a patch on his previous car, a Cortina 2.3 Ghia V6 auto!

  8. Montego 1.6 wasn’t a slow car. My 1.6 R-engined was able to cruise aty over 100 mph in fifth gear, was quite fast to hit the 62 mph from rest (about 11″) and best of all was immensely torquey at low revs. I was able to drive it in fourth from 1400 rpm and accelerate with no esitation in normal traffic. Excellent between 2200 and 4600 rpm, with no breath over 5000. Quattoruote reach 104 mph in fourth on a short lanch and hit 0-62 in 11,6″.

  9. God that takes me back.

    Anyone else remember the TV advert were the “new” Montego Blasts through the Austin Rover showroom window?
    This was followed by the handbrake turn in front of two chaps who had just been chatting about which car to buy next?

  10. Answering my own question, of course Russ Swift was the stunt driver – it says so in the article. Note to self – stop speed reading!

  11. @ Steve Bailey

    Yes, Russ Swift definitely did the stunt driving for this advert.

    I still reckon this was one of the more memorable adverts from Austin Rover Group for this decade. Some from the early 1980’s based around “VFM” (value for money) featuring Patrick Mower really do make you cringe. Then in early 1988 there was Batman and Robin in the ‘Metro Gets You Going’ advert and even a very cheesy one for the Maestro.

    This advert for the Montego even attracted interest across the Atlantic in the States, even though the Montego was never sold there. It just shows what you can achieve with a bit of artistic imagination!

  12. Definitely a rare decent ARG advert.

    A typically duff campaign before Graham Day came along was the one which featured the whole range (Metro and SD1 in the same advert?) and the of waving the Union Flag (akin to mediocre politicians at party conferences), with no attempt to sell the vehicles on specific qualities other than patriotism.

    This Montego advert cleverly tries to highlight strong ‘top trump’ points, and attempts to make the car sexy, though not even Spielberg could succeeed in the latter sadly 🙂

  13. Russ used his own car for this stunt, hence the Co Durham reg plate. Living in Merrybent near Darlington, the car came via Reg Vardy.

    Filmed in the car park of the UK HQ of IBM if I recall

    How many readers over the age of 30 something remember the LWT show “Beadles About” doing the same thing to a chap who went for a test drive Russ did the driving there too. That piece for the show was filmed at Henly’s Of Northampton.

  14. I remember this advert well! Also another one which was voiced by Keith Barron (?) and had the tagline “The new Montego 1.6L – watch out for it”

  15. @darren – yes, I remember the one where the Monty blasts through the window, too. Can’t find it on youtube though!

  16. @Jonathan – I can’t believe I actually let myself search the internet for it.. (lol)
    Did you notice the other adverts on the site?
    Prepare yourself – cringe worthy stuff (lol)

    How TV adverts have changed over the years.

  17. Great advert, grey porridge car.

    The Monty 1.6 that I drove was not particularly fast but it was comfortable and spacious with a decent boot. It certainly didn’t feel faster than a 1.6 Cavalier and it certainly wasn’t as nice to drive but it made good basic family transport.

  18. What a great ad from The Firm – amusing, cheeky and tongue-in-cheek. Not taking itself too seriously either. The other good ‘un, for me anyway, was the ‘Minis Have Feelings Too’ campaign of 1987/88-ish.

  19. @ jonathan carling – thanks – I just found the Xmas 1986 ‘Minis have feelings too’ ad on YouTube. It can’t really be 25 years ago already can it?

  20. Liked this ad, but preferred the one you used to feature on AROnline – the one with the girl on the bike.
    I think they did well in giving the Montego more of a youthful appeal, especially considering the lack of significant alterations. Ditto later changes to make it more ‘Rover’

  21. Looking at the Montego crashing through the showroom window advert (complete with obligatory slide ‘n tilt sunroof money shot), it strikes me how well the car looks in white with white wheeltrims and two tone paint, even today. Compared to the black bumper boggo boringness of the Sierra 1.6 L and Cavalier 1.6 L, the Montego looks like a sports model, more akin to a Sierra GLS or a Cavalier SRi. Surprised it didn’t do better in sales terms really. Probably the lack of a hatchback put people off perhaps.

  22. Photoshop challenge – further to my previous comment about the possible desirability of a Montego hatchback, can anyone make one in Photoshop? Rover 800 Fastback style perhaps, preferably in two tone white and grey?

    You know you want to, I certainly do but I’ve only just mastered cutting things out from their backgrounds and layers are something I wear when it’s cold outside.

  23. Awesom ad from a much simpler time, My Dad had two Montego’s first was a HL the second been an MG was always the envy of friends who’s Dads had Sierra’s or Escorts.

    Happy Days

  24. I’ve just followed Steve Bailey’s link to the Range Rover add. I remember seeing it at the time and enjoying it but, good grief, you’d be strung up for that advert now!! As the owner of a Land Rover I can tell you that the rules and guidelines for off roading and greenlaning were broken more times than I can think of in that advert! Driving like that you’d offend more people than you could shake a stick at and (if caught) risk getting your Range Rover sieved by the police!

    Love Russ Swift’s advert in the Montego.

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