Back To The 80s: Austin Maestro

Fri 7th Jun 2019

When we think of the classic eras of motoring we might cast our mind back to stylish cars of the 1950s, the muscle cars of the 1960s or the super cars of the 1970s. What might not spring to mind however is the motors which were produced in the 1980s - an era which certainly favoured practicality over power, style and sophistication.

But the cars of today owe much to 80s, it was decade which brought us turbochargers, multi-valve engines and hot hatchbacks, an era of the people-carrier and the rise of the SUV. Digital displays and electronic gadgetry, were the norm as designers pushed the boundaries of of what was capable in a production vehicle.

So let's celebrate the 80s, a period of huge change across Britain as a whole, and one which had incredible landmarks in the motor industry.

Austin Maestro
Launched on March 1st 1983, the Maestro was British Leyland’s long-awaited successor to the Austin Allegro, a vehicle which had been a stalwart of the 1970s. As if to demonstrate that the Maestro was heading for a futuristic and brave new world of motoring, the Maestro came with a host of technological gadgets, including a laminated windscreen, homofocal headlamps, body coloured plastics bumpers, an electronic management system and for the MG versions of the car they came with a digital speedometer, vacuum fluorescent analogue displays and most impressively of all a voice synthesis warning system which came voiced by actress Nicolette McKenzie.

There was plenty of optimism for the Maestro on launch, built at the Cowley plant in Oxford, which would later build BMW’s version of the MINI, the plan as for Austin to produce a new vehicle for the small, lower-medium and upper-medium market segments, the Maestro, under the project name LC10 was the second of those, following on from the Metro. The name Maestro had been considered for the smaller model following a naming competition amongst employees at the factory.

The Maestro was pitched in amongst the same market as the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Astra and on launch in 1983 performed remarkably well, Which? Magazine going so far as to say, "In comparison with opposition of a similar price and body size, the Maestro has a clear advantage on room for passengers, with few cars equalling it for comfort either in the front or back", there was suggestion that despite its smaller boot size, it could even be an option for those considering a Ford Sierra or Vauxhall Cavalier. That problem was solved by the Montego, which came with a bigger boot bolted onto the back of the Maestro’s framework.

Selling more than 600,000 units in a ten year spell of production, the Maestro performed admirably on forecourts throughout the 1980s, and was the tenth best-selling car of the whole decade.

It had something of a renaissance in the 1990s, which kit-cars of the Maestro sold post 1994 and Bulgarian factory’s taking some of Rover’s old stock to build Maestros to sell to their own folk, though some were bizarrely exported to Uruguay and Argentina. The Maestro also lived on in the Far East, with a Chinese tobacco company acquiring the rights and despite changing hands a few times, they were still building SUV versions of the Maestro in 2012!

Manufacturer: British Leyland and Rover Group
Assembly: Oxford, England
Designer: Ian Beech, David Bache
Place In History: While Bonnie Tyler was riding high in the charts in the UK, a tornado was tearing through the streets of Los Angeles on March 1st 1983, injuring 33 people.