Motoring Trailblazers - Austin/MG Maestro

Sat 8th Dec 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Austin/MG Maestro
What’s so great our groundbreaking about the 1980s stalwart the Austin Maestro you may ask?

Well, those who bought and drove the British classic car will tell you many stories about a car which was designed using state-of-the-art technology.

When British Leyland rose from the ashes of the nationalised British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1975, it was left to a South African, Michael Edwardes, to change the face of the company and modernise in more ways than one. Edwardes wanted a new range of mass-market models to replace the current offerings entirely. The Austin Metro came first in 1980, but soon to follow was the Maestro, which was a mid-size family car with the aim of replacing the Austin Allegro and Maxi.

That state-of-the-art sensibility was summed up with a range of groundbreaking features, including a bonded laminated windscreen, homofocal headlamps, body-coloured plastic bumpers, an electronic engine management system and adjustable front seat belt upper anchorage positions. But it was the later rebadged MG variant which had the critics drooling, an on board voice synthesis warning and information system spoke to drivers to warn them that fuel was low or that they had forgotten to fasten their seatbelts. We rarely get much more than bleeps and flashing lights these days to give us a warning, so the prospect of a voice telling you what was wrong was more than revolutionary.

Those same critics were impressed, so-much-so that they saw it as a potential rival to the Cavalier and Sierra, the leading lights of the British motor market.

Unfortunately, the fate of the Maestro was in the hands of a dodgy owner. Due to their previous financial difficulties they struggled to offer the same kind of trade discounts their rivals enjoyed. The company seemed stuck in the 1970s in almost every sense and though the Maestro had some groundbreaking technology, the 80s were a period of fast-track bold designs and the Austin looked dated very quickly. But perhaps the biggest weight around the neck of the Maestro was the fact that it was in the hands of British Leyland, a company with very poor quality control standards, which left those impressive talking dashboards talking gibberish, if they talked at all.

In total 605,000 Maestro were produced, but ultimately it failed to eclipse the sales of the Allegro it had been built to replace.