Want an interesting daily? We make the case for a Maestro...
Launched in 1983, the Austin Maestro replaced the Allegro and the Maxi in one fell swoop. A wide variety of options were available, from thrifty diesels to the plush Vanden Plas. A choice of two hatchbacks (metal and plastic bumper) in varying trim levels meant that there was a Maestro for everyone, and their simplicity makes them excellent classics for daily use. The van makes an interesting classic commercial, too.
Power (bhp@rpm) 68bhp@5800rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 75lb ft@3500rpm
Top speed 95mph
Gearbox 4/5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The primary concern of any would-be Maestro owner is bodywork, so buy the best body you can. Particular areas of concern are the wheelarches and sills – check the joint between the sill and the rear arch as major corrosion here will not be an easy fix. A-pillars rot at the roof join, and any rust around the windscreen should be closely watched and treated as soon as possible; treating it at an advanced stage means removing the bonded screen. Fuel filler pockets can rot out, but GRP and carbon fibre replacements are available from the MG ‘M’ Group. Watch the front valances on metal-bumper cars and vans as they attract stone chips and the inevitable blobs of rust. Both the front and rear valances on plastic bumper cars can rust – they weren’t painted at the factory and the first sign for many owners is the loss of the boot floor! Less serious is tailgate corrosion – while they go underneath the rear window and along the bottom edge, the tailgate can be replaced easily should a spare be found. Metal bumpers in good condition are scarce, so try and find a car with good ones
and ensure you keep the back face clean and rustproofed. The majority of cars will have minor blistering on the door bottoms – keep a close eye on this, but it isn’t a serious issue. Be aware that wings for the metal and plastic bumper models are different, as are the valances and other panels.
There were three engine options in varying states of tune. The 1.3 A-series is a common fitment to cars and vans, and is well catered for by Mini specialists. The 1.6 R-series is a development of the E-series as found in the Maxi and Allegro – no nasties here, and there’s no need to worry about cam belt changes as it has a chain. The R-series was refined into the S-series in 1984, and the cam chain was replaced by a belt, along with more extensive reworking. Don’t allow emulsification in the oil filler pipe on S-series cars to alarm you – it’s not a sign of head gasket failure but a design flaw in the routing of the filler pipe. Diesels used a development of the O-series known as the MDi or Perkins Prima, which has many fans due to its economy and torque characteristics.
Most Maestros have a VW gearbox which can be notchy in use, and the linkages are prone to popping off the box when worn. It’s a simple fix, though, and can be remedied in seconds; some owners cable-tie the linkages to prevent re-occurrences. Diesels (and MGs) use the Honda-designed PG1 gearbox from the Montego. Linkages are also a weak point and a vague gear change indicates worn PG1 linkages. Front wheel bearings wear quickly and are not the simplest of fixes – also take care to examine the steering components carefully on cars with PAS fitted.
As befits a small family car of the 1980s there were myriad specifications, trim materials and colours. While it is too tempting to choose the model with the brownest interior, this trim is prone to disintegration and many cars have had trim panels replaced with grey items due to the scarcity of good brown parts. Grey, blue and cream trim items do not have this issue, with grey being the easiest to source replacement parts. Model specific items such as seats can be hard to find, so try to find as good an interior as you can. ‘L’ spec cars with Moonstripe Tweed seats are prone to water staining, but all materials used for Maestros are hard wearing and comfortable. The late Vanden Plas models featured walnut and leather – a stark contrast to early Base models which lacked even a glovebox, or the commodious vans with their vinyl seats! Early dashboards can rattle, whereas the later one-piece dash from the Montego is prone to cracking and lifting above the instrument binnacle. Toys such as central locking and electric windows can prove erratic, but they are simple to fix.
Maestros are excellent family cars and are well up to daily use. They’re modern enough to be low maintenance, yet simple enough to be fixed on a driveway. With slim pillars for good visibility, space to fit a tumble drier in the back, short overhangs and room for four six-footers, they’re a sensible classic that’s cheap to buy and run. Vans have all the attributes of a hatch but with a much bigger load bay.