Wednesday December 19, 2018
It is a mark of time passing that police officers seem extraordinarily young, that you start complaining that modern music is ‘a racket’ – and that you realise the MG Maestro Turbo is now 30 years old.
In October 1988 it was the fastest production vehicle to wear the Octagon badge and Britain’s fastest FWD car – facts that seemed to come to the minds of anyone who witnessed the display of the Maestro and Montego Owners’ Club at this year’s Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show.
Austin-Rover had trialled a Maestro Turbo in 1984/85 but the group’s then Chairman Harold Musgrove was un-keen on the work such a conversion would involve. A turbocharged MG Montego was eventually launched in 1985 and two years later, as Keith Adams points out in https://www.aronline.co.uk/cars/austin/maestro/maestro-development-story/ ‘the new management regime appreciated that as worthy as the Maestro EFi was, to compete with the newly emerging 16-valve rivals, the 152bhp Turbo engine would need to be drafted in’.
The new MG featured an elaborate colour-coded body kit, designed at Longbridge but built by Aston Martin Tickford, who also modified the suspension. naturally, there were elaborate “Turbo” decals, to put any XR3i, Astra GTE or Golf GTI owner on their guard. The price was £12,999 and the ultimate Maestro was available in your choice of Flame Red (a very late 1980s shade), British Racing Green (of course), Factory Black or White Diamond.
To match these exterior modifications, the MG’s top speed was 128 mph with 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds. ‘Even a 270 bhp Ferrari Mondial couldn’t live with this Maestro to a mile a minute’ wrote Car magazine in June 1989. They were not overly keen on its looks but observed ‘No front wheel drive hatch can better extraordinary acceleration that belies the Maestro’s porcine appearance’.
Certainly, even in 1988 the Turbo’s lines were reminiscent more of the very early 1980s as compared with its Ford and Vauxhall rivals, for all its full length side skirts and tailgate spoiler, but MG enthusiasts would doubtless reply that the Turbo was more of a “Q-Car”.
It was certainly an exclusive machine, with a mere 505 examples leaving Cowley, and in addition to being a ground-breaking sports saloon, it also marked virtually the last major development of one of BL’s key models. Maestro production would not cease until 1995, but by 1989 the Rover Group’s marketing emphasis was already on the R8-series 200.
Yet, the Maestro Turbo could never be overlooked, thanks to the boldness of its concept, its fascinating period appeal and the fact that it was in the great tradition of MG saloons. Some Abingdon devotees regard the 1938 Charlesworth-bodied WA Tourer as its finest hour while others will cite the BMC-era Magnette ZB or the ADO16. As for car that was a star of the Motor Show of 1988, it was still very much a stellar attraction of the NEC some three decades later.
After all, to quote the advert here was an MG that was not good news if you happened to own ‘something slower (and more expensive)’ - such as the aforementioned Ferrari plus ‘a Porsche 944, a Lamborghini Jalpha, a Lotus Excel or an Aston Martin V8 Volante’. Meanwhile, we will draw a veil over J Clarkson’s remarks about the Turbo’s aesthetics -