Thursday January 31, 2019
When Anthony Ellis displayed his 1992-model ex-Lancashire Constabulary Maestro 1.3 Clubman at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show last year the reaction of many visitors to the NEC could be summed up in one word – ‘wow!’. Any Maestro is now an unusual sight but this is believed to be the only surviving police model.
For many Britons, their average experience of a police vehicles when they were growing up was not so much a Rover, Jaguar, Humber or Wolseley but one of the thousands of small cars that served as “Pandas” or on rural patrol duties. It could have been a Hillman Husky or Imp, a Morris Minor 1000, a Mini Van, an Austin 1100 or Allegro, a Vauxhall Viva, a Ford Escort Mk. II - or a Maestro. These were the sort of police cars that you would find on a road safety demonstration at your local primary school or perhaps attending a shop lifting case at Martin’s Newsagent.
Anthony’s car was delivered to Lancashire Constabulary on 28th October 1991; the price was £7,158.70. It was originally based around Chorley and Fleetwood and Mr. Ellis acquired it nearly 14 years later after reading an advertisement on the Maestro and Montego Owners’ Club forum - ‘Anyone interested in a police car project?’. This naturally intrigued Anthony, especially as he is old enough to recall Maestro and Montego squad cars in use.
And so, the mammoth task commenced, for the Maestro had been dry-stored since 2003 and not moved for quite a time. The Clubman’s condition today is the result of almost three years’ devotion, which commenced with the dismantling of the Maestro. After some essential welding was carried out, there was a re-spray followed by hours of work, assisted by a work colleague, all after Anthony had finished his shift as a recovery driver. ‘The main rust was the rear arches and fuel filler pocket’. As with any former police car, one restoration challenge was acquiring the correct livery and equipment, and so Anthony joined the Blue Light Vehicle Preservation Group on Facebook. There, he gained invaluable help with photos of former Maestro patrol vehicles as well as being put in contact with a former VMU (vehicle maintenance unit) mechanic.
By 1992 the Maestro was already in the twilight of its career, and it was marketed as a cheaper alternative to the R8-series Rover 200. In terms of speed, Anthony is more used to a five-speed transmission rather than four but finds that the Maestro reaches 70 mph without much difficulty and has no problems with its lack of PAS. Most importantly, the Clubman fitted with “Police: Stop” boxes fore and aft, two-tone Fiam air horns – which are ‘louder than the insignia police car sirens’, a blue revolving beacon and the original Storno radio.
The photographs illustrate how Anthony has preserved a fascinating – and ultra-rare example of British motoring history. Today, the car is nick-named “Juliet Maestro” in honour of a certain 1980s police soap opera in which such cars fought crime (and often bouts of over-acting) throughout Colne and Accrington. And it still looks primed to strike fear into the hearts of any errant Ford Sierra XR4i driver.