Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Austin Maestro is a mid-sized hatchback automobile produced by the British Leyland company in the early 1980s. The Maestro was produced between 1983 and 1994, and was also available as a panel van . It also formed the basis of the Montego sedan and wagon.
By the late 1970s, British Leyland, were in serious trouble. The company had been bailed out from the brink of bankruptcy by the government, and suffered from a whole host of industrial relations problems. South African-born corporate troubleshooter Sir Michael Edwardes was employed in 1977 to sort out the troubled firm. One of his first jobs was to begin a programme to replace the infamous Austin Allegro, which had been a major disaster for BL.
The Maestro, project LC10, was styled by BL's ace design guru David Bache , and was a departure from previous front-wheel drive cars from the company in that it dispensed with the famous Issigonis transmission-in-sump powertrain that had been pioneered in the Mini. Coupled to the A-Series and R-Series powerplants was a conventional end-on transmission purchased from Volkswagen. The Allegro's costly Hydragas suspension was replaced by conventional MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear.
The problem with the Maestro was not that it was a bad car, but that its gestation period was so long, it was almost out of date when it finally hit the market. By 1983, the trend in the motor industry was towards smooth, aerodynamic bodystyles typified by the Ford Sierra, Audi 100 and Mk.2 Vauxhall Astra. Desperate last minute attempts to make the angular Maestro appear state-of-the-art included a digital instrument panel and a "talking" trip computer which used the voice of actress Nicolette MacKenzie , the latter gaining a laughable reputation for frequently "crying wolf".
The car was a reasonable success, but not as much as beleaguered BL had hoped. An early reputation for poor build quality and unreliability did not help. The biggest problems centred around the 1.6 litre R-Series engine, which had been hurriedly transplanted from the Austin Maxi as the under-development S-Series unit was not yet ready for production. R-Series units suffered from hot starting problems and premature crankshaft failure. The multi-piece dashboard was prone to squeaks and rattles, and generally falling apart.
The newer S-Series engine eventually appeared along with the 2.0 litre MG badged versions using a fuel-injected version of the O-Series engine with a Honda gearbox in 1985, along with a much needed new dashboard design. But by now the car was hopelessly outclassed by the opposition, and loyal BL customers instead turned to the Honda-developed Rover 200-series. Austin badges were dropped in 1988, and the range was sustained by a noisy but economical diesel launched the preceding year.
The arrival of the Rover 600-series in 1993 saw the closure of the Maestro/Montego assembly line, but small-scale production in CKD form continued until 1994, when BMW's takeover of Rover saw the plug finally being pulled on production almost immediately.
But the Maestro refused to die, and after an abortive attempt to sell the Maestro production tooling to a Bulgarian company in the mid-'90s left hundreds of Maestros in CKD (Complete Knocked Down) kit form. By the turn of the millennium it was still possible to buy a brand new Maestro, although only in left hand drive. In 2003, yet another attempt to bring the Maestro back from the dead has seen the production tooling go to China, where the car is very much back in full-scale production. Chinese models feature the front end of the Montego.
- 1983–1993 - 1275 cc A-Series I4, 68 hp (51 kW) at 5800 rpm and 75 ft·lbf (102 Nm) at 3500 rpm
- 1983–1985 - 1275 cc A-Series I4, 64 hp (48 kW) at 5500 rpm and 73 ft·lbf (99 Nm) at 3500 rpm HLE
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