by Paul Sweeney
The sudden and violent demise of the MK2 Escort and subsequent arrival of the very welcome insurance monies meant I could seek out my next used car. I don't think I have mentioned that we now had a wolf pack of three small humans, so car space was at a premium and that had to be factored into my thinking.
In 1983 BL had launched the Austin Maestro, a new car to replace the Allegro (I'd had an Allegro as a second car during my Vauxhall period in Birmingham) and I decided to investigate as I really couldnt face the idea of another Cortina, and the MK2 Cavalier just didnt appeal to me.
"Which" magazine said this about the Maestro:
The Maestro was launched in March 1983. In its summing up of the new car the Consumers' Association, in the June edition of its Which?journal, described it as roomy, comfortable, and nice to drive, and said "If you are considering buying one now, our advice, based on our first impressions, is to go ahead". In January 1984, after testing the car, they concluded: "In comparison with opposition of a similar price and body size, the Maestro has a clear advantage on room for passengers, with few cars equalling it for comfort either in the front or back". They also considered it to be a serious rival to the higher-segment Vauxhall Cavalier and Ford Sierra, apart from its smaller boot space.
Like many of us at the time, I was of course fully aware of BL's troubles but desperately wanted them to succeed - so if they really had produced a decent car that suited my needs, I was definitely open to giving them a chance. I decided to find one for sale and see how it went.
The first Maestro I found on offer at the right price point was some distance away from my home in Bristol - at a small used car dealership in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Somebody kindly gave me a ride there and I inspected the Maestro. I was surprised by it's size; it was quite tall, wide and modern-looking. Inside, it was cavernous - a huge step up from the limited interior of the MK2 Escort - and it was also well appointed for its time and price point.
It was a 1600; 1.6L I think - in dark blue. I took it for a test drive and was very pleasantly surprised - compared to the Escort, the Maestro was comfortable, quiet and powerful. I really enjoyed throwing it around the country lanes of Somerset and when I returned to the dealer, a deal was soon done.
The dealer was a decent fellow in fact - when he heard my story of woe (the Escort being written off) he immediately offered me free use of his courtesy car for the few days he needed to prepare the Maestro for collection.
Naturally, I gratefully accepted and he disappeared for a short while to bring the courtesy car to me. After 10 minutes or so, he appeared driving the yellowest MK1 Fiesta I'd ever seen! It seemed to run OK, so I happily thanked him and drove it back to Bristol.
It was early Summer, and to begin with, I drove along with the driver's window open - but soon had a large bee in the car with me. I stopped and ushered it out (I'm not one for killing bees) and continued my journey - but very quickly had another bee joining me along with quite an assortment of other insects. Again, I stopped and cleared the car of wildlife, then closed the window before resuming my journey.
When I arrived home, my daughters came excitedly running out of the house to see "Daddy's new car" but soon ran screaming back inside when they were almost instantly surround by bees, wasps and various other bugs. Then it dawned on me - it was the car! The darn thing was such a bright yellow, the insects were seemingly mistaking it for a large flower - either it was the car or me and my money was on the car.
So it was with some relief a few days later that I returned the Fiesta to its owner and brought the Maestro home. All was well; the Maestro did exactly what it said on the tin and never let me down. Thanks BL - you did get it right sometimes, even if the haters won't admit it.
Next time - something catches my eye
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