Rare find: The fastest British hatchback ever

Calum Brown

To most aspiring petrolheads, the Austin Maestro boasts an image of bingo-dwelling, Dickensian hysterics hell-bent on traversing home in time for Coronation Street. Hardly the aspects gifted to aid Austin Rover’s salesmen. However, everything is a matter of perspective.

For instance, David Bowie was a huge Coronation Street fan, timing his live stage shows to perfection so he could enjoy a full episode in-between performances. Across the pond, Russell Crowe remains an avid attendee of the bingo. So if mundane aspects can offer an edge of cool, surely the dear-old Maestro has an ace card to play?

You’d be right. With a change of image, management and branding set to bring transformation for Rover in the early 1990s, the final car to proudly bear Austin-Rover Group badging was the totally bonkers MG Maestro Turbo.

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Displayed in Birmingham in October 1988 before trumpeting a launch date early in 1989, the MG Turbo was no ordinary Maestro. It made use of the 2.0-litre variant’s already torque-heavy engine yet ensured total mayhem by bolting a turbocharger to the powerplant and tuning the carburettors.

All this internal anarchy produced a top speed of 128mph and clutch-destroying 0-60mph sprint in only 6.7 seconds. Not only was this faster than any rival of the time, but the Maestro Turbo could smash the national speed limit from a standstill faster than a Ferrari GTS Turbo.

Yet, despite the bravado and tarmac-snorting ability, underneath the Tickford bodykit and punchy alloy wheels, it was still a Maestro. Arriving a full six years after the four-door family hatchback flatulently took a stab at a marketplace inundated with German and Japanese rivals, Turbo sales were slow.

Corporate plans never stretched beyond a limited run of 500 vehicles, with five press cars alongside, yet even then stock was glacial to leave showrooms across the nation. The final car was produced in 1991, with Rover’s new GTi versions of the 200 and 400 series waiting in the wings.

Maestro production continued until December 1, 1994, when incoming-parent company BMW terminated the model almost immediately. By then, more than 605,000 Maestros had been manufactured to varying degrees of quality. Yet, as the Maestro was something of a tarnished and lampooned vehicle beyond the reproach of the new millennium, most were run into the ground or fed to the scrapman’s claw.

The same mantra applies to MG’s Turbo variant. Despite the rapid performance figures, values hit rock bottom and all manner of ruffian could acquire them – before putting them through the front window of a local WH Smith or up a nearby tree. Needless to say, having weathered decades of abuse, the MG Maestro Turbo is now an endangered beast.

Therefore, unearthing even the tardiest of examples is cause for celebration and why we are rather excited by this eBay listing. The Maestro has been in the custody of the current owner for 23 years and boasts an odometer reading of only 32,000 miles.

Fully race blueprinted with a lightened flywheel and full stainless steel exhaust, this example is one of only 50 that left the factory in British Racing Green. Churning out 380bhp, the drivetrain and suspension had more than £10,000 spent on upgrades before it was then laid up.

Needless to say, the engine is dry locked having been sat for such a time, but as a restoration project from deep within the British automotive stable, you won’t find another. These cars come up very rarely. Just remember to bring a trailer once sealing the winning bid.