In the ‘80’s, the British car industry was well on the way to a catastrophic meltdown.
Irreversible damage had been done and the demise of the British car manufacturing industry was only a stone’s throw away.
BL (British Leyland) tried to breathe some life into the failing business by taking some of the standard models and adding a sporting flavour. This meant warmed over engines, body kits, funky interiors and importantly, they came up with the idea of using the old mothballed MG brand.
They created a few models, the MG Metro, Montego and Maestro. All had normally aspirated engines with decent power and handling and sporty styling.
In 1989, BL or whatever they were called at the time, must have had a particularly crazy Christmas party because what the designers produced after would never have got past a sober board of directors.
They took the already warmed up MG Maestro and turned the heat way up. They beefed up the bodykit with help from Tickford of Aston Martin fame and added a turbo. The result was dramatic!
The MG Maestro was quick. It would be a quick car today but in 1989 it was really quick.
1994cc SOHC 4 cylinder 8v Engine with single SU Carb (this was 1989) and a Garret T3 turbo.
Power was about 150+bhp with 166lb.ft but actually was always more and the 0-60mph time was around 6.7 seconds or less in reality.
However you read it, they are impressive figures for 1989. The Maestro Turbo was the fastest accelerating front wheel drive production car in the world in 1989.
Cars like this earn themselves cult status. Only 505 were ever built .
They are few and far between and people go to extraordinary lengths to own one.
Michael Matthew is one of these guys.
Michael started working in a Rover dealership as an apprentice at the tender age of 16 and met a guy called Colin Francis. Colin raced a 300bhp Maestro and Michael spannered for Colin, travelling from one race circuit to another, learning about mechanics. The deformation of Michael Matthews had begun.
Over the next few years Michael had an envious string of usual suspects, the great and the good from the world of hot hatch heaven. A few modified MK1 Fiestas, one a now ultra rare a 1.3 Supersport and a Mk1 Sunburst XR2. After the Fiestas came an XR3i, an Uno Turbo, Renault Chamade 16v, 205GTi, 309GTi and more.
Michael threw in a few Rovers to try to quench his thirst, a 216 coupe and then 220GTi, a 220gsi, 420 turbo and 600 Vitesse but deep down there was a hole, there was a lust, a hunger that had to be fed. Michael needed a Maestro Turbo.
In 2009 a rare black Maestro turbo was rumoured to be coming up for sale. It was number 435 out of the 505 total production run. Michael called the owner and fell on his sword, pouring his heart out over the phone. The owner realised Michael had to be the new owner and a deal was done. There was the small matter of Michael not having the money and already having 3 other cars, but this wasn’t going to stop him.
I wish I could say the cars maiden voyage was astounding. I wish I could but I can’t. The Maestro turbo drove hideously, it was misfiring, the headlights didn’t work, it was losing coolant at an alarming rate, the brakes where crap and it was pulling to one side, not to mention the plethora of concerning, noises.
Once at the garage the work commenced and hasn’t stopped for over 3 years, you know how it is.
Everything has been done, from wheel cylinders to Head Gasket, radiator to water pump, you name it it’s been done.
The Maestro isn’t perfect. Retro cars need constant tinkering, reassurance and a sprinkling of love and affection.
This Maestro has been evolving for years and what you see here is merely a snap shot, a moment in time. Who knows where the journey will end for this car. Maybe it will be returned to standard by an owner in the future, maybe a full blown classic race car?
So, what’s been done? It might be quicker to tell you what hasn’t been done. The modifications list is long and distinguished.
The chassis has been improved with MG TF160 Disks and Callipers and MGTF Alloys with AVO Springs and KYB Shocks.
The noise is thanks to a cold Air Induction Kit with 2 Forced 3” feeds to a cotton cone filter. That’s gasses in. The gasses out part is looked after by a Powerflow 2.25” straight though exhaust. The noise is intoxicating with Flames and Bangs on the Over run
The muscle comes from carefully chosen engine mods. An alloy Intercooler feeds a Turbodynamics MD42 turbo using the original housings with Bailey dump valve and there’s a Piper Cam.
The Maestro tries in vain to keep the torque under control through an uprated clutch and LSD Gearbox from a Rover T16 Turbo.
The result is 187bhp at the wheels with 231lb.ft with a ¼ mile time of 14.339 seconds.
Aesthetically, in 2004 the car had a full body restoration and respray which included having it delocked and smoothing the front bumper.
Michael Matthews is a true retro petrol head. He’s my kind of guy.
His car is unique and the result of hours and hours of sweat and tears.
To quote Michael “I don’t see myself as the owner but more of a curator as one day inevitably it will have a new owner”.