Montego, Maestro and Metro are the 1980s Austin cars on the brink of extinction


Once a popular choice among Britons in the 1980s and early 90s, Austin Montegos, Maestros and Metros were ten a penny on our streets and driveways.

But these once mainstream motors are now on the edge of disappearing from our roads altogether, according to figures that reveal numbers have dwindled, in some cases to just handfuls. 

The three cars, of which there were over a million on the road at one point, are among the 10 endangered models that have depleted in numbers most rapidly in the last 25 years, according to research carried out by Uswitch.

Austins on the brink of extinction: The Montego (pictured) is one of the three British Leyland motors that has dwindled to just handfuls of examples in 2021

Austins on the brink of extinction: The Montego (pictured) is one of the three British Leyland motors that has dwindled to just handfuls of examples in 2021

The study named the 10 models that have seen the biggest decline in examples on the road since 1995.

In all cases, their numbers have depleted by over 99 per cent in the 25-year period.

But while some of the cars on the list are models you’ll probably struggled to recall, the trio of Austins will strike the memories of those who can recall the 1980s and early 1990s.

Topping the list of rapidly declining cars is the Austin Montego.

The family saloon car was produced by British Leyland from 1984 until 1988, and then by the Rover Group until 1995.

The Montego family saloon was launched in 1984 and signaled a new era for struggling British Leyland

The Montego family saloon was launched in 1984 and signaled a new era for struggling British Leyland

Almost half a million Montegos were bought by motorists in Britain. Today, just 34 are on record as being in existence

Almost half a million Montegos were bought by motorists in Britain. Today, just 34 are on record as being in existence

The review of the fastest-depleting cars of the last 25 years has been compiled by Uswitch, having tapped into data held by the Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency

The review of the fastest-depleting cars of the last 25 years has been compiled by Uswitch, having tapped into data held by the Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency

A total of 436,000 Montegos were sold in the UK, though 1995 records show that just 205,283 were registered in the country by the time production ended.

Fast forward 25 years and there are just dozens remaining.

According to data provided by the Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency, only 34 remained by 2020.

That’s a decline of 99.98 per cent in a quarter of a century.

Figures published by Uswitch found that in 1995 there were just 205,283 Montegos registered. It means numbers have fallen by over 99%

Figures published by Uswitch found that in 1995 there were just 205,283 Montegos registered. It means numbers have fallen by over 99%

Cars that have depleted most rapidly since 1995 (Uswitch)

Cars that have depleted most rapidly since 1995 (Uswitch)

Other models that have posted similar demise are somewhat lesser known, such as the Fiat Regata (1983-1990) of which there were around 14,500 in 1995 but just three remaining in UK ownership at the end of last year.

The list also includes the Lada Samara (1987-1996), Hyundai Pony (1975-1990) and Vauxhall Belmont (1980-1984) with just 11, 7 and 16 examples remaining respectively in 2020.

However, these motors were all sold in relatively low numbers compared to the British Leyland cars.

And two more Austins feature in the top 10 list – the Maestro and Metro.

The Maestro, a five-door family hatchback, was produced from 1982 to 1987 by British Leyland, and from 1988 until 1994 by Rover Group.

Among the list of the rapidly depleted cars that are now on the brink of extinction is the Austin Maestro pictured here

Among the list of the rapidly depleted cars that are now on the brink of extinction is the Austin Maestro pictured here

The Maestro, a five-door family hatchback, was produced from 1982 to 1987 by British Leyland, and from 1988 until 1994 by Rover Group

The Maestro, a five-door family hatchback, was produced from 1982 to 1987 by British Leyland, and from 1988 until 1994 by Rover Group

A survey conducted in 2006 by motoring magazine Auto Express revealed the Maestro was one of the most scrapped cars of the previous 30 years

A survey conducted in 2006 by motoring magazine Auto Express revealed the Maestro was one of the most scrapped cars of the previous 30 years

It was the successor to the Austin Allegro and Maxi and a whopping 605,000 units were bought by drivers in total.

In 1995, official records show that 231,824 remained in existence. An Auto Express survey in 2006 revealed the Maestro was one of the most scrapped cars of the preceding 30 years, with just over 11,500 examples with registered owners 15 years ago.

That number has shrunk to a mere 90 cars today.

The Maestro was the successor to the Austin Allegro and Maxi and a whopping 605,000 units were bought by drivers in total

The Maestro was the successor to the Austin Allegro and Maxi and a whopping 605,000 units were bought by drivers in total

Records held by the DfT and DVLA show that just 90 Maestros are on the road today. This is one of them, and it's in very fine fettle indeed

Records held by the DfT and DVLA show that just 90 Maestros are on the road today. This is one of them, and it’s in very fine fettle indeed 

It’s a similar rate of disappearance for the Metro supermini.

It hit the market in 1980 arguably tasked with the most difficult jobs any car has ever faced – replacing the iconic original Mini.

It remained on sale for 18 years under different guises – MG and Rover Metro – but the Austin version is one that is rapidly disappearing from our roads.

The research by Uswitch suggests over half a million (572,974) were on the road in 1995.

However, by 2020, that figure has dropped to just 289.

Research by Uswitch suggests over half a million (572,974) Metros were on the road in 1995. However, by 2020, that figure has dropped to just 289

Research by Uswitch suggests over half a million (572,974) Metros were on the road in 1995. However, by 2020, that figure has dropped to just 289

With numbers falling, does it mean the Austins are now worth a pretty penny?

John Mayhead, manager of Automotive Intelligence Hagerty UK, described the Austins as the ‘absolute workhorses of their day’ that ‘took us to the office, ferried us to school and carried the shopping home’.

He added: ‘When you go to a car show and see a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, you can appreciate them as a car but most people don’t have an emotional connection with them. 

‘But these cars are different: so many of us remember what the hot vinyl seats felt like on a summer’s day, or feel very nostalgic about the memories that are prompted by the sights, touch and even smells of these cars. 

‘That, plus their extreme rarity these days is why Hagerty actively celebrates them at our Festival of the Unexceptional.’

As for the remaining cars on the road, could any of them be worth big money in 2021?

‘In value terms, the most collectable of the Maestro, Metro and Montegos are the performance models: for example, Hagerty’s top value for the MG Maestro Turbo has risen from £6,900 in November 2018 to £9,900 today,’ John explained to us. 

‘Base-spec examples are even less: the Hagerty value for a ‘concours’ Metro 1.0 is just £3,900. That said, there are owners out there very prepared to spend much more than the car is worth to properly restore and preserve these rare survivors. 

‘That’s a great sign, and it shows that their collectability is about much more than money.’

The motor show for those who want to reminisce about Austins and other forgotten cars

The Festival of the Unexceptional is the annual motor show purely for once common cars from previous eras that have long been forgotten

The Festival of the Unexceptional is the annual motor show purely for once common cars from previous eras that have long been forgotten

The Festival of the Unexceptional is a celebration of the cars that were once a common sight but are now a rarity on UK roads. With the event cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, it makes a return this year, hosted at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire on Saturday 31 July. 

Originally staged in 2014, the showpiece for underwhelming motors has earned its place in the automotive calendar as an attainable concours event offering a mix of rare cars and a prestigious location in an informal and friendly approach. 

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The unique event celebrates cherished everyday classic cars and acknowledges this growing movement among owners and enthusiasts alike.

The show was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. It makes a return this year, hosted at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire on Saturday 31 July.

The show was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. It makes a return this year, hosted at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire on Saturday 31 July.

Whether you want to cast your eyes over an Allegro, truly appreciate a Vauxhall Cavalier or delight at a Datsun Cherry, this is the show that will deliver. It attracts much maligned and long forgotten ‘ordinary’ classic cars and commercial vehicles of the late 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s – many of which you’ll unlikely come across on the road today.

Tickets for the popular festival are strictly limited and highly sought after. 

A first batch of 1,000 tickets will be offered completely free of charge, with a further 1500 tickets available at just £5.75. Children up to the age of 12 go free.

Interested showgoers should use this link to register for tickets.

Whether you want to cast your eyes over an Allegro, truly appreciate a Vauxhall Cavalier or delight at a Datsun Cherry, this is the show that will deliver

Whether you want to cast your eyes over an Allegro, truly appreciate a Vauxhall Cavalier or delight at a Datsun Cherry, this is the show that will deliver

The three other models to make the Uswitch top 10 list of nearing-extinction motors are the Datsun Stanza, Zastava Yugo and Nissan Stanza.

Commenting on the data, Joel Kempson, car insurance expert at Uswitch, said: ‘Although some of these vehicles have declined significantly in numbers, there are numerous reasons why certain makes and models are becoming extinct.

‘For example, rapid technological innovations help to continuously improve vehicle features and safety. Additionally people choose to switch from older models to to lower running costs or reduce emissions.

‘In the future, we could expect to see petrol and diesel vehicles to become few and far between as the country switches to electric and hybrid alternatives in an effort to lower carbon footprint.

‘Many car manufacturers are still behind when we consider the level of innovation we see from Tesla and Toyota in the electric and hybrid market, perhaps making a few brands worried they may be heading for the same fate as Zastava.’

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