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A20 WMO aka D246 DPE aka 1987 MG Maestro EFi

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  • A20 WMO aka D246 DPE aka 1987 MG Maestro EFi

    This car must have had one of the more eventful lives of an MG Maestro used outside of rallying-circles, having been on the receiving end of both a break-in/joyride and a restoration which involved a complete colour-change to a non-standard colour.

    We bought the car in July 2007, and this coming July, assuming we still have the car by then, it will celebrate its fifth anniversary with us and will become the car we've kept for the second-longest time ever.

    I have no shame in admitting that the MG Maestro EFi is quite easily my favourite Maestro variant. At the extreme ends of the Maestro range, the 1.3 made an excellent town-car and the MG Turbo was a fitting, tarmac-scorching swansong for Austin Rover before they became Rover Group. Nonetheless I have always felt that the much-underrated MG EFi offered the best overall package. Equipping the practical five-door Maestro bodyshell with the torquey, injected O-series engine was a masterstroke by Austin Rover, and every contemporary motoring magazine sung its praises. Sadly, following the disappointment of the under-developed MG1600, it seems most punters were 'once bitten, twice shy', and they flocked to not buy the EFi in droves. Although the MG Maestro EFi was on sale for nearly seven years in one guise or another, it barely sold twice as many examples as its rushed-to-the-market ill-fated predecessor, which was only on sale for 18 months.

    Considering my obvious admiration for the model having previously owned several other examples, it may come as a surprise to learn that by mid 2007, an injected MG Maestro had been conspicuous by its absence on our driveway for four and a half years. Maybe it was a forgivable reaction then, when I saw the one small picture of a white 47,000 mile D-plater on eBay, supported by a brief description which didn't exactly embellish it with superlatives, that suddenly I found myself wearing the motoring equivalent of beer-goggles.

    The one and only picture in the MG EFi's eBay listing.
    July 2007.

    I became like a sex-deprived young man on heat, who in his desperate hormone-induced haze down the pub, hits on the local ageing village-bike. He knows that by sunrise he'll either have ticked-off every filthy depravity on his list of unfulfilled sexual deviances, or he'll have nothing to show for buying her drinks all night except a drunken comatose passenger in the back of his taxi and absolute financial ruination. Either way, no matter what you say to him, he's going to take the risk...

    The car was much too far away to even consider the possibility of viewing it beforehand. Trying to act like I was behaving methodically, first I messaged the seller to discuss pick-up options (he was happy to bring it as far north as Birmingham with a small contribution to his transportation fees). Then I hit the Buy It Now button. Then I sat there and let the reality hit me, like letting Vinny Jones kick my face in. “Oh my God!”, I distinctly recall messaging to Steve Worsley over MSN, who had been trying in vain to talk me out of it for a number of valid reasons, “What have I just done?”

    Never before had I agreed to buy a car unseen from anyone but a known, trusted enthusiast. And, unknown to me at the time, this car was about to prove why you shouldn't do that, ever, unless you're being virtually given the car at a fraction of its potential worth. Which I very much wasn't.

    My wife travelled by train alone to Birmingham New Street station to pick up the car. When she phoned me from the station car park, my heart sank. I could just tell the car wasn't what I was hoping for. Call it male intuition, or possibly it was a subtle subconscious undertone in her voice as she said, “John, what the fcuk have you bought”.

    It would be unfair to say the seller had told deliberate untruths, but it would be very accurate to say that he had been somewhat economical with disclosing very material faults; faults which just couldn't be passed off as natural age-related deterioration or wear-and-tear. Top of the list was the damage to the car's interior and to the driver's door-skin, caused by a break-in by joyriders, totally unmentioned by the seller in the car's listing.

    On top of that, generally I found there was too much disparity between my idea of “very good condition” and the seller's idea of the same. I didn't expect show-condition, but neither did I expect sloppy repairs to the doors and sills with messy unpainted welds, lots of miscellaneous dings and scratches, wheelarches made of rust, and the car's white paint carelessly touched-up in places by what looked to be appliance-whitener. So disappointed was I, that I contacted the seller and negotiated a partial refund.

    Not at all my idea of “very good condition”, unfortunately.

    But that was just the start of it. Within days we found out the car was running with a gearbox totally devoid of oil. Once filled, it has never needed refilling between services in over four years, so I don't know what the story was there.

    Then shortly after the restoration, the steering-column broke loose from the rack, leaving the steering-wheel just spinning round and round. I think it hadn't been correctly re-fitted following the earlier vandalism. As luck would have it, it chose to break loose when my wife was reversing the car up the drive. Thinking of all the places where such an incident could have caused instant death and carnage, I felt nauseous.

    Since then, the car has remained reasonably reliable. I say 'reasonably' because while things haven't gone wrong very often, when something has gone wrong, it's usually been sudden, without warning, potentially fatal had the fault occurred in a worse place, and irreparable at the roadside.

    For example, in 2010, the rotor-arm disintegrated without warning while we were just 50 yards from our house. A fellow forum-member came to my aid in supplying another, which was really useful because my local motorfactors were clueless.

    In 2011, the car blotted its copy-book twice: in Autumn we ended up stranded at a service station six miles from home, because one of the relays seized, then just before Christmas we ground to a halt three miles from home because the alternator packed in. Luckily, yet again, we were on a reasonably quiet road. Fixing the relay was made unnecessarily complicated by the AA man, who incorrectly diagnosed a broken fuel-pump. Literally days and days were wasted, trying to find and buy a fuel-pump that wasn't needed. Fixing the alternator was made unnecessarily complicated by eBay sellers, who list too many different and incompatible parts with a generic picture (so you can't actually see what you're buying), then they state clearly in the description that the part is suitable for your specific car, and upon receipt you see very obviously that the part won't fit.

    So on the whole, I wouldn't say this has been one of my more sensible purchases. However, while I regret buying this particular model because of its initial condition, which wasn't up to my expectations, I do not regret buying another MG EFi and turning it into a bit of a one-off. As someone famous probably once said, sometimes these things just have to be done. (Or if they didn't, they should have.)

    John Orrell

    MG Maestro Turbos 396 and 502
    MG ZT190+ (53 plate)

  • #2
    Originally posted by G51 NAV View Post
    “Oh my God!”, I distinctly recall messaging to Steve Worsley over MSN, who had been trying in vain to talk me out of it for a number of valid reasons, “What have I just done?”

    Until that, I believed you!

    It's surprising to think you're had this car 5 years. But even more surprising to find that's the longest you have kept anything except NAV.
    Sam Skelton

    RED995R - Triumph Stag - Once shot by Sir Patrick Stewart.
    E225CMV - Austin Montego 2.0HL - "Like an MG on weed!"
    H475PDA - Rover Montego DSLX auto - Possibly unique
    J615NJU - SAAB 9000 2.3 Turbo - Replacing gearbox. Then selling..
    L384WRH - Citroen XM TCT SEi auto - The Starship Francoprise...
    OV02MZY - Volvo V70 T5 SE - Replaced by above. For sale soon.
    PA02DXB - Rover 75 2.5 Connoisseur SE auto - Bought because it was cheap. Fleet getting out of hand now.


    • #3
      lol no truthfully, he really did try to talk me out of it. Sensibly he told me to wait for another one to come along which was either close enough to inspect or which was being sold by an enthusiast with a great description and good pictures. They were the same wise words which I did and still do tell to everybody. As Alice (in Wonderland) once said, "I give myself such good advice, but I very rarely follow it!"
      John Orrell

      MG Maestro Turbos 396 and 502
      MG ZT190+ (53 plate)