Meet Skippy - The AutoClassics Maestro

Most people would look at a beige Austin Maestro in a skip and laugh. Yet our staff writer decided to give it a home. But there is more to the BL rustbox than meets the eye…

To someone who already knows the story surrounding ‘Skippy’ the Maestro, his rescue was a necessary duty. That’s why, when no one else would rise to the challenge, this demented Scot had to step in and prevent the world’s most abused Maestro from an undignified end. Witnessing its little beige face being fed into the crusher after such a hard life would be similar to watching someone give Gandhi a thorough kicking while standing idle.

Protruding from the yellow skip on Haverhill Vauxhall’s forecourt, advertising their new hellish scrappage scheme, Skippy was destined to become bean tins. And probably Lidl ones, at that.

However, after an email from Tanya Field of the Montego and Maestro Owners Club explaining the situation, I found myself in a friend's Jag XJ hurtling south to reach the dealership, only minutes before the scrap man arrived with his low-loader of death. There, on a blisteringly cold December morning, Skippy found a new home willing to get him back in shape.

We only got a quick glance over the Maestro when still in the skip, but what was witnessed rang alarm bells. The interior was held together purely by hope, while the bodywork appeared to have been styled by Father Ted with his hammer. Nonetheless, we agreed a collection date with the help of Thistle Towing to assist Skippy’s escape.

Except, when turning up the following Sunday, the Maestro had already been ejected from the skip and hidden away at the very back of Vauxhall’s staff car park. The roof had fresh damage, while the windscreen had cracked, leaving us with a fear that the chassis could be twisted, probably from its rough exit at the hands of an unknown party.

Finally able to inspect the underside and open the doors, we discovered that the Austin’s A-pillars were all but a memory and rust was rampant over the body panels. I was advised to walk away, but could see the glint on those square headlamps like the eyes of a child desperate to escape school-yard bullying. He was coming home with us. Even if, with all the photographs being taken, it was only just sinking in that this was my vehicle. Holy god, what the hell was I doing?

That pleading look turned into one of terror upon arrival in at Skippy's storage facility as the bonnet was swiftly crowbarred open and a new battery connected up for an immediate health check. Injecting the fuel straight into the carburettor and cleaning the spark plugs left us only one problem – finding something to fit the damaged ignition, seeing as Skippy’s keys had long been lost before we got our mitts on him. Using a spoon twice the value of the actual car, the ignition lights flared up and, unbelievably, the engine spluttered into life on two-cylinders, then three, then the whole whack after a prolonged turn of the spoon. The exhaust reek could have floored a rhinoceros, but Skippy was alive.

That was nearly a year ago, over which time the Maestro has sat idle in a courtyard due mainly to a lack of time on my behalf. Not to say he hasn’t been anywhere, trailered to the NEC Restoration Event in Birmingham to rust all over the Federation of Historic Vehicle Clubs stand. The car seemed to be quite an attraction, but this has left a lasting problem I can’t seem to escape. Nearly all persons viewing the Maestro expect to see him transformed from a deathtrap with seats into a concours, mint-condition example for show stands and club outings. That would be a mammoth task and, seeing as I’m downright dangerous with a welder, probably fatal for anyone within a mile radius of my house.

He’s still in critical condition, but there is life in the old dog yet. I just need to decide what to do with his budget-1980s bulk. Autocross? The Mille Miglia? Probably not – but I am open to ideas.

Watch this space.

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