Torque Thursday: MG Montego Turbo

With so few made and even fewer surviving, the king of torque steer rarely appears in classifieds. However, this star example is begging for garage space…

The Montego remains consigned to history’s automotive sin bin. A vehicular characterisation of all that went wrong during the 1980s, vast swathes ended up in the oily palm of the scrap merchant, doomed to become bean tins.

The main problem was image. Montegos were purchased mainly by those who endured the patriotic duty of ‘buying British’, or who merely required transport to attend their weekly bingo session. By the time the cars’ rusting hulks landed on the second-hand market, their desirability was equalled only by a night of stale passion with Hyacinth Bucket.

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With more exotic and reliable saloons soon flooding the market, Montego production fell away. Surviving numbers now rival the number of brain cells employed by Rosanne Barr when updating her Twitter feed. However, there is one variant that bucks the trend, as a certain Mr Ian Ogilvy demonstrates...

Back in 1985, family saloons offered the sluggish qualities of treacle. Most served up weedy sub-2.0-litre engines, four-speed manual transmissions and all the flatulent character that motorists of the day had come to expect.

Then the Montego Turbo arrived, ready to mash rivals into submission. Prowling the Austin-Rover showrooms, MG’s variant attracted no end of lusty teenage interest, new drivers attempting to persuade their parents that this was the status symbol du jour. Forget the Fiesta 1.0-litre Popular on the adjacent forecourt, this was far more 'sensible'. It even had a larger boot for study books and copious amounts of cocaine...

However, very few buyers actually took the Turbo home, not least due to low production numbers. Naturally, even fewer examples live on today.

The MG benchmarked the very mantra that defined the British car industry; where it was good, it was great – but where it was bad, it left you slack-jawed in shock. Handling, ride, comfort and performance were class leading, whereas build quality and trim left motoring writers and owners in a frenzied rage.

Yet by offering Ferrari performance on a budget, the MG Montego Turbo found cultural standing alongside the Volkswagen Golf GTi and all manner of fast Fords. The earliest models even had a digital dashboard and voice synthesiser, while for sheer hilarity the 150bhp 2.0-litre model could conjure up equally lofty torque steer with one swift push of the pedal. The chassis was so underdeveloped that no wristful of opposite lock could save you.

For the maniacal road manner alone, dozens of Montego Turbos could be found buried in trees, hedges or the shop front of WH Smith. If you were really boisterous, or trying to show off, you get get understeer and oversteer all in one.

Although relatively unloved by classic car fans, the Montego does enjoy a small, albeit passionate, following. The MG Turbo remains the best model of the lot, even if it’s the most dangerous. With a 0-60mph sprint completed in little over 7.2 seconds, critics are often silenced after a short blast – or even just a quick glance at its specifications.

What’s this one like?

It’s a cracker! It sports healthy, blemish-free white paint and features all the comforts required, from power steering and electric windows to central locking and the original Philip radio-cassette player. There are also sport seats, alloy wheels and a full service history.

There have been only two owners from new, and the sale includes all original manuals and book packs. A very rare find, certainly in a condition such as this. Get a closer look with the AutoClassics classified advert here.

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