• Only 19k miles from new • Show car since 2014 • Never restored or welded • Once owned by stunt driver Russ Swift (though not used for stunts!) • Perfect for the Festival of the Unexceptional
Do you remember the last time you saw a Montego in the wild? No, nor us. From the mid-Eighties to the mid-Nineties, it was how British Leyland took the fight to the Ford Sierra and, in its day, sold over half a million units, mostly in the UK. And yet now they are almost extinct, the surviving examples being mostly those that have been hoarded by enthusiasts.
Always popular with fleet buyers, many were company cars, particularly in the 1.6L spec seen here. Sporting the 1.6 litre S series engine, features to make the neighbours jealous included a five speed gearbox, stereo radio/ cassette and a manual sunroof. Two tone paint was a no cost factory option, though metallic would cost you more.
But, despite their lack of glamour, these cars were part of the fabric of everyday life and there are lots of us who either drove or rode in them that recognise the importance of preserving those elements of history.
This pristine example has led something of a charmed life, as you can see from its condition. Remarkably, it’s never been restored as it has obviously been used sparingly and always garaged.
Over the years it’s been part of a number of private collections and its early movements have been carefully recorded. It was registered on 17th May 1988 to the rental company Avis, though not to be used as a rental.
Back in the day, it was common for large companies to buy cars in volume at a substantial discount and then sell them on at a profit, much as some dealers do today. On 2nd September 1988 it was bought by the appropriately named Mr Layland, a gentleman of advancing years who resided in Wigan, Lancashire. It’s believed that he used the car for runs to the supermarket and local days out on a Sunday, which explains the low number of miles on the odometer.
In 2014, it was acquired by Russ Swift, the renowned MG Rover stunt driver, to add to his collection but fear not, he didn’t want to use it to replicate his on-screen antics in the Montego TV advert. In fact there is a letter in the pack stating explicitly that it hasn’t been used for these purposes from when it was sold to the next owner in 2015, a Mr Holmes of Lincoln. Even by this stage it was a remarkable survivor and was used as a show car in Lincolnshire, winning best in show at the local Leyland event.
The previous owner, a former manager at Rover Group who had a Montego as a company car, acquired it from a Mr Connelly, also of Lincolnshire, who had a small collection of classics. It’s now in the hands of another former Montego company car driver who had sentimental reasons for wanting to own and drive one again. However, his head has now been turned by a R129 SL500, which must be something to do with the vaned rear lights that are common to both, and is now selling to make room for it.
The car is accompanied by the original handbook, a Haynes manual and some receipts and MOT certificates. There is also a copy of the original edition of Motor magazine that reviewed the Montego, an original price list, the brochure for Russ Swift’s Driving Display Team and the rosette from its best in show award. Both keys are present and the current MOT expires on 30th Mar 2022.
The designers obviously went for a ‘non more beige’ approach when specifying the interior of these Montegos, for pretty much everything that’s not shared with other cars in the BL family is in the most popular carpet hue. It’s so beige! But when you first set eyes on it, it’s not the colour but rather the condition that stands out. For it’s no exaggeration to say that it looks like it’s just left the factory. But they say that smell is the most evocative sense and, if you were ever in one of these when they were new, your nose will instantly take you back as, incredibly, the new car smell is also present.
At some point in its life, the headlining had started to sag and so it has received a replacement, though there’s no sign of the work. Everything - the seats, carpets seatbelts, door cards, dashboard and steering wheel, you name it, is pristine, despite the obvious tendency of beige to show the dirt. There’s also no fading so it’s clearly not been left out in the sun, and there’s no sign of anyone smoking in it either. In the boot, which looks for all the world as if it’s never been used, the original tool kit is stashed away and the original spare wheel is still in place, complete with the manufacturer’s label on the tyre.
The original radio is still in the dash and, while there hasn’t been anyone with a beard and a check shirt nearby to test that the cassette player still functions, the radio certainly does, along with all of the admittedly not numerous selection of buttons.
Despite being described rather uncharitably in period by Car Magazine as being ‘styled by a committee that never met,’ the passage of time and the remarkable condition mean that the car, finished in Shantung Gold over Hurricane Grey, will surely draw admiring glances wherever it goes. In the sunshine, the gold paint glitters while the grey provides an attractive counterpoint and the red pinstripe around the middle provides a visual lift.
It is believed to be clad in all of its original panels, has never been welded and reportedly attracts positive comments from MOT testers on its lack of rust. There are a few small blemishes to note: some slight bubbling, possibly as the result of a light kerb scrape, at the base of the driver’s door and on the sill below that has been touched in, a small knock on the underside of the front bumper on the passenger side and a couple of tiny dents, one on the boot by the lock and the other on the driver’s side front wing. It should be said though that you have to be looking really hard to spot them.
The L spec wasn’t quite enough to provide alloy wheels and so they are steelies with unmarked wheel trims all round and good tread on all the tyres. Overall, it’s fabulous and only concours judges are going to be picking up on the finer details.
The pristine condition extends to under the bonnet where there are even some of the original labels from the manufacturing process intact. The single overhead cam engine has both a carburettor and electronic engine management but with the choke it fires up with no problem, helped by a battery that was replaced in 2017.
On the road it drives just as it always would have done. It might not be the last word in high performance but it does pull sweetly, change gears smoothly and stop straight and with conviction. There are no untoward noises from the drivetrain or suspension and it’s just as you would hope that a well-preserved, low mileage car would be.
Given the number of Montegos that were once on UK roads, there can be few people over a certain age who won’t have some experience or recollection of one of them. This is your chance to re-live those memories, and also to play your part in helping to preserve an artefact of what is now a bygone age.
With one best in show award already, if it’s properly cared for, then this car should be capable of many more. Its condition means that it could quite easily be exhibited as a museum piece. The fact is that the classic car world isn’t all about exotica and the preservation of everyday metal brings joy to just as many as a rarefied sports car. So whatever your connection to the Montego, wouldn’t you like to have this as part of your collection? If so, then get bidding now!
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