Campers are very much a global favourite. The idea of strapping a bed and kettle into the back of a van is one that has captivated thousands of us over the years. Explore the great outdoors, go up hill and over dale, live a life of adventure… or park up on a Caravan Club site in North Devon and fail to sleep because of the dog in the tent next door barking all night. One or the other. It’s all wonderfully British.
Extending from the more conventional van-derived campers are the car, or small van-derived campers. Again, these vehicle are seen all over the world, but nowhere demonstrates such variety as the UK. If we can fit a camping stove, a thin mattress and some aftermarket windows into the back of something, we will. The Mk1 Escort van, the Citroen Berlingo, the Nissan Micra (no, really, it was available as a one-man camper), the Seat Terra and of course, this, the Austin Maestro. In van guise, the designers saw an opportunity to make an ace little camper and we have to say, we’re kind of into it.
How cosy does that look. We can quite happily imagine sitting in there as the rain beats down on whatever bleak corner of Norfolk we’ve ended up in. Some Tesco ‘meal deal’ sandwiches on the go while the kettle comes up to a boil on the stove. Radio playing Steve Wright with the occasional crackle. Bliss. Snug, warm, very British bliss. And don’t think you’d be cramped in there. Look at the exterior pics and you’ll see that this particular Maestro has a raised roof, so even the tallest of campers will be comfortable. The two rows of facing seats fold out into a bed, there are curtains aplenty for maximum privacy, and the whole thing is trimmed in myriad shades of brown.
We can’t lie. We’ve always liked the Maestro, so this camper 500L Countryman version goes some way to floating our boat. Being Maestro-sized, it’s a camper without any of the cumbersome dimensions typical of campers. It can go anywhere and won’t stress you out when negotiating the narrow streets of somewhere like St Ives. Its size also lends it to the spur of the moment. No kids this weekend? Just in the van and go. No need to plan, pack and check everything on a big camper that hasn’t moved for six months. And on that note, the Maestro could be used every day as a normal car for commuting. It is just a Maestro after all. A Series engine, four-speed ‘box, simple design and construction, car-like on-road manners. It’d be rude not to.
This particular Austin Maestro 500L Countryman to give it its full name, has had just four owners and they all seem to have doted on it. What’s impressive is that this car hasn’t been restored, it’s been preserved. This is a proper survivor of the ’80s, which is quite special. It’s been loved a great deal, as is evidenced by the condition both internally and externally. With 96,000 miles on the clock, this is also a camper that has lived its best life, so you owe it to do the same.
It’s not going to be for everyone, and we know that. However, if you’re looking for a cheap, fun, usable, classic camper, you can’t do much better than this. It’s a wonderful and charming nod back to how we used to do small campers, but it’s not so old that it’s fragile and should be pampered. This Maestro has plenty of life and plenty of camping adventure left in it, and all for a mere £5,900. Go on, get it bought, start having adventures.