This is an attempt to piece together the potted history of the Maestros available in the UK after Rover finished production at Cowley in 1994. It is by no means a definitive guide, and is compiled from information I have gained from friends and from my own research. It is very difficult indeed to clearly define set characteristics for ‘Ledbury’ and ‘Apple 2000’ Maestros, so it is not known how accurate this information is. If you have any information to add to this story, or have had any experiences with either of these two post-Rover Maestros, send me an Email or a Private Message.
The story so far…
The last Rover produced Maestros were registered with 'M' prefix number plates. These last of the line models are of Clubman spec, with metal bumpers and either the Perkins Prima diesel engine, or the 1300 A+ series engine.
Ledbury and Apple 2000 cars are approximately Clubman spec, featuring the same interior trim and equipment, but lacking a sunroof. These cars are all fitted with 1300 A+ engines, 5 speed van gearboxes (VW) and feature 14” steel wheels.
With thanks to an ex-Rover executive, it is now known that after production was finished at Cowley in 1994, a purpose built production facility was built in Varna on the edge of the Black Sea to house the Maestro production line. It was planned that production would start and the car would be introduced to the Bulgarian market. However the arrival of Daewoo and Skoda, and their subsequent manufacture of cheap cars for this market ultimately caused the venture to fail. Subsequently some of these Maestros were returned to the UK when production stopped at Varna in the summer of 1996. These cars would surface a few years later and become what we now know as ‘Ledbury’ and ‘Apple 2000’ Maestros.
A worthwhile read is the Maestro & Montego development story on the Unofficial Austin Rover Resource. In particular the page detailing the new information concerning the Bulgarian Maestros that has allowed me to update this information. Click here for the updated story at www.austin-rover.co.uk
So what are ‘Ledbury’ and ‘Apple 2000’?
‘Ledbury’ Maestros are more common than ‘Apple’ versions. 621 left hand drive Maestro 1.3 cars and vans were purchased by Trans Europa Trading, operating from Parkway Services, near the town of Ledbury in Herefordshire. It was here, in a purpose-built factory, where they were assembled and converted to right hand drive using mostly new parts from Rover. This began in 1997 and the first of these ‘Ledbury’ Maestros wear 'R' registration number plates.
The process of conversion involved fitting right hand drive wipers and mirrors, plus changeing the dashboard and associated steering components to right hand drive. ‘Ledbury’ Maestros are classed as kit cars, and as such attract typically a 5-10% premium to insurance policies; they are also exempt from emissions testing come MOT time, having a visible smoke test only. From what is known, ‘Ledbury’ Maestros are available with R, S, T, V, W, X, Y and 51 registration plates. A number of 2000/1 built left hand drive Ledbury Maestros were also registered with G registration number plates. Some which were never converted, were sold for use in holiday homes on the continent.
‘Ledbury’ Maestros and Parkway Services received a lot of publicity during the late 1990s. Features on BBC’s Top Gear and in motoring magazines gave the ‘new’ Maestro a lot of exposure, and they were in great demand. At the time they were the cheapest new car available in Britain, at £4,995. Some late ‘Ledbury’ Maestros remained left hand drive possibly to a shortage of right hand drive parts to allow for conversion. It has been heard that parts to aid some conversions had to be sourced from scrap yards, as right hand drive parts ordered from Rover, such as bulk orders for dashboards and steering components, had dried up. ‘Ledbury’ Maestros all had non-Rover VIN codes. Ledbury codes are hand-scribed into the VIN plate and offside front suspension turret and begin 'B10S...' whereas Rover VIN codes begin 'SAXX...'
The cars completed in Bulgaria, with Rover chassis numbers, were converted to right hand drive and sold by Apple 2000 Ltd of Culford, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk between 1998 and 2000. From what is known, most were registered on N-plates (many have registration numbers Nxxx DRP) they were again similar to Clubman spec, with 1300 engines and 14” wheels. There were considerably less ‘Apple’ cars converted and most retained left hand drive wipers and mirrors, which makes for interesting driving on UK roads! Many were also left as left hand drive. ‘Apple’ Maestros received genuine Rover VIN numbers and can be identified by the last letter being 'V' and the build number in the 800,000s. Many owners of ‘Apple’ Maestros have converted their wipers and mirrors to UK spec from scrapped cars to make driving in the UK easier.
‘Ledbury’ and ‘Apple’ Maestros were available in a few colours also featured on the last Clubman Maestros; Red, Blue, Black and White. Metallic colours were never used.
As a very rough guide, the rules to follow to differentiate between the two are:
1) Features an N or Y reg. number plate, but RHD wipers and mirrors (mirrors and wipers changed by owner for UK use) = Apple 2000 Maestro.
2) Features an N or Y reg. number plate, but LHD wipers and mirrors = Apple 2000 Maestro.
3) Features a number plate between R and 51 reg = Ledbury Maestro
4) Is Left hand drive with a G or H registration and a VIN beginning B10… = Ledbury Maestro
5) Has a non-Rover VIN starting B10… = Ledbury Maestro
7) Has a Rover VIN with the last letter 'V' and a build number in the 800,000s = Apple 2000 Maestro
If you have any information to add to the Ledbury/Apple 2000 story, please send me an Email or Private Message.