There were many jokes about the Austin Allegro. “All Agro” ‘The Flying Pig’ etc etc… Yeah, yeah.
And we all know that the old Top Gear team hated anything British Leyland and were fond of blowing up Morris Marinas or filling the odd Rover Sd1 with water. Yes, very funny. But I’m here to stand on my desk and shout “I BLOODY LOVE BRITISH LEYLAND!”
I’ve owned and loved many of their cars! Including three Austin Allegros. Yes you heard me right THREE!
So here we go. The Austin Allegro and all that’s good about it. Let’s start off with the steering wheel. On the first cars it was square or ‘Quartic’ to give it it’s official name. Space age or what?
I sadly never owned a rare ‘Quartic’ Allegro. I like to think they were way ahead of their time and the British public weren’t ready for such futuristic design. I mean, look at cutting edge modern super cars. They have a right old range of squarish shaped steering wheels from octagons to even having the bottom half missing entirely. Madness. And while I’m on the subject of supercars. Whenever I’m in the posh bits of London (Not that often) I often see a million odd pound supercar slowing right down to a snail’s pace to scrape over a speed bump. No such problem in the Allegro. With it’s hydragas suspension you can just sail right over any road bump at the legal speed limit with ease. Hydragas really was a brilliant concept and ensured a brilliant almost Citroen like ride with none of the hisses, whirrs and worry of the French system. (Citroen fans feel free to swear at me now.)
And what about those much derided looks? Well I for one think it’s brave and cheeky and round and cute. You aren’t going to mistake an Allegro for anything else. Okay maybe the massive grill on the Vanden Plas version was too much but I prefer to think of it as British eccentricity and simply funny. Actually, now I think of it the estate version really is pretty cool.
Another major reason to love the Allegro is that it is a very simple car. The average home mechanic can fiddle with it over a cup of tea with loads of room in the engine bay. My first Allegro, a beige estate came to me for £30 as it had failed the MOT with no brakes and it overheated. All I had to do was slip in a new brake master cylinder, whip off the head on the tried and tested A series engine, fit a new gasket and off we went. That car lasted two years with not a single breakdown before I gave it to a friend because a cool Mini Clubman Estate grabbed my wallet.
Sporting prowess may not have been the natural aim for an Allegro but it definitely had a go at it. Behold the special edition Equipe. Mmmmm I want one.
The BL works team even campaigned a few Allegros on the rally circuit in a very 70’s red and white colour scheme. A hint of Starsky and Hutch perhaps?
Now, his may be my favourite ever rally picture of any car. A 70’s bloke striking a pose who I always think looks like the late Peter Cook. Come on that is cool isn’t it. Let’s face it, if Peter Cook had been a rally driver he would have rallied an Allegro. Now I’m looking at this photo again the other feller looks a bit like Dudley Moore…….
In fact the BL adverts of the time showed how tough the little car was. Here’s one flying along off road driven by someone who went on to be in Eastenders:
1973 Austin Allegro TV Advert / Commercial: youtube.com/watch?v=q3acWl8g16o
However, if you’re thinking of buying one of these little Austin beauties you will need a few quid these days as they have reached collectable status. The £30 Allegro is a thing of the 90’s and you’ll have to pay into the thousands of pounds these days. In fact, I recently saw a very nice Estate for £4000! Madness.
So there we have it and I hope you might agree. The Austin Allegro: quintessentially British: Daring, different, eccentric, practical and a little bit cute. How could you not love an Allegro?
Austin Allegro links:
Austin Allegro Gallery: