The Allegro

A brief look at the cars themselves...

The Austin Morris Group, British Leyland UK Ltd, proudly announced the introduction of their new front-wheel drive saloon, the Allegro, on 17th May 1973. The range comprised twelve models, incorporating both two and four door body styles, with engine capacities ranging from 1098cc and 1275cc 'A Series' types, to the more advanced overhead camshaft 'E Series' engines of 1485cc and 1748cc, derived from the Maxi range.

Although they incorporated several new features, such as Hydragas suspension, a thermostatically controlled electric cooling fan, and that infamous quartic steering wheel, the Allegros could not reproduce the success of their predecessors, the well-established 1100 and 1300 cars bearing the names of all the constituent companies of the Austin Morris Group. In fact, early sales figures proved disappointing, many customers preferring to opt for the well proven, yet now obsolete marques, which were offered, for a period of several months, alongside the Allegro. Build quality on early Allegros left more than a little to be desired; water leaks into the boot and passenger compartment were common faults, boot hinges failed, with the springs causing damage to the rear tonneau panels and there were even reports of structural distortion after the cars had been jacked up or suspend towed! And the "Quartic" steering wheel became the butt of many a joke. Today the earliest Allegros are keenly sought after, with a realisation in hindsight that they were really no worse than their competitors of the time - and in many ways, rather better.

Gradually, however, the cars developed. A luxury Vanden Plas trimmed version became available, and was often fitted with the optional automatic transmission that could be specified on certain Austin models. A two-door estate car utilising either the 1300 or 1500 engine was introduced... and the Quartic wheel was abandoned in favour of a more conventional fitting.

The reputation of the Allegro improved as drivers found it to be a very practical, reliable and surprisingly economical car to run. Credibility underwent a boost with the placing into service of Allegro panda cars with police forces. The Crayford Engineering Company of Kent created eighteen soft-top convertibles based on 1300 Super DeLuxe 2 door saloons in 1975. Very few survive today but a couple are owned by club members.

September 1975 saw the phasing out of Series One cars, as Allegro 2 took their place. Visually similar in most respects, the Series Two offered greater leg room for rear seat passengers. Gone were the individually styled grilles for 1100 and 1300 cars, with the introduction across the range of the honeycomb style grille from the 1500 and 1750 models. The period of the Series Two saw many variations in trim, and the production of the 1500 Special LE (Limited Edition) model featuring special interior appointments and distinctive body graphics. The LE was available only in Tara Green Metallic and Astral Blue Metallic paint finishes, although both of these colours were available on other models.

A particularly interesting variant was the Allegro Equipe, which utilised features from both Series Two and Series Three cars, combined with a silver metallic paint finish trimmed with matt black, and startling side stripes in red, black and orange. Alloy sports road wheels added to the overall impression, and the car which was only available as a two-door saloon, was powered by the 1750cc twin-carburettor engine for "SuperVroom".

Interior: Series 2 1300 Super 4 door

Allegro Three arrived in September 1979, and featured several visual changes, of which probably the most obvious were the larger bumpers in matt black, the modified boot lids, and in some cases, a redesigned front end treatment with four circular headlamps.

The Series Three cars are now regarded by many as the best of all Allegros, and compared well with competitors. Towards the end of the production run the 'A Series' engines were replaced by the new 'A Plus' units that had been developed for the Austin mini-Metro. In most other respects the range was unaltered in concept, with most modifications concerning trim details.

Innocenti, the Italian subsidiary of British Leyland, produced a unique variation on the Allegro theme, the Regent. These were made during the period of Series One production, and featured interior and exterior trim that appeared on no other car.