Home » Cars You Should Know » Currently Reading:

R.A-S.H: The Austin Allegro

Chris Haining January 14, 2013 Cars You Should Know 18 Comments


It’s part three of this now globally acclaimed series where we look at the hype, rhetoric or downright lies perpetrated by promotional brochures over the years.

This week we’re winding the clock back to 1974 and heading for England, where we’ll be learning what British Leyland wanted us to think about one of the most notorious products from that unlamented period.

Holy crap, it’s the Austin Allegro.

Now, fortunately we’re talking post-quartic here, so no ridiculous squared-off steering wheel to be seen in this instance. The rest of the package is still as it was when it was launched a year previously. Which means:

“….A trial run will show you that the car’s advanced mechanical design gives you a smooth, quiet ride right up in the limousine class”.


Oh, the myriad virtues of soft, bouncy hydrogas suspension. To be fair, limousine ride may have been over-egging the prose pudding a little, but at least there was no attempt at implying sportiness in this brochure. The closest they get is:

“…the smooth pulling power of a 1275cc engine and beautifully balanced handling.”

Bear in mind that this brochure only covers the 1100 and 1300 models and eschews the 1500 / 1750 powerhouses, so smoothness and economy were the boasts here, they kept quit about outright performance


Comfort, though, was all the rage.

“…Now look at those luxury features to help you relax on the way home- soft, sumptious seats, door armrests all round, thick pile carpets and parcel shelves front and rear”

I have to say I’d be at a pretty low ebb if my hard day at the office was bookended by a journey in an Allegro, even a 1300 4 door super de luxe, with parcel shelves.


“…Let’s be honest- motoring tends to cost more these days, so you need an especially well-designed car like this one to ensure you get full value every inch of the way.”

Well designed in every single way except for aesthetics and desirability. But, hey, we all know British Leyland were on some pretty strong drugs in the ’70s.

I would never in a million years want to own one of these, not even out of morbid curiosity. But hey, there’s no harm in owning the brochure.

<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material, resting on the bonnet of a 1998 Audi A4. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who would frankly be overwhelmed with joy if they thought you showed a blind bit of interest>

  • Alcology

    I find these really attractive in a strange way! I don't think I'd want to drive one, but who knows, maybe there are some nice things there that no one has mentioned in over 30 years.

  • B72

    The way the article is written – it gives the impression that these were terrible cars or something.

    How bad were they?

    • I own both a Metro and a Maestro and have been informed that I am still allowed to look down upon the Allegro.

      Alas, I would instead probably ask whether it's for sale.

    • They weren't actually physically dangerous, or diseased, or evil or anything like that, the pity is that they should have been so much better. The original design by Harris Mann (he of the wedge shaped Princess series) was actually quite rakish and was concieved as a British rival to the Citroen GS. Then the accountants stepped in and from that point the whole project was doomed..

      In some ways they were good little cars, it's just bloody typical that they should have ended up several times as bad as it should have been. But at least they're not as bad as the Morris Marina. *shudders*

  • Jay_Ramey

    These enjoy a contrarian appeal in their native country, not too dissimilar from the fans of AMC's offerings here in the states, so don't dismiss them out of hand. Not quite BL's high point, but not its low point either. The design is actually pretty nice and tidy, and the colors are very seventies. I'm surprised Jamie Kitman doesn't have one of these by now.

    Think of it this way: would you rather see another TR6 or Spitfire at a British car show, or one of these?

    Everyone and their dog has a rubber bumper MGB, but I'm betting a lot of the readers of this website would be seriously considering bidding on one if it came up for auction at price levels similar to those in the UK.

  • BlackIce_GTS

    So modern! So timeless!
    “…Let’s be honest- motoring tends to cost more these days, so you need an especially well-designed car like this one to ensure you get full value every inch of the way.”
    Aside from the word 'motoring', this line could drop into any cheap car brochure from the last 30 years.
    Also 'get full value' is sort of an odd phrase in non-British English.

    • B72

      The phrase "every inch of the way" made me wonder how many inches the buyer would get.

  • Devin

    Never in a million years? But how could you resist this saucy little number?

    <img src="http://thumbsnap.com/sc/j8gyJLpy.jpg"&gt;

  • mallthus

    OK, I'm biased, but I also have some first hand experience with these Allegros.

    In 1978, I went to the UK for the first time with my parents. I was 10, so my opinions are based on the back seat of the Allegro rental car.

    Truthfully, I found it to be no worse, as a passenger, than my father's 1975 Chevy Monza or my mother's Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais. In fact, I found the backseat to be rather much smoother than either of my parents cars. Perhaps it was the Hydragas suspension?

    Of course, I'm a sucker for cars others dislike or which failed in the marketplace. My dream garage garage would have a Matador, an Allegro, an Ro80, an Imp and a Florian, so who am I to judge?

  • I was very unimpressed at first, but pointing out the smooth pulling power of the 1275cc engine brought me around some. I mean, it's got to be true, for how could a car with 1.47cc/kg do anything sudden?

    I nearly walked away, still; but that beautiful photograph of the door latch brought me right back to the table. I think I simply can't be seen driving anything with a less perfectly formed and executed door catch. It's the Allegro for me.

    • Jay_Ramey

      Hmm, maybe its meant to verify to potential buyers that they did indeed paint the door frames with the body color, instead of it being bare metal?

    • Rover1

      Doorhandles as fitted to Range Rovers ! ( Mk1 4 doors )