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Austin Allegro: Buying guide and review (1973-1982)

Austin Allegro: Buying guide and review (1973-1982) Classic and Performance Car
Austin Allegro Austin Allegro Austin Allegro Austin Allegro Austin Allegro
The Austin Allegro, a technologically advanced, badly built car launched just in time to become the focal point for all that was wrong with British Leyland. The fact that it looked wrong from every angle didn’t help much, so for the duration of its production run it suffered from bad press and worse jokes until it was finally taken around the back and put out of its misery in 1982.
Yet there is no denying the Allegros technological innovations and overall competence, with almost 650,000 cars finding homes things surely could not have been all that bad. Now with so many years having passed that negative image has become more of an endearing characteristic rather than an overbearing force that once prompted people to dismiss the car out of hand, so let’s open up some old wounds and with a view to owning one as an affordable classic, reassess whether the Allegro was a victim of circumstance or of its own making.

Which Allegro to buy?

Initially available in two and four-door saloon form the range was expanded to include a practical station wagon body style a few years into production. The word ‘Allegro’ may mean to move or perform at a brisk speed but in the case of this little saloon it would have been more accurate to name it the Lento (A slow tempo piece for non-music buffs). Engines ranged from a 49bhp 1.1 right up to a twin-carb 90bhp 1750cc unit and, in truth the larger capacity cars performed well enough. 
The 1.5 and 1.7 cars received five-speed gearboxes while the smaller A-series 1.1 and 1.3 made do with four-speed units, an automatic could be chosen on certain models as well. Equipment levels were generally miserly, with entry-level cars having vinyl seating, no radios and wind up everything. Mid-range models got a radio and better trim, but for real small car opulence one had to go for the Vanden Plas models. Most were fitted with the optional automatic transmission and had leather and wood trim, with picnic tables in the rear. Sadly a farcical looking front grille was also standard fitment. 
Looking at some of the positive attributes, the new Hydragas suspension, front drive layout and advanced electric cooling fan were ahead of the game. Then there was the ‘Quartic’ rectangular steering wheel, designed to provide easier viewing of the sparsely equipped dashboard instrumentation, it was dropped in 1975 as all most owners saw was red. The Hydragas suspension was a bit unrefined at first but it was greatly improved over the years and Series 3 cars were smooth riding and handled well. 
Serious build quality issues marred the early cars and the reputation of the ones that followed, BL tried in vain to address concerns and the Series 2 models with improved suspension and interior arrived in 1975. It was not until the Series 3 cars arrived in 1979 that the majority of the issues both niggling and major had been sorted out and it is one of these later models that we would look at.
In a modern context, the majority of problems that plagued the Allegro in its day, be they mechanical or political are generally now non-issues. As a weekend fun car it makes little difference as to how it stacked up against the competition back in the ‘70s, all that matters is whether they are fun to drive (a good one can be), are they reliable and can spares be found. 

Performance and specs

Austin Allegro 1300
Engine 1275cc OHV in-line four 
Power 46bhp @ 5300rpm 
Torque 69lb ft @ 3000rpm
Top speed 84mph 
0-60mph 15 seconds
Fuel consumption 31 mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual

Dimensions and weight

Wheelbase 2438mm
Length 3861mm
Width 1600mm
Height 1397mm
Kerb weight 820kg

Common problems

• Generally cheap to maintain, some Allegro spares can be hard to come by. Joining the UK Allegro club though can open up access to their spares stock as well as valuable advice from its members. 

• While A series engines (1.0, 1.1 and 1.3) are sluggish, there are more parts available for them and they are a bit more reliable than the larger 1.5 and 1.7 E-series motors. The later cars with the A-plus specification engines are smoother and preferable if you can find them.

• Structural integrity on earlier cars was seriously lacking, check for stress cracks and any signs of major chassis repairs. The build quality on Series 1 cars was also patchy at best, later versions were much improved but rattly dashboards and loose trim is par for the course here.

• The four-speed gearboxes and automatics tend to be strong. Stretched cable selectors on autos can be relatively easily replaced. 

• Rust is a common issue on cars from this era, particular trouble spots on the Allegro are the front wings, corrosion under the windscreen and rear arches. Blocked drainage holes can quickly destroy an otherwise good door. Later cars are surprisingly resilient to rust, especially compared to European rivals.

• Electrical systems give trouble if the connections are corroded otherwise they are reliable.

Model history

1973: Austin Allegro is released, replacing the successful Austin 1100/1300 saloons
1975: Station wagon body style launched. Series 2 Allegro introduced, front grille standardised across the range and rear passenger space is improved. Quartic steering wheel replaced with more conventional unit. Allegro Equippe model introduced with unique styling combining Series 2 and 3 parts
1979: Series 3 Allegro introduced, the majority of changes focused around the new A Plus engines, redesigned headlight units and some minor trim changes
1982: Austin Allegro production ceases, replaced by the Maestro/Metro pairing

Owners clubs, forums and websites

• www.allegroclubint.org.uk – Austin Allegro enthusiast site
• www.aronline.co.uk – Historical information and British car community

Summary and prices

A high attrition rate means that Allegro values have steadied a bit in recent years, not much separates a rusty project from a usable example and restoring a car is never worth it as rust buckets can be £1000 while only £500 to £750 more can get you a nice complete car. The Vanden Plas models enjoy a premium over the other cars, and perfect examples can be as much as £3000. Despite the large numbers built, choice is limited so focus your search on condition rather than specific models, the later the better. 
The sayings ‘all publicity is good publicity’, may not have quite worked for the Allegro in its day but it sure makes for a fun classic car experience today, as its quirky looks and chequered history seem to invite all sorts of interactions with the general public. With a small but enthusiastic group of supporters the much maligned Allegro may finally have found its place in the world as a great little first classic.
Words: John Tallodi
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Last updated: 28th Nov 2016
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Austin Allegro
4695 4695 GBP
  • Austin Allegro

    £4,695 £4,695

    *SIMILAR QUALITY CARS ALWAYS REQUIRED* SOLD Thinking of selling? Our proven commission sale or SOR (Sale or Return) program is a great way to utilise and access our professional services and facilities while still maximising the return from your vehicle with minimal hassle, stress and time, If you’d like to take advantage of this then please get in touch for further information. Alternatively If you’d like to move your vehicle on quickly and efficiently with minimal delay then we can make an offer on an outright purchase basis with payment and collection arranged soon after. Quite possibly the best unrestored Austin Allegro 1100 DeLuxe with 10,190 miles. EQUIPMENT All steel unitary construction, underbody protection, recessed door-handles, anti-burst locks, safety steering column, Hydragas suspension, laminated windscreen, electric washers, two-speed wipers, flick wipe, exterior door mirror, hazard warning lights, child safety catches on rear doors, fresh-flow ventilation, heated rear window, Quartic steering wheel. Factory options; Brake servo. Dealer accessories; Mud flaps, Radiomobile. EXTERIOR Finished in the extremely rare factory original colour of Mirage, (Code BLVC11), this amazing Series One Allegro has been preserved incredibly well, owing to the remarkable low mileage of 10,190 under truly cherished ownership. The factory paint finish displays only minor age related markings and the chrome bumpers display very light pitting, utterly inoffensive and left untreated so as to uphold originality. Factory wax is visible in door apertures and on the clean underside which is free from excess rust proofing to allow easy inspection. Features unique to the early Series One cars remain correct such as the external bonnet release and the C-Pillar vents screwed from the inside as opposed external screws on later cars. Remarkable originality can be seen in the form of supplying dealer number plates, rear screen sticker and tax disc holder. The original Allegro bonnet and boot badges are fitted as well as the iconic British Leyland emblem fitted to the nearside wing only, just as they were made. This humble DeLuxe model was the entry level Allegro, and as such had no coachline, a feature which is upheld. An almost inconceivable rare survivor against unfavourable odds, very special. INTERIOR The spacious interior of this Allegro is completely original and in perfect preserved condition. The Knit-backed vinyl seat upholstery in Spanish Rose is essentially as new, as are the matching partial door cards and rubber floor coverings, again unique to the Deluxe model. Still fitted is the famous Quartic steering wheel, arguably the most iconic feature of the Allegro to allow ease of access and a better view of the instruments. Widely ridiculed as a concept, the Quartic wheel was phased out in 1974. A reflection of British Leyland quality control can be witnessed with factory glue marks on the headlining and even the chalk line to mark out siting of the instrument binnacle! Incredibly, a factory build tag is still attached inside the boot. Complete with the 1970’s British Leyland smell, this interior is astonishing. ENGINE & TRANSMISSION The legendary and time proven A-Series engine of 1098cc displacement is robust, simple and has excellent parts availability. Producing an ample 49bhp and 59lb/ft of torque, this Allegro can hold its own in modern traffic. The engine is wonderfully quiet and whilst the clean engine bay shows natural aging, it is completely original and features factory plates and stickers. Even the Hydragas suspension sticker on the sphere remains intact! The four speed hydraulically operated all synchromesh gearbox delivers light and exact changes complete with the instantly recognisable first gear whine! WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES Original pressed steel disc wheels with chrome hub caps are immaculate and shod in quality matching Pirelli P3000 tyres with excellent tread remaining. The well maintained Hydrogas suspension system is free from leaks and allows the car to sit level and correct, and more importantly ride as it should. The hydraulic brake system with 9.68in front discs and factory optional servo bring the car up safe and steady. HISTORY FILE Supplied by Austin Main Dealer, Peter O’Gorman in Essex, this 1973 built 1100 DeLuxe was registered new on the 21st February 1974. A new car retail order form made out to first owner, Miss Joan Earl, confirms a purchase price of £1,100.00 including £11.75 for brake servo, a factory option! A well-known example within the Allegro Owners Club with plenty of stand appearances, including the NEC Classic Car Show, this delightful car nicknamed ‘Violet’ is used to the limelight. ‘Violet’ has been awarded Best Series One Allegro at every Allegro Club International event it has attended! With just three former keepers, the previous of five years being Mr Ian Cole who has been a member of the Allegro Club International for 23 years, and has held in this period positions of Chairman, Director and Membership Secretary. The superb history file contains the original orange Passport to Service and Allegro handbook, as well as a 1974 Austin Allegro range sales brochure. A large history folder is beautifully presented and contains a substantial collection of MOT certificates throughout the cars entire lifetime and maintenance invoices to fully verify the low mileage of 10,190 miles. Furthermore, a record of TV appearances on three separate programmes is included! The original key set remains including the ignition key with very rare eyelet hole to delight the Allegro aficionado. An unrepeatable opportunity to buy surely one of the best unrestored examples of British Leyland motoring history. MOT March 2018, HPI clear. To see a video of this car please copy the link below: https://youtu.be/dEYeHv_ZpTg To see a complete set of photographs of this car please copy the link below: https://flic.kr/s/aHskTfpww9 'Like us' or 'Follow us' for exciting new cars coming soon at KGF Classic Cars: https://www.facebook.com/KGFClassiccars https://twitter.com/KGFClassicCars

    • Year: 1974
    • Mileage: 10190 mi
    • Engine size: 1.1
    For sale
    £4,695 £4,695
    KGF Classic Cars
    01733425140 View contact number