Cars of 1973: Austin Allegro
Apologies to Ferrari GT4 and Berlinetta Boxer fans, plus those who champion the equally-asawesome Reliant Robin. Great as those cars may be, when it comes to the car of 1973, there’s only one real candidate: the Austin Allegro.
The Allegro is now regarded as a symbol of everything that went wrong with the British car industry in the 1970s, but at the time it was something rather daring. Or at least, tried to be. The thinking was that Morris was to be the ‘traditional’ arm of British Leyland with conservative looks and engineering, while Austin would be more avant garde. In the case of the Allegro, that meant Hydragas suspension, frontwheel drive, styling that tried to be timelessly different, and its square-ish Quartic wheel.
A replacement for the much loved BMC 1100/1300 range, which dated back to 1962, was badly needed. The Allegro built on the strengths of the 1100/1300 – the superior use of interior space and effective fluid and gas suspension – but failed to capitalise on emerging trends such as incorporating a hatchback.
Its styling was also compromised. Designer Harris Mann came up with a sleek wedge design, but as the car passed through the committee stage, it became more bloated and less elegant. The Quartic steering wheel only lasted a couple of years before it was replaced by something circular. One of the reasons cited was that police drivers kept crashing their Allegros because of it.
Nevertheless, with a choice of engines ranging from 998cc to 1748cc and a pocket Vanden Plas version, the Allegro ticked a lot of boxes. By the time it had matured into the Series 3, it was actually quite good. There may be only a fraction of the 716,250 built around now, but those that have lasted the course are cult classics.