Cars of 1973: Austin Al­le­gro

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - The Way We Were -

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.

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