Concepts and prototypes : Austin Allegro

Some photos taken during the Allegro’s development…


Harris Mann sketch shows, perhaps, how it was always meant to be: the car here is sleek, characterful and good looking.Harris Mann sketch shows, perhaps, how it was always meant to be: the car here is sleek, characterful and good looking.

Harris Mann sketch shows, perhaps, how it was always meant to be: the car here is sleek, characterful and good looking


Before ADO67 became a fully-fledged project, this facelifed ADO16 was investigated. There was a revised Hydrolastic suspension system under development for ADO16, but this was cancelled by the Leyland management after the takeover of 1968. This car would have clothed the revised mechanicals.

Before ADO67 became a fully-fledged project, this facelifed ADO16 was investigated. There was a revised Hydrolastic suspension system under development for ADO16, but this was cancelled by the Leyland management after the takeover of 1968. This car would have clothed the revised mechanicals


Different frontal treatments were investigated for ADO67 - the left-hand option was abandoned infavour of that on the right. Would the quad-headlight arrangement have worked better? You decide.

Different frontal treatments were investigated for ADO67 – the left-hand option was abandoned infavour of that on the right. Would the quad-headlight arrangement have worked better? You decide…


Alternative frontal treatment for the Allegro GT model. Did the 1750 version (with a single carb) deserve the “GT” badge? Austin obviously thought not The grille on this 1970 mock-up was solid because the intention was for the Allegro to have its radiator side mounted, like the Mini and ADO16

The most infamous item from the Series 1 Allegro was the Quartic steering wheel: George Turnbull insisted that this David Bache creation should be added to the new small Austin (as drawn by Paul Hughes).

The most infamous item from the Series 1 Allegro was the Quartic steering wheel: George Turnbull insisted that this David Bache creation should be added to the new small Austin (as drawn by Paul Hughes)


Full-size clay model from 1969 shows how the two- and four-door versions would look.

Full-size clay model from 1969 shows how the two- and four-door versions would look


The finished article.

The finished article


This is ADO68/67, an Allegro-based coupe proposal produced for project Condor in 1970.

This is ADO68/67, an Allegro-based coupe proposal produced for project Condor in 1970

Keith Adams

About the Author:

AROnlineholic between 2001 and 2014 - editor of Classic Car Weekly, and all round car nut...

32 Comments on "Concepts and prototypes : Austin Allegro"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Tim Wellington says:

    Harris Mann’s starting-block design is where the Allegro¬†should have stayed; okay, the headlights look uggerly but it’s nothing a quick quad-lamp refit couldn’t fix. But above all it was a… HATCHBACK! You know… the car that BMC invented (remember the Austin A40 Countryman?) and the world wanted!

  2. James Riley james says:

    Both of the proposed frontal arrangements, the quad and the single with the revised bonnet/grille in the photo above were massively better than the end product. I cannot help but think the car would have been received entirely differently had they made the right decision here, the rest of the car was ok – sales and reputation were damaged from the word go because it looked like a collapsed yorkshire pudding. Of course they should also have added a hatch!?!?

  3. Nate says:

    If they kept to Harris Mann’s original sketch with the Capri/Scimitar-style quad-lamps included a hatchback, made use of updated B-Series engines as a stop-gap instead of the E-Series until the alternate O-Series (in 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 forms) came along (while introducing the 2.0 B-Series), then the Allegro imo would of been a decent replacement for the 1100/1300 as well as worthy rival to the Golf.

  4. Paul says:

    The initial sketch looks rather like the new Audi A3!

  5. didierz65 didierz65 says:

    WHAT HAPPENED? Really, the first picture shows a very svelte car, not the blow fish it became at launch. Lack of hatchback is unforgettable, more so with the ADO 16 getting conversions already, Primula offered this option, then came Golf and R14!!! Sure that by MKII, it could have been added. Mind you, I still think that the Estate looked great, ditto Alfasud Giardinetta, kinda for the masses “shooting brake” into them, not being 4 door estates, but I must be the only one on this site. Anyway, unless we can turn back time…

  6. Susan Young says:

    Its a shame that Australia was ignored with its hatchback ADO16 “Nomad” proving so popular. Even so I have had several Allegro’s and they all served me well.

  7. Steve says:

    You know, it makes me laugh when I hear the usual Leyland bashers (there are plenty on this site too) snigger and sneer at the quartic wheel on the Allegro, but either say nothing or even praise quartic wheels on modern Audis etc… Why do we have to hate products of our own country so much?

  8. The Wolseley Man says:

    @7 – Throughout the history of the car there have been many quartic wheel moments and the success or failure of these ideas appear to be very much in the lap of the gods and not actually relevant the genuine originality or brilliance of the concept.
    The current fad of horrible and aggressive LED side and running lights could have – if all buyers thought like me – bombed completely. The original A40 Countryman was a slow seller – it did not revolutionise the industry and everyone follow – for about 20 years. So much of car history is fashion related – rather than ‘adding value’ by virtue of better design. The fact is that if the buying public had thought the quartic wheel was trendy – Ford would have fitted one to a current model and we would all have used one in our cars – until someone got brave and re-invented the round wheel again.
    If we were brilliant enough to actually know when an idea was going to ‘take off’ – rather than hope it did – we would all be very rich.

  9. Paul says:

    @7 What Audi has a quartic wheel? The quartic steering wheel on the Allegro wouldnt have been an issue if the rest of the car had been any good. In the end it was the only thing remotely novel or interesting on the car so became the focal point when the Allegro failed to deliver. I dont think Leyland bashing has anything to do with the nationality of the company, just its products. Ford was perceived as being very British during the 60s, 70s and 80s and their cars sold like hot cakes.

  10. MM says:

    The Quartic wheel may have been novel for BL, but everything else would have been novel for Ford and Vauxhall, Ford had never produced an FWD car and they were still stuck in the world of leaf spring horse-cart suspension

  11. Yep, the quartic wheel was seen on an American car first in the 60s – same shape as Allegro.

    Ford Germany had been producing a FWD mid range saloon since the early 60s. When the Cortina and Taunus ranges where rationalised in the early 70s FWD went out and the Taunus went RWD again…

  12. simon says:

    The design of this car was comprimised by management insisting the leyland parts bin was utilised. This dictated the final design

  13. Paul Treloggan says:

    Well, SD1 had a quartic wheel and not a peep.

  14. Pedro the Parrot says:

    The styling of the Allegro and its apparent lack of success is over emphasised. The Allegro is hardly a beauty but then neither were most cars in its class, look at the Fiat Strada or Honda Civic of the time.Many of the styling cues used in the Allegro would have fared better in the ’80s when a more organic appearance became acceptable. BL were ahead of the curve and paid for it.

  15. Rob H says:

    Cortina Mk3 had an oval steering wheel, I remember my uncle demonstrating it.

  16. Graham says:

    The Allegro 1500 should have been the choice of the discerning private motorist, a family car with nifty performance and handling all wrapped up in a smart set of clothes.

    Unfortunately it was not, had it been then it might have saved the company as a volume manufacturer by building on the Mini / ADO16 legacy in the UK and Europe, just in the way the Peugeot 205 delivered for PSA.

    Given its importance and the hard act it had to follow, given the success they had had with using Italian stylists before in BMC and Leyland, given they could see what Innocenti were doing with the Mini and given they had the Alfasud to compare their work against, you would have thought they would have understood just how far they were going to miss the market and phoned Italy for help.

  17. Tony Evans says:

    You can never find a piano when you need one. Dropping one on the All-aggro would have improved the clay model immeasurably.

    @5: I have to agree that the estate actually looked pretty good because the longer rear balanced the car off — and of course it had the “hatch” that the saloon missed out on.

    Only problem was that there was never a 5 door estate which was a major blow, and of course the sagging hydragas rear suspension didn’t help. This was an application where hydragas should have been ditched for a decent coil spring wetup which would also have been cheaper to manufacture.

    Note that the escort 3 had both 3 and 5 door estate versions, much beloved of travelling salesmen and photocopier technicians.

    I remember quite fancying an Allego estate (in Pageant Blue IIRC) but by that time the reputation of the car was well known.

    @3: If, if , if, if my auntie was a bloke she’d have been my uncle. So many ifs that it’s not worth thinking about. If my Escort Mk4 had had a decent engine and a decent suspension and didn’t break down a lot it would have been a good car too.

  18. alastair says:

    Am I the only person to see a resemblance to the 18 – 22 / Princess in the initial Harris Mann sketch? Maybe it’s the angle of the ‘C’ pillar?
    I think that typically the All-Aggro was a ‘nearly’ car. It could have been so much better but instead became a re-skinned version (and replacement for) the excellent Austin/Morris 1100 – 1300 range without many additional benefits.

  19. Slartybartfast says:

    Poor Harris Mann, whatever did they do to his far reaching design, it would of been a league ahead of the competition. A Brilliant designer let down by a ridiculous management. They simply took a great design and made it blobby and frumpy. Why ever he put up with it Ill never know. Maybe, like many, he just thought it would get better.

  20. Paul Stigter says:

    @18 – the only benefit the Allegro had over the successful and handsome 1100/1300 range was the fact that the car wouldn’t rust so easily as an 1100. More’s the pity…..

  21. Paul Stigter says:

    Oh, and Harris Mann’s designs were severely compromised (I’d like to use another word hear, but its too rude) by the financial constraints of BLMC and the need to use the E series engine that raised the bonnet height. I believe there were other issues that affected the design due to the raiding of the BL parts bin………..which is a shame cos this car could have been as successful if not more so than the 1100/1300 range before it.

  22. David Knowles says:

    It was partly down to a combination of the height of the E-Series engine on top of its gearbox but also the size and position of the new airflow heater, an early project of Rob Oldaker. The Allegro could and should have been so much better, but there was also an element of ‘NIV’ to such an extent that John Barber bought or borrowed an Alfasud to show the engineers at LB what a good looking good handling well laid out car could be (even if built out of crappy steel and with southern European levels of rustproofing). Mind you, I’d like someone to Photoshop Audi badges onto an Allegro and an Allegro grill and the Austin and Allegro badges onto an Audi A1 and see what they look like! By the way, that hideous ADO67/68 was briefly considered as a Coupe variant with the potential for an E6 engined version.

  23. David Knowles says:

    @22 I meant ADO68/67 (read a certain book for more details…)

  24. Graham says:

    @22

    Interesting I never knew they actually had an Alfasud at Longbridge to compare the Allegro against.

    The question is given they had an Alfasud to look at and drive (and I speak having driven both), why did they still make such a mess.

    I wonder if any documents exist on the feedback given ie “The British customer will not accept such unnecessarily high levels of grip and steering preciseness, it is also critical we retain the Maxi (bowl of porridge) gear change”

  25. Chris Baglin says:

    @17, Tony Evans,

    The Escort estate didn’t come in 5 door guise until 1983, by which time the Allegro had been pensioned off. 5 door estates at the time were not common- the Astra mk 1 offered either 3 or 5 doors, whilst the earlier Chevette and Viva estate only came with 3. So whilst 5 doors for the Allegro estate might have been desirable, it wasn’t the market norm, so would not have been expected.

  26. Rob Bird says:

    The car really missed the rubber mounted subframe and maybe if it had had the more modern maxi front suspension (we still use the lower arm arrangement on cars now)it might have improved refinement.
    The car was the best looking car the company made after the ‘wedge’.

  27. Tony Evans says:

    @25: Fair point Chris. Now if BL had managed to produce the Mk1 Astra…

    I had a Mk1 Astra and can tell you that it was mechanically and dynamically light years ahead of anything produced by BL at the time, even my beloved Dolly (except for the interior of course).

  28. MM says:

    #3

    The BL cars, requiring E-series engines had failed to sell, the Allegro had to be tweaked to take the E-series to make up the numbers, hence the bloated bonnet.

    I also believe there was a shortage of A and B engine making capacity, can anyone confirm this?

  29. Richard16378 says:

    IIRC by the 1970s the tooling for the B series was wearing out, with workers having to shim up parts with cigarette papers!

    I did wonder why the 1750cc E series didn’t go into the Princess, rather than the B series.

  30. Ryan Antell says:

    the original sketch looks pretty good actually

  31. GT spec Austin Allegro saloons should have been fitted with a twin carb variant of the 1750cc engine as standard. It was normal for a ‘GT’ or a ‘Sport’ spec British Leyland car to use a twin carb engine.

  32. GP-DAV says:

    What a mess the aggro was. What was BL thinking about here.

Have your say...