Car of the Month : December 2015 – Rainer Höltschi’s Innocenti Regent 1300

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The members of our Editorial Team have, over the years, been fortunate enough to see most of the cars featured on AROnline in the metal, but there are still some exceptions. That’s why being able to feature one of those elusive, hitherto unseen models is a particular pleasure. This time it is an Allegro – with a twist.

Words: Alexander Boucke Photography: Rainer Höltschi

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There is not much information out there about the Innocenti Regent, the first new car launched by Innocenti after BL took over the car business from the family. AROnline‘s own entry is rather meagre but, only 18 months after being launched, the model was withdrawn. Rainer Höltschi from Switzerland, the owner of our featured car, sees two main reasons for the lack of success and the quick withdrawal from the market: “Alfa Romeo’s new Alfasud reached the market before the Regent and was much more in tune with Italian taste. On top of that prices for the Regent were raised by nearly 50 per cent (!) just 3 months after launch. Even considering Italian inflation at the time, this seems like a real killer.”

Rainer’s car is the most basic model of the small Regent lineup. The range consisted of 1300, 1300 L and 1500 L – with L for lusso. Most adverts show the L model featuring the characteristic black paintwork on the roof. While the more luxurious versions came with special wheels, a sports steering wheel (in quartic shape, of course) and cloth-vinyl combinations on the seats, Rainer’s car had to make do with rubber flooring and vinyl seats. Being what is basically a Mk1 Allegro, it does have a quartic wheel – and, very much unlike the British sibling, four nice instruments in a matching shape!

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Allegro anoraks will surely be able to spot plenty of differences immediatly, but as they are not as obvious as on Innocenti’s take on the Morris 1100, here are a few hints:
– different grille
– opening quarter lights in front doors
– different boot lock and rear number plate positions
– seats, instruments (and even the gear lever knob) are particular to the Innocenti
– Italian electrics in the engine bay

One major difference is in the state of tune of the engines fitted: all came with twin SU carbs and had a much higher output than the comparable UK model. The 1300 was basically lifted from the ADO16 1300 GT, quoted with 66PS. The 1500 twin carb was something the UK market would not get to see until the Allegro 3 went into its last round. Here, it delivered 79PS and a top speed “above 100mph”.

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This Regent is in mostly original condition, with only minor repairs to paintwork and mechanical bits over the years. Rainer is fascinated by how the changes to styling and interior change the character of the British original – add in the stronger engine and it can give a much more sporting feel. On its rare outings this seemingly humble car always attracts lots of interest.

Oh, and if this alone was not enough motivation to search for an Innocenti Regent, Rainer needed one to complement his brand-spanking-new Austin Allegro 2 1500 Special which has just reached 77km on the clock …

 

Alexander Boucke

Based in Aachen, Germany, Alexander has had BMC>ARG cars around him since birth - in fact his earliest childhood memories are from buying a new Landcrab with his family at the age of two. The new cars have aged to classic cars and a few more have joined the family fleet - most of them by now proper classics and many with Hydrolastic or Hydragas suspension. Alexander joined the AROnline team back in 2002 when helping out to get some facts right on the Austin 3 Litre.

14 Comments

  1. I used to have a 1979 Innocenti Mini Hatchback, converted to RHD, which had what I was told was a 1300GT engine with the largest single SU carburetor I have ever seen. Its top speed was about 100mph, if you had a strong nervous disposition, so I would imagine it was the same engine as in this Regent.
    However the enginewas inspected by a genuine Mini expert, who lived a few miles away and he swore it was a Cooper engine, not a GT engine, which made me wonder.

    • There are minor differences between these engines:
      The 1300 GT (and MG 1300 Mk2/Riley Kestrel 1300 Mk2) and Cooper S 1275 engine are externally the same, both having the ’11-stud’ head. The Cooper S had a crankshaft made to higher specification, which the 1300GT did not get.
      The Innocenti Regent and 120 De Tomaso used an engine with roughly the same power output, the Regent with the twin carbs as the English Cooper S and 1300 GT, the 120 De Tomaso received a more effective large single carb instead. But (as you can see on the picture of the engine bay) they all used the ‘normal’ head, and not having the extra bolts is a visual difference that can easily be spotted.
      So indeed the spec was cheapened against the original Cooper S, but the difference would be irrelevant for the owner.

  2. This is a bit of an ‘Emperor’s Clothes’ statement that won’t go down well with the Alfisti – but was the Alfa Sud actually that different to the Allegro in style?. The proportions and general shape are very similar. In fact I’d go as far to say that in comparing the two-door versions, the Allegro looks better – the Sud two door has an uncomfortably large -looking front door glass that emphasises the fact that it doesn’t have by-then ‘modern’ curved glass. Perhaps if one did a styling clinic and swapped the badges over….

    • I was about to say the same thing. Without the Black Roof, this car looks very Alfa Sud like, so much so, I did a double take. [Well maybe not an exact twin – But there is a resemblance].

    • Yes – I agree! I am a paid-up member of the Alfisti (two Alfasuds, a 75 and a classic Spider)as well as someone who was once a proud owner of an Allegro 3 1.5HL. When my brother crashed our family Alfasud, we managed to save the classic front triangular Alfa grille-piece. I once put it on the front of my Allegro 3 to convince my brother of the wonders of the car in a Alfasud ti sort of way!

  3. Interesting little car and with the twin carb 1300 engine it would go pretty well (as I remember my Brother’s Morris 1300GT ADO16 did.) Shame sales were affected by a 50% price hike, but that’s understandable.

    Although I’m not a huge fan of the Alfasud, my old boss had one and I do admit it had character and decent performance, so the Regent 1300 would be at a disadvantage.

  4. This has been an interesting thread so far, some Regents I’ve seen in pictures have wheels I’ve not seen on any Allegro, but this one has the standard dog dishes.

  5. The interior looks so much better than the UK specification Allegro. The sportier engines would of gone down well in the UK too, even only offered in GT versions.

  6. I always thought there were definite similarities between the allegro and alfasud, but stylistically in my opinion the ‘sud has the edge. It’s the front end treatment that does it. I was wondering why Leyland didn’t do higher performance 1300s in the UK,but then I guess they wanted you to buy the much more expensive 1750.
    That regent is gorgeous.

  7. I quite like the instrument layout, it makes the Innocenti a bit Alfasud like( also note the rev counter on a supposed basic model, that the British Allegro wouldn’t have). Also a few tweaks to the styling make this quite attractive. Yet faced with a 50 per cent hike in prices just after launch, even with the inflation in the mid seventies, I’m not surprised sales slumped.

    • The quartic dials are a nice touch, but I guess that wasn’t enough to keep sales at a decent level.

      I presume the Belgian made Allegros were sold in Italy.

  8. Yeah, the interior looks pretty good.

    Outside, the grille has a positive effect too. As does a similar grille on the Equipe.

    A few sporty tweaks seem to have had a noticeable effect. Makes me wonder what other relatively minor tweaks could have been made to improve the Allegro’s image, styling.

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