My December played host to a grand Allegro adventure. Like Greek epics, my 3000-mile Leyland odyssey was a roller-coaster of love, fighting, joy and betrayal. The ending was tragic.
Inevitably, prolonged exposure to the lower-end opulence of 1500SDL trim led me to covert the next rung of the Leyland ladder. I started to dream of the cosy one-upmanship of the 1750HL and glamour of the SS. When my aspiration rose beyond the Vanden Plas, I realised that no Allegro could bring the satisfaction I demanded. There was only one way forward: a Princess.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for the largest and most handsome of Harris Mann’s wedges. I now realised that the time had come to take the plunge and join the Princess-owning elite.
I expressed my needs liberally. Before long, an anonymous benefactor put me in touch with lifelong car enthusiast, Paul Roadknight. In the early Nineties, Paul’s father had developed an unfortunate tendency to be crashed into by younger residents of Birmingham. Paul – who had worked in the motor trade all his life – decided the find him something large and solid to soften future impacts. Enter a 1980 Princess 2 1.7HL in Porcelain White. Luckily, no impact ever came, and the car provided many years of comfort, reliability and, of course, unmitigated stylishness.
When Paul’s father retired from driving in 1997, so did the Princess. It was reversed into his garage and left to hibernate. Now, with the garage roof beginning to bulge pregnantly, Paul was keen to find it a good home in exchange for a donation to Cats Protection. He reported it to be both ‘rust free’ and ‘quite damp’. A deal was struck and a liberation plan was sketched.
Paul turned out to be a nice chap of the highest order and was as enthusiastic about the car’s revival as I was. I arrived to find that he already had the O-series spinning freely by hand, having trickled a little oil into the bores the night before.
Bringing the engine to life was a simple matter of a squeezing a little fresh petrol into the carburettor and connecting a virile battery. It ran very sweetly indeed. Eerily quiet tappets played tribute to the fine state of fettle in which Paul had kept the car on his father’s behalf.
The clutch was neither seized nor hydraulically troubled and so,in a cloud of dust, rust, smoke and fleeing wildlife, the car rose from its 13-year resting place under its own power. Icy conditions trivialised the fact that one of the rear wheels didn’t go round.
Inspection in the cold light of day warmed us both. A brief probing revealed its hull to be solid and original, its body to be straight and free from holes and its interior to be utterly immaculate. Granted, there was a certain amount of mould, mildew and mysterious grey stuff, but none of it seemed to be too deeply rooted.
The crisp, white paintwork sets off the hyper-modern Seventies shape beautifully and the brown go-faster stripes that adorn its crisp swage-line are the stuff of dreams. I find the superfluence of brown trim to be particularly exciting. I’ve counted seven shades so far – ‘if in doubt, make it brown!’ was clearly the mantra of the detailing department.
It is a fine addition to ‘pending restoration’ hall of the Glover museum of automotive significance. Happily, it’s rather less of a project than the majority of vehicles in the category and will receive fast-track treatment next time I’m seeking swift resto gratification.
Having weathered almost a week of Allegrolessness, it’s nice to have something to file under ‘Leyland’ again.
P.S.: Does anyone happen to have a spare rear bumper or a window winder handle? If so, please give a holler: [email protected]
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