Despite all the unkind things I have seen fit to write about the late lamented Allegro, I can’t help finding myself charmed by the damned things every time I drive one. Perhaps it’s that latent sympathy for these cars that ultimately led me to choose one to take to Naples in a couple of weeks – despite the advice of many others, who saw me better served in a Rover 827…
Either way, after the initial denial that I even owned an Allegro, I have embraced the thing into my life, even decorating it for its big trip in a couple of weeks.
Anyway, I’me certainly not alone in my field – there are many other motoring scribes who harbour a secret and shameful love of the Allegro, and although I don’t (yet) fall into that category (denial, you see), it would seem that because of my choice of wheels for Staples2Naples, I am becoming inexorably linked with this type of car. And that is why I now find myself in possession of a Damask Red 1980 Vanden Plas 1500…
Former AutoExpress motoring editor and Vauxhall PR Officer, Craig Cheetham owned a couple Allegros (his affair isn’t as secret as the other journos out there), and because of an impending house move found himseld needing to move on one of them. He and I got chatting about Molly, and before we knew it, I was offering to take his Vanden Plas (which he calls Nigel) off his hands.
After all the venom I have spat in the direction of the Vanden Plas 1500, you’d think I’d rather cut off my own hands than own one of these cars, but I guess there’s such a sweet irony in becoming the custodian of an Allegro shaped Vanden Plas, that I couldn’t help myself. I mean, what other car fuses misguided Seventies forward planning with traditionally honed craftsmanship to form the automotive equivalent of Captain Mainwaring in a shell suit. It is, without doubt, the most ridiculous looking car ever created by BL – and because of that, you can’t help but admire the sheer unlikeliness of the thing.
Still, the Vanden Plas isn’t that bad a car to drive – it’s sprightly enough thanks to the 1750cc twin carburettor lump under the bonnet. It’s also surprisingly quiet (obviously very well soundproofed), and amazingly comfortable compared with my 1500 Special. In fact, once you’re ensconced within, it’s not a bad place in which to spend time – but the greatest thing about driving the Vanden Plas is that you can’t see the styling.
I have to say that I may never come to terms with the grille and frontal styling – and if I decide to keep the car, it may have to receive a frontal facelift (and I don’t mean I’m going to crash it into a wall). But then again, if I don’t want to typecast as ‘Mr BL’ for the rest of eternity, I really should consider moving it on rapidly.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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