Blog : Happy New Year! And anniversaries galore

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

A 1.1- or 1.3-litre Allegro is now officially cool, and great to drive without being ironic. If you're 17-21, your mates will love this!
2013 will be the year if the Allegro. Won’t it?

The beginning of a New Year represents the opportunity to look forwards, and make resolutions. I’ve made a few, but am likely not to keep to any of them… plus ça change and all that. But the passing of years also gives us chance to think about anniversaries, birthdays and  deaths. And time waits for no man, so consider some of the milestones that kick in during 2013. They’ll have you wondering where on earth the years went – or maybe that’s just me.

Half a century ago: the 2000s revolutionise the business market

After 1962, the big year for the family man – with the arrival of the BMC 1100 and Ford Cortina – the focus of the British wave of modernisation was moved upmarket in ’63. The Rover (below) and Triumph 2000s arrived within months of each other and pretty much changed the face of the executive car market, rendering the more traditional 3-litre opposition obsolete. Both were good to drive, had ample performance (in their day) and oodles of road presence.

Fevered debate ensued as to which was the better two-litre – the Rover or the Triumph – and the opposition didn’t really get a look in. At least until the beginning of the 1970s, and the arrival of the brilliant Ford Granada. Slightly above the Rover and Trumph was the Jaguar S-type, a useful modernisation of the Mk2 saloon, which despite its slightly unhappier styling was a better car to drive. Today, all three are still undervalued, and well worth getting hold of before the anniversary hype takes hold.

Rover 2000

It was 40 years ago: the Allegro arrives, oil gets expensive

Without doubt, 1973 was a hugely important for British Leyland Motor Corporation. The company’s best selling car, the 1100/1300 was due for replacement, and when it appeared, the Allegro had the weight of the corporation’s ambitions laying on it. It should have been great – and in the early months its sales weren’t hampered by poor customer demand, but a lack of supply thanks to ongoing industrial action. In short, buyers wanted Allegros, but the dealers weren’t able to supply them quickly enough.

But after the 1100/1300, the Allegro’s sales couldn’t help but disappoint. Even combined with the Marina, the company’s dominance of its home market began to crumble – and it’s almost inescapable to conclude that BL’s slide was signalled by the pudding-like Austin. Still, age has been kind to the Allegro. It’s an interesting looking classic now, and easy to run, so there are many reasons to own one. Make 2013 your year to buy one, if you’re considering.

Other new cars to appear from the stable include the Triumph Dolomite Sprint and MGB GT V8. Both were brilliant variations of existing models, which should have increased sales hugely, but that didn’t prove the case – and it wasn’t entirely down to the cars. In October 1973, OPEC decided to impose an oil embargo, which instantly jacked up prices, and played havoc with the world economy. The Western world took years to recover – and by that time, BL had already been bailed out by the government, and savage rationalisation would ensue.

Again, both are brilliant classic cars today – which just goes to prove that there’s a big difference between contemporary fortunes and classic car status.

Can you believe it was 30 years ago when…

rover_vitesse_1

It could be argued that the modern car era kicked off in 1983 – and although the radical Ford Sierra and Audi 100 had appeared the year before to change people’s perceptions of car aerodynamics – the move to universal lightness and efficiency really began to take hold in 1983. The arrival of the Fiat Uno, Peugeot 205 and Vauxhall Nova pushed the supermini forward, unlike the Ford Fiesta Mk2. It was the time that hot hatchback fever was also beginning to reach fever pitch. The Austin Maestro was big news at home, and although its styling was conservative, and some of its detail engineering lacked polish, it emerged as a class leading mid-sized hatchback, which t0day – like the Allegro – seems to have been dealt a kind hand by the passage of time. Are we going to see the Maestro rocket in value in 2013? No.

But again, it was the niche product that came from Austin Rover that has endured so very well. Both the MG Metro Turbo and the fabulous Rover Vitesse when on sale in 1983, and it’s the latter that many pundits decided to call it a classic, even while it remained in production. I’d love another one…

Even more shockingly…

It was 20 years ago that the Ford Mondeo (brilliant), Citroen Xantia (good) and Rover 600 (style over substance) were launched. Twenty years. Can you believe it? Me neither. Still, all three are on the cusp of offering classic variations – the ST24, Activa and 620ti are all about to emerge from the murkiness of the ‘cult’ world once and for all. It’s probably worth recalling for one second, too, that 20 years ago, Rover was strong and people bought them in their droves. We had a great range of desirable cars – 200, 400, 600 and 800 formed the core of a range that seemed to offer something for everyone.

Seems a lifetime ago now, doesn’t it?

If the subject of this blog has made you feel just a lit bit older, I apologise – it’s difficult to reconcile some of those landmarks. But as I said, it’s great to pause and reflect once in a while. Looking forward might not be quite so easy, giving the impending financial storm that’s about to engulf Europe.

Happy New Year…

ford_mondeo_sedan_uk-spec_33
Ford Mondeo: 20 years old? Really…
Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

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.
Keith Adams

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14 Comments

  1. Bloody hell the Mundano is 20 in 2013??? Now I do feel old! As I slowly get plastered on cheap vodka, all the best to you and your family Keith, and to Mr H, and his family too, and all the mod team, and readers throughout this spinning rock 🙂

  2. Thanks for continuing to produce a great website Keith.
    I stumbled upon this site by accident a couple of years ago?
    Hardly a day goes by now, without me logging in for a good read.
    A Happy new year to everyone at ARonline. 🙂

  3. This would explain why I haven’t seen a MK1 Mondeo in ages then…

    Happy New Year Keith, and everyone else who’s a part of this great site 🙂

  4. Shocking how fast time seems to fly by!! Perhaps the most hard to believe is that the 600 was launched almost 20 years ago. I have before now amazed myself at this fact. Can visualise a certain shot in the launch brochue oh so clearly.

    I think it was nearer ten years ago that I first came across what was then austinrover.co.uk. Been a very regular visitor to the site ever since.

    Keep up the great work Keith, Mike & everyone else. Will be at the POL again this year – hope to meet you too this time Keith as well as Mike & Clive. Hope also that my ZR is still in its near ‘factory’ condition by then. Last year, unfortunately, my 75 was about to fall very ill, AGAIN ! With hindsight (a wonderful thing!) I don’t really think I should have ever bought this particular 75 but instead shopped round a bit more. My ZR, however, is a different kettle of fish – very low miles, only one owner for most of its life, fully serviced, always by the same garage etc etc

    I’ll stop going on….More comments from me next year (and I’ll most likely sneak in one or two more in the next 70 minutes!)

  5. Hi Keith and a happy new year.
    Globally you also forgot to mention the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Leyland P76 which held the hopes of a small design team and staff of Leyland Australia (all 7000 of them).We have untill June the 26th untill the anniversary falls and the P76 clubs of Australia will meet in Canberra and the lakesdide Inn where the car was launched to the general press and public.
    We can be thankfull that Dave Beech (chief engineer)simply ignored BLMC direction to can the car in the early development phase and kept this info a secret for 6 weeks untill the descision was reversed. I still admire what this team achieved with almost zero budget and the fact that the P76 E6 program and E6 Marina program also needed finalising so that 2 engine options were available on launch day.These extra tasks took the edge off the P76 iteself as some corners were cut affecting the end product.
    If the british coal miners strike had not happened (causing BLMC reigning in on its overseas operations)perhaps the fortunes of Leyland Australia would of changed for the better.

  6. …and, yes, time has been kind to the Allegro. Perhaps once dumpy but now more solid, chunky. The Maestro has similarly improved with age.

  7. Guy I worked with about 10 years ago used to run an Allegro as a daily drive, it was brown but he loved it and it cost him pennies to run it, his mates bought him a super turbo badge for it, that may have been a joke.

    SD1 still looks superb.

  8. Yes, the launch of the first Mondeo & R600 is still fresh in my memory despite being 20 years ago. I cant honestly say today’s cars look any better – different maybe. Having said that, the white Rover P6 shown above still looks great and I can recall when they were launched too… showing my age!

  9. Yes, amazing that the original Mondeo is 20 this year. Also makes me wonder if Automotive Technology has really moved on at all in those intervening years. The Mk1 Mondeo was light years ahead of the Sierra launched 20 years before, yet todays Mondeo is technically much the same as the original, just a different shape – and much bigger. You could say that about pretty much every car on sale. Only Diesel Engine technology seems to have moved.

  10. Ford seemed to make a bit effort to make sure the Mondeo had plenty of recent technical innovations, unlike the Sierra which recyled plenty of old parts dating back to the early Mk3 Cortina.

  11. I remember going to the Mondeo launch in my local dealer, and I still have the launch pack the was posted to me at the time.
    Thanks Keith for making me feel really old and giving my daughter a reason to ridicule me for wanting a Mk1 Mondeo.

  12. Maybe I’m biased, but I would class the Xantia as brilliant, if not the pinnacle of the family-car Citroen, in the same way as the 406 was probably Peugeot’s last good big car.

    The Mondeo – Ford *had* to move their game on somewhat, after the disappointing mk5 Escort/Orion. They used the Primera and Accord as benchmarks.

    You don’t see many mk1/2 Mondeos, rust seems to have got most, and the bumpers seem to be permanently held together with gaffer tape on the ones that are left…

  13. 1973 seems a rather mediocre year for new car launches, few of the great cars from that era were launched that year – apart from the Reliant Robin!

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