The cars : Austin Allegro 1750 Sport (twin carb) 1974-75

Chris Cowin looks at a rare and half-forgotten Austin Allegro: the twin-carb Allegro 1750 Sport which was only available for one year.

It’s the Allegro that ‘catches that sporting feeling’ said the brochure, but it didn’t hold it for long.


Sporting and special – the Allegro 1750

Austin Allegro 1750 Sport 1974-75
Austin Allegro 1750 Sport 1974-75

When launched in May 1973, the Austin Allegro range received a decidedly ‘mixed’ reception. This was a vitally important car for British Leyland in the UK and Europe, and early press reports must have made uncomfortable reading at Longbridge or the Corporation’s new London headquarters, Leyland House, on Marylebone Road.

However, they didn’t sit on their hands. Some perceived failings of the Allegro could not be rectified quickly, and some (like the lack of a hatchback) never would. But in September 1974 two new range-topping models arrived which brought welcome improvements in a couple of areas.

New and Improved

The new models were the Allegro 1750HL and the revised Allegro 1750 Sport (as discussed here). The 1750 engine which, until now, had been allied to a single carb in the preceding Allegro 1750 Sport and luxury Allegro 1750SS (Sport Special) was now allied to twin carbs (as it had been since 1972 in the Austin Maxi HL).

This resulted in power rising from 76bhp to 90bhp, making the new Allegro 1750 Sport and Allegro 1750HL much more competitive as compact sports saloons. And the Quartic steering wheel was replaced by a round item, a welcome change which, within a year, would apply to the entire Austin Allegro range.

The new twin-carb Allegro 1750HL (left) and 1750 Sport models were announced in September 1974. Note "go-faster" stripes above the sills of the Sport. They replaced the previous (single carb) Allegro 1750SS (Sport Special) and Allegro 1750 Sport.
The new twin-carb Allegro 1750HL (left) and 1750 Sport models were announced in September 1974. Note go-faster stripes above the sills of the Sport. They replaced the previous (single-carb) Allegro 1750SS (Sport Special) and Allegro 1750 Sport

‘Austin Allegro 1750HL’ was a new name adopted for the top of the range ‘Hi-Line’ Allegro, and this model, still badged 1750HL, would live on in the Allegro 2 range introduced in the autumn of 1975. It popped up again in the Allegro 3 range of 1979, intially badged Allegro 1.7HL and later Allegro 1.7HLS.

But the revised twin-carb Allegro 1750 Sport introduced alongside in September 1974 would only exist for one year, for when the Allegro 2 range was introduced, there was no longer a Sport model.

An unhappy time

As explained above, the twin-carb Austin Allegro 1750 Sport in these pictures, available in four-door form only unlike its predecessor, had a mayfly-short existence, during a time the UK economy was anyway mired in recession.

Its life corresponded almost exactly with the depressed ‘N-registration’ year (1 Aug 1974-31 July 1975). During that period British Leyland was facing bankruptcy, before being ‘rescued’ by the Government in early 1975. That wasn’t good for sales in Britain, while the Sport wasn’t a car for export, with very few 1750cc Allegros being sold (or even marketed) outside the UK.

The distinctive rear badging of the 1974-75 Allegro 1750 Sport.
The distinctive rear badging of the 1974-75 Allegro 1750 Sport

Stand out from the crowd

Distinguishing features of the 1974-75 Sport included specific ‘Sport’ decals on the flanks and black boot panel, matt black wipers and some very Seventies ‘go faster stripes’ above the sills, which had not been seen on the preceding single-carb Allegro Sport. Were they going for the Mini 1275 GT look?

Metallic paint was an option, but automatic transmission was not offered on the Sport, nor the HL at that time. The Sport and HL were the only Allegros in that period to employ the four dial instrument cluster, incorporating a rev counter while, despite their sporty appearance, the wheels were merely pressed steel with press-on trims.

The Sport and HL were mechanically identical, with the same ratios in their five-speed gearbox, and servo-assisted disc brakes at the front.

1974 Austin Allegro 1750 Sport (twin carb). Distinctive wheel trims on pressed steel wheels. This car has the bonnet ajar - the shut lines were better than that : )
The 1974 Austin Allegro 1750 Sport (twin carb). Distinctive wheel trims on pressed steel wheels. This car has the bonnet ajar – the shut lines were better than that!

What you get, and what you don’t

It paid to read the specification sheets carefully if you were in the market for a 1750cc Allegro in 1974/75. The Sport came with head restraints, front fog lights, heated rear window and a simulated wood gearknob.

However, it lacked a lot of equipment seen on the HL including vinyl roof, tinted glass, reversing lights, boot light, boot carpet, centre console with clock, locking glovebox, simulated wood door trim, bright tread strips and a central rear armrest.

The absence of various other fancy trimmings like a stitched handbrake gaiter betrayed how the Sport’s specification was related to the middle of the range Allegro Super Deluxe package, while the HL was an evolution of the posher Allegro Special trim level.

Allegro announcements came thick and fast in 1974/75. The very same day the new Sport and HL were introduced (17 September 1974) also saw the public launch of the Vanden Plas 1500 (not officially classed as an Allegro). April 1975 saw the arrival of the Allegro Estate in 1300 and 1500 form while, as already mentioned, the autumn of 1975 saw the new Allegro 2 range introduced with a package of improvements across the board including more rear seat room. The Sport, though, was no more.

Out of step with the times?

Perhaps the days of the ‘GT’ models so popular in the early 1970s were seen as over. Or perhaps it was judged that the Allegro, like the Princess, didn’t really suit blatantly ‘Sport’ trim. Would the 1974-75 Allegro 1750 Sport have been more popular if available as a two-door, as the preceding single-carb version was until early 1974?

It would be early 1979 before something similar appeared with the limited edition Allegro Equipe two-door, which mechanically was essentially the same as the 1974-75 Allegro Sport. With its striking decals and trim the Equipe was clearly a sports model. But it was a limited edition which served to liven up the final days of the Allegro 2 range, and it did not reappear in the Allegro 3 range announced later in 1979.

Sportier than the Sport: Under the bonnet the limited edition Allegro Equipe of 1979 was essentially the same as the twin carb Allegro 1750 Sport of 1974. But it had the two-door body, alloys and a rather bolder cosmetic treatment.
Sportier than the Sport: Under the bonnet the limited edition Allegro Equipe of 1979 was essentially the same as the twin-carb Allegro 1750 Sport of 1974. But it had the two-door body, alloys and a rather bolder cosmetic treatment

With the exception of the limited edition Allegro Equipe, there was only ever one (manual) 1750cc Allegro available, at the top of the range, for most of the car’s life – from the deletion of the 1750 Sport in late 1975, when Allegro 2 was introduced, until the 1980s phasing out of the final Allegro 3 range including the 1.7 HLS as it was called by then.

(It gets complicated, as during the Allegro 3 period additional (singlecarb) 1.7 automatic variants (saloon and estate) were offered, because automatic transmission was no longer available on the Allegro 1.5 models. The same issue explains the (automatic) Vanden Plas 1.7 of 1979-80).

The 1750cc E-Series engine accounted for a very small proportion of Allegro production, with very few 1750s being exported. The hope, voiced by (Austin-Morris boss) George Turnbull at launch in 1973 that Allegro could be ‘all things to all men’ had proved a little too ambitious.

These days you’ll be lucky to spot a 1974-75 Sport in the metal (though there is one in the new Derbyshire museum, The Great British Car Journey). With awareness of this version low, many people might assume the ‘Sport’ decals and striping result from a trip to Halfords , but no, they are ‘factory’.

The twin carb Austin Allegro 1750 Sport (1974-75)
The twin-carb Austin Allegro 1750 Sport (1974-75)
Chris Cowin

22 Comments

  1. Don’t forget the TV advert
    ALLEGRO has vroom, lots and lots of Vroom
    Dancing and singing girls come to.mind!

    • Yes – that “Vroom” campaign was run in 1978/79 to help sales of the last Allegro 2 models (which is why the 1979 Allegro Equipe advert says “Now even Vroomier”). When the Allegro 3 range was introduced in late 1979 the slogan was changed to “SuperVroom” with (some) justification as, depending on model, the Allegro 3 cars were a bit faster than their Allegro 2 equivalents. The 1500 models now were twin carb as well as the manual 1750, and all models were fitted with a chin spoiler which reduced drag by 10% – benefiting fuel economy also. The twin carb Allegro 3 1.7HL (later called 1.7HLS) could manage 0-60 mph in 10 seconds and had a top speed of 100mph – the same as the preceding limited edition Allegro Equipe (which also had the chin spoiler).

  2. I love these ‘now’ virtually extinct models, i worked on them in 70s/80s +. I didnt realise there historic value as they are now, Brilliant!.

  3. It was a shame they didn’t do the Sport as a two door, with a more overt sporting flavour, such as a sports steering wheel like the 1300GT/Maxi HL and a firmer lowered suspension setting.

    A friend in New Zealand fitted a lightly tuned twin carb Maxi 1750 in a 4-door Allegro 1300 (only 1300 manual and 1500 auto were assembled in NZ), and found it was a very quick on B-roads with wider tyres.

  4. I had completely forgotten about this version. As you say, maybe the Allegro (and the Austin name?) just didn’t work as a Sport model

  5. The problem was that these cars hit the market to nicely coincide with the fuel crisis and recession in Europe so the market for a sporty 1750 compact car was limited. Whereas the Golf GTI hit the market just right for when the continental economies were recovering and the later recovery in the UK.

  6. One of the guy’s in my company had an Allegro 1750 (HL, I think). Another colleague had a 1500HL. Don’t remember much else but they did have the quartic steering wheel. To my eyes, the ADO 16 Austin / Morris 1300 GT looked much better

  7. Can see the point of an Allegro HL – bigger engine, better trimmed range-topper. But no, the words ‘Allegro’ and ‘Sport’ just don’t mix for me, certainly not in the way that ‘1300’ and ‘GT’ did.
    And the Equipe – those stripes – just what were they thinking??

    • The very late 70s and early 80s were boom time for car detailing specialists to add coloured stripes on many new cars leaving the showroom. One local Datsun dealer tended to put graphic stripes on most of their showroom cars to attract buyers?

      No doubt this applied to BL too for the Equipe?

      I confess to adding a couple of narrow coach line stripes on my Cherry coupe in 1982 which were discreet.

  8. Makes me want to scream at those in charge at BL. Launching the frumpy Allegro against a wall of more interesting rivals & then not even trying a little to give it some appeal? Like Bryan said, why wasn’t a sporty 2 door offered at the start? Why wasn’t the Sport available with the HL trimmings plus alloys etc.?
    Something like the Equipe should have been available at launch when the reputation of the car was more neutral in the market & could have given a bit of cachet that might sustain it, like the Mini with its basic to luxe versions & sporting kings in the mix too.
    Tragedy and blunder all the way with BL…

  9. Bad timing as well, the country entered an oil crisis and a recession that would linger on into 1976 and buyers wanted the 1300 Allegro far more than the 1750. I always wonder why there wasn’t a 1300 Sport or GT to bring back fond memories of the Austin 1300 GT.

  10. Ah yes, the Allegro Equipe. We sold a few from the dealership I worked in but they were trouble. Quite a few needed full resprays due to microblistering paintwork, then to add insult to injury, BL ran out of the stripes so quite a few ended up just plain silver (probably not a bad result in hind sight).

    Then there were the porous alloy wheels. Owners used to come out to their car and find al the tyres had gone down overnight !

    • I’ve not heard of Allegros having porous alloys before, but the high spec Maestros had a similar problem.

  11. The silver paint & stripes do improve the looks of the Allegro Equipe, certainly compared to the mostly frumpy paint colours BL used in the 1970s.

    The 1750 Sport’s wheels look like they had come of a mid 1970s Japanese car, with the alloy wheels on the Equipe being much better looking.

  12. Being a child of the 70s shows in the very same manner on the Golf GTi: very (very!) similar go faster stripes, black face around the rear window, black wipers… And of course simple steel wheels missing the chrome hubcaps. The Audi 80 GTE, where the GTi’s engine came from, even had a matt black bonnet in addition (and steel wheels). So in terms of styling touches BL were actually on the money. And back in the day a torquey 90 PS engine in a car of size and weight of the Allegro were actually pretty strong figures. The problem may have been the lack of appeal of the Allegro to start with (incl. myself).

  13. That photo at the top. It looks like they’ve shot the poor aggro and are now going over to see if it’s dead yet.

  14. Just seen the one at the Great British Car Journey – Its currently tucked out of the way amongst other exhibits and difficult to get at – the museum write up on it just says that its rubbish – Given this is the only series 1 Allegro they have and the uniqueness of its specification and rarity, then surely it deserves more prominence?

  15. I always felt the the range topping Mk1 Allegros were the best looking and had the best colour options. Sadly the Allegro became more aesthetically dull as it iterated through to the Mk3.
    I remember the Allegro introduction in 73 and the range toppers were considered quite cool.

  16. @ Merlin Milner, do you recall the Allegro being available in quite a vivid shade of purple? There was an M reg Super near me that stood out as it was purple, certainly stood out more than another on the road that was in pale blue and belonged to a pensioner.

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