Keith Adams, photography, Stephen Harper
In the lead-up to the launch of the series 3 Austin Allegro, newly-recruited Austin Apprentice Stephen Harper joined the team of young stylists tasked with raising the appeal of the Longbridge-built mid-liner. Harper had already come up with the LE limited edition, and the Equipe was a development of this theme – bold looking graphics combined with the two-door shell and 1750cc engine was to be BL’s answer to the Alfasud ti…
Harper recalls, ‘here are the original Equipe taping schemes; the chosen theme was in the background of these pics, done together with Tom Owen, who went to Jaguar soon afterwards.’
He added: ‘these wheels were the first (off the shelf) supplied by GKN, who later went on to manufacture the unique Equipe wheels… Also the four-door model was only a partial consideration. The focus was for the two-door, but the four-door was also a fallback in Marketing felt that the project would not sell enough units. Hence the different scheme, as the Starsky & Hutch Hockey-Stick didn’t fit around the rear door handles and pillar. The spoiler was a near to completion production part, but de-tuned later.’
Ex BL Public Relations man Ian Elliott was involved with the launch of the Equipe in the spring of 1979 – just weeks before the arrival of the series 3. He remembered: ‘The announcement of the Equipe coincided with a Northern Group of Motoring Writers Test Day at the Mintex proving Ground oop in Sherburn-in Elmet, Yorkshire. So we were detailed to take one up there as part of the Austin Morris test fleet. As usual, however, we were right at the end of the supply chain, and the car was delivered minus its lurid side graphics.
‘Since the graphics were really the entire point of the exercise, we ended up sticking the vinyls on ourselves, early in the morning! Quite a ticklish business putting such a big vinyl across four separate panels.’
The Equipe ended up with with a rather special customer – with a rather special version. Elliott adds, ‘shortly after it was announced, we had a call from Sir Douglas Bader (yes, the ex-fighter pilot) saying that he wanted an Equipe, but it had to be an automatic, for obvious reasons. Strictly speaking, this wasn’t possible, it wasn’t in the spec., but there were always people at Longbridge who could bend the rules, and a car was produced for Sir Douglas. One wonders if it is still around, a real one-off.’
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