News : Fully Equipe-d… (and your chance to own a piece of Allegro history)

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Craig Cheetham

Allegro Equipes are like buses, then – and I’m not referring to the gearbox whine (even if my old Allegro 1750 did used to sound a lot like the Leyland National that took me to school every morning as a nipper).

Most people have never seen an Allegro Equipe - let alone three together...
Most people have never seen an Allegro Equipe – let alone three together…

Three at once, though? According to Allegro Club Chairman Paul Vincent (left in the picture), that’s something that’s never been seen before, or certainly not in recent memory – until the Tatton Park Passion for Power Classic Car Show, Cheshire, on 16th August. The survival rate of Belgian-built Allegros is pretty low to begin with, because for some reason they lacked the durability and build quality for which the Longbridge models became respected. And no, I’m not joking in saying that – for all its foibles, how many Allegros have you seen that have withstood the ravages of 30-40 years motoring better than  most of their contemporaries? It’s a well known fact that I have something of a soft spot for these cars but, bias aside, the survival rate is way better than many of its contemporaries.

Not the Belgian ones, though… I had a 1980 Allegro 1.3 from the Seneffe plant and, aside from its frustratingly hard to find Cibie headlamps, it also had sills made from cereal boxes and rot in places I didn’t know it was possible to corrode. I can only assume they left the CKD kits out on deck when they shipped them across the English Channel… all of which makes three side-by-side Equipes even more of a rarity.

DSCF8154 (800x600) DSCF8155 (800x600) DSCF8156 (800x600)

Paul Vincent’s car (top) is even more of a curiosity as it has never been restored. It’s far from perfect, but it’s surprisingly solid and probably the only Equipe in existence that hasn’t seen the business end of a welder or spray gun. The other two are full-on restorations, and stunning cars for it. Nathan Penny (middle) bought his Equipe a few years ago, at which point it was white and had been partially restored. Much blood, sweat and tears later, and it’s a cracker. Dave Smart’s car (bottom) was bought new by his grandfather in 1980 and Dave has fully rebuilt it.

If you’re bowled over by the sight of three Equipes together (why shouldn’t you be?) and are tempted to try out British Leyland’s hot should-have-been-a hatch, then the exciting news is that Nathan Penny’s car is for sale. Restored in 2012, Nathan is only selling it due to an imminent new arrival in the family, and the need to convert the Equipe’s garage into an extra bedroom. Kids, eh?

If you have four grand to spare, then it could get you behind this rather unusual steering wheel...
If you have four grand to spare, then it could get you behind this rather unusual steering wheel…

If you’re genuine, Nathan lives in Lancashire and is looking for offers around £4000. Call him on 07775 835858.

Craig Cheetham

A serial impulsive car purchaser, Craig has had his name on over 200 V5s over the past 20 years. 10 per cent of those have been either 800s or Austin Allegros, with between 10 and 20 cars usually owned at any one time. Started out as a local newspaper journalist then worked for car mags including Auto Express, Classic Car Weekly and Land Rover Owner. Worked inside the car industry for a decade as an employee of General Motors, now works for a news distribution agency. Home based, which is dangerously convenient for further irrational heap purchases. Lover of all makes of car since childhood, with a particular leaning towards Austin-Rover... Father of three boys, so hoping to spread the car love. Other passions include rugby union, travelling and eating out.

40 Comments

  1. In these photographs it is not a bad looking car at all. More than a hint of Alfasud about the proportions. Just shows the effect of colour. Perhaps we have such negative perceptions about Allegros because most of them where Brown and looked like dog s**t. In Silver they look the dogs b*****Ks!

  2. Twor8’s nows the chance! what a day at tatton 3 Equipes together!!!!! Need to beat that at the next Tatton 4(maybe),good to see everyone there,and lets not forget we ‘we’as in BL/AustinRover got a trophy in the form of Montgomery!As my first tatton cant believe the amount of people or photos that were taken of all the cars on the stand/sectioned grassy area.roll on 2015!

  3. How many actually came from Belgium? I know the factory in Seneffe assembled them from kits produced in England, but it was always an urban myth that some Allegros in 1979 made it back to England. I did read union pressure dissuaded BL from importing cars, even though the cars that were imported were almost completely British in content.

  4. It’s shows how an Allegro can look better with some cosmetic treatment, in contrast to many BL’s paint colours the silver works well, even without the stripes.

    The wheels are very of their time but better than the pressed steel ones usually fitted.

  5. Were the bodyshells built over here and shipped to Belgium? I always thought they were built over there. If they were shipped over there I would have thought they were sent in rail wagons using the harwich zebrugge train ferry.
    I do wish I had a spare 4 grand at the moment.
    Incidenly I remember an allegro equipe being for sale at a garage in Middlesbrough in 1983 that was a gold colour, it was very low mileage and seemed totally original it had no stripes but neither did some silver ones ,could this have been a one off special? I’ve seen and got provenance from painters about a mk1 metro turbo in oporto red metallic

    • Russ, I recall our dealership having to respray a number of the first Equipes due to paint microblistering.

      The stripes were on back order and at least one of our customers didn’t bother having them refitted. This scenario was likely to have been replicated across other dealers so there were probably a few Equipes out there with no stripes.

      • I seem to remember seeing quite a lot with either thick black side stripes or vinyl roofs or both. Were the stripes fitted at dealers?
        The gold one ,if it had been painted it must have been stripped right back as it was gold under the carpets too

        • They came with stripes from the factory but this was in some of the worst the days of BL so parts supply was hit or miss. Some may have been shipped without the stripes and not have had them retrofitted by the dealer. They stripes were a love ’em or hate ’em thing at the time and the Equipe was no worse for not having them.

          As far as I recall there was only one colour – silver – so the gold one could have been a complete respray in gold ( unlikely), or more probably a re-shell of a damaged Equipe using a 2nd-hand donor bodyshell.

  6. Am I not right in saying that the only Seneffe built Allegro above is Dave Smart’s? Equipes were Series 2 Allegros & the only ones which came with quad headlamps were built in Seneffe as per all Mark 2 output from that factory.

    • Paul, you are correct. All Seneffe built Allegros had quad lamps – and all quad lamp Allegros came from Seneffe. They also had a unique chassis number prefix, can’t recall what it was though.

      • Only if they for the European market, LEs and equipes for the UK had the normal lights. The one shown above has had a quad light conversion. We only got quad lamps on the top line allegro 3’s

  7. Isn’t time a strange thing! Very often questioned the looks of the Allegro in years gone bye. In recent times, however, I’ve thought hasn’t the Allegro aged well. These three Equipes look positively great – even the garish side stripe ain’t too bad.

  8. Our brown Allegro 1300 bought new in 1979 XVP 441T was definitely a Seneffe car. It said so somewhere (I think it was the engine bay).
    I agree the car seems to have aged well, helped by the fact that more of the interesting versions have survived than the cooking versions. I think nowadays the only people who talk about Allegros are enthusiasts, so maybe that helps how we see them now?
    The Mk1 in the right colour (metallic blue) looks particularly good. The Allegro stands at the NEC Classic Shows of late have been great.
    Haven’t seen any estates for a while though. There is a hint of the estate about the Nissan Quashqai?

  9. I fooled round with an Allegro pic and moved the headlights out to the corners of the front guards.

    Improved the looks markedly. Try it yourself.

  10. Does moving the headlights outwards not take away too much individuality? I think the Equipe grille, front spoiler, black bumpers benefit the frontal appearance markedly.

    Similarly, the Allegro 3 rear lights & boot lid may have modernised, given a slightly more conventional appearance. However, the original rear looks more ‘right’ , as intended.

  11. I’d almost forgotten about these hot Allegros until I saw this article. I do remember them having a cult used following in the mid eighties as they were so cheap to buy used and the paintwork made them stand out. Still tend to be swayed by the Vanden Plas models as these handbuilt cars from Kingsbury, rather than Longbridge, were built in the same factory as the Daimler Limousine. Any other Allegro, then no thank you.

  12. Is there enough clearance under the bonnet to fit maestro MG1600 Webber DCNFs? Now that would make them go as fast as they look!

  13. Russ Pigott . I bought a 1982 Allegro 3 estate in 2005 that had a 1750 lump in it with DCNFS. It was an MOT failure for welding and I took the engine out to put in my Maxi. It breathed by way of a Maxi HL airbox cut down about 2 inches in height with the bottom fabricated to fit on the DCNFs and had a hole cut in the side where a tube was welded on with a K and N conical filter and also featured another small hole for the rocker cover breather pipe. Alas this wouldn’t fit under the Maxis bonnet so I bought a pipercross filter from Demon tweeks (also listed for the Fiat X19). This fitted perfectly under the Maxi but the breather pipe from the rocker cover was less of a success. In the end I pierced a hole in the foam filter just enough for the breather pipe to go in but it still breathed heavily with oil constantly being forced past the filler cap.

  14. IIRC the Allegro estates only came with the 1275cc & 1485cc engines as standard, so I guess someone had done it up.

  15. Glenn, not sure about the quality of the the VP 1500 it may have been finished off at Kingsbury but the rest of the BL organisation managed to wreck the quality.
    My late father purchased a new VP 1500 in Aug ’76, following on from from two Princess 1300’s and a 1100. The 1500 was a complete lemon (unlike the 1100 &1300’s, being very reliable).
    We dubbed the car the “pigs ear” within the family. After 2 days of ownership the gear leaver detached as you select ed reverse. The front foot wells took on the appearance of paddling pools and no amount of warranty work managed to cure it completely. It must have cost BL a fortune with three replacement sets of Wilton wool carpets. Then the paint started to flake around the boot and bonnet shuts and so it went on…..
    Pleased to see a few Equipes have survived. I remember in the early 80’s they were heavily discounted from list price, being unloved by both the boy racer brigade and the traditional Allegro buyer.

  16. @ Russ Piggot. In a word or two not really. If I had the time/ money to fiddle and fettle it fully then maybe but after getting it rolling roaded the figures were 97bhp@ 5000rpm and 112 lb/ft of torque. It sounded great with the induction roar but it really didn’t feel much quicker and at 70mph would only return 26-28mpg. A measurement of this as comparison would be : Calais, France to Paderborn, Germany equals about 330 miles. Cruising at 70mph the distance is doable on one tankful with a Maxi on single or twin SU’s and still have about a gallon to spare. With the twin Webers I would just about get to Dortmund (about 270 miles)

    • If that’s at the wheels that’s pretty good. The MPG is still better than my old MG1600, but I was only 20 when I had it so economy wasn’t my first consideration!
      I bet it was a pig to hot start as the carbs are down the back of the engine

      • Always started first time (and rarely needed choke when cold)and in fairness idled ok too. It seemed to run rich low down and weak higher up. One incident I did have was a bit of carb icing. I was coming home on leave in Oct 2006 from Germany and I was just coming up the Motorway in Belguim where it splits for either Ostende or France and the throttle peddle went slack and the engine started screaming it’s head off. I immediately pulled over and killed the engine. On opening the bonnet I saw ice had formed around the carbs and frozen the throttle linkage in place. After a few minutes it had thawed out and normal service was resumed. Prior to this incident I thought carb icing was an old wives tale.

  17. @ Neil B, yet most of the Vanden Plas models have survived, probably the owners have remedied all the faults.
    @ Kev, it’s unusual as the Allegro 1750 is a lighter car than the Maxi with the same five speed gearbox to get what even by the standards of 1979 wasn’t great fuel consumption on the open road. I do recall our 1974 Maxi being a real gas guzzler around this time, typically 24-28 mpg was all it did and with petrol passing £ 1 a gallon in 1979, it had to go. We bought a Toyota Corolla which easily managed 40 mpg and also had such fitments as a radio and cloth seats.

    • Glenn, strange to read the Maxi to be considered a gas guzzler…. In over 25 years of ownership I actually found them to be quite economical, 30 to 37 mpg easy to achieve and 29 about the worst I ever got when not doing excessively short trips in winter. The Allegro 1500 was similar – on the return from Naples (banger rally in 2005) it used only very little more fuel than the Polo 1.0 that followed me…

      • @ Alexander and Glenn. In standard form both the single and twin SU engine Maxis in my experience and opinion have what I considered to be good fuel consumption when driven sensibly. The twin SU Maxis do tend to be a bit thirsty around town but that’s par for the course. Glenn, the Maxi I was referring to was running twin Weber 40DCNFs and in my time I could never get it to run quite right. As I posted earlier I bought this scrap allegro with said engine for said engine. The short drive across Kent with the Allegro seemed to me that the person who had done the mods seemed to have it about right. However I suppose there was more work required to set it up perfectly for the Maxi no doubt due to differences in breathing, cooling, and exhaust configuration and I never quite managed to accomplish this. I managed to get it good enough to run okish but it ran a bit too hot on the motorway and was very thirsty around town. In hindsight I should have stuck with the twin SU’s but I haven’t dismissed the idea of experimenting again, (time and money permitting).

  18. It was strange that the Maxi was quite thirsty, as a five speeder would have given it better long distance fuel consumption than a four speed Cortina. However, it was five years old when we bought it and might not have been maintained that well.

  19. Anorak fact of the week about how to spot if a car we all think of as British is made in Britain or in Europe without checking inside the engine bay. On early eighties Fords, the British models came fitted with Triplex glass, continental ones had Sekurit glass.
    However, I’d still love to know how many Allegros were imported between 1978 and 1981, when Seneffe closed. It’s possible due to union resistance only a few thousand were imported and from what I read on here the quality was worse than British cars.

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