News : Our most popular cars are Britain’s most endangered

Keith Adams

The cars : Austin/MG Metro development history

The cars that form the backbone of AROnline are some of the fastest disappearing motors on British roads. New research into the top British family cars by Honest John Classics reveals that many of UK’s once-popular family cars are on the most endangered.

The Austin Metro is typical. It was once a common sight on British roads and enjoyed celebrity status as Princess Diana’s car when she married Charles in July 1981. It was also the driving school car of choice for BSM, and everyone knew someone who had one – and now, there’s a mere 823 taxed or SORN’d Austin Metros, from an original production run of 1.5 million between 1981-1991.

The Austin Allegro has suffered the largest decline of all, with just 291 remaining in the UK (taxed and SORN) at the end of 2011, from a total production run of 640,000 between 1973 and 1982. The Ford Cortina is another model on the list that may raise a few eyebrows – after all it was Britain’s best-selling car between 1973 and 1980. Many people will know and love the Cortina, because once upon a time, it was the darling of a million sales reps. Just 5411 remain registered in the UK, from more than four million built. Other endangered former street furniture classics include the Ford Sierra and Rover SD1.

The ‘Top 20 Endangered Cars’ research by involved examining DVLA records of classic cars (those cars registered between 1950 and 1995) to find out how many were still registered today (both on the road and SORN) compared to the amount originally built. The results are published at AROnline’s sister site, Honest John Classics.

Top 10 fastest disappearing family cars by model

  1. Austin Allegro 0.05% remaining
  2. Austin Montego 0.05% remaining
  3. Princess 0.05% remaining
  4. Hillman Avenger 0.06% remaining
  5. Vauxhall Viva 0.07% remaining
  6. Morris Marina 0.08% remaining
  7. Austin Maxi 0.08% remaining
  8. Morris Ital 0.1% remaining
  9. Rover SD1 0.1% remaining
  10. Vauxhall VX-Series 0.1% remaining
  11. Austin Metro 0.1% remaining
  12. Ford Cortina 0.1% remaining
  13. MG 1100/1300 0.1% remaining
  14. Austin Maestro 0.2% remaining
  15. Vauxhall Chevette 0.2% remaining
  16. Austin Ambassador 0.2% remaining
  17. Hillman Imp 0.2% remaining
  18. Rover 200 0.3% remaining
  19. Triumph Acclaim 0.4% remaining
  20. Ford Sierra 0.4% remaining

Ford Sierra

Keith Adams


  1. Are those percentages out of a total made and distributed worldwide, or just sold in the UK?

  2. Some stunners there.

    Mostly normal workaday cars that were seen as disposable I reckon and nobody gave a monkey’s that they were vanishing. The scrapage scheme probably did for loads of them too. When was the last time you saw an Acclaim?

  3. I’ve got a MG Maestro 2.0i and there are less than a 100 left on the road. Getting spares is increasing difficult and the car values so low, no one will make any parts.

  4. I’m surprised just how many Imps & Ambassadors are left considering the first ceased production in 1976 & so few of the latter were built.

  5. Come to think of it- I haven’t seen a Vauxhall Nova on the road for years now. They’ve gone from 10k to 2.8k in four years according to ‘how many left’. I honestly can’t recall the last time I saw a standard 80’s Vauxhall Nova.

  6. re Jez H’s post. I’ve got a front and back bumper that came off a black MG Maestro and both front wings if anyone is interested (all in pretty good condition)

  7. This list was published in at least one national daily with the predictable “who cares” response from those who bothered to write in. But, rational or not, this list makes me quite sad. There are fewer Montego’s left than, for example, Ford Corsairs! When they are gone I for one will miss them, and Metros, Princesses and the like.

  8. Keep seeing a 2 dr Vauxhall Viva on a K plate around Torbay,would not mind it myself.
    Shocked by the Montego being outlasted by the Corsair

  9. Great to see this getting a lot of attention in the news today! It makes me wonder how many low-volume specific model types are left – 3 door Sierras, Allegro Equipes etc

  10. Re- that BBC report (and well done Keith for your bit)- the presenter should have referred to the Allegro as a ‘van den Plas[s]’ not a van den Plarr. van den Plas is Flemish, not French.

  11. Indeed. AROnline says:

    Why is Vanden Plas often abbreviated to “VDP” (rather than just VP)? What does it actually mean? And how should the name be pronounced? These questions can be answered (or at least illuminated) by delving into the origins of the name.

    Firstly, to dispel some fairly common misconceptions, the name is not French, German or even Dutch, but Flemish, hailing from the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. In plain Dutch it would have been spelled as “van den Plas” (and alphabetically sorted under ‘P’). However, Flemish capitalises the V (sorting it under ‘V’), and also contracts “Van den Plas” to “Vanden Plas” and sometimes even to “Vandenplas”. Incidentally, in modern Dutch usage one would say “van der plas”, but Flemish family names are never updated to reflect more modern spelling (whereas there used to be a tendency to do this in Holland).

    Next, the meaning. In his book “Vanden Plas – Coachbuilders”, Brian Smith gives the literal translation as “of the pond”. “Plas” is indeed the Dutch for pond, so this is probably correct, but it should be noted that it is also used for any body of water from a puddle upwards. For instance, the Dutch for “to pee” is “een plas doen”, spilt water would be described as “plas” on the floor, and even the ocean is sometimes referred to as “de grote plas” (the great ….). However, there is a further possiblilty that should not be dismissed: in a family name it could very well be a corruption of a similar-sounding word with an entirely different meaning…

    Finally, the pronunciation. Many people in English-speaking countries wrongly assume that the final ‘s’ is silent, pronouncing the name as “Vanden Plah”. The correct pronounciation (both in Flemish and in plain Dutch) has a rather sharp ‘s’ at the end, as in the English word “kiss”. Both ‘a’ vowels in the name are pronounced the same way, as in the English colloquialism “yah”, so phonetically we should say something like “Vahnden Plahs”. However, Flemish will in this case put a slight stress on the first syllable of “Vanden”, whereas plain Dutch would stress only the “Plas” quite heavily.

  12. Nice report – makes the roughly 0.5% of Austin 3litre production on Swansea’s database look rather good. But then I own about 1.8% of all LHD 3litres made 😉

  13. All but two of the cars I’ve ever owned are on that list. And one of the others was a Saab 9000 – only about 5k of them left now… 🙁

  14. I wonder how many cars are left on that list are simply in barns or storage that are not sorn’d or taxed or reported off road.

  15. @12 – Yes I saw that. I never had an Allegro Vanden Plas down as an 80s classic. Its very much a 70s car. By 1980 the Allegros reputation had reached rock bottom and production was down to a trickle as BL threw all their weight behind the Metro. These statistics are not that surprising. These cars where essentially consumer goods. How many 30 year old Hoover twin tubs are still in existence? 5000 odd Cortinas is probably far more than we actually need to fondly remember the car. And I speak as a 1970 1600E owner.

  16. Francis

    Quite a number – they keep turning up. Mainly those cars taken off-road before SORN came in during the early 2000s. But these DVLA figures are still the most accurate ones we have right now…

  17. @22, Paul,

    You’d be surprised how many twin tubs are still around- some older people won’t use anything else.

  18. I’m amazed at how few Allegros were manufactured, and pleasantly surprised at the number of Vauxhall FE/VX series cars are left. A guy in Kiddy has 3 Vivas – 2 HCs and a HB. I regularly see Triumph Acclaims and also the Metro and Monty estate. As for the rest – hen’s teeth!

  19. I know this isn’t news to anyone, but the ‘How Many Left’ site figures are not 100% representative.

    The figures can be distorted by how the cars’ makes were defined when first registered. For BL/AR cars, for example, they could have been Austin, Austin-Morris, Austin-Rover, Rover etc. I own a Mini 30 automatic, of which only 200 were produced. You will find different figures on that site for how many are left depending on whether you search for Austin Mini 30 or Rover Mini 30. Mine is defined as a Rover on the V5. Consequently (and happily) there are probably more on the road than that site suggests so it is not all doom and gloom.

  20. Paul,

    Ordinarily I’d agree with you. However, I did a great deal of work on combining the mis-named cars that you describe. The cars you highlight would all be categorized as Minis, and not Rovers, Austin-Rovers, Austin-Morrises or Austins.

    As great a resource as How Many Left is, what we’ve done is the additional work to streamline and simplify the model entries. And trust me, there was a lot of that to do.


  21. …..God, it makes me feel old. I did all my driving lessons in an Avenger; and the first car I owned was the Viva model (HC) shown here.

  22. By the theory of banger valley, most, if not all (including the Sierra) of these vehicles should be beyond the banger trough – at which point they are seen as disposable and most at risk of scrappage.

    The survivors should be climbing the other side, not in numbers but in terms of value – both financial and historical.

    The Nova – I’ve seen good examples now climbing out of the trench, fetching good prices. The mk1 Corsa seems to be going through the shadow of the valley of scrap.

  23. Cars which have been off the road since before 1998 do not need a SORN declaration, therefore there are at least two Midgets of mine and two of a friend which do not show up in the statistics. My friend also has a Bristol 401 and MG J2 Midget, a TVR and an MGB which will fall under the same category. I am sure that this will apply to many other cars and many other people.

  24. What about “how many left?” when it comes to how many car owners could actually restore/run/maintain a classic car?

  25. @ Keith #27

    Good work, you must have the patience of a saint! Must have had to do a helluva a lot of trawling! 😀

  26. I was heading from Sheffield into the Peak District a few weeks ago down the B6054 in my nice German estate car when I came upon an enthusiastically driven pale green early model Hillman Imp in immaculate condition. The driver was giving the old Climax lump a few revs and happily trotting along at 50+ mph where the road allowed.

    I pulled alongside him at the big oval roundabout at the A621 and gave him a big thumbs up.

    A ’74 Imp was my first car and it was great to see one of these out on the road being driven as intended. I would still like one even now but Mrs CE would probably have a fit.

    I doubt that there are many Imps left in that condition and even fewer of the early models.

  27. @33 – Thankfully there were plenty of really nice Imps at the 50th anniversary!

  28. I feel very lucky indeed as I have 2 rover sd1 vanden plas 3500 v8s one silver one blue, blue one is being restored the silver one is solid might sell eventually though!!

  29. Spooky, seen both an Aplate Ambassador and an A plate Chevette on the road just yesterday. Made my heart sing to see some old metal in use.

  30. I’m from Denmark;and has just regisered a ’78 Avenger 1600 as my dailydriver.
    I also own a ’71 1500 DL;wich I’ve had since 1997.At the first MOT i 1999 it was the only 1500 still registered in Denmark!
    From 1970-76 over 16.000 Avengers were sold here,so it’s absolutely amazing how fast they dissapered……… Today I know of 5 registered in all in the country;we don’t have a “How many left”-page here……

  31. I have two Montegos and both still going strong and no rust, treated with Dinatrol years ago. They attract a load of favourable comment at the car shows – mainly due to their rareity. I’ve owned both for over twenty years and would hate to part with either of them – they are the only ones here in Sussex.

  32. It’s always interesting to see how few cars from the seventies and eighties, but for all this is out of date, the decline in numbers of Austin Metros is shocking. Probably nearly as rare now are the Rover Metro/100, although I reckon the scrappage scheme took its toll on 100s as many owners found they could get £ 2000 for an almost worthless car and bought a Suzuki Alto to replace it.

  33. I remember it was still easy to see the more common 1970s cars well into the 1990s, but by 2000 many of the bigger selling 1980s cars were vanishing from the roads at a much faster rate.

    I did wonder if the withdrawal of leaded petrol meant a lot of cars that wern’t worth converting were simply scrapped by their owners.

  34. You have to remember the scrapage scheme would have disproportionally hit cars from the 80s and late 70s.

    Having said that what would I give for a nice MG Montego or countryman. Or an Ambassador, or Maxi or series 3 Allegro with twin headlights

  35. The low survival rate of Allegros in recent years (once having survived rather well as they didn’t rust as badly as other BL cars) maybe due to many of the A-series engined cars were used to provide engines and transmissions for classic Minis. Ditto for the Metro, whilst the Marina provided parts for the MGB and Morris Minor.
    In rural France, where I live, I haven’t seen a single Allegro or Metro in the 13 years I have been here, and they were sold here (especially the Metro). I see Minis fairly often, and have a 1969 one myself, in everyday use.
    The pattern of ’70’s and ’80’s survival of French cars is interesting- lots of 2CV’s and Renault 4’s still around, while Renault 16s and Citroen GS’s have vanished. What is probably diffrent is the survival of van versions. Van versions of the Renault 5 and Citroen Visa I see every day. People just hang onto them and keep them going, whilst the saloons have largely gone. I guess it’s the practical rural French paysan knows he can fix them himself and can’t be doing with the complexity of modern cars.

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