Obituary : Harris Mann 1938-2023

Former Classic Car Weekly Features Editor and serial Allegro and Princess owner, Richard Gunn, recalls Harris Mann’s life and career in his own words from a one-to-one back in 2005.

As the man behind some of British Leyland’s most controversial cars, his designs were always something of a talking point. However, as time passed, he had all the time in the world for fans of his cars, even if he confessed he didn’t even like the Quartic wheel…

Harris Mann: Designer for the decades

Harris Mann, the London-born former Chief Designer at British Leyland, has died aged 85. Born in London in 1938, and a lifelong fan of automotive design, he was responsible for some of the UK’s most identifiable and oft-debated cars.

His automotive design career started with the bus and coachbuilding firm Duple after graduating from engineering school in Westminster. From there, he went to the US to work with Loewy Consultancy, before working for Commer and then Ford from where he was headhunted to work on with Roy Haynes for British Motor Holdings at Cowley.

Celebrating Harris Mann’s work

There can be few automotive fans who don’t know who Harris Mann was. As BL’s controversial Chief Designer during the 1970s and early-’80s, he was responsible for introducing three very distinctive shapes into everyday motoring. Most dramatic were his two wedge-shaped wonders, the Princess and the Triumph TR7. But most famous of all was the Austin Allegro.

Much has been written in the past on the subject of Harris Mann and the cars he came up with in the 1970s. Little of it has been that complimentary though. Journalists looking for an easy target to make fun of were handed not one but two by British Leyland with the Allegro and the Princess. The cars might as well have come out from Longbridge with ‘Kick me’ stickers glued onto their boots.

There are two sides to every story, though. To many people, Harris Mann was on a par with Bertone, Giugiaro or Pininfarina. An always-adventurous Designer responsible for some of the most radical styling ever to appear in Britain, he’s never received the recognition many feel he deserves. That isn’t so much to do with a lack of talent as a lack of geography.

Built in Britain…

If Harris had been born in France or Italy, then we’d probably have seen extraordinary Ferraris, stunning Maseratis and awesomely quirky Citroëns bearing his touches. And he would definitely have done the Lancia Stratos. Instead, though, he was born in London, and ended up working for British Leyland during its committee-led nadir of the 1970s. It was a set of circumstances which would have been enough to doom any stylist, however innovative and talented.

Yet all Designers strive to design something memorable, something instantly recognisable and individualistic –  in the case of Harris Mann, he did three in quick succession. That what eventually emerged caused controversy is a sign that he tried to do something to stand out from the crowd. The new and radical always divides opinion.

It’s also important to point out too that, in the case of the Allegro, what Harris Mann actually designed, and what British Leyland actually built were two completely different things. Once the Production Engineers were let loose to wreak standardisation and cost-cutting vengeance on the Allegro, all that remained of Harris’s original plans was a mere caricature.

Triumph TR7

On to the wedge production cars

He was allowed a freer hand with the Princess and TR7 and, as a result, came up with two of the most distinctively-styled cars ever to emerge from a mainstream British car company. The dramatic wedge shapes were totally of their era. That the cars themselves later became to be regarded in an unfavourable light was largely the result of British Leyland’s financial crisis, appalling quality control record, atrocious industrial relations, a laughable attitude towards marketing and an inherent lack of managerial ability.

British Leyland wouldn’t even have been able to find a brewery, let alone organise anything approaching a bloody good time in one. When the Princess first appeared, the media loved the shape, citing it as ‘futuristic’. By comparison, its nearest rival – the Ford Granada – looked boring and dated. And however much traditionalists scoff at the TR7’s appearance, the cold hard fact still remains that it was the biggest selling of all TR models, shifting 112,368 (114,865 if you include the TR8) in just six years.

There’s also far more to Harris Mann than just British Leyland. He had a long and varied career within the automotive industry, and remained very active as a freelance Designer, working with some of the biggest firms around on some very exciting projects.

And what of the man himself?

The history of the man called Mann started in London, in April 1938. As far back as he could remember, there was an interest in cars, and when the opportunity presented itself, he went to engineering school. ‘It was a great help in a lot of ways,’ he said. ‘That gave me a very good practical understanding of things.’ He was able to put this understanding into practice when he got an apprenticeship with the coach and bus firm of Duple soon afterwards, which sent him for training in motor body engineering.

‘After I’d finished the apprenticeship in London – it was a Draughtsman role – I looked around for something new. However, it was difficult to get into the car industry in those days, there weren’t the opportunities there are today. So, I emigrated to the States, towards the end of the Fifties, to look for work. But it was the wrong time when I got there. There were problems in the steel industry.’

Harris stayed in the USA for just six months, working for the Raymond Loewy Company, although his personal contact with the legendary Designer himself was limited. ‘I was introduced to him, but that was about it,’ he remembered. ‘I was just part of a team, doing things like designing tread patterns and sidewalls for tyres. Then the work dried up. I came back to Britain and got nobbled for the army. It was meant to be two year’s National Service, but I got stung for another six years due to a crisis in Germany.’

A start in buses

After demob, Harris went back to Duple, but didn’t appreciate still being regarded as an apprentice. He was soon at Commer at Luton as a Draughtsman/Design Engineer on commercial vehicles. ‘That didn’t last very long, I had nine months at Commer. Then I saw an advert for a job at Ford for a Feasibility Engineer. I got that job and got into the design studios there. This would have been around 1962.’

During the 1960s, Ford must have been a great place for a young Designer keen to learn more and show his own worth. It was a golden era for the company, when it expanded from 1950s austerity and a limited model line-up, to become arguably the prime mover in the British car industry, with a varied range of products.

‘I did about nine months in the feasibility area, then I presented the Head of Styling with a portfolio of my own stuff,’ said Harris. ‘I was breeding off a lot of Americans at the time, and they gave me an insight into what they were doing.’

The portfolio was impressive enough to land Harris a ‘proper’ job in the styling studios at Averley and Dunton. In total, he was at Ford for five years, working on Escorts, Capris, D-series trucks and some bus projects that Ford was contemplating at the time.

Ford Capri design

Moving to Oxford

His next move took him to the Midlands and eventual national prominence. ‘The person I worked for, Roy Haynes, secured a job with the British Motor Corporation to set up a studio in Oxford. And he asked me to go with him. I felt it would be a bit more of a step up a level. And so I went to Oxford, and the Cowley plant.’

At the end of the 1960s, BMC was still in the Issigonis era. However, Sir Alec hardly went out of his way to welcome the new young gun on the team. ‘He had a big influence. But Issigonis wouldn’t talk to me because I didn’t have an engineering degree.’

The first major project for the Haynes and Mann partnership was ADO28 (above), instigated just months after BMC and Leyland Motors merged. The car that would eventually become better known as the Marina was intended primarily as an Escort/Cortina competitor. It represented the first part of an overall plan Roy Haynes had come up with for BMC, whereby there would be just three basic chassis, onto which a variety of different bodies could be put, ‘…everything from Minis to Jags,’ said Harris.

Morris Marina (ADO28)

The work at Ford

‘When Roy worked at Ford, he’d come up with the conclusion that BMC didn’t have an Escort competitor. The nearest thing to it was the Minor. The Marina took the concept of the Minor and blew it up with a new body. It was an effort to try and split the product range and get some money back.’

Harris was also working on his own individual projects. One of more distinctive was Austin Zanda (below), a styling exercise exhibited throughout 1969 as a showcase for products by Pressed Steel Fisher, the Cowley body-making company. The car was uncompromisingly wedge-shaped, showing the way that Harris Mann – and, separately, others like Bertone and Giugiaro – believed car design was evolving.

‘In the back of my mind, I saw that as the route MG should take. I thought they should look at mid-engined designs (a configuration to which the wedge-shape is ideally suited). It was my way of tickling management. When you looked around at what the rest of Europe was doing, BMC was like a mausoleum.’

Austin Zanda

It tickled management enough to earn Harris the chance to be Chief Stylist on Austin’s next family saloon. Codenamed ADO67, design work on the car had already started at Cowley, before there was, as Harris puts it, ‘…a falling out between Roy Haynes and Longbridge. The people at Longbridge didn’t like a separate outpost not under their control. So Roy departed, and we were all pulled up to Longbridge.’

Mann on the Allegro…

The Allegro has become a notorious car for many reasons, but early Harris Mann design sketches (below) reveal it was at least intended to be far more attractive. Harris said, ‘We wanted to make a far more modern version of the 1100/1300, keeping the long, sleek look. Then a lot of other things affected it. A heater was developed at astronomical cost which was very deep.

‘That had to go in. Then we had to put in the E-Series engine, which was more suitable for putting in a Leyland truck. So the whole car gained in height. That made it look shorter and stumpier. Thicker seats were added inside, which cut down on interior space. It was getting bulkier inside and out, and lost the original sleekness. That was what happened unfortunately.’

And at least Harris wasn’t responsible for the infamous square Quartic steering wheel. ‘That came from Engineering,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t very good at all. But we were instructed to do it.’

Although he has often confessed himself ‘disappointed’ by the eventual appearance of the Allegro, Harris always remained defensive of it. ‘You still see more Allegros around than Cortinas of the same era. It took a lot of stick, but it wasn’t that bad a car. The trouble was that every one off the line was different in some way, thanks to quality control. I had one as a company car, and it was one of the good ones…’

ADO67 design

The Princess was better

Next project was the Princess, and once again, Harris’ original ideas failed to make it to the metal. ‘That was conceived as a five door,’ he said of the car now universally nicknamed the Wedge. ‘If you look at the rear, it’s the ideal shape for a hatchback. But we were told that would take away the major selling point of the Maxi. In today’s climate, you just can’t understand a decision like that. It was a boo boo. By the time the Ambassador came along with a hatchback, it was just all far too late.’

Like the Allegro, the Princess picked up a dubious reputation for lack of quality. ‘It could have been a good car. Unfortunately, design or styling seemed to take a lot of flack for what was Engineering’s fault. It got let down by the details.’

The spin off from the Princess was the TR7, which continued with the wedge theme. ‘Over at Triumph, they couldn’t re-engineer the TR6 to get it into the States. They asked us to do a replacement concept, in just weeks. Lord Stokes was around at the time, and decided to put it into production with few modifications. It was done in a very short period.’

A trip stateside

‘Before I looked at the TR7, I went to the States to see what was going on there. That’s why it was a bit more extreme. It was really only planned for America. There was no reason to think it would be a European car. It was also intended to be a Targa roof, but Engineering just couldn’t work it out. Which was a pity.’

Again, the TR7 has been regarded as something of a dark hour in Triumph’s history, but there was little chance for a car beset by so many quality problems, thanks to appalling industrial relations at the Liverpool plant where it was built. ‘The TR7 could have gone on longer, but the company ran out of money. Leyland had this ability to do a product, then let it run itself into the ground, not looking at the marketplace. The engine was another tragedy. Saab took that and made a great Turbo out it. Now that would have been something, a TR7 Turbo…’

Harris was also involved in the tricky task of trying to replace the Mini. Under the ADO74 and ADO88 codenames, Harris Mann’s new themes were radical departures from the cuddly persona of the original. ADO74 was cancelled in 1973 (below), due to the £130-million needed to produce it, but ADO88, on which work started in 1974, eventually metamorphosed into the Metro in the 1980s. ‘We had the same sort of problems that Volkswagen was having replacing the Beetle. It was the same trauma as the Mini. There was just this love affair with it.’

Austin Ant/Firefly ADO74 prototype

Towards the end of his time at BL

Harris’ final days with BL saw him working on the Maestro project (below). David Bache at Rover was in overall charge, resulting in Rover’s design plans being pushed through in preference to Harris’ ideas. But he was called in to do modifications on the car though. ‘The big scallop down the side was derived from the SD1. The line was meant to link up with the lights at front and rear, but the rear lamps were made bigger. So the line looked like it was running down towards the end. I called it the Hyena look, down at the rear.’ And the solution? ‘We had to jack up the suspension at the end.’

Other modifications were new headlamps – ‘they originally stuck out from the body’ – plus efforts to try and reduce the panel gaps. ‘In those days, before computers, everything was just slapped on. David Bache’s ideas were to leave gaps on it, which just looked a bit much when they saw the mock-ups. To me, it just made every car look wrong.’


A few of the inherited features of the Maestro went over to the Montego. ‘That looked even more like it was dropping down at the rear. So we added an extra wide trim strip to make it look like it was running parallel.’

Harris Mann left British Leyland in 1983 after 15 years, with, one senses, a sense of frustration that whatever he tried to do was bedevilled by other factors out of his control. ‘I’d had enough, the pernickety attitude approach to things. There was something of the Chrysler approach coming in, which was not to be in any way adventurous…’

Harris Mann LC10

Freelancing away…

Working as a freelancer, Harris went to BMW for an old friend, Hans Mutt, who’d become the Head of Design for motorcycles at the German firm. That eventually lead to more work on BMW cars in the company’s Advanced Concept Package Department, with one effort becoming a show car.

After BMW came various concepts for buses, lorries and trains, including Channel Tunnel freight locomotives. More recent work saw him facelift the Subaru Impreza, plus an ERF truck.

He ended up coming full circle, working with Peter Stevens, the Director of Design at MG Rover, on the XPower SV sports car project, getting it ready for production.

Having also collaborated on the MG Z-cars as well, he recalled that MG Rover was a much better place to work than British Leyland. ‘It was quite a project to work on, and it was a great team. In comparison to working in a mainstream production facility, it was all very refreshing, no politics. I was on a freelance basis.’

Mann’s lasting legacy

With an increasing adventurousness in 21st century car design, Mann’s radical and distinctive approach to car design was finally given the recognition it deserved. He was an active member of the classic car scene, often seen spending time on owners’ club stands, patiently answering questions and being hugely generous with his time.

The Allegro, Princess and Triumph TR7 have now transcended the knocking copy that beset them for years, and are now appreciated as bold, interesting and ultimately ill-starred family cars that were killed by the UK’s industrial decline, poor quality and strong economic headwinds rather than their styling alone.

Mann said it best himself: ‘When I look back on my career, it’s been fun. It’s such a pity that it ran through the period of discontent at BL. It’s hard to stake your claim in this country and get the rewards you get in other countries. That said, I never went off it.’

Thanks to Richard Gunn for forwarding this extended version of his original magazine article. This version of the article was originally first published on AROnline in August, 2011.

Harris Mann picture courtesy of the Leyland Princess website.

Richard Gunn
Latest posts by Richard Gunn (see all)


  1. Harris Mann was definately one of the most talked about and admired British car designers in the 70’s, his work was very exciting and adventurous,and as good as the designs that had previously could only come out of Italy, I loved looking at his renderings which possesed a very dynamic feel to them.
    I always wished I had his level of tallent!

      • I’m indeed related to him. He was my Mother’s cousin and therefore my second cousin. My Mum, Denise thought alot of him and was very proud of his achievements, as am I and the rest of the family. His Mother,Elsie and dad Harry we would visit every time we went on holiday to Sussex as they lived in Bexhill. She was a formidable character, just like him, and she had ‘kick’ always made me laugh! How are you related? I only found out when I visited my other Aunt on Saturday gone that he was gone. A very talented man who ‘would have got better recognition if BL had actually made what he designed!’

  2. Would definitely buy a book by Harris Mann if it showcases his sketches and elaborates on other projects, along with Roy Haynes where the latter elaborates on his common platform proposal.

  3. It’s an interesting reflection of Harris Mann’s slightly left field tastes, that he was a fan of the Vel Satis and Avantime both of which flopped badly!

    A really interesting interview, it’s interesting that he came over to BMC with Roy Haynes, who seemingly had completely different ideas about what cars should look like.

  4. A man I have much admired for many years. With regards to the two Renaults – there is in my view very little relationship between superb design and commercial success. Even a cursory look through the pages of automotive history will reveal that there is little correlation. Commercial styling success is so often determine by the bland and mundane – if it were not so, the Audi A4 and Vokswagon Golf would be ‘duds’.

    • Well it would have looked silly with each side looking different (or pre-empted the Nissan Cube and Mk 1 new Mini clubman by a good few years) 🙂

  5. Interesting how his national service lasted six years, the maximum was normally 24 months, although a few of the last conscripts had to serve 30 months if they were posted to Berlin when the wall went up. I haven’t heard of anyone having to serve six years, unless he wanted to stay in longer.

    • I think the “years” is a misprint for “months” because he says he was back in the motor industry by 1962

      • @ Christopher Storey, I was thinking another six months as I do recall the last entrants who did National Service and were posted to Berlin when the Wall went up had to serve an extra six months. National Service was abolished in 1960, probably when Harris Mann returned to Britain and as he was born before 1940, he was eligible to be called up.

  6. Every interview with Harris Mann that I’ve ever seen, or read, seems to consist of him blaming the failure of his designs on everyone but himself. If he had taken ownership of a single mistake, he would carry a little more credibility!

    I am sure that he’s not the first designer to have to adapt to the needs of engineering and the accountants and others seem to manage it rather better.

    Alternatively, he could have taken the view of a talented designer, like Frank Stephenson; when asked what he thought the most important jobs of a designer was, he said that it was to defend their designs from corruption by Management (or something very like that!).

  7. Sir Alec would not talk to me because i did not have an engineering degree, sir Alec disliked book engineers but was very close to the shop floor mechanics, i am talking from experience.

  8. I agree with this. You need to work from concept sketches up to a full set of working drawings and bucks. Mann seems to suggest he did the concept sketches and then left the “design team” to get on with things.

    In his defence I actually think the Allegro styling was fairly decent and remember this was replacing the morris minor (in terms of market if not engineering) and some of that cute rounded style has been incorporated into the design. I also remember the Allegro’s styling being quite well received.

    The allegro had many good points but it developed a reputation for unreliability ( fairly or otherwise) had noisy engines (in A series form) and a poor gear change (sounds a bit like the Citron GS). Yes it was no alfasud, but the sud wasn’t exactly a big seller in the UK.

    What it lacked was a bit of flair. But in no way was it any worse than an escort or a chevette or an avenger.

    • The Allegro looks terrible, the problem for me is the front end. The grill and the wings look like they belong to two different cars that have somehow merged together.

      I don’t buy Mann blaming others for the styling failures of the Allegro. For a start, my understanding is the design sketches he brings out to show what he wanted the Allegro to look like, was actually a sketch of a reskin of ADO16.

      Even if that isn’t the case, as a designer he had to create a design which would work with the parts the company had available. He knew the E-series was a tall engine, he knew the heater was bulky. Instead of coming up with an attractive design which would work with the restrictions the available components imposed. He came up with a wedge design with a low bonnet line, that was never going to work.

      With the result that the car looked awful when it was modified so those components would actually fit.

      • Agree with you regarding the Allegro’s front end, perhaps Mann was too heavily invested in realising his Wedge theme idea that he was unwilling to embrace alternative ideas from his time at Ford (he was involved in the Capri after all)?

      • The problem with your argument is the design was probably made before the parts were decided. In most cases, designs for ideas are put together and shown to those in charge who make a decision, and then the winning design gets passed to the production engineers to get ready for production.

        A perfect example of designers work being modified is the Mk2 Capri, where there was two competing designs put in front of Henry Ford II. Ford liked one design from the front, but not the rest and the other he hated the front, so the production engineering team just merged both cars together.

        And it is well known that PSF did mess up with the spring back of the side profiles which ended up more being more bulbous than it was supposed to be.

  9. I worked at Longbridge Styling DEPT as a clay modeler untill Dec.1971.When Roy Haines left I thought the writing was on the wall for a future.I left to seek my fortune in South Africa,which to some extent I achieved.I was taken to Harry Webster for an interview but the Leyland guys had a own gang and the Ford boys had theirs. TIME TO LEAVE FOR SANITIES SAKE,I remember I was very upset on the last day.

  10. The Princess and TR7 are two of my all time favourite car designs. It was the build and BL’s engine tech that let them down, not the design.

  11. The Princess or 18/22 should of course have had a hatchback at launch. The Maxi was 6 years old in 1975, but had key parts of the body dating back to the mid 60s. It had never set the world on fire so should have been replaced as the 18/22 arrived. Perhaps that could have made sense of the original Austin/Morris branding? A hatchback version marketed as the new Austin Maxi and a booted version with Morris badging. I struggle to see why the Princess styling is now so controversial. I would say it was on the button for the mid 70s. At launch I remember it being well regarded – it was the rest of the car that let it down.

  12. WAS the wedge well regarded at launch? I seem to remember bafflement being the prevailing sentiment, soon giving way to a consensus that it was bloody ugly. Same with TR7. It’s a shame for HM’s reputation that the best looking thing he ever did – his LC10 proposal – lost out to the gawky Beech / Bache design that became the Maestro.

  13. I worked with Harris several times during my career. He was a super guy with a wealth of talent in all areas. His knowledge of automotive design was vast. He will be missed by his many friends. One of the best, John T

    • A genuine remarkable friendly man. Always to be found at many classic car shows. He loved supporting his industry to the very end. RIP Harris. Your many fans will greatly miss you.

  14. Harris was probably mid 30s when the above photo was taken, scary how the passage of time seems to accelerate. He looked happy at his work… RIP.

  15. The Princess seems to be getting tarred with the same brush as the Allegro. Thats unfair I think, its wedge shape was avant garde certainly, but it was bang on for styling trends in the mid 70s. It offered far more car than the likes of the Cortina, just a real shame it had early quality issues and in 1800 form an ancient, poorly perfomring drive train. Also in 1975 the Maxi was 6 years old and had never done good business for BL, so why not give the 18/22 a hatchback and let it replace the landcrab and the Maxi? Anyway, none of that was Harris Manns fault. RIP to a very talented designer.

    • Bang on! The Princess is a good looking beast until you get to the rear tail lights which always looked amateurish to me. In fact if you look at its rising belt line it predicted a moderate design trend 30 years before it became fashionable. And if you look at the alternative designs for the TR7 he produced, they look a lot better than the one the management chose. Just the Alldgo let the side down, but we have never seen what other drawings he did for that. You can’t say he did one idea and it was chosen as no designer does that.

      • The styling buck looks great in that photo alongside an Austin 1800. It’s a pity the production version didn’t look exactly the same and, as you say, the rear lights looked absolutely terrible.

      • That’s a really interesting point.

        Does anyone have any images of the losing Princess and Allegro concept designs? Or, photos of the clay or fibreglass bucks between then and the pressing of green light to manufacture? I can’t recall seeing those.

        Fortunately we have quite a few for some other models like AD016, Landcrab, XJ40, Montego and even models that never made production like ADO76 etc. I find all of that type of thing really interesting.

  16. Had the 18/22 had a hatchback and the TR7 a Targa as Harris had envisioned then they would have been much better sellers.

  17. The Princess was a radical design for its time and quite well regarded when it was launched, as the 18/22. It was a big leap forward from the ADO17, which was looking very dated by 1975, and was a much more modern car to drive and looked far less austere inside. Had the Princess been given a hatchback and been better made at the start, it could have done so much better as Mann had designed a radical looking car that was good to drive and had a massive interior. Also anyone get the logic why the L and HL had four headlamps, which was a sign a car was more upmarket in the seventies, and the HLS received the two headlamps?

    • Good point Glenn. BMW’s always had 4 headlamps in the 70s and one would expect higher trim BL Princess’s to have the same style, rather than singles on the top trim cars.

    • The Princess was a modernist design, and the trapezoidal headlamps employed newer technology than sealed beams. Jaguar used the same approach with the XJ40.

  18. Cannot say that have been one to immediately appreciate Harris Mann’s designs over the years, have began in recent years however to be sympathetic to the constraints and limitations he was under at British Leyland concerning the Allegro and Princess (which is a pity considering his Longbridge LC10 proposal was better looking than what was approved for production). Even if a number of ideas were too radical (as on some ADO74 mock-ups) and have seen it argued he should have been able to still salvage the Allegro when it was drifting further away from his vision, when similar concerns from others were dismissed by management as being too fussy, etc. RIP.

  19. Harris Mann wanted the Allegro to look like a sporty small saloon, but as the article pointed out, the need to accomodate the E series engine and a new heater meant the design was turned into the Allegro we all knew. Rather a shame as the car could have looked so much better and closer to the Alfasud.
    Regarding the TR7, I consider this to be a radical design like the Princess and a big move forward from the TR6. While I think British Leyland advertising from 1979 likening the TR7 to a Ferrari might have been rather risible, it was a totally new design, was the biggest seller of the TR range, and the convertible looked excellent. Not a stunner in the way a Fiat X 1/9 was, but certainly not a dog like some people would say the TR7 was.

  20. I was saddened to hear of his passing. Personally I’m a big fan of his work, especially the TR7 and Princess – both of which were sadly misunderstood car designs, and tarred with the BL reputation……I find the Allegro very pleasing to look at now after all these years, and note some similarities with the Alfasud, and even the more recent Audi A1 – so Harris wasn’t as far off the mark as he is often portrayed. It was criminal that his LM11 proposal was pushed aside to make way for the eventual Maestro – I guess that was a final straw which led to his departure from BL and Roy Axe’s appointment. From interviews I’ve seen with him, he came across as a man very interested in fans of his work, and always was very willing to talk about his days at Ford and BL. RIP Harris Mann – I loved the Ambassador BTW even if few others did!!

  21. There are some similarities between the Alfasud and Allegro: both looked they should be hatchbacks- the Sud finally getting a hatchback in 1981, but the Allegro stayed as a saloon during its nine year life- and they do look vaguely similar from a distance. However, the Alfasud was a much better looking car, spawning a beautiful coupe version, had far nicer engines and was a much more involving drive than the Allegro. I doubt any who bought an Alfasud was ever tempted to trade in their 1.3 Ti for an Allegro Super, even the series 1 Sud that could develop rampamt corrosion within months. Interestingly one criticism that the Allegro never had was a rust problem like a seventies Italian car as it seemed to resist rust quite well for the time.

    • I agree the ‘Sud was the better looking car in almost every way – it was after all designed by Giugiaro – however, the similarities in concept, silhouette and especially the estate versions (the ‘Sud Giardinetta is almost as odd looking as the Allegro estate) , are hard to ignore. Perhaps had the Allegro been allowed to keep its lower bonnet line it might be an easier comparison.

      • It helped that the Sud had a flat 4 engine so the bonnet line could be low. Lancia did a similar thing with the Gamma.

    • It would have probably helped matters had ADO16 received an end-on gearbox as originally planned pre-Suez in the project’s early days, which built on Issigonis’s earlier FWD Minor prototype and would have helped with a lower bonnet line on later models.

      It was only later on that the in-sump was applied to all three FWD models with BMC later BL finding themselves becoming completely wedded to the layout for the next 23 years.

      Although it would have meant ADO16 and ADO17 initially receiving the end-on gearbox with the Mini making do with the in-sump layout, it would have allowed BMC to later update the Mini with the end-on arrangement to help with economies of scale and benefited the ADO16 replacement.

      • I always wondered why did they stick to the in sump for the AD016. If they had gone down the end on route then the car could have been used as the basis for a new Mini by shrinking its length.

        I think the reason was Issigonis. The in sump gearbox worked for his compact packaging idea, and if it worked for the mini why change it?

        • Would say it was a combination of the post-Suez aftermath causing them to hastily prioritise the Mini over ADO16 to combat the Bubble Cars at Leonard Lord’s behest (with Issigonis sharing Lord’s anti-German sentiments to drive them off the road), with the in-sump layout ending up being an expedient cost-saving solution for ADO16 and ADO17.

          Which Issigonis later justified as part of his compact packing vision after the Lord-backed longitudinal-mounted narrow-angle V4/V6 project was cancelled in 1962, upon discovering the A-Series proved capable of growing from 948cc to 1098cc and later more for ADO16.

          Given Leonard Lord’s strict brief for the Mini and the rush to get it into production, it likely was not possible to give it an end-on gearbox. Ideally he should have been more flexible, yet contend BMC had a bit more wiggle-room they could have better exploited (without the distractions of the V4/V6, etc) to initially afford an in-sump Mini and end-on ADO16/ADO17 before updating the Mini with an end-on layout via an Atl-Mk2.

          • Bubble cars mercifully were a short lived trend that had died out by the sixties. However, while people often sniggered at these tiny, weird contraptions as more proof foreigners could only make useless, strange cars, one of the biggest producers of bubble cars was BMW. Few people in 1958 would have realised that BMW would 20 years later be a producer of higly desirable upmarket cars.

          • To be fair BMW already had a background in producing upmarket sporty cars, the 700 which played a role in saving the company from their financial problems was a consequence of them deciding to push too far upmarket after WW2 although that is another story.

  22. The Sud was an excellent concept,a good looking, upmarket small family car with a flat four engine that gave excellent performance, good refinement and a sporting feel. Also it handled excellently and had a good ride. Like the Allegro, once its early problems were sorted out, the Sud really came good and the later versions with the hatchback and updated front end styling looked excellent.Just a shame a terrible reputation for rust on series 1 Suds hurt sales and damaged Alfa’s reputation for decades.
    One memory I do have of the Sud is the advert with a Sud going past a herd of sheep and advertising playing on the fact the car was a similar price to a Ford Escort, possibly a dig at people who bought the Escort simply because it was popular and buying an Alfa Romeo meant you were an individual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.