Opinion : How the Austin Allegro’s styling became synonymous with failure

The Austin Allegro is one of the most controversial cars in the UK’s automotive history and, as it celebrates its 50th birthday, it’s a good time to discuss the car’s styling – which really did have a bearing on its lack of sales success.

British Leyland introduced the car in May 1973, intending to offer a fresh and modern alternative to the conservative domestic-market family cars as well as more progressive imports. However, the Allegro quickly became known for its questionable styling, which ultimately contributed to its downfall.

So, it’s time to delve into the reasons behind the Allegro’s styling missteps and explore how they contributed to the car’s failure.

Innovation or disaster?

British Leyland conceived the Allegro as a replacement for the ageing Austin 1100/1300 range. The company had ambitious plans for the car, aiming to create a ground-breaking vehicle that would showcase its commitment to cutting-edge design and engineering, and taking to the fight to the strongest European opposition.

To achieve this, they turned to Harris Mann, the ambitious young Designer who had previously worked on several projects for the firm – and this was the first project he headed up. So, no pressure then. Mann’s brief was to create a car that would stand out from the crowd and appeal to a younger, more style-conscious audience.

How the Allegro emerged from Mann’s drawing board is detailed on this page.

A style that divided opinions

Mann’s design for the Allegro was unlike anything else on the market at the time. The car featured bold, geometric lines and some rather curvaceous panels, which were a reflection of the era’s fascination with futuristic designs while adding strength to the panels.

The car’s Quartic steering wheel, inboard headlights and distinctively shaped rear-end all contributed to a jarring visual experience for potential buyers. While some people appreciated the Allegro’s innovative styling, the majority of consumers were put off by its unconventional appearance – which bordered on wilful ugliness.

The Austin Allegro's Quartic steering wheel was greeted with ridicule when launched – 50 years on, many new cars feature one.
The Austin Allegro’s Quartic steering wheel was greeted with ridicule when launched – 50 years on, many new cars feature an evolution of this

The problem with those inboard headlights

One of the most notorious design elements of the Allegro was its inboard headlights. Unlike the stronger round or rectangular headlights found on most cars of the era such as the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva, the Allegro’s inboard headlights were a departure from the norm.

Unfortunately, this decision backfired, as the headlights and grille design came to be seen as a visual aberration rather than a distinguishing feature. The unconventional shape didn’t resonate with consumers, who were accustomed to more traditional designs. This choice further accentuated the Allegro’s already unconventional appearance, making it a target for ridicule and mockery.

Spen King described it eloquently: ‘I remember when I first saw the clay of the Allegro – I was horrified and wanted to look away! It looked like a caricature of Henry VIII, with little features and a big, bulging face.’

Austin Allegro design proposal
Austin Allegro design proposal with confidently-sited quad headlights – such an improvement

Proportions or quality – you decide

The Allegro’s overall shape and front-end design were its most striking features, but the car suffered from a range of proportion issues. Its stubby rear end, which seemed disconnected from the rest of the vehicle, gave the impression of a rushed design or a lack of attention to harmonious proportions.

The Allegro’s unconventional styling proved to be a significant obstacle in the marketplace. While some buyers were initially intrigued by the car’s unconventional design, many were put off by its unconventional appearance. Given it wasn’t affected by a short gestation period like the Morris Marina, or stunted by a lack of money – while the firm looked at the best of Europe – its failure is all the more unforgivable.

Additionally, the Allegro suffered from a range of reliability issues, which further damaged the car’s reputation. The combination of poor quality and unconventional styling contributed to the Allegro’s negative perception among car buyers, ultimately leading to lacklustre sales and a damaged reputation. The third nail in the coffin was the continual industrial action that plagued the firm, and left customers waiting for cars and turning to the likes of Datsun out of frustration.

They rarely came back.

Austin Allegro panel gaps
Austin Allegro’s inconsistent panel gaps hardly helped create an aura of quality…

Conclusion

The Austin Allegro’s styling choices were a significant factor in the car’s failure. While British Leyland’s goal was to create a ground-breaking vehicle that would showcase their innovative design capabilities, the Allegro’s styling ended up being a liability rather than an asset.

The car’s unbalanced, dumpy proportions undermined its perceived quality, while the reliability issues further contributed to its negative reputation. One only needs to look over the fence at what Ford was offering at the time to see the scale of the Allegro’s visual ineptitude – the Austin was technically on the ball, whereas the Escort, for instance, was rapidly falling behind the European direction of travel.

And yet, the Ford sold, and the Austin sank. The Allegro serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of prioritising ill-judged avantgarde design over market preferences and quality standards.

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

61 Comments

  1. It’s easy to deride the front end styling of the Allegro, while pointing out the sales success of key rivals like the Escort, but the Mk 1 Escort itself (arguably the Allegro’s main competition at launch) had unique front styling with the dogbone grille. The inboard headlights (and do unique “face”) aren’t the problem for me, but rather the disconnect between the top of the front wings and the bonnet line, with a pronounced “gutter” incorporated, which only serves to make the bonnet line look even more ungainly. The rest of the Allegro’s styling is fairly normal and of its time – if it had a tidier front end and had evolved into a hatchback in the same way as the somewhat similar Alfasud, I think the motoring press and buyers would have been kinder to it. Maybe even if something along the lines of the front end of the upcoming Maestro (full width grille/lights/indicators) had been incorporated along with a hatchback in time for what we know as Allegro 3, then it might have been seen to have finally evolved into a fully credible product. After all it rode and handled well, and seemed pretty rust resistant for its era. The only real “faults” by the end of production were questionable styling, a lack of hatchback, and a general air of being a bit out-of-date, and having been left to wither on the vine by BL, in the same way as the Maxi and Marina/Ital had. A thorough refresh along the lines of Princess into Ambassador (new front end, dashboard, and the hatchback it seemed designed to have) might have been just what the Allegro needed, rather than the half-hearted Allegro 3 refresh.

  2. Harris Mann’s original design was no great beauty, but it was a neat, contemporary shape similar to the Ford Pinto. It’s fine. Nobody would have complained if it had ended up looking like that.

    Trouble was, there seems to have been a thousand small tweaks and “improvements” between Mann’s design being accepted and production. These changes were doubtless made out of necessity, by several people at different times, but without anybody having an eye for overall design. There was nobody who could integrate these changes. And so it ended up an ungainly mess. There’s no single element you can point to, it’s all a culmination of different parts that simply don’t fit together well, when taken as a whole.

    BL management at the time, I guess. If Roy Axe had been there, he would never have allowed it to happen.

    Most attention usually goes to the front end treatment, with the sunken appearance of the inboard headlights drawing attention to so many other design flaws. The rear end should also take some flak, with the bulbous, rounded rear window adding to the car’s overinflated appearance. Replace that with a hatchback (thereby forcing the use of a flat rear window), put a full-width front grill in place and, well, it’s still not going to be a great looking car – there’s too much wrong with it – but at least it stops emphasising the ugliness.

  3. The issue here isnt so much that the Allegro was launched with a face only its mother could love, but that after 9 years in production it still had that face. It was the same with every BL product in that era. It was launched, it fell flat on its face and BL just sat back and let it fester on the market, being distress sold in tiny numbers losing money. Compare that with Ford – It had some howlers, the original MK3 Cortina had issues and the 1990 Escort was a disaster – both had crash development/facelift programmes to get them back on track.

    • Well put. A losing combination of unloved at launch, and (virtually) undeveloped through its production span. See also; Maxi.

  4. If Harris Mann was involved with both the Allegro and the Princess, then surely it would have made sense for the former to share more of a family resemblance with the Princess?

    If the Princess could be converted into the Ambassador and Ambassador shared a similar front as the Morris Ital, then surely it would have been cheaper to apply a similar remedy to the Allegro?

    The same could be said of giving the Allegro a more extensive rebody like the Maestro whose exterior was pretty much fully formed in 1975, or at minimum an Ambassador style back end paired with front carried over from the Maestro.

  5. As I’ve said before, I don’t think that the Allegro is so ugly. In many ways he now looks surprisingly contemporary next to any SUV you care to mention. If looks are so vital to a card success then how does one explain the original Citroen Ami. I love it but it’s hideous. For a while it was France’s best selling car. I think the English offering was simply becoming less of the default choice and the domestic models often looked rubbish next to their continental cousins. Another unconnected point, why do so many English estate cars come with only three doors, whilst the French got it right normally offering five.

  6. I agree with Simon Walton : there is nothing really wrong with the Allegro’s looks even if it is no great beauty. Similarly, I wonder how many of those who now decry it have ever driven one , because I found it a perfectly pleasant car to drive even if not groundbreaking in the way its predecessor’s handling was . It is just another example of a very peculiar British tendency to rubbish our own products

    • If the rest of the ownership experience had been exceptional it would most likely have overcome its flawed looks, but it was not exceptional it was also mediocre at best and for some owners a “flaming dumpster fire” and it had no good looks to fall back on.

  7. The Allegro could have had one big saving grace that would have enabled it to sell in bigger numbers and interest continental buyers: the addition of a hatchback and a less bulbous rear end, which could have been added just before the car was signed off. Like the Princess, the Allegro’s shape meant it should have been a hatchback, but instead it was a saloon with a smaller boot.
    On paper, the Allegro was a more advanced car than its British rivals, with its Hydragas suspension, fwd and five speed transmissions on some models, but was badly let down by its styling and quality issues that saw sales run at a fraction of the well loved ADO16. Perhaps even adding a hatch and smoothing out the rear end of the car when the car was improved in 1975 could have stopped the rot.

    • In regards to a hatchback alternative I did see an example with a hatch sometime in 1976 or 77. I don’t know if this was a factory prototype or an independent conversion, but it was road registered and being used by a customer at the agriculture merchants I worked at in Warwickshire. Has anyone else seen one ?

  8. I drove the Allegro as a police panda car in Brixton. It was far faster than the 1100 Escort with much better road holding and the feel of a bigger car.
    The problem was reliability as with most BL cars – it got the nickname Austin Agro.

  9. We all have a go at Harris Mann’s design,
    but it was picked by the board at BL (or was it just Stokes?).

    I had read that the TR7 was his wackiest design and the board chose it, surprising even him.

    There doesn’t seem to have been many alternative ideas for the Allegro. All other cars seem to have alternative ideas for design. Have they been lost? Just look at the AD074.

  10. I drove an Allegeo in 1975. Whilst the smaller engined example I drove was somewhat underpowered, ride, handling and visibility were good, internal space OK. By contrast the Morris Marina / Ital I drove in 1979 was dire in just about every way.

  11. Although it’s on Mann’s 1968 sketch, that front end treatment is similar in concept to the 1971 Australian Chrysler Valiant, so obviously it was a theme going around in design circles at the time.
    https://assets.primecreative.com.au/imagegen/cp/black/800/600/s3/cougar-assets/tradeuniquecars/2021/07/06/196692/chrysler-valiant-2.jpg
    The look works here because it’s on a much broader canvas (too broad as it turned out; the car’s bulk was unpopular).
    Trying to pull off the look on a much narrower car just didn’t work – by the time you got large-enough indicators on the corners, there wasn’t enough width left without things getting awfully crowded. You’d be constrained by the headlight size and the need to have enough vertical depth to the grille to get sufficient cooling air to the radiator.
    To my eyes there’s nothing wrong with the rest of the Allegro except those wilfully-odd door handles and that peculiar steering wheel. But, front end aside, it just looks ordinary. And it absolutely should have at least offered a hatchback. Surely anyone who had lived with an 1100/1300 could have told them…..

  12. My dad bought one of the first Allegros. The issue wasn’t really the styling, although it clearly wasn’t a beauty. The real problem was that it broke down twice on the same holiday; its predecessor, a Maxi, had also broken down while on holiday. They were the last BL cars he ever bought.

  13. Our 1979 Opel Rekord broke down 3 times on one 1981 holiday, although one of those was due to bald tires from a criminally bad wheel alignment: steel cables showing through after 200 miles.

  14. In the early Seventies, a member of the BL Board (I forgot who the culprit was) said, ‘We want to be the British Citroen’. Why on Earth did they think that was a good idea? In the end, the Allegro got all of the French ugliness and none of the Gallic charm. It was the board that approved it when they should have said, ‘Try again’, or, ‘let’s see Pininfarina has to offer.’ Ditto the TR7 and Ambassador. If reliability and build quality were really an issue, Citroen, Renault and FIAT would have been history as well.

  15. No question that Mr Mann’s original drawing is easier on the eye than the frumpy-dumpy horror that got built. But hang on a minute. The ‘sleekness’ of the sketch comes from distorted perspective, a screen raked like a Lamborghini and the wheels off a Dinky drag racer. You couldn’t build that… so why do car designers ALWAYS draw like this? For me, that’s a sharp rap over the knuckles with the Shatterproof ruler and a blunt request to draw something that PSF could actually make.

    I vaguely remember reading somewhere – probably here – that PSF also deserve their share of the blame. Something to do with how the press tools were designed exaggerating the bloated look of the body, which they then over-corrected for the Princess, where all the panels look concave? I don’t have the technical nous to go on… anyone else?

    • Well remembered!

      The Allegro’s development story on the site says:

      In fact, people did try: ‘Myself, and one or two others, tried but John Bacchus, thought I was being too fussy,’ said one insider. ‘In fact, part of the problem stemmed from misjudged ‘spring’ in the panel pressings – because the final pressing tends to deviate a little from the designed shape because of a small amount of ‘spring’ after being released from the die, the tool designer may try to compensate for this by altering the shape of the die. But if he over-compensates, it can have the opposite effect to what was intended. Hence the slight “cottage-bun” re-entrant curve effect on the rear quarters. Also, the waist rails on the doors tended to hump a bit, instead of being a flowing straight line. The attitude was “it will have to do.”

      ‘On the Princess, probably as a reaction to Allegro, the opposite happened – panels that should have had a subtle curve on came out too flat, giving a ‘tinny’ and insubstantial look.’

      • With the De-scalloping the Maestro article in mind, am intrigued to see how both the Allegro and Princess would have looked without the issue of the misjusted spring in the panel pressings and subsequent over-correction for the Princess.

        Sure, there has been many a discussion on how the Allegro could have been improved over the years though seeing how both the Allegro and Princess look without the deviation would probably be a good place to start.

  16. Thanks Keith…that’s the kind of nugget that makes this site what it is. And isn’t that shocking? Sounds very much like people not knowing their own jobs. Since we were discussing the Mk1 Golf on a parallel thread, can you imagine VW standing for that? Whoever was responsible would be down a salt mine in Lower Silesia before they could say sorry, though to be fair that probably takes a while in German.

    I’m feeling a bit guilty about all this Mann-bashing. I read he is a delightful fellow who still turns out for Princess meets, etc, and back in the day I’m sure any design studio would have been glad to have him (he was ex-Ford, after all). But as the sole creator of THE make-or-break car for a corporation at the crossroads, you’d have to say he was over-promoted.

    Though even then, as others have pointed out, neither stylists nor engineers are ultimately responsible for what a car company makes – it’s the senior suits who decide what goes into production and how much to spend developing it. And boy, did BL’s suits serve it badly.

  17. You want a really controversial design and I think the Fiat Strada must take the prize. This replaced the conventional looking three box 128 with a radical hatchback design that some people saw as futuristic, but others saw as downright ugly. Sales were never great outside of Italy and the Strada soon developed a reputation for serious rust that could strike early in the car’s life and almost impossible to keep on top of. Add in the rubbish build quality, dodgy electrics and rattling trim and this was the Italian Allegro, only worse. The second generation was marginally better and didn’t fall apart as quickly, but few people wanted to know.

  18. Agree the Strada / Ritmo was a nasty-looking thing. And the Renault 14 was just as blobby as the Aggro. And yet Fiat and Renault are still with us. I’m sure there are books to be written about why that is.

    There’s much more to this than styling, but just one thought: the Strada and the 14 weren’t pretty but at least they had the courage of their convictions, with the avant-garde theme carried right through to the detailing – wacky for the Fiat, neat for the Renault (moulded bumpers, minimal brightwork). So the whole thing had coherence. The Allegro had a futuristic shape, for its day, but conventional chrome ‘furniture’, even though Renault had shown the way forward with the R5. Maybe that’s one reason why the end result was so unsatisfactory. And has anyone mentioned the hilarious VdP?

  19. Thing was the Strada / Ritmo (or as my mechanic friend use to call Vimtos) had a brilliant chassis underneath that formed the basis for the all conquering Lancia Delta, and excellent engines. The Allegro had good ride but that was it. The engines were not exactly sparkling! The Renault, well the rotten pear, didn’t sell that well outside of France, though it certainly was not as Ugly as the Strada or the Allegro. In fact SEAT took the Strada and it into what I think is good looking Ronda

  20. The Strada did have the 130 TC that at least proved something good came from such an awful car and it developed a small following amomg the hot hatch brigade, but the Renault 14 was a completely vanilla car that while it rode well, was good value for money and was economical, was totally forgettable. The 14 wasn’t much of a looker either- being likened to a pear- and while not as big a ruster as the Strada, was known as the rotten pear if it wasn’t undersealed every year.

    • Just to be ornery, I don’t find the R14 forgettable. It was so unusual looking that it’s stuck in my memory. That and the fact that I grew up in a small town with a Renault dealership at its centre. I remember a lot of R14s sitting outside, and weirdly my recollection is that they were all maroon in colour. That can’t be true, surely?

      • Well the big dealers in centre of Hadleigh when I was a kid had quite a few silver and green ones – saw a few blue and white ones but never maroon! To be honest Renaults of the 70s/80s were largely bland machines compared to the 60s cars. The 20/30 was not a bad looking machine, nice to ride in (too young to ever drive one) but complicated to say the least (try folding those seats down!). The 18 – bland, nice to ride in but they rusted away very quickly. The 5 was the best of the lot – just a shame they were made of tissue paper.

        In fact when you look at 70s cars, none are really that good, either they rusted away or broke down regularly! Fords looked good, but dependent on what day it was built was how good it run, and they rusted like nobody’s. Vauxhall – well didnt look bad but just corroded before your eyes. Fiat – even worse. Alfa – probably worse. Lancia – didnt I have a car a minute ago. Probably why the German car manufacturers got their reputation – Golf looked good, was reasonably well built and didnt rust as fast as others. Same as BMW with the 02. Thing was with the Allegro was it was all of the worse bits of the opposition and looked like a Clootie Dumpling.

  21. R14 forgettable? True, although I have to admit, the older I get, the more I appreciate forgettable cars, which I guess is what most drivers / buyers have always thought. Aggro would have done a lot better if it HAD been forgettable, instead of so much, er, aggro. But as Keith A points out in a comparison piece on this site, R14 and Allegro lifetime sales were almost identical. Given the Renault’s hatch and better European dealer network, that’s a win for Longbridge. So we come back to the point that Aggro wasn’t a bad car – it just wasn’t the great one that BL really, REALLY needed at that point. And styling-wise, it’s a Zagato Aston next to the Montego (surely the most public act of corporate self-harm in history).

    • Er, no. R14, 1976-1983, 999,000 built (one of Renault’s less successful cars). Allegro, 1973-1982, 642,000 built. Allegro was also out-sold by the Marina by an even bigger margin. Digging deeper, Marina out-sold Allegro and Maxi combined.

      • The Marina sold because it was a conservative car aimed at people who bought Cortinas and Hillman Hunters and had a big fleet following until the Cavalier and Mark 4 Cortina arrived. Probably when these two cars arrived, the Marina’s decline started as it offered no engine bigger than a dated and unrefined 1.8, the design started to look outdated, and it neither rode nor handled well. However, it did continue to sell to Morris loyalists and a slight refresh in 1978 and a better large engine kept the Marina alive until 1980.

  22. If only BMC/Leyland had looked at the SIMCA 1100 for inspiration when designing the Allegro.. .

    Then a mid life refresh like the Dodge/Plymouth Omnirizon…

    Shame we never got the Carroll Shelby tuned versions of those here in the UK.

    OK the SIMCA and Horizon had their faults but they sold well. The Allegro could only watch from the sidelines.

    • Was of the impression ADO22 before it was canned, was to ADO16 what the European Horizon was to the 1100?

  23. I believe cause of the problem was the Marina. It had been conceived as a cheap as chips reskin of the Minor, yet costs to bring it to production ballooned well beyond what a car with a 4 year shelf life could pay for. Thus when they worked on the Allegro, the pressure was to save money and the easiest and quickest saving to make was to “not phone the Italians” for their styling contributions. This was I believe a big mistake, because this critical car, that needed to sell throughout Europe to ensure that British Leyland remained a major European manufacturer was left to a relatively inexperienced young stylist doing his first big project. Thus the opportunity for the Allegro to look like a 104 or a Golf etc was lost.

    • But then BMC hadn’t used Pininfarina for years at that point. The 1800, 3 litre and Maxi were basically inhouse designs, as would have been 9X.

      The Marina was in house and looked fine. If Roy Haynes had stayed at Austin Morris and styled the Allegro himself, I’m sure it would have looked better and sold better.

      • As well as from Haynes team they commissioned proposals from Pininfarina and Micheletto for the Marina, which meant they had something to at least benchmark Haynes design against. However the fact that Turnbull and Webster had favoured the Micheletto proposal over Haynes’ offering has been was seen as one of the drivers of the turf war that not only saw Haynes, but later Turnbull and Webster depart. Haynes was good at designing cars for the UK market, that there is no doubt, but none of his cars were to have the appeal for the wider European market that the replacement for the Ado16 needed.

        • Most best selling cars of that era were conventional looking. Fiats were all boxy saloons or 2 box designs, Peugeots were smart but conventional, Opels weren’t radical looking etc

          • Yes if you are established in a market, but if you want to break into new markets you need something that is special. Cars that did that are cars such as Fiat 127, Renault 5, VW Golf Mk1 and later the Peugeot 205. It was a car of this sort of quality that British Leyland needed with the Allegro, so they could secure a significant part of the European market. May be Haynes had such a car in him, but I suspect not.

          • The Fiat 128 and 127 were hardly radical looking, or especially stylish.

          • True, the 128 was pitched at a domestic market that needed to be reassured about FWD so was styled to appeal to the customer who had bought or aspired to buy a Fiat 124. However the 127 was despite its limitations fundamental in defining in the market what a Supermini was when it was launched in 1971.

  24. The Vauxhall Chevette was the way forward for small British cars in the seventies, even if it was a lightly restyled Opel. Use trusted mechanicals from another car( rather like the Allegro using A series engines from the ADO16), but wrap them in an attractive, sporty looking hatchback design, then add a saloon and estate car to widen sales. The Chevette proved Britain could make a decent small family car and one that wasn’t particularly rust prone or unreliable- Vauxhall were tightening up on their rust protection by the mid seventies. Sales were close to those of the Allegro in the late seventies and there was an exciting hot hatch version that really could motor.

    • Chevette was a good solution for the British Market, but British Leyland needed more than that, they needed a car that would sell well through out Europe to secure a strong European dealer network, building on what had been achieved with the Mini and Ado16. This was critical because you needed this network to sell the volume of cars to maintain a position as a major European manufacturer. They were not alone in needing to do this, VW needed the Golf to succeed in a similar way and a decade later Peugeot needed the 205 to succeed the same, had these cars failed in the way of the Allegro, these manufacturers would also probably not exist today as major manufacturers. Failing of the Allegro, meant that the Metro, Maestro and Montego could never hope to be sold in sufficient volumes to profitable.

      • Can see the rationale of having the Chevette hatchback and Talbot Sunbeam as a cost-effective way to get supermini substitutes on the market, that said would both have been better off with slightly increased wheelbases to allow for 5-door hatchbacks by way of the post-78 Chevy Chevette and Avenger saloon wheelbases respectively?

    • Indeed the Chevette was one of the first Hatchbacks in the UK. The later range extension of saloon & Estate offered buyers a bigger choice albeit with the same engine.. The Allegro was only a saloon or dubious looking Estate. However the Chevette sill stuck with FWD, till the Astra arrived

  25. Agree with every word, Graham Ariss, that’s exactly it. Allegro gets us all going even today because that’s where the battle was lost. If it had been a sharp-looking, reliable hatchback (ie a Golf), BL would have had the springboard it needed. OK, if my auntie had trunnions she’d be a Triumph Herald, but the point is that no other BL car had nearly as much riding on it. The Maxi could have been prettier and it would have sold a bit better. The Princess could have been less weird-looking and it would have sold a bit better. Other examples, too, could have incrementally boosted the fortunes of the the parent company, without actually saving it. But the Allegro’s failure to be brilliant and sell across Europe holed BL below the waterline, and from then on it was always slowly sinking. It didn’t matter whether subsequent cars were world-class (Metro) or a national embarrassment (Montego) because the BL plughole was gurgling louder every year.

    • Minus the inboard indicator in the photoshop it is definitely an improvement and as a bonus, allows the Allegro to feature more of a family look in a range that includes the Clubman, Maxi and Princess instead of being the odd one out.

  26. It also provides an opportunity for the Vanden Plas Allegro’s front-end to move away from the traditional large grille towards something evocative of the 1975 Wolseley 2200, Lancia Beta, Saab 99 and various grille treatments seen for the Hillman Hunter.
    https://www.aronline.co.uk/images/devhunter_19.jpg

    This more modern Vanden Plas grille treatment could also be easily applied to the Maxi, Princess and the Clubman using the Wood & Pickett Clubman as a rough guide before it is reduced to a trim-level (there were versions without the Ventora grille).

    • Forgot about Mann’s Vanden Plas Marina sketches as something to draw upon in modernising Vanden Plas.

      Still debating if the VdP treatment should still be limited to certain body styles like saloons (albeit with other body styles unofficially costing extra a la Radford and W&P) or to place no such restrictions.

  27. I can see no redeeming features in the Allegro at all, none. Personally I think the original sketch is just as bad. The proportions are all wrong, wheelbase too short, rear too blobby, sills too deep, it’s a mess. Never sat in one but the interior looks terrible in photos.

    Comparisons to the Ritmo or R14 are absurd IMHO, R14 is classic French and Ritmo is perfectly well proportioned in a. geometric kind of way. And these were the weakest of the competition. The Golf just blows it away.
    The fact that the Agro was never exported to the traditional commonwealth markets speaks volumes – even Marina add it to Canada / Australia / South Africa.

    • With regard to the wheelbase comment, it was virtually the same as the mk1&2 Golfs. Similarly the length and widths. In respect of “no redeeming features” I bought a new MK2 1300 Allegro which proved to be a rugged, reliable, frugal and easy to maintain family car. Previously I had a MK2 1300 Cortina and my recollection is that the Allegro had better seats, was a better drive and the gearbox was just as easy to use.

  28. It was the looks, the dreadful five speed transmission on E series engined cars, the weird steering wheel and rumours of terrible reliability on early cars that saw the Allegro fail. Even the 1979 update and better quality on later cars couldn’t save what most people considered a weird looking, unreliable car.
    Like it or not and mechanically this car was as conservative they came, the Mark 2 Escort flattened the Allegro in the sales charts. This was a good looking saloon and estate range with a crisp gearchange, fairly deoendable engines, a classy looking Ghia version and exciting sporting models and this was what people wanted in the mid and late seventies. ( The Golf was considered expensive and sales never really took off until the eighties, and the Renault 14 and Chrysler Horizon fwd hatchbacks were bit players.) Also motorists wanting a totally reliable driving experience, low prices and plenty of standard equipment were turning to Datsun and Toyota in large numbers.

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