Blog : Harris Mann was right

Keith Adams

Fiat Panda proudly boasts a quartic steering wheel.
Fiat Panda proudly boasts a quartic steering wheel.

Yeah, I know… but he was.

In recent years we’ve seen a move away from boring round steering wheels, primarily in super- and concept-cars. And it’s probably for good reason that Fiat has chosen to install a quartic wheel in its latest Panda model (only the third generation since 1980), but for me it’s vindication of Harris Mann, George Turnbull and David Bache’s flight of fancy.

Back in 1973, the quartic wheel was a bit of a laughing stock, and has subsequently been blamed for being partially responsible for the Allegro’s unsaleability (I think it’s more likely down to being more expensive, thirstier and slower than the car it replaced, as well as looking like a kicked pug without a tail). But in 1976, no one laughed at the Rover SD1 for having a similarly shaped steering wheel; and in 2011, we’re looking at a sexy new steering wheel that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Innocenti Regent’s (the kissing cousin to the Allegro).

Let’s hope Fiat’s new baby sells rather better than the Italian Allegro. What do you think?

Austin Allegro Series 1 wheel in all of its quartic glory.
Austin Allegro Series 1 wheel in all of its quartic glory. (Picture: Wikipedia)
Quartic wheel Italian style thanks to Innocenti
Quartic wheel Italian style thanks to Innocenti
Keith Adams
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  1. Yup. that Square wheel is round, it’s just the square inner trim messing with your perceptions there Keith.

  2. Yeah, the wheel is round, the leather trim gives the illusion of squareness and I’m sure it’s intentional to match the rest of the interior.

    To be fair, many other manufacturers have been offering squarish wheels now for a while, many premium brands, Audi etc square off the bottom half of the wheel. The problem with the Allegro was, not the wheel, which on a better, more sporty and stylish car would have been truly novel and no doubt well received, was instead just another thing to poke fun at a car that looked like nothing short of a Pig in a brown frock.

  3. Lets not forget that the SD1 had a less than round wheel too- although because of its generally good styling, this was overlooked.

    However, I have to remind everyone that the Quartic wheel was around long before BL- In the sci-fi era of the early 60s, every dodge, plymouth, and chrylser with power steering had a quartic wheel- with a clear plastic and gold glitter rim no less.

  4. In Italy I believe the Allegro gained the Innocenti Regent, and looking at the dials, dashboard etc on the Fiat, it would appear they gained inspiration from the Regent for more than the steering wheel… I’m sure it’s all circumstantial.

    The quartic wheel in the Aggro was simply another reason to kick a car that was deeply unloved during it’s lifetime.

  5. At the time the Allegro’s quartic wheel was lauded by one of the national driving schools, BSM or whoever the other one was. And it was, like so many individual touches in the BMC/AustinMorris/Rover portfolio, both innovative and practical. What killed the Allegro was an unforgiving press, strikes, poor workmanship and, eventually, RUST.
    Allegro 3 was a great car, unfortunately it was the car the Allegro should have been at the launch.

  6. Arelbe’s description of the Allegro 3 could also have been used to describe the Austin Ambassador. The problem was that by the time BL got both cars right, they had been around for quite a while which meant that they weren’t the freshest & were tarnished by their predecessor’s reputations.

  7. Clarifications from Italy: Austin allegro was also sold with Austin brand in Italy; relevant name was “Allegro” which does not only mean a “fastly (executed) melody” but also “happy”. So it might have looked a good name anyway to the AR management. Also pls note Allegro Mk3 was only sold as “Austin Rover Allegro 3” in Italy, while only smaller cars “90/120”, “mille” were sold as innocenti by that time (suppose 1980?)

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