Our Cars : Say hello to John Slavin’s Allegro

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

The newest member of the AROnline family, John Slavin, has put his money where his mouth is, and bought an Austin Allegro. And the bonding process is already taking place…

All he needs now is a Quartic wheel, and to stop worrying about its impending MoT, and John’ll be as happy as an Allegro owner can possibly be.


58,000 miles young

John Slavin's Austin Allegro

When my ‘new’ car was built I was minus 13 years old. I wouldn’t even be conceived until 1986, after the Series 2 and 3 Allegros had come and gone and the Maestro had taken their place.  It’d be a further 25 years until I got my hands on this car, too – so that makes it 38 years-old and yet it’s still wearing its original ‘3D’ number plates. Until I traipsed it up the A1 to  its new home in Yorkshire it had spent its whole life in the South and the ODO reading of 58,000 miles is probably right.

It’s a Series 1 1973 Austin Allegro SDL Automatic. The engine, a 1300 A-Series, is going as strong as ever, but pretty much everything else is showing its age. The paint, which probably once gleamed, is now speckled with abrasions and spots, and much of the clip that holds on the roof vinyl has dropped off, as have all of the wheel trims. Worse is the interior, which is lined with the carpet from someone’s living room and not the BL stuff it should be. The dash isn’t brown but black, and so doesn’t match the vinyl seats and door cards, and the quartic wheel is gone, probably adorning someone’s shed. I have to make do with the boring circular wheel from a Vanden Plas.

Other problems include non-functional hazard lights, a rear electric aerial that clicks and whirs before catching fire, all the while ignoring its role as an aerial, a front aerial that’s stuck and some blown bulbs, inside and out. But what it lacks in superficial polish it makes up for with solidity and charm.  It starts first time, as you’d expect, and once it’s warmed up it runs well and sounds healthy. The four-speed automatic gearbox is generally pretty smooth and seamless, but sometimes it throws a fit and decides not to engage after idling in ‘N’ at traffic lights.

Obviously the brakes are terrible by modern standards, but that’s encouraged me to learn left-foot braking, and the steering, heavy and unassisted, means effort is required when cornering. The suspension, technologically advanced in its heyday, has absolutely no time for speed bumps, but otherwise provides a comfortable ride – although many of the bigger bumps are absorbed by the incredibly bouncy seats.

This ‘classic car’ lark is fairly new to me, so many of the experiences, smells and sounds associated with this old Allegro are either very new or extremely nostalgic. They’re all enjoyable, too.

The MoT is due fairly soon, and so I’ll sit and feel a sense of dread ever-growing until that day, but meanwhile there are various jobs on the to-do list. Some have already been done, including changing a duff brake light bulb, new spark plugs and a new air filter. Next on the agenda is a carpet – if I can find one – and rooting out the cause of the non-functional hazard lights, because there is a switch and so it’d better be made to work.

Expect more updates in the coming weeks!

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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23 Comments

  1. I notice John says this car is a 1973 series 1 Allegro but it has N reg plates which mean it is more likely a 1974/75 model. Looks interesting and I wish him well.

    I never owned an Allegro but drove a colleague’s one and a Hire version in the Isle of Man in 1977. Was okay for the short term.

  2. That’s my old car! Glad you’re sticking with it John.

    It did spend a month or so living in the wilds of Cambridgeshire where I used it daily instead of a Corvette. Quite a contrast, I can tell you…

  3. A hesitant autobox engaging Drive is usually first signs that the fluid needs changing.

    The hazards not working may be the fuse but more likely the relay. When this happened with my SD1 I swapped with the indicators to prove the fault so just bought a new one. Assume this logic works on your car too.

  4. Looks to be in pretty good nick to me- Allegros, like other BLs, sometimes turned out to be pretty good motors, going on forever with little more than routine service in stubborn defiance of their appalling reputation.

    I’m not an Allegro fan myself (I remember them during their heyday), but it is good to see one of these orphans going to a loving home- however perverse you may be in seeing ‘retro charm’ in a car unloved by most.

  5. Good luck with the early Allegro,I fancy the late (mk3) 1.5HLs/HLS or 1.7HLS with twin carbs and twin headlamps myself.My sister had one long time ago,was a nice comfortable drive. Regards Mark

  6. Cheers, Gareth. As it turns out it was the flasher. That’s like a sneak peek at the next update…

    All the fluids are due a change, actually, so I’ll pop that on the to-do.

    Hope you all enjoy the updates!

  7. Really enjoyable first report, John. Although I’m not a huge fan of the ‘Aggro (I’m more into the Princess / Ambassador me’self), I think you’ve got yourself an interesting and very usable classic, which in an odd (and very) ’70s way will give you a great deal of pleasure. I’m strangely jealous……..

  8. The only BL car I have yet to own. As a kid when my Dad was on the production line at Cowley biulding Marina’s he used to tell me the Allegro was rubbish as it was built at Longbridge! Of course, as an adult enthusiast now, I appreciate the Allegro very much and love seeing them in the metal. A car of real character with those funny little headlights.

    But not as good as a Marina 😉

  9. I have a 998cc Mini 30 auto, and I tend to get the time-delay gearbox when it is warm.

    The one indulgence I do with it is change the oil every couple of months and it’s normally Halfords Classic 20/50, although there are other high quality classic mineral oils as you will no doubt know. As the gearbox is sharing the oil with the engine, it tends to get worked more that auto transmission fluid and needs it to be pretty fresh to make the gearbox work as it should.

    I have to admit I am pretty jealous, I would love another Allegro (had a 1978 1500 LE back in 1982/83) and am regretting getting rid of it as quickly as I did for a Mk5 Cortina 2.0 Ghia, despite how much I loved the Ford.

  10. So, pretty much as new then. Various electrical problems, crap paintwork and crap quality interior fittings. Circular steering wheel may be original, I think they changed from quartic during ‘N’ reg. My dad had one when we were kids, it was crap, very unreliable, poor build quality. It was a 1300 SDL in braken (burnt orange), it had quartic steering wheel on an N plate. Like many other people at that time, he had an 1100 before, then bought an Allegro, then Golfs from then on.
    Give me an ADO16 any day.

  11. Alway had a soft spot for the mk1. My father had a 1973/4 1300sdl in orange. Did 72000 miles in 18 months and went through 3 engines. He was always late so must thrashed it. The early interiors and the quatic wheel we much better than the later one in my opinion. Apart from the engines the car was great!

  12. @Merlin

    For someone to trash 3 A-Series engines, that was either bad luck, bad maintenance or just pure harem-scarem driving!!
    Did he put oil in them???? 😀

  13. He got the car new as a company car and would have been serviced according to the schedule. After that he had a 1.3 Cortina metallic purple mk3 basic (from Ford’s personal exprt divison in London, unwanted order). After about a year he had the engine changed to a 1.6.
    My father was Riley then Wolseley sales manager at BMC (left 1968). Sometimes he used to have lunch with Issigonis at Longbridge, no one else did!
    When he had the Allegro, then Cortina then Capri, this was when he worked for teh British Road Federation pushing for load building. M40 extension and M54 were some of his successes.

  14. i had a series one 1973 when i was 17 in 1982 had a few probs like the drive shaft came out!! apart from that great little car wish i had it now to go with my sd1 v8 0f 22years, great BL car…

  15. Someone in Ipswich is using an All Aggro VDP as a daily driver! See it almost every morning at rush hour near Ransomes Europark!

  16. Someone in Ipswich is using an All Aggro VDP as a daily driver! See it almost every morning at rush hour near Ransomes Europark!

  17. @18(&19)Yorkiebusdriver,

    Funny how using an Allegro as a daily driver in 2012 is remarkable, yet those using far older Morris Minors isn’t.

    Says a lot for the superior basic (over) engineering and simplicity of the Minor- and of heroes like Charles Ware, who have championed the Minor since the time when it was one of many available servicable cheap steeds, yet the Minor stood out as a car that could go on indefinately, and bless him, he established a manufacturing base in Sri Lanka using labour intensive yet highly skilled panel beaters to produce new parts- giving highly paid (by Sri Lankan standards) employment, but still affordable products to maintain Minors just about forever.

    I spent my early life in Bath and often passed The Morris Minor Centre (before it moved to Bristol) and it was always a place of wonder for me- despite the existance of far more modern vehicles.

  18. Was at the Lakeland Motor Museum recently and the Allegro that was there possibly took more of my attention than any other exhibit. Once a joke to many but its classic appeal seems to be on the up & up….

  19. Well done John, hope your still enjoying the car.

    I passed my driving test at about the same time you where born! – My god, how depressing ! 🙁

    My first car was an Allegro 1.3, Damask red, also an N plate.
    It never let me down in the 12mths I owned it.
    Sadly I found out that it was scrapped a few weeks after I sold it. Some idiot crashed into it.
    Wish I had kept the car,
    I haven’t seen an Allegro for years.

    How did the MOT go?

  20. Hi DZT103. Honestly, the car still needs its MOT! I’ve had to leave it alone for a couple of months for a variety of reasons, mostly lack of time. Hopefully I’ll get it MoT’d before November. I have sorted the carpet though! SO there’s an update on the way 😉

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