The Austin Allegro
was a notoriously awful 70s / early-80s car
by the giant, reviled British Leyland
concern. It replaced the Austin Maxi
, although it was slower, less reliable, and generally an inferior car. It has come to be a symbol of British Leyland
and the 1970s in general. Compared to a contemporary Ford Fiesta
or Volkswagen Golf
it appeared to be the product of the Soviet Bloc
rather than that of an country which had produced Concorde
- with French assistance - and Morcambe and Wise
It was flimsy and underpowered, and had a blobby, curvacious body which looked as if it had gorged itself on Wimpy hamburgers. Despite looking like a hatchback, it had a conventional boot, and always came in burnt orange or brown, often with a vinyl roof. The very first model had a 'Quartic' steering wheel, i.e. it was rectangular.
When jacked up, the body flexed to such a degree that the rear window could fall out; rust was rampant; and shortly after launch, British Leyland were successfully sued by a driver whose Allegro had lost a wheel whilst in motion due to faulty engineering. There was an estate version which looked rather too close to a minature hearse for comfort.
The Allegro was replaced in 1982 by the Austin Maestro, which was neither particularly bad nor particularly good, although neither car is remembered fondly. The Allegro - which is latin for 'fast' - is nowadays a very rare sight, as rust has claimed those which were not junked. There was also a 'luxury' version, the 'Vanden Plas 1500' (it was not called the 'Allegro Vanden Plas', perhaps in shame), which added a Rolls Royce-style grille, more wood on the inside, and foldable picnic tables in the backs of the front seats. It is also a symbol of 70s Britain; rubbish, masquerading as high class.
Subsequently the car has gained something of a cult reputation, as it was at the very least distinctive, and everybody loves the underdog. It was for a time quite popular, if only because it was home-grown, and a generation now in their late-20s/early-30s are likely to remember it as their dad's car, or the car of the angry neighbour across the road, or their very first car, bought for £50 from a mate's uncle, and so forth.