In America,a ceasefire agreement is finally reached over Vietnam. Tricky
Dicky Nixon sweats over Watergate.
In Britain, we enter the EEC. The Austin
Group had survived restructure upon
restructure and emerged to become the symbol of stagnation and blunders that
The company that allowed the free-thinking genius of Alec
Issigonis to create the brilliance of the Mini had swathed its decision-making
behind layers of muddy corporate decision making, and the boardroom needed a big hit to
allow it to go head-to-head with the emerging brilliance of their European competitors
in the family sector.
The designers went to the wire and sketched out ADO67, the
boardroom vacillated and gave the world...the Austin Allegro.
By no means a bad car, the Allegro was not without some merit. Built between 1973
and 1982,it was a box'n'boot design, had a bit of go, had (for the time) fairly
advanced suspension, derived from Alex Moulton's designs for the Mini, a
rust-proofed body and decent equipment as standard.
But it wasn't without its
faults either: reviewers complained of noisy engines, poor build quality, and in some
notable cases boots were found to be mysteriously full of rainwater. The faults were
magnified by an indifferent public's preference for existing brands and a press
salivating for boardroom blood after the desecration of a British success story.
And then there was that steering wheel. Available as an option on some
models, the 'Quartic' wheel was squarish with rounded-off corners, and was just way
too weird for conservative British tastes of the mid-70's.
The car underwent substantial revision over its lifespan, but, in fairness, the
Allegro was...never a pretty car. Original design drawings for concept ADO67 show
a fairly radical design for its time, with sweeping, attractive lines- it's difficult
to say whether it would have been a bigger hit or not, but, in my opinion, it's
certainly easier on the eye than the bulbous parody the Allegro eventually became. But
it really didn't deserve the castigation it received as being responsible for the
eventual demise of BL; the management and workers were doing a fine job of that
with the materials at hand.
History has been a little kinder to the car; than
its critics were; there are a number of sites dedicated to preserving it's memory, most
of which have a bulletin board where trading goes on, suggesting that it's still being
driven somewhere, and a newsletter, Quartic , is still appearing bi-monthly
from the Allegro Club International.Its been a long time, though, since I saw one on
the road, and a considerably longer time since PFS 727V, my Dad's white 1500L, got
taken off to the scrapyard.