Famous For All The Wrong Reasons
The Austin Allegro was a common sight in the 70's and 80's around the UK, but today this small family car has become noteworthy for all the wrong reasons and is remembered as one of the most terrible cars around during that era. Any mention of the car can evoke reactions of humorous nostalgia to outright anger from those who remember owning one!
What was so bad about this car?
Surely a British car couldn't really be that bad could it? Well, unfortunately in this case it most definitely could! The car has been said to reflect a general malaise that started at British Leyland in the early 70's. The Allegro was produced in 1973 but without the intensive development period that goes into some cars, as it was rushed into production as a replacement for the popular Austin 1100 which had just been withdrawn from the market. However, in the rush to get it out to car showrooms, the company apparently not only paid scant attention to quality, but also failed to notice that rival cars were now more sleek looking hatchbacks - not the dumpy, squat look of the Allegro.
Design faults by the bucketful
Not only was the car unattractive but much of the design was clumsy, such as the strange looking steering wheel that seemed to have been made as an afterthought to enable the driver to see the dials. The Metropolitan Police who ordered a batch of Allegro panda cars quickly had the steering wheel changed on their models, and it later disappeared altogether after a so-called 'facelift' of the vehicle in 1975.
Dangerous and unreliable
Although the company tried to rejuvenate the car later down the line, it had already begun to have an unfortunate reputation with consumers. Long-suffering owners had to contend with wheel bearing nuts that could result in bearing failure if tightened too much, and the possibility that the rear window could fall out and the doors jam if the car was jacked up in the wrong place! Allegro owners endured numerous breakdowns resulting in every journey becoming fraught with tension as driver and passengers waited for the next mishap.
Sales figures tell a sorry story
It would be fair to say the car was a unmitigated failure selling approximately 650,000 vehicles over a 9 year period - the Austin 1100 that it replaced had sold 2.1m cars to show the difference in sales figures. With it's additional problems of lack of space and wheezing engine it seems remarkable that it sold anywhere near the amount it did do, and it was eventually replaced by the Austin Maestro in 1983.