Tuesday, 29 May 2012

All Rust & Aggro

Was the colloquial name given to the 1970s Motor Industry aberration that was the Austin Allegro.
Launched in 1973 as the replacement for the huge selling and extremely popular Austin 1100, it did contain many radical ideas & innovations, such as Hydragas suspension and the (infamous) Quartic steering wheel (ie square, with rounded corners).
Available as 3 engine sizes and 5 body variants (personally, I always thought the estate looked pretty damn good)
I never owned an Allegro, but I have driven one.  Despite being seriously underpowered, the ride was not offensive and the Quartic steering wheel felt no different to any other.

One of the available body variants was badged as the Vanden Plas version.  Basically, a 1500 Allegro saloon decked out in leather and walnut with a stonking great front grill.

When I saw one of these driving towards me the other day, it put me right of my breakfast.  The Allegro shape was never the most attractive, and in Vanden Plas clothing it just looks weird! (huge front grill, skinny tyres, dodgy 1970s hub caps with the VP logo).  I also had to cover the eyes of the wife & children for fear of scarring them for life.

The sister car of the Allegro was the Morris Marina - a car of so little charisma that apart from an appearance in Life On Mars, they are rarely seen anywhere (or if they are seen, no-one remembers seeing it anyway).
When the Marina was to be given a facelift in 1980, the job was given to the Italian design house ItalDesign.  And so proud they were of what they had done, it was promptly written out of all their history books.

Now the 1970s are back in fashion, albeit in an "ironic" sort of way *, doubtless cars such as the Allegro, Marina, Vauxhall Viva and other vehicles built down to a cost by striking unions, will start to appear on our roads once again.
One thing is for sure, the Vanden Plas Allegro will once again scare children who come into contact with one - a bit like an automotive Medusa

* a note about the use of the term "ironic" -  I really don't like that term - it just seems to be an excuse to celebrate naffness without fear of persecution

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