Tips on how to find an Allegro you can depend on...
In 1973 British Leyland unleashed the Austin Allegro on to a world that probably wasn’t quite ready for it. Replacing the much-loved but aged 1100/1300 was never going to be easy, but the roly-poly styling and an attempt to reinvent the (steering) wheel with its rectangular Quartic helm meant it had an uphill struggle from the get-go. Unfortunately, as British Leyland’s woes worsened and the Allegro became the pin-up for its problems, fewer and fewer customers decided to indulge.
Austin Allegro 1300 Super
Power (bhp@rpm) 59bhp@5300rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 68.5lb ft@3000rpm
Top speed 84mph
Gearbox 4-spd manual/4-spd auto opt.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Front valances rust – an MoT failure – as does the metal behind the fog lamps/dummy grilles. Corrosion can also strike around the sidelights/indicators and in both front wheelarches. Front wings deteriorate by their bottom corners, and look for rust under the windscreen. In the engine bay, look for bubbling paint due to fluid spills from the brake and clutch reservoirs. Wet carpets indicate water can’t drain from the bulkhead air intake grille. Series 2-on cars had plastic sill covers, which can mask rust underneath. Door bottoms will start to disappear if their drain holes are blocked. Look for bad corrosion at the bottom of the rear arches, which can spread to the rear subframe mountings.
There are two engine types: A-series 1000s, 1100s and 1300s, and E-series 1500s and 1750s. A-series engines are tough and simple, and parts are plentiful. Excessive blue smoke from the exhaust during starting and on the overrun points to significant wear. Fumes from under the filler cap are also a concern. In 1982 stronger, smoother A-plus engines were fitted. The E-series engine is the weaker of the two units and parts are less plentiful.
Head gasket issues can also strike, and noisy timing chains are trickier to replace. Identify worn crankshaft bearings as a growl from the bottom end.
A-series cars have four-speed gearboxes, which suffer few troubles. E-series have five-speeders that are usually quite baulky in use and top gear can be very difficult to find. Auto boxes go on for ages, but stretched selector cables will cause issues and are not easy to source for 1500 and 1750 models. Check the car is sitting level all around – if not, the worst case scenario is failed displacer units, though they’re still available. On your test drive listen for clicking noises from the wheels at full lock, pointing to a worn CV joint.
Basic Allegros had vinyl upholstery, which is more resilient than the brushed nylon of Series 3 and velour of HLS types. Dashboards and trim often rattle, sag or come loose. Vanden Plas models had wood and leather to worry about, which will obviously cost more to put right if shabby. Electrical issues are usually down to bad earths or corroded connections, especially around the underbonnet fuse box.
There’s been a growing appreciation in recent years for these characterful, practical classics. Custodianship of an Allegro is often a quite hilarious experience and you’ll never be far from a good joke or two. Best of all, these Austins are cheap and cheerful to buy, run and maintain, and there are still plenty to go around. Forget your prejudices and try one – you may just find yourself growing to adore it.