Austin Allegro Buying Guide
The humble Austin Allegro has found cult following with a new generation of enthusiast. Here’s how to bag a sturdy Allegro you can trust
|Austin Allegro Prices|
|Most Expensive at Auction||£1795 (1.7 Equipe)|
|Austin Allegro Review|
The Austin Allegro remains one of history’s most controversial vehicles. Its predecessor – the Austin 1100/1300 – was popular, classy, easy to live with and pleasing to the eye. The Allegro appeared to be none of these things.
Infamously launched in 1973 with a ‘square steering wheel’, the car’s positive points went largely unnoticed as the Allegro fast became the face of Britain’s dying car industry. Plagued with a largely undeserved reputation for failure, time has not been kind to the numbers left roadworthy. Now rarer than an honest politician, a good Allegro is harder to find than something worth watching on ITV2.
Yet, despite the bad press, any good Allegro makes for a reliable, charismatic and practical daily classic. The indefatigable A-series engine and running gear offers easy DIY maintenance, while build quality is nowhere near as bad as reported. Holding the kind of head-turning infamy most supercars would kill for, you must still pick your Allegro wisely to avoid purchasing a British Leyland money pit.
Your AutoClassics Austin Allegro inspection checklist:
All factory produced vehicles used BL’s A-series and E-series engines, ranging from an underpowered 998cc borrowed from the Mini Clubman to the Eqiupe’s sporty 1.7-litre. Being tough and simple, A-series engines (998cc-1300cc) are easy to work on with lashings of spares available online and through catalogues. However, if neglected the potential for bank-plundering can be rife.
Check for excessive blue smoke and an over-ripe oily smell upon start-up as signs of poor care and significant wear. Head gasket issues are common, as are perished exhaust manifold gaskets. The 1500 and 1750 E-series units are somewhat less sturdy and spares are not as widely available. If you can identify a rumble from the bottom end, walk away unless you fancy replacing the crankshaft. Check oil pots for lubrication and ensure the carburettor isn’t clogged.
A-series engines employ four-speed gearboxes which are largely indestructible. The larger engines are mated to a stiff five-speed – if top gear is difficult to select then don’t panic, these gearboxes operated like this from new. Check that the lift mechanism for selecting reverse is swift and free from play, while also listening for adverse noises from the synchromesh – especially from first to second.
Automatic gearboxes are surprisingly resilient, but parts are strenuous to source should the transmission require repair work. Stretched selector cables are the most common problem and can be time heavy to sort. When taking a test drive, listen out for clonking noises from the front wheels when on full lock – if you can hear unsettling noises you’ll have worn CV joints to replace.
Suspension and brakes
When checking the Allegro over, you must ensure that the vehicle is on a flat surface. With its Hyrdagas suspension set-up, you’ll need to check that the car is sitting level over each wheel. Ride heights changed halfway through production to help with roadholding, with earlier cars sitting slightly higher. If the car droops to one side there will be a leak in the system or the valve (located under the bonnet) or displacer may need to be reconditioned.
The braking system is a typical British Leyland affair, but if there is excessive play in the pedal or grinding when braking hard then you may need to bleed or overhaul the master cylinder. Spare parts and supplies for the Allegro’s Hydragas are not hard to find, with a number of specialists available online – some garages still have mechanics on hand who worked on these systems when new.
The Allegro offers several dirt and rust traps under the bodywork, which must be checked for signs of bodged repairs or filler. All the MoT-vital areas attract the tin worm, with front valances, wings, wheelarches and sills corroding in spectacular style. Check the bottom corners of each wing to see how far gone a certain panel may be. On the inner wings under the bonnet check for damage from fluid spills because clutch and brake reservoirs can split when being refilled.
Drain holes need to be kept clear to keep the bodywork in good order; if the doors are rusting badly then your culprit will be a blocked drain flow. The windscreen and rear window surrounds can also be struck by rust problems, as can the rear subframe mountings – if the rear wheelarches are badly corroded then you could have subframe issues on your hands.
Panels are increasingly hard to unearth, and those curved rear windows are like gold dust. Your only option for the likes of boot lids and wings is to purchase a donor vehicle, which are common, or look around on the forums. Alternatively, you can contact the owners club.
The more basic the specification, the harder wearing the interior will be. Vinyl upholstery ages well but the brushed nylon on Series 3 vehicles and leather of the Vanden Plas show signs of wear fast. The trim on all models often rattles or comes loose – but the wooden dashboard of the posher variants can cause headaches when peeling or lifting. Trim can warp if damp affects the cabin, with the top of the rear seats susceptible to tearing and fade. Wet carpets prove that the bulkhead air intake grille is blocked, while it is common to find the wheezy ventilation system showering bits of the foam seal from around the fan across the cabin.
Electrical issues can stem from a bad earth or corroded connections around the fuse box located on the bulkhead under the bonnet.
- 1973: Launched during the Earls Court Motor Show
- 1974: Vanden Plas 1500 launched
- 1975: Allegro 2, with improved mechanicals and uprated styling, lands in showrooms
- 1979: Allegro 3 arrives with launch of sporty Equipe model.
- 1982: Production wraps to make way for the Austin Maestro.
• Famous Owner: Douglas Bader
Once mauled by car enthusiasts and practically worthless, the Allegro has now found growing appreciation among classic car enthusiasts. Offering practicality, affordability, contemporary usability and hilarity all in one squidgy-retro package, the unpretentious Austin is also DIY friendly in all but the serious bodywork jobs.
You’ll be forever attracting opinion and justifying yourself, but with many different engine and trim options available plus comfort levels to rival any high-ranking saloon of the time, the Austin Allegro makes for a brilliant starter classic and introduction into the classic car world.
The estate option looks unique even by Allegro standards, whereas the Equipe special edition can command a hefty premium over its standard brethren. As far as an investment goes, don’t expect the asking prices to double overnight, but values are slowly on the up as already scarce numbers thin out.