The Allegro 3’s ad budget was as limited as the facelift it represented.
It’s not what it looks like. It isn’t my intention to cast over-ripe foodstuffs in the unfortunate Allegro’s direction; after all, why add to the sum of opprobrium already flung its way? Indeed today’s subject for discussion is not really the Allegro itself, rather the manner in which BL’s marketing department elected to advertise it – and in particular its third and final iteration.
Following the model’s lukewarm initial reception, the Allegro received a hasty round of modifications during the Autumn of 1975. One of the primary criticisms had been a lack of rear legroom; the Allegro’s 243.2 mm wheelbase having originally been pegged to that of its 1961 predecessor.
Modifications to the rear seat pan liberated a few additional millimetres of space, which was seized upon by BL’s marketers in a queasy TV spot which employed the tagline, “Vroom to Spare”. But to be fair, it was a different era and given the continued lack of enthusiasm towards the revised Allegro 2 from press and public, one can perhaps understand the rationale to go the dancing girls route. (Viewable on YouTube)
BL’s marketers clearly felt this execution had legs and subsequently the vroomy tagline would be appended across all Allegro 2 advertising, culminating in the somewhat laboured print ad seen below, where interestingly, the car itself receives a decidedly second billing. By 1979, with the corporation on its knees and what little Government money being predominantly channelled towards the forthcoming Metro and Maestro models, a final round of modifications was introduced.
With no sheet metal changes possible, the car’s biggest impediment; its rather dumpy and by now somewhat dated styling could only be addressed with liberal applications of black injection mouldings. An improved cabin ambience rounded out what proved to be a rather desperate last stand, although arguably the most unfortunate of the changes was the adoption of twin headlamps on upmarket models, accentuating the already pinched frontal aspect. This lent it the visage of the Mini-based Ogle SX1000 from the 1960s, a car which I would add, carried it off with a tad more finesse.
“SuperVroom”, yelled the promotional copy. It’s possible here to discern the copywriter’s struggle to find a compelling angle – the repeated references to sporty-ness; (grille, wheeltrims, steering wheel), the ‘Jaguar-style‘ face level vents (a somewhat dubious honour in 1979?), and the suggestion that the addition of a front air dam would improve wet road handling. Still, marks for effort, although you’d have thought the marketing team could have dredged up an actual photograph of the car from somewhere?
Ironically, Allegro 3 had by this point been developed into a decent and moderately refined product. Car Magazine, having for years dismissed the ‘Boring’ Allegro 2 in its iconoclastic GBU section as “Dreary“, promoted the 1980 model to ‘Interesting’, faintly praising the revised car as “a happy if uninspired all-rounder”. It was to little avail however, matters being lost on a buying public who saw only the homespun styling which merely served to remind them of the horror stories which had become synonymous with the car. Mud sticks.
Not only was the Allegro on the ropes by the turn of the decade, but so was BL itself and the air of desperation and budgetary constraint was palpable. And while the Allegro 3 was probably the product it ought to have been at launch (styling notwithstanding), in time-honoured BL Charter fashion, a day late and a couple of quid short.