Show me my rival.
When the ADO16 1100 was introduced in 1962, it had few natural rivals, nothing comparable from a technological or conceptual basis at least – a matter which did much to enhance its appeal. A decade later, when Allegro landed as its successor (and not withstanding its relative qualities), the landscape had altered considerably. Front-wheel drive was becoming, if not quite yet the norm, certainly a good deal more common amongst the more progressively minded of Europe’s carmakers, if not the outposts of the American multinationals. Furthermore, BLMC’s European rivals were making rather a good fist of it.
From British Leyland’s perspective then, the advent of Allegro was an opportunity for the carmaker not only to offer a more modern interpretation of the ADO16 formula, but to introduce a state of the art rival to those continental carmakers now following the 1100’s decade-old lead; a car with the required qualities to offer stern competition, not just in the home market but on their own European turf. And with Britain’s membership of the EEC a done deal that year, it was also felt that Allegro’s timing to market was ideal.
The Allegro range as launched that Spring was broad; twelve models, two body derivations, two trim levels and four engine capacities. UK prices ranged from £973 for the entry level two-door 1100 De-Luxe to £1367 for the top of the range 1750 Sport Special model. These were around 10% higher than the 1973 list prices for ADO16; the 1300 GT model having been the only saloon bodied version of the range to have broached the £1000 barrier.
But what of Allegro’s rivals?
Britain’s closest neighbour was an early convert to the front-wheel drive cause. By 1973, all of France’s major carmakers were offering front-driven cars in the ADO 16 idiom. Earliest in this sector of the market was Peugeot with the 204, which dated from 1965. By 1973, France’s one-time best-seller remained in production, retaining its sweet-spinning alloy 1130 cc engine, with a UK price tag of £1198. Slightly further up the scale was Sochaux’s equally well-regarded 304, which retained the 204’s centre section and running gear, with a longer nose and tail, and a larger 1288 cc version of the 204’s transverse unit. Yours for £1339.
From Billancourt, Renault’s versatile hatchback 16 also dated from 1965. Although slightly larger than Allegro, and considerably more prescient in concept, it was offered in the UK that year in basic L form at £1220 and TL specification at £1310, both with the same longitudinally mounted 1565 cc engine. A more powerful and upmarket TS model was also offered, but at £1470, was considerably pricier. A closer Allegro rival therefore was the smaller engined 12 model, with its 1289 cc engine. The three model range, all four-door, three volume saloons, were offered in L £1030, TL £1110 and TS £1199 versions.
Simca’s 1100 hatchback dated from 1967 and would prove to be not only something of a pathfinder in conceptual terms, but a car which lived on in multiple forms far longer than seemed possible. Later versions could be purchased with a larger 1294 cc engine, but in 1973, the 1118 cc unit was your lot; good value in 1100 LS 3-door £949, 1100 GLS 5-door £1049 or 1100S 3-door form at £1156.
Long standing adherents to the front-drive cause, Citroën’s 1970 GS brought an entirely new level of technical and aerodynamic sophistication to this end of the market and was in many respects, ADO 16’s spiritual successor, certainly in technological terms. New for 1972 was the larger engined 1220 model, retailing at £1315, and providing a useful performance boost over the entry level 1015 cc model, which sold for £1159. Not cheap, but nor should it have been.
In Italy, Lancia were at the vanguard of the compact front-drive revolution. Chivasso’s Fulvia berlina dated from 1963 and ten years later remained on the UK price lists with a 1298 cc version of Zaccone-Mina’s delicate alloy V4 at £1398. However, the Fulvia sedan would soon cease production, having been superseded by the (not yet UK available) Beta. Over at Mirafiori, the Fiat 128, which debuted in 1968 represented the Turin car giant’s statement of intent for this sector of the market. The highly regarded former car of the year, was only UK listed in 2-door form at the time with a 1116 cc engine. £948 or £1148 for the sportier 1290 cc 128 Rally.
Meanwhile, Portello’s 1971 Alfasud was finally reaching UK shores some two years after its home market debut. Initially offered only in 1186 cc form, the Alfasud not only underlined how far off the pace BLMC really was with Allegro, it showed up almost everybody else as well. The first-principles ‘Sud, along with the GS would prove to be the defining compact saloon cars of the decade.
German carmakers had adopted early to front-wheel drive, but it would be a late one from its largest carmaker. In 1973, Audi had not made the jump upmarket, so its 80L 2-door retailed at £1294, powered by a 1296 cc power unit. Later that year, Volkswagen would introduce the closely related Passat fastback, sharing powertrains, suspension and body architecture. It too would offer stern competition to the BLMC product, in price but especially in ability and desirability.
Also competing on price, if not concept was Sweden’s long-running Saab 96. But while it seems likely that few prospective Allegro customers were cross shopping at their friendly Saab dealer, the rugged Swede had much to commend it, even if its 1498 cc V4 would give Allegro’s E-Series a run for its money in NVH terms. £1258 would buy you a decidedly left-field, if not wholly illogical choice.
But not all of Allegro’s rivals hailed from the European mainland. One home-baked car in particular would offer a compelling, if somewhat Quixotic alternative. Because underlining BLMC’s muddled product strategy in 1973 was the carmaker’s white elephant in the room, the Austin Maxi. Priced within a Rizla paper to that of its equivalent Allegro, the Maxi 1500 retailed at £1200. Allegro 1500 (4-door) Super £1200. The Maxi 1750 – £1249. Allegro 1750 Sport – £1289.
In theory, both Citroen and Alfasud were Allegro’s closest rivals, but on the road, not to mention the price lists, this was anything but the case. One may have got a lot more Allegro for the cost of entry, but the Austin proved a good deal less than the sum of its parts in practice. FIAT’s 128 offered at least as stern a rival, one which would become sterner still once it became available in the UK with four-doors and the larger 1290 cc engine – the 128 making a compelling case for conventional, well honed solutions.
Peugeot’s 304 was expensive, but was worth more. A thoroughly sorted, elegant motor car, it left the Allegro flatfooted in most areas that mattered. Hitting harder still on value was Renault. The 12 might have looked a little odd to some eyes, but it was a well crafted product with a solid reputation. Its success was no fluke. Similarly, despite its age, the 16 remained a car with a strong personality and most of the Maxi’s virtues in a less unfashionable dress. Between them, Renault had much to offer.
Both Audi and Passat would herald a new and as it would prove, decisive step for the German car giant. Volkswagen’s push towards the sunny uplands would take a few years yet, but in 1973, the warning signs were there for those with eyes to see. Wolfsburg (with Ingolstadt’s assistance) was finally getting serious. More headwinds for Allegro would follow.
But at Longbridge and in Marylebone, muddled thinking prevailed. How Allegro and Maxi were differentiated could not have been less clear, least of all the customer. Add Marina to that equation and despite their relative missions being opposed, the price points told their own story.
As Britain opened up to its European neighbours, Allegro, intended to be BLMC’s export champion, was sent to battle with a metaphorical limp, a slight cough and a sick note hastily scribbled on the back of an envelope. Europe’s carmakers were poised – not quite a word one could straight-facedly ascribe to “the new driving force from Austin”.
 1100 cc Allegros were only offered in De-Luxe specification.
 The 1100/1300 range would be rationalised in the wake of Allegro’s introduction. It was phased out entirely the following year.
 This larger engine would become more widely available in the 128 later. It’s unclear why no four-door versions were offered at this time.
 Alfasud landed in the UK during the latter months of 1973, so no directly comparative pricing data was available at the time of publishing. When Car magazine carried a Giant test between the Allegro 1750, Alfasud and GS 1220 in February 1974, the prices stated were £1420 (Allegro), £1417 (Alfasud) and £1423 (GS 1220).
 The twin-carburettor Maxi 1750 HL had no direct Allegro equivalent in 1973 and was priced at £1375.
 Ditto Simca.
 Cannibalisation on an industrial scale.
Pricing data: Motor magazine. Feb 3 1973. Allegro pricing: Autocar 17 May 1973.
Author’s note: Allegro’s conventionally engineered rivals were not included in this comparison.
50 thoughts on “Running With Scissors [Part Eight]”
Thank you for continuing this article Eóin. I don’t know which of these motors I’d have bought, but the allegro wouldn’t have been it.
So glad to how you touched upon the fact that BL essentially had 3 cars all competing against each other with that area of the market. They really didn’t have a clue.
One could take for granted the segments we have today, but this article really hits on the head how disparate in all sorts of way that segment really was and how much variety in configurations there was. In an another universe the B-segment would’ve been called the “Allegro-class” and not the “Golf-Class” if they had gotten it right. Twenty years later and they all had succumb to the Golf form factor. The Renault 14, 11, 19. The Citroen ZX, the Peugeot 309 and 306. The Fiat Ritmo and Tipo, Lancia Delta, Alfa 146, Opel Kadett, Ford Escort, and so on and so forth.
Can anyone suggest where the image in the title photo was taken? My guess is that it´s not England. It looks like Germany (the small track, the house-style, the forest). It´s a nicely unpretentious image and has greenery in it rather than digital concrete and asphalt.
Wonder whether the indicator repeater by the front wheel is a clue? That doesn’t look to be a standard fitment; what market required that? Of course it could be a red herring…
And the car is LHD (so not New Zealand). I’ll go with Germany, too.
Hmm. Left-hand drive, amber front indicators, side indicator repeaters. My guess is the Netherlands (although of course the location doesn’t have to be in the market for which the car was built).
It doesn’t look like the Netherlands to me, judging by the house’s style. The indicator repeater is however present on Dutch Allegros, judging by the photos I found on Austin Morris Riley Wolseley register.
European countries with mandatory side indicators at that time were Denmark and Italy.
Maybe The Netherlands got the same car as Denmark because after all both countries are inhabited by foreigners.
Whoever took the picture (probably the BL importer in that market) had infinitely better taste that the marketing people that showed the Allegro in unappealing, apocalyptic scenes. BL didn´t know how to stop shooting themselves in the foot.
I know that Norway had mandatory side repeaters in the 70s. The scenery on the sales brochure could also be from Sweden, but we had mandatory headlight wipers/washers.
The image sufix says nz…
Following a game-changer is difficult. The Renault 16’s successors were lacklustre. Likewise the Fiat 128 and Alfasud. The Citroen BX was more conventional than the GS, but probably a better ownership proposition. So we maybe shouldn’t be too hard on its designers that, even given 10 years, the Allegro was not a worthy follow up to ADO16.
Even so, now that Eoin has put the car into a market perspective, and discounting my sad desire to be a broad-minded European rather than a Little Englander, as well as the fact that back then a £100 price difference was not insignificant, I can see few objective reasons for choosing it over most of the competitors shown here. In fact for me it would be bottom of the list, at least two down from the far more useful Maxi. But back then was a different place, and Buy British was more that just a slogan designed to help the economy.
Reverting to its styling, the Alfasud type nose photoshopped onto the Allegro in a previous comment in this series was interesting. It improved the car’s proportions far more than one might have thought. Also I agree with another comment that there almost an SUV look to the car with its bodyside to window proportions.
Just to reiterate the comment that always gets made, what a fine range of options to choose from. All of them distinctive and viable solutions. There’s something to suit everyone, unless of course your desire is for a car that doesn’t rust.
I’m sure apologists for today’s industry would say that the cars above represent work-in-progress. We have now explored all avenues and honed in on the best options, both in concept and execution. Hmmm.
All this story appears to be a management failure to me.
They failed to understand and choose to ignore the qualities and the success of the 1100 / 1300 range, a success that was not contained within the UK borders, despite unvourable tariff barriers. They failed to recognise the restricted resourses, both financial and human, and what little was available was disperced in various half baked irrelevant projects. The way they handled the workforce was a disaster.
Yes, BL was a big ship to pilot, but then this should not come as a surprise. I am fully aware of what is said about retrospect, but in this story we see nothing but steps in the wrong direction. In this context, one has to question the criteria with which the top brass were appointed in their roles during the critical years.
Just for the record, here in Greece, the AUTHI made ADO16s were selling strongly even in the mid seventies, despite the avalability of the Allegro.
I want whatever they were smoking that made them think their was any serious demand in export markets for that dismal car. Without the flag shagger factor why would anyone buy an Allegro over, well, anything else?
How could people that were able to create the Mini and ADO16 get it so wrong?
They simply followed the track laid by 1800, 3000, Maxi…
Somehow the story reminds me of Fiat.
People who’d created the 500, 600 and 128 in the end produced the Stilo.
Of the view that the BMC people were more or less side-lined by the Triumph people upon the formation of BL, with themselves basically imposing their own half-baked ideas upon Austin-Morris foundations with the Allegro, Princess and ADO74 without taking onboard the elements that made the likes of the Mini and ADO16 effective.
At the same time the cell system used by BMC while effective with the Mini and ADO16 – headed by Jack Daniels and Charles Griffin respectively, was flawed with the Landcrab, Maxi and 3-litre that were headed by Chris Kingham, Eric Bareham and in the case of the latter George Harriman himself (together with the BMC Board and Rolls-Royce) respectively.
Had things been consolidated at BMC similar to Fiat where Dante Giacosa had his hand in a number of projects, Could greater involvement of Jack Daniels and Charles Griffin with BMC’s other projects together with the free hand Griffin was given by Alec Issigonis with ADO16 have led the Landcrab, Maxi and 3-litre to a better outcome?
It is fascinating to compare the lack of involvement both Issigonis and Giacosa had with the 3-litre and 130.
+1 to bristowfuller’s & Demetris’s comments, above. Why would one have bought an Allegro? Well, people were more nationalistic in those days (and not just the British). Foreign cars and spares for them could be harder to get hold of and the vehicles themselves were seen as complex and expensive – your local independent garage would be wary of a Citroën GS. There would be a British Leyland dealer in every town, so even if there were problems, there was someone available to listen to your complaints, at least. On the face of it, the Allegro fixed many of ADO 16’s deficiencies and was pretty well-equipped. The Allegro’s real competitors were more mundane and rear wheel drive. They’d often turn out to be Japanese – very well equipped, good value, reliable with good sales and after sales service.
I would have thought the Allegros’ obvious competitors were the Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva – the majority of buyers wouldn’t care or know if their car was FWD or not. I certainly don’t see the Renault 16 as an option – this was something rather different and might attract Maxi or 1800 or Cortina Estate owners.
But more than anything else, I feel that the Allegro is completely undeserving of this much attention.
One learns from mistakes. That´s why the Allegro is interesting and also deeply awful.
Totally agree. Cross shopping the Renault 16 would have been quite a stretch, not so much in terms of purchase cost, but in terms of type of car, buyer, etc.
Looking forward to Part 9, with perhaps the Escort, Viva, and Avenger as the main cast? 🙂
British buyers then were far more tribal than nationalistic – BL buyers wouldn’t be seen dead in anything from Dagenham or Luton. Charles has nailed it; the Japanese stole the show when it came to switching loyalties.
Agreed, and as Eoin pointed out, the 16 was not really a direct competitor, but I feel you got disproportionally more for your extra 12% (comparing an entry level 16 with an Allegro 1300 Super Deluxe 4 door. Though a passing mention of the infuriating fact that the 16’s rear seat rest hinged at the top and folded upwards depriving it of true Maxi style hatchback versatility.
However I’d likely have taken a Renault 6 over most Allegro variants, though it’s a very good point that many conservative buyers might have bought the Allegro despite its ‘advanced engineering’, not because of it, making the mass produced rear-drivers just as much competitors.
My next door neighbour (a clergyman), with whom I occasionally got a lift to school used to change his cars every 3 years, buying brand new. In the mid-‘70s, he went from a Golf (1975, I think it was a bit spartan and expensive to service), to an Allegro (1978, unremarkable) to a Mazda 323 (1981, struck me as a Japanese Golf at the time).
He clearly test drove the Allegro, thought ‘Yes, this is a good replacement for the Golf’.
The neighbour next to him (a bank manager) traded in a mk2 Jaguar for a top of the range Allegro when it came out – again, I think the Jaguar was getting expensive to run – it must have been 6 years old at the time.
I also recall my father hiring an early Allegro as holiday transport, one time (low spec, orange, quartic steering wheel). I think my father commented on the steering wheel as being a bit odd, but otherwise the Allegro was a pleasant companion on a very enjoyable break. I think it had something of a novelty value, at the time.
I know this is a sample of three, but I mention these instances as they show how the Allegro was viewed at the time – as modern, trustworthy transport. I regarded the bank manager’s one as a bit trendy when I first saw it and, later, the clergyman’s one as probably suiting him better than the Golf – a middle of the road, conservative choice.
OK. I admit that I probably have a grudge against the Allegro that causes me to judge it unfairly. I was never particularly patriotic, but I did want the UK industry to shine. In the 60s it seemed to, and so much was expected from the Allegro. In the event it was probably a fair enough car, in part disappointing in other parts quite good. But it didn’t excel, and I found that unforgivable.
bristowfuller, I think your point about how one follows success, especially if the success was as a result of doing something pretty new, is a fascinating one.
Examples of success succeeding success?
Volkswagen improved the Golf with each generation. That car was pretty new on the market and 180 degrees away from Volkswagen’s comfort zone, but they built on that. That’s hard to do without appearing complacent / lazy, though. Enough innovation to succeed each time, without destroying the brand.
Rover ought to have had a success with the SD1 after the P6 (I’m discounting issues of availability and reliability) and that car was radically different from the P6, although less sophisticated in many ways.
The mk3 Escort followed the mk2’s success and was radically different, but the way had been shown by others (not to deny them their success).
It’s very difficult, though as Jaguar, Peugeot, Citroën and many others can attest.
Is there a formula for success? I think what Ford are currently doing (junking apparently successful ranges, such as the Fiesta in Europe and their bestsellers in the US) looks like it will turn out well for them. It’s really hard to quit while you’re ahead, but it’s possibly less risky than waiting until a product is dying in the market before replacing it.
I’ve owned two of the Allegro’s rivals, a 1972 Fiat 128 and rather later a 1982 Alfasud. Both were wonderful cars to drive but after a year paint was flaking off the 128, roof, bonnet everywhere. The Alfasud had better rust protection so it took two years for noticeable corrosion to appear. I also considered the GS and the 304 but definitely never the Allegro
The Renault 14 is one rival that is missing even though had a similar notorious reputation, was of comparable dimensions and compromised via the PSA link with the gearbox and X engine by having no provision to use the C/A-Type engines of the larger 12 nor possess the conventional layout of the 11 that replaced it.
As for non-European rivals would add the Nissan Cherry as despite being technically viewed as supermini sized it was more approximate to ADO16 and styling aside, gives a bit of insight into another BMC-inspired/rooted path not taken by BMC/BL.
Size and weight wise the Simca 1100 is where the Austin Maxi (and before that the Landcrab) should have been, the 1100 also makes a case for leaving ADO16 in production a bit longer (if not opting for ADO22) as well as highlighting the flaw of hastily ditching the XC9002’s claimed end-on gearbox before it crystallised into ADO16.
The styling longevity that Pininfarina bestowed on the Peugeot 204/304 brings to mind how out of step both ADO16 and the Allegro were.
The Alfasud meanwhile gives an idea of how a better conceived Allegro could have unintentionally shadowed it on a visual level for the better, leaving only its dynamic shortcomings to be remedied the R6 giving a vague idea (if not the Princess/Ambassador).
The 128 / Skala benefited from a more clean sheet approach on top of a variety of bodystyles (along with the Simca 1100, 204/304, etc).
For all of the Citroen GS’s merits, its size, weight and undersized engines IMHO show why BMC/BL were better off not adopting the BMC 1100 Aerodinamica theme.
Was it within the company’s ability to make an early Maestro if not style the Allegro into something approaching the former in light of it being a 1970s design (or failing that a shrunken Princess)?
Bob, you raise a good point about the styling longevity of Pininfarina’s Peugeot 204/304 designs. BL’s styling was problematic through this period; okay, it was all over the shop. On the one hand you had the Marina’s blandness and Allegro’s odd-nosed dumpiness, but on the other you had the way-out Princess and polarizing TR7. The Princess and TR7’s extreme wedginess had rather a short shelf life, while ‘bland and dumpy’ called to mind the pre-Pininfarina Austins. What a shame they couldn’t have found a middle path between the two extremes – or simply asked Pininfarina again.
Peter, yes, Pininfarina’s Aerodynamica 1100 was presented at the Turin motor show in 1968 (complete with ‘BLMC’ logo on its nose), just after development on the Allegro started, so they could’ve put that in to production – enormous heating systems allowing – with the Areodynamica 1800 version following it. That would have given them a British Citroen GS and CX, with hydragas suspension, one assumes. Somewhere, in an alternate reality…
Taking a closer look at the Nomad and Maxi then comparing them with the 204/304, one can see how the BMC would have benefited from a Pininfarina touch up.
One could also mention the Landcrab and 3-litre too, however they were pretty much visual relics that both needed a Pininfarina touch up of the Tasman and Kimberley theme from the start.
Here is an excerpt from an article that touches on the Pininfarina Aerodynamica theme, consider how the deficiencies mentioned for the 1800 in length and weight would translate over to the 1100 and Mini had the company embraced the design theme.
The Mini version of the car theme on an 84 inch wheelbase had a length close to 12ft or basically the size of ADO16.
“In a study to BMC dated 1 December 1967, Fioravanti reported in detail on the car. He admitted the prototype was overweight because so much of it was built by hand in order to meet the deadline. The prototype weighed 2976lb compared with 2572lb for the production 1800. Fioravanti believed this could be reduced by 220-286lb if the car were to be produced in volume. Although 5ins lower and 17ins longer the drag coefficient fell from 0.45 to 0.35. In road tests conducted with Sergio Pininfarina, Fioravanti ran the car to a measured 103.6mph, almost 10mph better than the production cars’ 93.0mph achieved on the same day.“
It is my understanding that Sir George Harriman stated that the ’67 Berlina Aerodynamica 1800 was (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘maybe something Jaguar might be interested in, but not for us’. Amongst Alec Issigonis’ papers (and mentioned in the Bardsley book) is a letter from Sergio Pininfarina requesting a decision on the car from BMC, and pointing out the large sum of money that the carrozzeira had spent on the prototype. It’s unclear whether Pininfarina was reimbursed for their trouble. The car languished in a storage room in Longbridge for a long time and has not survived, unlike the 1100 version, which is retained by Pininfarina.
It is unfortunate BMC/BL did not appear to take onboard any lessons from the Pininfarina Aerodynamica theme even if the design itself was a blind alley.
Both the Alfasud and Lancia Beta (along with the Gamma) were influenced by the theme, which is something that could have been embraced for the Allegro and Princess. One can see theme on the Alfasud Sprint and Alfetta Coupe too from the back.
OTOH Alec Issigonis was looking at a different Pininfarina theme with the 9X Mini and 10X ADO16 replacements, which could have been reapplied to some early iteration of Metro R6 as a supermini rather then a direct Mini replacement (a la Innocenti’s cramped and costly rebody).
Could some equilibrium between the two themes by Pininfarina have been found to create something unique for the next decade at BMC/BL? Rover themselves found a way via other Pininfarina influences despite the SD1 styling being a steep departure from the P6 and IMHO being more suited elsewhere within the company.
In short, I don’t think so – no. BLMC under Stokes was hell-bent on getting shut of outside contractors and their pesky retainers. He dropped Healey and Cooper like hot coals, for instance. Pressed Steel was also in the firing line – body engineering was taken in-house on Webster’s orders – which probably came direct from Stokes. Design too was to be all in-house. Michelotti and ‘Farina were still nominally ‘consulted’ for a time, but that soon came to a close. Mann could of course have nicked a few of Pininfarina’s ideas, but that might have been in rather poor form – mind you how David Bache and his team got away with SD1 is another question entirely, given its rather obvious set of references, but that’s another meeting entirely.
There’s something very satisfying about that poster.
Harris Mann would have been in good company had he did (as with David Bache), based on how Robert Opron, Giorgetto Giugiaro and Gian Paolo Boano adopted Pininfarina themes. Said ideas in fact even appeared on alternative Allegro front arrangements and other projects under his watch.
Can see the logic Stokes and Webster were taking with future endeavouring outside contractors, some making more sense then others yet overall still being a negative and something they wished they never agreed to take on.
Bob, that is indeed a fascinating poster.
The more I read of these matters, the more I get the impression there was almost a dichotomy developing between Issigonis’ design values and BL management. Management wanted to simplify and make money, while he was wedded to brilliant but complex solutions and money be hanged. Almost.
Was there a place within BL for a British Citroen? Probably not, while they couldn’t make money. But I’m imagining the Aerodinamicas as modern Rileys…..
The illustration is interesting, as much for what it includes as for what it doesn’t. Missing is one car – ironically, the only Pininfarina-designed production car inspired by Berlina Aerodynamica – indeed, being directly inspired by it – the Lancia Gamma berlina. For some reason, it never seems to figure in these visual comparisons, yet it was regarded by Leonardo Fioravanti (Berlina Aerodynamica’s originator) as its production equivalent.
The impression one gets is that Issigonis’s influence was waning even before the formation of BL, at least by the time Joe Edwards took over. Afterwards he was said to have not gotten on with the Leyland folk and considered Moulton’s willingness to work with the new regime a personal betrayal.
That is despite Issigonis planning ditch Moulton’s suspension in favour of a conventional layout for the 9X and 10X and continued to tout for 9X long after the window of opportunity disappeared. Whether he was constantly pushing the same design that was unable to meet production tolerances up to the mid-1980s or continued to develop it underground is another question entirely.
Would BL have been better had Issigonis been more amenable to working with the new regime or promoted Charles Griffin instead of Harry Webster? The same question could also be asked had Issigonis been more inclined to further develop what was already available.
One can easily see how a de-Citroen-ized interpretation of Leonardo Fioravanti’s concepts in the Lancia Gamma styling would have been an asset for the Princess, notwithstanding the latter’s own flaws and one notable plus (a six rather than a large unreliable four).
Subtracting the Citroens and adding Gamma (plus the 9X and 10X at the top in descending order), the illustration paints an altogether different vision for a better managed BMC going into the next decade.
I’ve just re-read Eóin’s long-read article about the Gamma.
Some of the parallels with British Leyland are interesting – lack of funds and political battles over product spec, odd engineering decisions as a result, confusion over where vehicles sit in a range, delayed development and so on.
I would love to have seen Fiat and BL work together – I think it would have ripped a hole in the space-time continuum.
OTOH Fiat were pretty much dominant domestically having already taken over Lancia, leaving only Alfa Romeo and Innocenti as its only notably rivals in Italy.
Yet they certain did find themselves in a mess. Did they really need Autobianchi as a marque for example, did they also need to produce the A111 saloon after the Primula as opposed to alongside it prior to discontinuing it?
And on the basis the costs of the following were already spread out over many models, would it not have made more sense for Fiat to take on the A112 itself under its own name to replace the 500 as a pre-Panda/Cinquecento 2-to-4-cylinder city car instead of developing the 126 and rebranding the 133 in certain markets (if not just leaving the 126 as largely an Eastern Bloc phenomenon that SEAT against its better judgement suddenly has an interest in taking it on)?
Fiat’s only real weakness at the time was seemingly at the higher end of the range, would taking on Maserati either before Citroen or before De Tomaso have sufficiently plugged the gap?
Exploring how Fiat could have approached things differently is another subject likely to open up a can of worms. Especially in light of the political pressure Fiat were said to have applied on Alfa Romeo over the Tipo 103 and Alfasud or reputedly used its dominant position to either undermine potential threats in smaller players or start-ups, which while understandable would cause Fiat to become very complacent over the next few decades.
But where does this leave us ? ADO 15 did motoring enthusiasts a big favour, but did no favours for BMC. ADO 16 combined sharp handling with good ride, unrivalled in its’ class. I did many miles at high speed on dreadful Irish roads in a Landcrab and can vouch for its’ qualities, though I wasn’t paying for maintenance when the hydrolastic sprung a leak… Was hydragas a big step forward ?
The rubber springs in the Mini were a wonderfully space efficient solution to packaging springs in a tiny car, but they made it too expensive to produce. In 2023 are there any production cars with rubber springs or interconnected suspension (front to rear) ? Were they technical dead-ends? Was the Morris Minor “peak-Issigonis ” ? Will there be another series of ‘Death in Paradise’ ?
So the entry-level Allegro was called “De- Luxe”. Perhaps “Deluxed” was more suitable for a base model.
I’m just shaking my head. BL had three shots at the same target – Maxi, Marina, Allegro – and they couldn’t score a bulls-eye.
Eóin, I’m glad you’ve put the car in its market context. Many of its competitors were not available in my country (small Peugeots, Simca) or rarely seen (Fiat, Alfasud). I get the feeling BL were so focussed on producing an ADO16 successor that they barely looked ‘over the fence’ to see what the other guys were up to. They certainly didn’t seem to have looked over the Channel. What a wealth of serious competition. But for the price premium, my choice would have been the Peugeot 304. With that price premium, though? I think I’d have got my old ADO16 welded up again for another round at the MOT.
Looking at the Allegro with the cold hard heart of someone who has never had a BL car, it is hard to see how they sold so many….
We never got it in Oz, but some of the competitors like the GS and the Renaults were available. They sold ok, but even at this time the Japanese manufacturers were obliterating many of the established small car makes. The iffy quality of all these cars, including Australian market Volkswagens, weighed them down.
As enthusiasts, it can be hard to accept that most buyers prefer reliability and good pricing over engineering brilliance, but that is the world we live in!
Glen, the Japanese certainly killed off competition down here. And objectively, once they figured out what we wanted in suspension tune, why go anywhere else?They showed a dedication to quality and customer care Leyland (and Ford, Holden and Chrysler…) customers could only dream of. But we enthusiasts aren’t always objective.
One thing the European guys don’t seem to have got a handle on is parts and service backup outside of Europe. A Peugeot-driving friend has just got his 508 back on the road after waiting three months for a headlight assembly, shorted out by water ingress (not crash damage). It would be vastly different in Europe, where parts and servicing expertise is everywhere (I assume). He loves his Peugeots, and who could blame him? He’s been driving them for decades, but he bought his wife a Corolla.
Here’s a group text from Car magazine, comparing the Allegro against the Alfasud and GS. I had forgotten that the GS (or some of them) had a ‘fluttery’ engine sound, a bit like a 2CV.
* ‘test’, rather. Clicking on the picture takes you to the full article.