Running With Scissors [Part Nine]

Speed of Life.

Allegro 2. Image: Life On Cars

The Allegro’s honeymoon period had been relatively short lived, falling victim on one hand to British Leyland’s parlous labour-relations and a rapid deterioration in the public’s confidence in the vehicle on the other; the latter being consequent to well publicised issues of build and design. By mid-decade, it was apparent that the car was not selling anywhere near the volumes projected and nor was it likely to.

The relaunched 1975 Allegro 2 was therefore what many observers believed the car ought to have been from the outset. Attention had been paid to concerns raised by customers and the press; in particular with regards to the suspension, which was better damped, and improved rear seat accommodation, the result of a redesigned seat pan[1]. A large number of other, mostly minor changes (the cosmetic ones certainly were) led to a more rounded, better realised product, if one which steadfastly remained in the shadow of better selling (mostly) imported rivals[2].

But with BL having to repeatedly go cap in hand to the UK government’s National Enterprise Board to raise the necessary funds to finance its product plans, and with resources being overwhelmingly channelled towards the vitally important ADO88[3] programme, all that could be contrived for the now somewhat creaky Allegro by the tail end of the Seventies was a further, this time more comprehensive facelift.

During 1977, Longbridge had enjoyed a period of relative calm. Production of Allegro was running at around 1000 cars a week, and rather tellingly, even at these risible volumes, there had been something of a glut. That Autumn had also witnessed the appointment of Michael Edwardes as CEO, coinciding with a restructure, the abandonment of the discredited Ryder strategy and another name change  – from British Leyland to BL. Change was coming, but the ship was already listing heavily.

The following year, as Allegro 2 was ushered towards the exit, a run-out special edition hit the showrooms. The Allegro 1500 Special L.E. pulled out most of the stops, with a generous level of standard equipment, two attractive metallic paint shades and as the clincher, a lurid set of stripes, both externally and on the seats[4], a feature which appeared to betray an element of desperation on the carmaker’s part. It is clear that Allegro suffered from an image problem, but it was one which no amount of go-faster stripes would assuage.

Allegro Special LE. Image: propadv

With the national carmaker now something of a political football, and the public fed up with the endless, seemingly daily deterioration of British Leyland’s fortunes, faith as much as optimism was in painfully short supply. That year, as chronicled by auto-historian, Chris Cowin, Renault undertook a serious exploration of an alliance, which would have seen the next generation Allegro (for example) being based on Renault 9 platforms, engines and suspensions. However, owing to resistance from within the Renault organisation and the French carmaker’s decision to pursue its US market ambitions with AMC, the talks were abandoned.

By 1978, the motor press had lost their discretion about Allegro’s shortcomings; Car in particular relegating it to ‘Boring’ in its GBU classification, lambasting its ‘pitchy ride’ and ‘nasty engines’, characterising it as ‘Dreary’.

The following September, BL made what would be its final attempt[5] at remedying this shortcoming, announcing what was unsurprisingly christened Allegro 3 – an introduction which had been brought forward by a month owing, somewhat ironically, to reported supply shortages of the outgoing model – suggesting perhaps that BL’s Allegro 2 run-out strategy had been rather too successful.

Externally, changes were broadly in line with those enacted around the same time for Maxi 2[6]. At the front, a revised grille sat between the rectangular headlamps retained by lowlier models, whereas the HL and HLS models now sported twin circular units[7]. Larger matt black bumpers were fitted, and more pronounced tail lamp units at the rear. All models now carried a front air dam[8], in addition to matt black window surrounds. On HL and HLS models, a side rubbing strip and semi-flush wheel trims lent a more contemporary (if rather cluttered looking) mien.

Inside, a revised dashboard with the instruments now housed under a single pane, reduced glare, while switchgear and stalk controls borrowed from Rover and new ventilation outlets pilfered from Jaguar lifted the ambience. A new four-spoke corporate steering wheel, shared with Maxi 2, Ital (and forthcoming Metro) was fitted. New seat materials and door trims, along with improved equipment levels completed the visual transformation.

Technically, the few changes were primarily confined to power units. The A-Series came in two capacities as before, as did the E-Series. The A-Series however was now in A-Plus[9] form, engineers having carried out a quite comprehensive reworking of the long-lived powerplant for its deployment in the forthcoming ADO88 model. While the 1275 unit was retained for Allegro, the smaller of the A-Plus units was now the 998 cc version, putting out 44 bhp at 5250 rpm, which supplanted the 1098 cc version previously offered.

For the E-Series, the larger of the two units remained unchanged, but the 1485 cc version was now offered solely with twin SU carburettors and a modified exhaust manifold liberating an additional 9 bhp, bringing maximum power to 77 bhp at 5750 rpm. All manual transmission 1750 models used the 90 bhp twin carburettor engine, the 72 bhp 1750 single carb unit being mated solely to the AP automatic transmission from this point onwards.

Image: elcomentamierda

In 1980, Motor magazine carried out a full road test on an Allegro 3 1.5 HL, the mid-point of the revised 15-model range[10] to find out if BL’s claims for improved performance, economy, comfort and appearance could be borne out in practice. Amongst the more maddening aspects gleaned from Motor’s report were the number of problem areas which remained unresolved some seven years and two facelifts later. Two in particular: firstly the gearchange quality, which Motor described as “arguably the worst of any front-wheel drive car on the market”, and secondly, refinement, which the test team suggested “seems to come as much from the driveline as the engine itself… aggravated at 5500 rpm by a pronounced boom”.

Performance was considered “competitive, if not exceptional within the context of the class”, with the proviso that the powertrain’s unrefined nature did not encourage exploration of the upper reaches. Economy was praised although again, it was deemed no better than rivals. Handling had been improved, although testers still found its composure could still be notably upset by mid-corner bumps. Some torque reaction through the wheel could also be felt – another legacy issue from 1973 which BL engineers failed to resolve. One area which Motor did commend unreservedly was interior space, the 1975 revisions paying dividends here.

Motor’s testers were unimpressed by the finish of the new interior however, deeming the quality of the plastics used to be of the “cheap and nasty” variety – also highlighting what they considered to be an unacceptable number of faults with the test car. These were in the main, fairly minor glitches[11], but such was the level of scrutiny and distrust for the national carmaker’s abilities by then that such matters were deemed worthy of comment.

Image: aronline

The Allegro entered its final years a car shorn of most of its most egregious shortcomings, but one with little to commend it; the kind of vehicle one settled for[12]. But if Motor was harsh in its criticism, it would appear that Car took Allegro back to their bosom late in life, bumping the final series back up to Interesting in GBU, classifying it as “A happy, if uninspired all rounder”.

Which as epitaphs go, was probably about right.


[1] Likely to have been an expensive piece of re-engineering, which ought to have been done from the off.

[2] In 1979, UK Ford Escort sales exceeded twice those of Allegro. The arrival of the front-driven Escort Mark 3 in 1980 would only exacerbate matters.

[3] ADO88 would emerge as the 1980 Metro.

[4] This treatment clearly emboldened Harris Mann’s stylists to twist the dial all the way with the 1979 Allegro Equipe.

[5] There are reports of a putative Allegro 4, believed to have been considered in case of LC10 (Maestro) being cancelled or delayed. Little is known about what was proposed. Perhaps for the best.

[6] The Maxi 2 was particularly shortlived, lasting less than a year on sale, which begs the question – what was the point?

[7] These rather gawky looking items were first seen fitted to Belgian-market Allegros earlier in the decade, suggesting that Aggro 3 really was a bit of this and a bit of that.

[8] The spoiler, which made its first appearance in the Equipe model, was said to reduce the drag co-efficient by 0.04.

[9] A-Plus employed a stronger block and crankcase, lighter pistons and improved piston rings. A hydraulic tensioner unit for the timing chain and other detail changes doubled service intervals. Modern SU carburettors and revised manifolds gave a slight improvement in output without affecting torque or economy. A-Plus had a generally higher standard of metallurgy, a legacy from the Cooper units, making them longer-lived than the outgoing versions.

[10] “15 family supercars” – as BL’s marketers dubbed them.

[11] A non-functioning trip odometer, a wildly inaccurate tachometer, a non-functioning door lock and a facia moulding which became dislodged, were some of the problems, along with a cold-starting problem towards the latter end of the test.

[12] You certainly weren’t buying it on price; the 1.5 HL, while broadly comparable with rivals, cost more than the Alfasud 1.5 Ti, the Opel Kadett 1.3 GL and the (soon to expire) Escort 1.6 Ghia. (The ‘Sud was also on run-out, with the heavily revised Series 3 arriving later that year.)

Sources: See part one

More on Allegro

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

58 thoughts on “Running With Scissors [Part Nine]”

  1. Thanks again for this series Eóin. I’m currently rushing out the door early so all I can comment on is this; I hate those weird looking oversized hubcaps with the O pattern on them on the earlier models. Awful.

    1. No. 10% of 10% is 1%. I think a desperate copywriter was giving a coded message that no matter what hyperbole was thrown at it, it was a lost cause. Were I a recent owner of another Allegro, I’d resent the fact that “added sound insulation” was only on offer if you went for the boy racer stripes. Surely they could have forked out for a couple of quid’s worth of padding for mine too.

    2. Few can only be limited. The concept of few incorporates the limitation “not many”. Maybe a better phrase is “the defined few”. That means it´s not an approximate few.
      The sound deadening was, I guess, just a fix to make for a problem made by added performance. However, it could still grate on the nerves of other Allegro buyers, I agree.

    3. Could we try a broadly defined limited few? Did it have extra performance? I think it just had stripes. But maybe the sound deadening hid the rattle of loose wheel trims and squeaky tacho drive. I know I’m being unfair and childish here – the Allegro is a fish in a barrel and a lot of people tried hard to make it into a decent car. Unfortunately few of them were in higher management which is what makes me so angry.

  2. The list of faults in footnote [11] made me think about how much quality of our cars has improved over the years.
    In the Sixties and Seventies new car buyers had to make do with faults that would be absoutely inacceptable today.
    Non functioning instruments and damaged interior parts were quite common and the warranty period only was six months and every single fix was a long running fight with the dealer.
    It’s to the ever lasting credit of Japanese manufacturers that they pressed the whole industry (or most of it) into production methods ensuring the quality we take for granted nowadays.

    1. As someone who was interested in cars from their youth, I’m embarrassed that I had no appreciation of this at the time. ‘Well built’, ‘generous equipment levels, ‘long warranty’ all went over my head in favour of ‘sharp handling, at the expense of ride quality’ and ‘willing, if peaky, engine’. Blame auto journalists.

    2. When I read old car magazines long term tests I´m always amazed how many faults and serious breakdowns the cars suffered. For example, Car and Driver´s Audi A4 2.6 quattro needed a new transmission and alternator; Car´s Nissan Primera ZX and Saab 9000 2.3 CST a gearbox rebuild and a new turbocharger after only 3,000 miles, respectively.

      Anyway I imagine that Allegro 3 should be specially prepared by the press office before lending it to the mags… how would it be the cars the punters actually bought?

  3. Ref note #2, it should be remembered that the FWD Mk3 Escort also had serious issues at launch, forcing an early rethink.

    1. Those silly stripes on the L.E, almost as bad as the Vanden Plaas grill. No idea what they were doing.

      Ironically though, I’ve come to realise that some of BL’s designs were pretty good…they just gave them to the wrong car.

      For example, the Princess’s design and shape would have worked so much better on a C class sized car. Kind of what the alegro should have been imo. There’s actually a kind of striking boldness about it, it just maybe didn’t work on such a big car. Imagine a small princess that came out in 1971ish, with no Marina sucking up all the development money.

  4. It’s odd that the early examples of the Allegro 3 carried no badging whatsoever on their nose. Makes them look unfinished.

  5. Have heard claims the Allegro was the starting point for what eventually evolved into the Maestro/Montego.

    With reports yet few specifics on a putative Allegro 4 in case the Maestro was canned or delayed, one can get a very feint idea if looking at how BL transformed the Princess and Marina into the Ambassador and Ital. It probably would not have been that bad had the Allegro been a good car from the start without its many unrectified flaws.

    Generally prefer the looks of the Allegro 3 apart from the front indicator placement, which should have either been integrated properly next to the front headlights or into the front bumper as seen on the Ambassador and Princess never mind the Alfasud.

  6. I suspect that it may have been posted here before, but here’s a film about improving quality from British Leyland; there are plenty of Allegros in it.

    There’s the usual caveat that the film is ‘of its time’, but I think it’s well made and it’s fun to play ‘spot the famous actor’. It’s also interesting to see all the places where things can go wrong.

    1. “Poor Bastard!” Fun to watch as you say, but a strange film starting from a highly pessimistic viewpoint, albeit just for internal BL consumption. I imagine that today, ‘let’s try our best to make cars whose brakes work and don’t kill babies’ is pretty much taken for granted in the industry. So what has changed? Are the line workers more sophisticated and does automation put more checks in place? Probably, but there’s still the suspicion that this was just another case of management berating the little people that if they would only pull their weight, BL’s troubles would disappear.

    2. Oh no, this is the one with the horrible car crash in it isn’t it?

    3. To be fair, the film does mention clapped-out machinery and production lines not designed for the task, so not all of the responsibility is put on those in non-management roles.

      All sorts of things have changed, now, from design and manufacturing techniques to management practices, and all for the better.

    4. I am sure that, in my armchair management position, I am being biased. Imagine waking up every day and having to think about all the cumulative problems of the BL Group. And when you got in to work there was another problem or ten. In fact that film gives a good idea of that. It probably was insoluble. Poor Bastards!

    5. The Japanese manufacturers introduced the concept of designing cars for production and making production processes ‘right first time’.
      A car famous for its lack of consideration for production was the SD1.
      Japanese cars also were made from parts that could be fit together only the correct way. I remember a Passat B3 (famous for its lack of quality before the Fugen Ferdl treatment) with the A post trim on the passenger side fitted upside down by the factory. In a Japanese car this would have been impossible because they’d made one mounting hole round and the other rectangular to make sure the part went in the right way round.
      Today cars are made from large modules which are assembled outside the car and then put in in one piece. Most of the stuff under the bonnet including radiator and hoses is one large assembly group.
      What also helps a lot are modern CAD systems checking parts for ease of assembly and highlighting potential problems already in the design phase.
      JIT/JIS approaches also greatly help because they eliminate storages and the opportunity to pick the wrong parts.

      I once worked with a quality engineer travelling between the main factory of his employer and the second production site. This second site suffered from problems unknown in the main factory like cars falling off the production line, people standing around with large spanners in their rear trouser pockets when a car arrives from behind with its doors open and many more.

      You still get glitches in ERP systems – every production manager’s nightmare being ‘misalignment by one body’ which mostly affects whole batches of cars and means that car A has the rear suspension (or rear seat, dashboard or whatever can go wrong) of car B, B has the one from C, C the one from D and so on.

      And you can still make errors when handling ERP systems like the guy who entered ‘200’ instread of ’20’ for the number of cars that should have extra holes punched in their roofs for the fitment of blue light and music equipment…

    6. From ‘When Rover met Honda’ (Carver/Seale/Youngson):

      “The importance that Honda placed on foolproof assembly was amply demonstrated early in the relationship when the Rover people reported on the first Triumph Acclaim from Honda, which had been sent over knocked-down for us t0 confirm the assembly process:

      ‘We could have shaken the box and driven the car out!'”.

    7. You’re hinting at poka-yoke (ポカヨケ in Japanese), which literally means avoid mistakes. As far as I know it was part of the Toyota Production System. A common example is the SIM card. It has a cutout and because of that you can only fit it in one way.

    8. JCC – yes, it is – it’s pretty horrible, I have to say.

      I recall a story of a Japanese manager visiting a British plant and being asked what he thought of the production line staff. His reply was that he thought they were amazing in their ability to make stuff fit together, although he didn’t see why they should have to.

      Talking of production errors, I gather mk2 Golfs only had the trim applied down one side for quite a while. No one noticed, as you are rarely able to see both sides at once. It also implies that anyone restoring one to factory standard would have to take the same asymmetrical approach.

    9. Designing for mass production is very hard, since the financial impact of any decision you make gets multiplied many times. The machinery to produce plastic doodads sold for pennies, costs millions.

      So perhaps it’s not that suprising that it took a while to catch on (I cannot help but think a certain class consciousness would have played a part as well, with production workers usually coming from much lower strata than management and design). I don’t know whether BL was slower in adapting its design procedures (although DaveAR’s stories would point to “no”), but it certainly wasn’t a forerunner. It’s (in)famous lack of capital investment in production machinery will not have helped either.

      There’s a certain humility or even empathy (to understand how a human would fit things together in the most efficient way possible) needed to design something for easy production. A car like the Fiat Panda is a much greater achievement than a supercar like the Countach, purely in design terms. I reckon this is also part of the reason why Ikea is so keen to promote its designers, for instance.

    10. I watched that (very funny) video a couple of years ago. I´m not a native English speaker so when I heard the policeman calling the victim “poor bastard” I thought “probably I haven´t understand properly what he meant”.

  7. Allegro 3 seems to have happened by instalments, going by a trawl of price lists during its three or so year life.

    At its late ’79 launch the A+ engine wasn’t ready. That engine made its debut in the Morris Ital which was revealed on 1 July 1980. Quite when the change was made for the Allegro is not clear, and BL probably wanted it that way, to clear stocks with the older, less powerful and less efficient engine.

    By the time the Metro arrived in October 1980, the 1098cc engine – never made as an A+ – was still being listed for the Allegro. Interestingly, at that point the 1748cc engine was an automatic-only option, except for the saloon-only 1.7HL. For A-series automatics the 1275cc engine is mandatory, and the AP transmission is available in all body and trim variants.

    Move on to October 1981, and the Allegro 1.0L is listed, as £3899 showroom bait in two-door form. Another £299 gets you the 1275cc engine and two more doors, and that’s what most people went for. By then there had been a bit of ‘grade creep’ with a top-level HLS specification available with 1.3, 1.5, or 1.7 litre power, and HL relegated to the middle of the league.

    Although the Allegro was supposedly available until the Maestro arrived in March 1983, a quick check of ‘Motor’ from December 11 1982, revealed that the Allegro doesn’t even appear in the New Car Prices – nearly three months before the Maestro was launched. We are told that Allegro production ended in March 1982, and it looks as if Austin Rover didn’t even want to carry on the pretence that it was still available.

    In any case, despite the SUPERVROOM Allegro 3, demand fell off a cliff even before the Metro went on sale:

    1979: 61,415
    1980: 42,443
    1981: 22,908
    1982: 4471

    Perhaps everyone at Austin Rover was just glad to see the back of it.

  8. I quite like the quad headlamps as they eliminated the piggy-eyed look of the original. BL is, of course, infamous for giving with one hand and taking away with the other, so it saddled the Allegro 3 with the ugliest bumpers imaginable, black painted straight steel bars that looked like they had been knocked up in a shed out of whatever happened to be lying around:

    Here’s an example with the quad headlamps combined with the original bumpers, which looks almost presentable:

    1. I’ve seen that before, it’s some kind of special edition one isn’t it? But you’re right, in that form it looks almost ok. Especially if it’s in a nice metallic colour.

      Times like this make me start thinking about the ‘Marlego’ again; the hypothetical car BL could have built. The looks and body options of the Marina as we know it, but with the FWD and interconnected suspension layout of the Allegro. Made slightly smaller than the one we got, to better fit into the C class rather than straddling it and the D class. Honestly think the company would still exist in some shape or form if they went down this route.

      Sadly though there’s still the issues of the engines and the transmissions. The A and B were too old, the E was too limited and odd…Triumph didn’t have the production capacity…it couldn’t have been that hard to make a family of 4 cylinder OHC engines ranging from 1l to 2l to share among the brands surely?

      I think a lot of us are so fascinated by this subject because of just how wrong BL got everything. Even the really basic fundamentals. Statistically you’d think they’d get something right just once but no, time and time again they took the wrong path. One would almost think it was deliberate.

    2. Hi JCC. Not a special edition per se, but the Allegro 1300 Special built in Belgium for the European market. It was rather better equipped than the British model and featured the quad headlamp front end a year before this was introduced with the Series 3 cars in the UK, hence the unusual combination. AROnline has the details here:

    3. Among the many not-so-fortunate aspects of this car is shown in the b&w image. The indicators are not arranged along the line of the headlamps centres. That makes it look they are too low in relation to the circles. There are a number of alternative all within a few centimetres of the production version. They didn´t have to do much to get it right.

    4. To be fair they could have updated the A-Series earlier even given it a cross flow OHC head like Leyland Australia were requesting to meet emissions, along with reduced costs via the common block used in the South African A-Series and stillborn A-OHC.

      However regarding the A-Series, BL was seemingly divided (as with elsewhere within the unnecessary combine e.g. Mini vs Supermini, Triumph vs MG, Jaguar vs Rover, etc) between those who wanted an all-new engine and those who wanted to maintain the status quo with the existing engine on cost grounds for as long as possible.

      Caught in between were those who saw the logic in updating the A-Series, that both factions within BL were against until they pretty much the won the argument albeit belatedly as both sides realised something HAD to be done. Even though by that point they could no longer afford A-OHC and instead went with A-Plus, which was really something that should have been done about a decade prior or further back.

    5. Didn’t all the Belgian made Allegros get the quad lights from the start? All the French market advertising always showed them.

    6. Hi David. I don’t believe so. According to AROnline, the Belgian plant at Seneffe started assembling the Allegro in 1974, long before the quad headlamps had been thought of.

    7. What a shame they didn’t revise the bonnet tooling, lowering the edge to line up with the indicators, and ‘lid’ the top of the headlights as Ford did for the Capri III.

  9. One gets the impression that BL just didn’t give a damn about their cars or customers around that time. They put similar bumpers onto the Marina in its final facelift before it became the Ital:

    Note the truly horrible way they put a ‘bump’ in the rear wings to accommodate the new, flat rear light clusters that look like they came off a truck. Lovely!

    1. To carry on my resolution to be fairer to BL, the U section length of metal with a couple of rubber endcaps was going through a fashion at the time

    2. All VAG products had equally horrible bumpers at that time, too

      Cheap versions of Polo and Golf had silver painted stuff which looked particularly horrible.
      And the 100 C2 with endlessly long end caps reaching to the wheelarch cutout

      Peugeot did it with the 305 Mk1, even the 604 hat such a primitive solution.
      The facelifted Alfetta also had such bumpers.
      All those cars looked cheap because of this single crap detail.

    3. Hi bristow and Dave. Perhaps irrationally, I don’t mind the bumpers on the facelifted 127 neatly as much as those on the Allegro, where their extreme ‘squareness’ seems to be fighting against the rotund shape of the car. As for the Audis, the bumpers look perfectly at home on those angular designs, although the silver painted rather than chromed items on the base Polo Mk1 and Golf Mk1 were just horrible!

    4. I’m not a particular fan of the cheap&nasty 100 C2 but one of the things they got right was the facelift with bumpers that looked infinitely better

    5. The facelift bumpers are certainly an improvement, they look much more substantial.

      Was the C2 “cheap & nasty”? I remember it as being impressively modern and modernist. Like all 1970s VW group cars, they did, of course, rust enthusiastically. I recall that it had nothing black in the interior (even the instrument faces were dark brown rather than black) because the designers regarded black as a colour that could provoke unwanted aggression in the driver.

    6. The C2 is so staggeringly plain but not what I´d call cheap. For cheap take a look at the base model Granadas and Rekords on offer at the same time. The middle and upper range models of these cars were charming, of course. They really did know how to make it apparent you´d broke open the piggy bank if you opted for L and DL.

    7. @Daniel: what a wonderful idea, to avoid black! That idea seems to be lost now…

    8. Hi Michael. Here’s the C2’s interior:

      I’ll have to take Audi’s word that those instrument faces aren’t black, but that’s what they said when it was launched.

    9. That looks truly awful, Daniel. While the bumper treatment seemed to be Euro-trendy at the time, why didn’t they just add reversing lights to the existing cluster? Surely that would have been cheaper than altering the wing pressing for that awful bump? It looks like a backyard bodge to fit some lights from the scrappie, rather than a facelift from a real company. What’s that? Who said BL wasn’t a real company? 🙂
      Oh well, they never asked me. Or any of us…..

    10. I don’t think they put in a bump. If you look carefully at a photo of the pre-facelift Marina, that bump in the body is already there, and the indicator part of the cluster is mounted on it. My guess is they simply stopped stamping a hole in that part of the panel. Money was obviously extremely tight by that point…

    11. Good morning, Michael. You’re right: the bump was there to accommodate the original light cluster where it wrapped around onto the wing:

      As Peter said, why on earth did they not simply add a reversing light to the original design? This was an entirely unforced error.

    12. Severely off topic…
      In the late Seventies a friend was sales manager at our largest local VAG/Porsche dealer.
      Their joke about the C2 was that if Audi continued the development path from C1 to C2 then the C3 would be made of paper and the C4 would be inflatable. If that doesn’t make it cheap and nasty when their own salesmen think that way of their product I don’t know.

      The colour selection of the C2 was a recommendation by Paolo Nestler who insisted on supposedly non-aggressive colours inside and pale pastel colours outside. The result was paint in condensed milk-with woodruff, condensed milk-with strawberries, condensed milk-with mustard and pure condensed milk and an offbeat colour selection for the interiors. Audi interiors gained a reputation for being a very acquited taste which culminated in the C2 200 with its Victor Vasarely inspired psychedelic checquerboard pattern seats and cushions. With the facelift they rediscovered their commonn sense and offered more conventional colours.

      Back on topic…
      VW was in a similar situation to BL before they presented the Golf. It took the strong will of one man (Rudolf Leiding) to put all eggs in a Golf shaped basked and rescue the company. There’s a quote from Fritz Indra of his first day at Audi when Austrian Indra was welcomed by Austrian Piech “We have absolutely no money and our cupboards are empty. Try and make the best of it.”
      Twenty years later it took the willpower of Ferdinand Piech to salvage the ship from much the same situation and it worked again.

    13. I think it would have been around that time that they would have to fit fog lights on new cars. They could have been added as separate items like those reversing lights, but they opted for a whole new cluster with both reversing and fog lights. No obvious attempt to style them in harmony with the car’s bodywork though. I do remember seeing a train load of these somewhere (possibly Oxford) on the GW main line in the Summer of 1978, before they were actually launched.

    14. Dave, exceedingly off topic: what is it with Austrians (look at F1 as well, by the way)? I’m reminded of the anecdote about to WWI divisions in a desperate situation together, one is Austrian and the other is German.

      The Germans say: “the situation is serious, but thank God it’s not hopeless”.

      The Austrians say: “the situation is hopeless but thank God it’s not serious!”

      Sorry about that; normal, car-related service will now resume.

  10. RIP Ray Bates, former Head of Austin-Morris engineering, who passed away peacefully on the 6th March, aged 92. He worked on the Allegro, among many other models. AROnline have published an obituary.

  11. A lot of discussion regarding the A series.By the 1970s it wasn’t the greatest, but the 1275 was OK as long as you weren’t,t building a racing car. The Allegro wasn’t a lemon because of the A series.

    1. It like many things including the Allegro was a symptom of the chaos within the company, where internal politics and differing or maintaining the status quo on what to do vs what was both advantageous and achievable proved very costly even doing nothing until it because hard to ignore.

      Not implementing a redesign/update early on and thereby kicking the can down the road for 10+ years to focus attention elsewhere, created much needless headache in making the engine comply with emissions standards and shut the door to more markets over time in addition to having the company resort to using the Spitfire engine in the Midget.

      It brings to mind reading stories where people including the late Ray Bates had to deal with Longbridge engineer Joe Greatorex at Production Engineering (described as a very severe-looking ex-military man) who not only refused point blank plans to rationalise and create standardised blocks and cylinder heads for the A-Series and B-Series, but also appeared to have an unfavourable view of any and all overhead-camshaft layout engines that also likely played a role on preventing the UK/European Marinas featuring the E-Series besides opt-repeated concerns of there being not enough capacity.

    2. On an ethnographic note, what are the origins of a surname like Greatorex? Is it one of those Latinate names like Grammaticus and Pretorius one sometimes comes across in the UK?r

    1. That’s looking much better already. Still a little piggy, but not ridiculously so.

  12. On an ethnographic note, what are the origins of a surname like Greatorex? Is it one of those Latinate names like Grammaticus and Pretorius one sometimes comes across in the UK?

    Richard – found this – more useful than most such things which are usually generated from statistics by crude AI:

    “The name Greatorex is part of the ancient legacy of the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. It is a product of when the family lived in an area that was referred to as the great ridge. Greatorex is a topographic surname, which was given to a person who resided near a physical feature such as a hill, stream, or in this case a ridge. [1]

    Another source postulates that the name was from “Greatorick, from Gayteric, the old form of Catterick, Yorkshire, in which county the name remains common.” [2]

    And two sources claim the name is from Great Rocks; a hamlet, Tideswell, Derbyshire. [3] [4] This latter source dives into more detail: “the Derbyshire name of Greatorex is evidently derived from Great Rocks, a hamlet in the parish of Wormhill. Greatrix and Gratrix are now Lancashire forms of the name.” [4]

    And yet another source claims the name is from Greterakes, a place name in the Domesday Book of 1086.”

    1. So we can take it that Joe Greatorex was showing an Anglo-Saxon stubborness that stretched back centuries. “If you think I’m putting those new fangled spoked wheels on my cart, think again sonny.”

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