Your Cars: Andrew Smyth’s Austin Allegro S1 1100DL 1974

It was back in 2007, shortly after the death of my Grandmother that I found myself inevitably reminiscing about happy childhood memories – most of them tended to involve trips to the seaside in her Sandglow beige Austin Allegro (she insisted it was ‘biscuit’ coloured). I found myself spending a lot of time on ARonline and a few weeks later found myself the winning bidder of a blue 1.3 Series 2 automatic, sight unseen for the princely sum of £200.

To say that I’d bought something of a lemon would be an understatement. Although I loved it dearly, it was a project way beyond my capabilities. It came to an unhappy end in May 2008 when I stopped at a set of traffic lights and a Sales Rep behind me in a Renault Espace didn’t.

I often thought about getting another Allegro, but time and money (mainly money) prohibited. Over the course of the last year I became more & more determined to fill a hydrogas shaped hole in my life. I was extremely clear (some would say overly fussy…) about what I wanted, an S2 1.3 Saloon in good nick and very definitely not an Autobox or in anything resembling Russet Brown. Realistically, I knew I’d have to travel to England to get one and this time I wanted to see it in advance before putting any money down…

I joined the fantastic Allegro Club International at the beginning of the year, and, becoming a little depressed at how few cars were available in the spec I wanted within a reasonable price range, at their suggestion I placed an ad in the club magazine, ‘Quartic’ explaining what I wanted and that I would be at the club National event & AGM in Gaydon in May.

The next morning I received a phone call from a lady member in the South of England explaining that she’d previously advertised her 1974 S1 1100 DL in Quartic, but not had any interest. It had been laid up for the last 10 years (although it had been MOT’d in 2011 when it was advertised for sale) She wasn’t too far down the M40 from Gaydon, & would I like to come & see it?

It really wasn’t what I was after.  I had my heart set on an S2 & I was less that keen on taking on something which had been laid up for so long and without MOT – I needed a runner that I could drive onto the ferry & over to Belfast, but she was so polite & enthusiastic about her car that I agreed to come view it – out of politeness rather than anything else! The one saving grace was that it had an original Quartic steering wheel and this was what sparked my interest & I began to seriously consider an S1.

There weren’t any photographs so I was really quite unsure what to expect when I rolled up to her house a few hours before the AGM was due to start in Gaydon. I did bring a friend (Jim Magill) with me, who (despite loathing BL products) was considerably more knowledgeable about mechanics than me to give advice.

What met us in her garage was possibly one of the most gloriously pristine examples of seventies BL that I have ever seen. The look on Jim’s face (have I mentioned that he REALLY hates Allegros?) was enough to prove that this was not an opportunity to pass by.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and I was back in Buckinghamshire. The vendor had kindly arranged for the car (now christened ‘Rose’, for reasons that are too mundane to explain) to be MOT’d – she sailed through-  & I was ready to drive my English beauty home.

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I was spending that night with a friend in Slough who’d be accompanying me home in the Allegro via the overnight ferry from Birkenhead. Following him the 20 miles to Slough in Rose’s first proper drive in over 10 years was something of a hair-raising experience. I was unprepared just quite how ‘agricultural’ a car of that era would be to drive, and even staying well below 50 on the few miles of M40 we had to do was producing a distinct burning aroma. To say I was nervous about the 220 miles we had to do the following day was something of an understatement. We set off as early as possible (and after a long search for somewhere we could buy lead-replacement additive!) we were en-route to Liverpool.

Within a few miles it was clear my fears were groundless. Despite being laid up for so long Rose was thoroughly enjoying every mile – if anything, our trip was boringly uneventful and we found ourselves in glorious sunshine in Liverpool hours ahead of schedule. Even the ridiculously steep ramp onto the Stena Mersey was no problem.

Having owned her now for more than a month, I can safely say that she not just brings a smile to my face, but to 99% of passers-by as well. I’ve even had people follow me home to ask questions about her!

She needs a little work doing in places, new discs are a priority as is a thorough coating of cavity wax, and I’m definitely going to have to buy something else to use over the winter months to keep her in her current condition, but if you really want to make people smile as you drive past – buy an Allegro – you know you want to!

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