Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rumour has it the Austin Allegro is 40 this year

SQUASHED tomatos and stew, and all that. In case you haven't seen all the birthday-themed graphics in tomorrow's edition of The Champion here's the news anyway - the newspaper celebrates its 19th anniversary this week.

All of which got me thinking of some of the more memorable motoring anniversaries heading our way this year - there's a bonanza of bashes, for instance, to mark Aston Martin's centenary. There's also the Porsche 911, which is 50, and the Corvette, which storms to 60. A few rungs back down the ladder and you've got the thirtysomething Peugeot 205, and the Hillman Imp, which hits its 50th this year.

Oh, and the classic everyone loves to hate. Believe it or not, but life begins at forty for the Austin Allegro!

If Churchill had lived long enough to see the launch and chequered career of BL's slightly misguided replacement for the 1100 I'm sure he'd have reused one of his greatest lines to sum it up. Never, in the field of automotive history, have so many urban myths been peddled by so many about one car.

There is, for starters, the one about it being more aerodynamic going backwards than forwards, which is true but only when you consider that lots of car which have those pesky air intakes and radiator grilles on the front have the same problem. There's also the persistent rumours in classic car land about wheels falling off and rear windscreens popping out, but this seems to be more down to a slim minority ending up in the hands of bad mechanics than any inherant design problems.

Yet none of these compare to the weirdest Allegro anecdote - an Allegrodote, if you will - of all. Apparently, the Allegro is banned from both of the Mersey tunnels because its chassis is too weak to cope with the prospect of being pulled out again in the event of a breakdown (something, which I know from personal experience of owning British Leyland cars, isn't that unlikely a prospect). A great story, but as far as a bit of Life On Cars research has showed so far, it's cobblers.

In fact, if you look at the actual rules and regulations covering the Kingsway and Queensway Tunnels (and there are, if you're feeling a bit of an anarok and don't have much of a social life, a lot to leaf through) there is not a single mention of the Austin Allegro being banned, or any other make or model of car. If you have any hard evidence to the contrary that doesn't begin with the words “Rumour has it...” by all means feel free to send it in but otherwise I can say there is absolutely no evidence to suggest the Allegro is banned from the Mersey tunnels.

Weird, but true.

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