I’ve Been Driving in my Car… It’s Not Quite A Jaguar!


The last couple of weeks have seen me weighing up my options for buying a different car. Choices have included a BMW Z3, Toyota MR2 and Mazda MX5 – all a far cry from the first car I bought, shortly after obtaining my driving licence in March 1989. I passed my driving test in my parents’ Austin Maestro, a hulking lump of metal, with no power steering (parallel parking was a great workout for the biceps!) which had only a 1300cc engine, leaving it seriously underpowered. It’s therefore unsurprising that I yearned for my first car to be a Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet (preferably in red, as we all know that they go faster). What I actually ended up buying was an 1975 Austin Allegro!

Because having a car known to most people as an “All-Aggro”, with a square steering wheel, wasn’t embarassing enough, my particular model was painted a particularly putrid shade of sludge, more commonly associated with the contents of babies’ nappies. Added to the fact that it only had an 1100cc engine, my Allegro failed to deliver not only on looks, but on performance too. Not for long…

With the help of my mechanically-talented Dad, we set about replacing the engine with a more powerful one. The new engine was a 1300cc, of which Dad skimmed the head, so that the car would move “like s**t off a shovel” – and it did. Rather ironic, considering the colour of the paintwork! Other than having my Allegro re-sprayed, which would have cost more than the car did, I was limited on what I could do to improve its appearance. However, a bit of T-Cut, a tin of polish, some tyre black and hours of TLC gave my baby a new lease of life.


You’ll notice how quickly Ally (don’t pretend you didn’t name your first car) became my baby, rather than something they produce. We became inseparable, leaving boy racers, in VW Golfs, staring in disbelief, as we left them standing at traffic lights. Even when she over-heated in traffic, and I had to blast hot air from the engine into the car, in the height of a sweltering summer, I stood by her. Paradoxically, as soon as winter arrived, the heater never worked unless I was travelling over 50mph. This not only meant driving in Eskimo-like attire, to avoid shivering throughout the journey, but that the windscreen would continually ice over during the harshest weather. It wasn’t uncommon for passengers to have to jump out whilst we were stopped at traffic lights, to give the windscreen a quick scrape! Driving, and often breaking down in, my Allegro was an adventure with a car of character – something mostly denied to today’s teenage drivers, due to extortionate insurance costs and the array of nondescript vehicles on offer – which I wouldn’t have had any other way. Now, I wonder if there are any Allegros for sale in AutoTrader…