THE Austin Allegro is such an endangered species, it is almost on the point of extinction. Whether this revelation dismays or delights you is a matter of personal taste.
Also on the brink are a number of other monstrosities that once besmirched the fine tradition of the Austin badge – Montego, Maxi, Maestro, Metro and Princess.
A report by motoring consumer expert Honest John reveals that many family cars that sold in gigantic numbers in their heyday have almost vanished from British roads.
And while some sentimentalists will mourn their passing, I reckon there’ll be many more who will be glad to see the back of the vehicles that, bonnets pointing skywards, filled lay-bys and roadsides all over the land in the days when Britain’s car industry was a sick joke.
The report was compiled by examining DVLA records of cars registered between 1950 and 1995 and comparing that with how many are still registered today. All the top 20 cars on the most endangered list have a survival rate of less than one per cent.
At the top is the Allegro, with just 291 remaining in the UK from a total production run of 640,000 between 1973 and 1982. Those five other Austins also feature among the fastest-disappearing family cars, along with such best-forgotten makes as the Hillman Avenger, Vauxhall Viva, Morris Marina, Morris Ital and Vauxhall Chevette.
The Metro is typical. Once a horribly common sight on British roads, it even enjoyed celebrity status as Princess Diana’s car before she married Prince Charles, and it was the driving school car of choice for BSM. Now just 823 remain from an original production run of 1.5 million. Some may feel that’s 823 too many.
Britain’s best-selling car between 1973 and 1980, the Ford Cortina, is one of the most popular family cars ever, but surprisingly it also makes the endangered list, at number 12. From a total of more than four million built, only 5,411 survive. Its successor, the Sierra, is at number 20.
Keith Adams, editor of Honest John Classics, says: “The low survival rates for these models is shocking. 1980s cars are particularly vulnerable because their passage into classic status is yet to happen and their disappearance has been hastened by needless scrappage and artificially low market values in recent years.”
There’s no doubt that most motorists in the ’70s and ’80s will have driven one or more of the cars now in danger of dying out. They can, perhaps, be excused as quality standards generally were far lower then. Some people no doubt harbour fond memories of their Ital or Allegro; they will probably also have loved avocado bathroom suites and Tiny Tim.
The Honest John researchers have also compiled a list of the classic cars with the best survival rate. The Lotus Elan is in top spot, with 38 per cent still surviving and 24 per cent (2,151) actually on the road today. This fairly predictable list also includes such gems as the Triumph Stag, Daimler Dart, Reliant Scimitar and a bevy of Aston Martins.
Experts nowadays find it hard to predict which cars will become collectable classics and which will fill scrapyards. Looking back, it’s hard to believe there was similar puzzlement 30 or 40 years ago.