My First Car: Appalling Allegro I didn’t even want as gift!

Paul Geater's first car was an Austin Allegro similar to these ones... and he loathed it.

Paul Geater's first car was an Austin Allegro similar to these ones... and he loathed it. - Credit: supplied

Paul Geater

I have no picture of my first car – a first-generation Austin Allegro I was given as a graduation 'present' in 1980 – because I loathed it with an intensity that defies description.

The Allegro was an appalling car, complete with a square steering wheel.

Mine was 1,300cc, totally underpowered – goodness knows what an 1,100cc Allegro was like – and frankly a lemon in all respects. It even looked like a dirty lemon – I think the British Leyland handbook described the colour as 'sand'

I didn't have a camera. If I did I wouldn't have wanted a picture of this lump of useless metal.

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I'd been asked what I'd like as a graduation present for about £500. I said a Ford Escort would be nice.

There were none about at that price so I was persuaded the Allegro would get me moving.

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It didn't have a radio, so I bought a cheap one and had it fitted. However you couldn't listen to the radio if you had the headlights on. Don't ask me why!

Thank goodness I bought an AA subscription. It broke down somewhere near Swindon on a trip to visit a friend in Devon. The AA got it running again. It broke down at the Taunton services on the way back from Devon. Sadly, the AA was able to fix it.

I don't think I dared take it out of Suffolk after that. I was working in Bury St Edmunds and used the pool car for work. That was an Escort and I was convinced someone up there was playing a nasty joke on me!

When I visited home, near Saxmundham, I borrowed my mother's car to get around because I could be confident it would reach my destination.

After two and a half years the Allegro's engine blew up and I sold it for scrap. I returned to my push-bike because my mother was planning to change her car a few weeks later and offered me the chance to buy it from her.

It was a Chrysler Sunbeam, hardly something with great street-cred – but a million times better than that dreadful Allegro.

And, 25 years after getting rid of the Allegro, I was persuaded that a Rover 75 was a good car. It had a BMW engine and gearbox. They were great. Sadly, the clutch was 100% British Leyland and needed replacing every year.

It was the only really bad car I'd had since. And they wonder why the company went out of business!

You never forget your first car so share your memories of adventures and disasters of your first set of wheels. It doesn't matter how old it is, just email your motoring memories with a picture of the car to or post it to Andy Russell, motoring editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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