It’s doubtful whether any British car has been as maligned or denigrated as the humble Austin Allegro, the car with which British Leyland sought to establish itself as one of Europe’s premier mass market car makers. Conceived with a radical front-wheel drive layout and shod with Alex Moulton’s innovative hydrogas suspension, the controversially styled Allegro was tasked with recapturing the fleet market from Ford while at the same time spearheading BL’s drive upmarket.
That it singularly failed to do any of this barely needs to be said, such is the Allegro’s infamous place within the annals of automotive history.
Indeed, for many the Allegro might as well be shorthand for the British mass market car industry in its seventies nadir. For these individuals the Allegro is the dumpy, oddly proportioned embodiment of striking workers crouched around flaming braziers; pointless inter-company squabbling and ill-advised penny pinching; deeply suspect styling decisions and shoddy, at times unconscionable, build quality.
But – much as it might pain some of us to admit it – the seventies were very long time ago, so long in fact that, at the time of writing in the Spring of 2023, it’s actually the Allegro’s 50th birthday. That’s a massive milestone in anyone’s book, and with it an opportunity to re-assess the Allegro’s place in British car-building history and perhaps, whisper it, attempt a degree of image rehabilitation at the same time.
All of which means that now really is the perfect time for those of us at Retropower to announce our latest build, the Austin Allegro-based ‘Project Lucky Strike.’ The first of a pair of near identical cars we’ll be creating for two car-mad brothers, Project Lucky Strike is our attempt at making the Allegro something it could never truly said to have been at any point in its nine-year production run – a hot hatch, one with the power and poise to reward even the most demanding of performance-minded drivers (and no, the Equip special edition doesn’t count).
To achieve this, we’ll be conducting an exercise in automotive gene splicing, which in practice means that we’ll be taking the bodyshell of an Allegro and grafting it to the chassis of one of the most beloved front-wheel drive cars of the modern age, the DC2-shape Honda Integra Type R. This phase of the build is already in process – much to the chagrin of some members of both the Type R and the Allegro-owning communities. The age-old phrase about being unable to make an omelette without first cracking a few eggs springs to mind…
Either way we’re already making good progress and have been pleasantly surprised by how readily the Allegro bodyshell has accommodated the Integra chassis, with just 130mm of excess metal needing to be removed from the latter to enable us to ‘dangle’ the former atop it (having first ensured that its correctly bolted to our Celete jig, of course).
Merely being able to dangle a bodyshell atop a chassis does not a complete, running and functioning restomod of course make of course, and other areas of the build will require far more ingenuity. The A-posts, front bulkhead and inner sills are good examples of this, albeit areas we will ultimately be able to resolve with help from our Peel 3D scanning facility and suite of CAD engineers.
Carrying over vast swathes of the Honda DNA wholesale should aid us in our mission to create a truly engaging front-wheel drive drivers’ car, as will our decision to retain what must surely count as the Integra’s ‘trump card,’ its B18C engine. Widely regarded as among the greatest naturally aspirated mass-produced engines of all time, we plan in equipping it with uprated internals and a set of individual throttle bodies before mounting it within the front wings of the Allegro.
The very nature of a build of this sort means that it’s inevitable we’ll encounter additional issues standing in the way of our attempt to turn the Allegro into a world-beating hot hatch (despite it being technically a saloon), and so the easiest means of keeping abreast of our progress is via tuning into our Retropower Uncut video series, available to watch on YouTube. Also note that we’ve opted to include coverage of both of our Allegro builds on this page, a decision made as both cars are being built concurrently and will ultimately be identical in concept and engineering once completed.