Tuesday, November 16, 2004
I learned to drive in the mid-1970s in an Austin Allegro. Indeed, my first lessons were in one of the early models with a square steering wheel.
I was reminded of this by two pieces of news. First, the BBC has just published a book called Crap Cars (produced in time for the Christmas gift market in 'humour books'), which "lists the 50 worst cars ever to grace the roads of Britain." At no.2 on this list of shame is the Austin Allegro (the East German Trabant achieves only 9th place, which gives you some idea).
Second comes the news that an Austin Allegro has been preserved for posterity by the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society (owners of a museum in my home town of Lincoln, where I spent many a childhood Sunday helping to restore the engines of vintage buses, armed only with a wire brush).
It's official: my first car is a museum piece. You can see it here (click on 'Vehicle List' then 'Austin Allegro Saloon').
Future generations will now be able to see for themselves why British Leyland was such a bad political idea.
I am no free market fetishist but the Austin Allegro and its grim stablemate, the Morris Marina (no.4 on the list, by the way), are a reminder that there are some things the state should not do, and making cars is one of them.