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Vanden Plas 1500. Grille, chrome, horror?

Vanden Plas 1500. Grill, chrome, horror?
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Let's not exaggerate. The grille is quite large, that's right. And chrome was indispensable for a luxury Briton. But was this Vanden Plas 1500 really so gruesome?

Questionable

Opinions were divided on this. The basis for this intended niche was the Austin Allegro. A car that almost everyone knows, but for all the wrong reasons. Guaranteed to be successful in the breakdown statistics and invariably high in the top three of ugly car lists, this model has had an extremely questionable reputation since its introduction. Not so strange, the Allegro was conceived and thrown together by the equally dubious British Leyland. In the mid-1970s, this completely uncontrolled and on the verge of bankruptcy group was not exactly known for its pursuit of quality and perfection. This had nasty consequences for the cars produced. Everything went desperately in the desolate factories, and that karma was apparently inevitably built into the cars, which left the gate lame. Success with it.


Expensive Allegro

That success was therefore largely absent. Yet, in between two work breaks, someone thought that a luxurious Allegro could be of interest to wealthy people. The gray, bingo-playing part of it, at least, because everything that was not aged was invariably surrounded with a large bow. However, some things had to be adapted to the infamous Austin to justify that it became no less than twice as expensive as a standard Allegro. Badge engineering was the solution. Or more of a necessity, because for an Austin you could no longer ask for money with good decency. So the traditionally chic Vanden Plas label was taken away again. But with only the chrome nameplate on the back, everyone saw that it was such an ugly Allegro. He had to be better disguised.

Shine

With more chrome. This added value was initially limited to the more luxurious Vanden Plas wheel covers, the standard Allegro was already richly provided with the shiny clot. Because super hip, in the mid-seventies. But now it was still an Allegro with its signature pudding styling, only with shiny caps. Of course not a single broker fell for it pensioner in. A much more distinguished look was what this poor luxury car urgently needed, but how? A Bentley grille. Naturally. Once tinkered with it, it turned out to be a stark contrast to the little Englishman's styling, but that didn't spoil the fun. And certainly not the price.

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Opulence

A flag on a mud barge is much nicer than no flag and under that guise the interior was also tackled in the best British tradition. So leather and wood. Because in that they were unique and skilled, those traditional, English craftsmen. They skilfully transformed the scanty interior of the Allegro into a luxurious salon with expensive leather on the furniture and beautiful walnut on the dashboard. Thick carpet on the floor and extra sound insulation made the wealth complete. You thought you were in a baby Bentley. To reinforce that feeling, the obligatory picnic tables were even mounted in the backrests of the front seats. This idea was probably conceived at closing time in a pub, because who the hell wanted an Allegro in the back with a glass of bubbles? But it was possible in any case.

Not bad

The technology remained largely untouched. The main difference with the Proleten version was that this Vanden Plas got the 1500cc, 69 hp strong E-series four-cylinder under the convex hood as standard. Later this even became the 1750cc version, which sent 90 hp to the front wheels and could be combined with an automatic transmission. The one and a half liter version had 69 hp and was standard equipped with a manual gearbox with four gears. In six years, from 1974 to 1980, just under 12.000 units of this strange, but luxurious duck in the bite were sold. Vanden Plas 1500 wasn't that bad. In any case, very special. So special that this sympathetic bowler hat now earns cult status, and you no longer have to be mediated for it. Not even old.

Also read:
- Austin Allegro
- Austin Allegro. In the resit

Automobilia 2022 (copy)

12 Comments

Give a reaction
  1. We have had an Allegro station wagon for 8 years. Never had bad luck. Have the suspension pumped up frequently. And, a liter of Hema oil every week. But it was a spacious and nice family car. Not all technically thought through. Think back on it fondly.

  2. That chrome grille is quite harmonious on its snout, not to say that I actually quite like it! Nothing wrong with that. The back is another chapter. The square wheel covers may belong on a bigger brother. But who cares about that now. I think it's quite successful and I miss the flair in all simplicity of that time with contemporary designs. And badge engineering? Never mind. I don't think it's pore. Picnic tables in the back of the seats can be found not only in the Van der Plas, the Tiguan or any other car, but also in the train and in the planes. Who knows, can say who really invented them, hi! Table there or back, such a van der Plas could be my boyfriend, I like him that much.

  3. I always find an Allegro, Maxi and also the Meastro a nice appearance.
    I know that the Meastro had very good seats.
    Too bad there aren't any mid-range British brands left

  4. Where the Allegro that I used to occasionally drive in regularly gave me tears of sadness, while reading this article tears of laughter are pouring down my cheeks at the spelling and sentence construction errors……I'm just going to assume, the is also the translation computer of English manufacture? Nice article, though!

  5. Jeremy Clarkson once did a report asking who was responsible for British Leyland's demise and, although on the right-hand side, he thought it was a shared responsibility. Bit cheap and Baudet to talk about strikes.

    Badge engineering also destroyed GM and their competitors. Today you see the phenomenon at the VW group and Stellantis. An Olds with Chevy seats, a Lamborghini with controls from an Audi… can you be an old-timer lover when something like that leaves you indifferent? Every passion lives on authenticity. The British bicycle has also been destroyed (Sun, Hetchins, BSA, Triumph, Dawes, Sunbeam… eventually disappeared under Raleigh which is now purely Asian).
    However, learning from the past is difficult when profit maximization smothers all other visions. Alfa and Lancia will not be the last victims.

  6. As a youngster of 25 I dreamed of the VandenPlas. I found and find it a fascinating car, but the model was not available in the Netherlands. So in 1976 it became a 'regular' Allegro, a red 1300 sdl. I drove it for 10 years. Never regretted it. I still have an Allegro in the garage, now 41 years old.
    Most Allegros in the Netherlands did not come from England, but were assembled in Belgium, in Seneffe. And the Belgian Allegros were of significantly better quality than the English ones, that should have been mentioned in the editorial above, so it is a bit tendentious.
    However, mine came and both come from Belgium, so I would like to thank our southern neighbors for the qualitatively spacious, reliable and special car. Still, it still nags a bit that I never had a VandenPlas, but my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, threatened a marital friction of unheard of proportions if I mentioned it. So now it stays with my RussetBrown voiture.

  7. Now drive yourself in a Tiguan with picnic tables in the front seats. Never knew this was apparently copied from the Allegro. I used to ride in them in the UK, but they weren't there. Apparently a less luxurious version…….. Nice article!

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