Project Retirement Rocket PART 1

Err, and why is that exactly? There’s only one reason really – because giving muscle to unloved motors is beautifully eccentric. It’s about time ugly ducklings like Allegros and Marinas side stepped the bullying at classic car shows and headed to the workshop for some well disguised horse power. I’m talking Q-cars, and street sleepers. You know, leave the bodywork and trim rock stock, and spend the cash and time on mechanical engineering. In this case the Austin Mini’s chubby docile brother. 

All-Aggros run in my family. Really I should be embarrassed, but for some reason I’ve got this warped sense of pride. My Grandma had a series 1 in non-metallic mustard with quartic ‘wheel up until about three years ago. My Auntie had a dog mud brown 2-door she used as an urban weapon. Now both cars are long gone: squashed, weighed-in and sold to China, probably.

Since the family lost its Allegros and Avengers (my old man bought one new in ’76 and only got rid in 1999!) I’ve kept one eye on the classifieds. The criteria? It had to be an early Allegro and it HAD to be 2-door. The latter meant that my search took a few years on and off. It seems every Allegro customer wanted four of those funky mazak door levers. Allegros are everywhere, but 2-door models are one of those things that are scarce but not particularly desirable. A bit like adult measles.

A LOCAL ALLEGRO FOR LOCAL PEOPLE

Eventually patience paid off. The perfect basis for my project appeared on eBay. A series 2 2-door 1300 Super finished in sun eroded Harvest Gold – a colour that looks more green than gold and baby sick than any form of harvest. This car was obviously destined to be mine because it was a local car to where I grew up. Two elderly owners, a genuine 43,000 miles (two clutches) and only four miles from where my parents live in Somerset. I even knew the road it spent most of its life on.

The frail lady had got too old to drive and gone to a care home. She donated the Allegro to her mechanic, who politely thanked her and left it in his front garden for four years. After failing to sell it several times, he slapped it on eBay for £10. The five-day battle commenced and I HAD to own it. The hammer went down at £123,  although I was (stupidly) prepared to pay more. Despite living outside in the last few years it was very solid and honest, with just a few dings from Taunton Market car park. This Leyland pig was ripe for modification. I just had to decide what power would replace the 1300cc ‘B’ series…

THE INSPIRATION

As a muscle car pervert, from the word go I presumed the Allegro would be getting the V8 rear-drive treatment. My inspiration was a red Rover P4 owned by a chap called Steve Pateman. It looked all stock apart from the ‘tubbed’ Pro Street rear axle and huge tyres tucked underneath the rear arches. Oh, and the Corvette V8 under the bonnet. It is a beautifully executed car. I toyed things over and spoke to street dragster building guys like Andy Frost – the man with the world’s fastest street legal car (www.redvictor1racing.co.uk) and John Sleath (www.audiracing.co.uk).

Soon it became apparent that I’d need £10k even on a budget, and to get a V8 to work we’d effectively need to cut the entire floorpan off and drop the Allegro shell over a bespoke tubular steel chassis. Very cool, but not very Q-car and too expensive for me. I wanted to keep the original dash, itchy brown velour interior and carpets. I wanted the bonnet and bodywork unmolested without silly bulges to give the game away. Through various friends of friends I met up with ex British Autocross championship podium winner Mike Boak. Mike built his Audi TT to compete in Autocross and he was fascinated by the Retirement Rocket plan. He understood the need to keep bhp disguised and he loved the idea of keeping the whole project on a budget. Having built a number of ‘stealth’ VW Golfs since starting up in business as MB Motorsport in Hebburn, nr Newcastle (0191 4894239), Mike knew a thing or two about street sleeping. Within a month the Allegro was heading up to his workshop.

A STERLING DONOR

So we had one half of the Retirement Rocket sorted, but a heart donor was still required. Several weeks of research and chatting followed. Various suggestions followed such as Ford Zetec, Vauxhall red top 2-litre 16v and Golf VR6 but I wanted to keep the car relatively British. And cheap. It had to be Rover. And not a four-cylinder Rover, something with a throbbing heartbeat. Did someone say Rover 827? Within a week I had scoured websites and haggled my way into the driver’s seat of a very clean 1993 Rover 927 Si in Hampshire. The wallet damage? Just £150. It had 100k miles, a desirable manual gearbox and even an MoT.

We hadn’t strictly measured to see if the front-drive 827 would even fit under the bonnet of the All-agro, but for £150 it was worth a punt. Nearly 180bhp standard and the reliability of a Honda Legend. Besides, this car was meant to be. After buying it over the phone and Mike collecting it, I sifted through the comprehensive service history. To my surprise I saw a bill showing that back in 2002 the car had broken down on the road next to where I live in Lincolnshire. It was recovered to the local garage where it had its clutch checked. Spooky co-incidence? Yeah, something like that.

As I write this, both cars are sat at MB Motorsport awaiting surgery. The plan? To create a faithful street sleeper Austin Allegro using the guts from a Rover 2.7-litre 5-speed Rover 827 to keep it Brit. All unnecessary parts will be flogged to help pay for the project and scrap yard bits will be used where possible. Will it get a fresh repaint and shiny wheels? Will it hell…

COST SO FAR 

£123 for the Allegro

£150 for the Rover (which I’ll break and flog interior, wheels etc to break even)

£300 in recovery fees

WANTED!

This is the wanted list for project Retirement Rocket. Expect it to grow by the week as the car takes shape and problems are encountered. At present all I am in need of is a quartic (square) steering wheel. As this is a second generation All-agro it never came with one, but for some reason I must retro fit one. Imagine that with torque steer.

Retirement Rocket- as it is today
Retirement Rocket- as it is today
This is going in the bin
This is going in the bin
The view most will see when complete
The view most will see when complete
Does this man need help?
Does this man need help?
The mint donor car
The mint donor car
Will it fit?
Will it fit?
The inspiration...oh dear!
The inspiration...oh dear!
 
   

 

Comments (68) Join the discussion on the forum

  • il-mostro 17 Sep 2007

    All the very best of british luck to you (infact, forget british luck, just good luck). This sounds like a top project and i'll be watching this space. Are you intending to have it drive throught the front or rear wheels? Rear would be cooler, but so much more trouble to sort out?

    I used to read 'street machine' about 15 years ago and they had a project 'Vauxhall Shuv-it', very similar project to this infact.

    Obviously you have bought an engine, with car attached, but would you have considered a Ford Zetec unit? There must be loads of people in the Kit-car industry who would be able to convert this to RWD?

    Good luck anyway!

  • hoganscrogan 17 Sep 2007

    wow. I was thinking about my ebay found lovey brown series 2 - [2door 1300 super auto, 20k miles no rust, brown velor interior] the other day, imagining it with a V8 and rear drive, then I read this!! There is something magical about allegros and they are so roomy!! I await with interest your progress.

    fellow nerd

  • ehughes 17 Sep 2007

    Nice one. I'm sure the engines up to 1300 capacity in All-Agros is an A series as used in a multitude of BMC/BL cars, including original Mini Coopers. They're supposed to be quite tuneable. Should be interesting to see your progress.

  • Wigeon Incognito 17 Sep 2007

    ehughes said:
    Nice one. I'm sure the engines up to 1300 capacity in All-Agros is an A series as used in a multitude of BMC/BL cars, including original Mini Coopers. They're supposed to be quite tuneable. Should be interesting to see your progress.
    Agreed.

    Fantastic project though, please keep the original tiny wheels and exhaust!

    In fact, you could keep the original exhaust running to the rear of the vehicle but not connected (just for the original looks) but have a new exhaust exiting somewhere under the sills, one on each side.

    Imagine the noise!

    Actually, maybe that wouldn't quite fit in with 'sleeper' status.

  • Yorkie_Dan 17 Sep 2007

    il-mostro said:
    All the very best of british luck to you (infact, forget british luck, just good luck). This sounds like a top project and i'll be watching this space. Are you intending to have it drive throught the front or rear wheels? Rear would be cooler, but so much more trouble to sort out?

    I used to read 'street machine' about 15 years ago and they had a project 'Vauxhall Shuv-it', very similar project to this infact.

    Obviously you have bought an engine, with car attached, but would you have considered a Ford Zetec unit? There must be loads of people in the Kit-car industry who would be able to convert this to RWD?

    Good luck anyway!
    I also used to read Street Machine around the same time, there were some fantastic sleepers, I remember a great Moggy Minor with a stonking V8! smokin

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