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The surprising story of Britain’s rarest cars

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October 10, 2011
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They were the everyday runabouts and workhorses that littered Britain’s roads during the 70s and 80s.
From the plug-ugly Austin Allegro to the much-derided Skoda Estelle and the popular Vauxhall Viva, you couldn’t drive for more than a few miles without crossing their paths.
But time has not been kind to these cars, with many models on the brink of extinction.
Some might say that’s no bad thing but, despite their questionable styling and build quality, who wouldn’t like to see a few more Hillman Avengers roaming the streets to bring back memories of 70s motoring, when the roads were less congested and petrol cost 70p a gallon?
Here at Adrian Flux Insurance Services, we have a soft spot for these old motors, so we thought we’d flag up five of the most endangered species according to the How Many Left website, which uses Department of Transport data to show how many cars of a particular make and model are left on the UK’s roads. Of this famous five, only one of each remains…or does it? Do you know different?

Austin Allegro 1750SS

It would be unfair to call the Austin Allegro an ugly duckling. Unfair on the duckling, that is, which at least grew into a beautiful swan.
The Allegro was destined to remain the dumpy successor to the pretty, Issigonis-designed Austin 1100/1300 throughout its decade of production.
But though it has been voted the worst and ugliest car ever made, among other insults, and Jeremy Clarkson once famously destroyed one for a laugh, its appalling styling is what gives it its charm, like those somehow ugly-but-cute cats and dogs.
Dubbed the “Flying pig” and “All-aggro” because of its many problems, it was said to be more aerodynamic when driven backwards than forwards, and often came in questionable shades of mustard and beige.
The 1750SS was the sport model in production from 1973 to 1974, and sported a vinyl roof (why was that ever considered “sporty”?), as well as the idiosyncratic quartic (vaguely square) steering wheel.
Despite its problems, the Allegro was the fifth best selling car in the country in 1979, and a total of 642,350 Allegros were manufactured.
Of the SS, just one remains…

Hyundai Stellar 1600L

Ah, the Hyundai Stellar, beloved of taxi drivers everywhere and consequently run into the ground and sent to the scrapheap – though a solitary 1600L survives, somewhere…
This boxy saloon was built on the chassis of the mark V Ford Cortina, and was marketed to would-be Cortina buyers unhappy with the jelly-mould new Sierra.
It was designed by Giorgetto Giugaro, who must have had an off-day and saved his energy for the Saab 9000 and Fiat Uno.
The rear wheel drive Stellar was cheap and reliable with a big boot, and thus attracted the attention of those taxi drivers, who proceeded to rack up the miles and make this workhorse such a rarity today, despite production ending relatively recently in 1992.
But there is another reason it’s so seldom seen today – many Stellars ended up on the banger racing circuit. So if it wasn’t run into the ground around the nation’s cities, it probably ended up a mangled wreck.

Hillman Avenger 1300GT

The Avenger had something of an identity crisis in its 11-year production run, from 1970 to 1981, thanks to its parent company’s ever-changing ownership.
Starting life badged as a Hillman under the Rootes ownership, it became a Chrysler in 1976 before changing to Talbot when Peugeot took over the bankrupt Chrysler Europe.
In the US, it was the Plymouth Cricket, a Sunbeam in Europe and a Dodge in South Africa and South America.
So it’s fair to say that this car was something of a survivor in its heyday, but it’s seldom seen today.
One of the more interesting models was the 1300GT – interesting because not too many were made, it featured twin carburbettors, fantastic go-faster stripes and dustbin lid wheel trims.
So we’d love to know where the one surviving example of this rare beast resides.

Vauxhall Viva 1800L

The Viva name survived three models and 16 years between 1963 and 1979 before it was finally put out to grass at the expense of the Astra.
It was a spectacularly successful motor, selling more than 1.5million units for Vauxhall as the company took its first steps into the small car market since 1936 (though was the 2.3L SL really a small car?).
By the standards of the day, this was a good looking car with heavy American styling cues, particularly the sporty Firenza Coupe, brought out to compete with the Ford Capri.
The letterbox-style speedometer and pronounced bonnet and front bumper humps were nods to the cars American heritage.
The third generation of Viva, the HC, was the UK’s fastest-selling model of all time, and the millionth was driven off the production line by Tory MP John Eden in 1971.
Given the sheer number of these cars produced, we are slightly dubious that just a solitary 1800L survives. But if it does, we hope it’s being well looked after…

Skoda Estelle 105L

Remember the days when everyone knew a Skoda joke? Like how do you double the value of a Skoda? Fill the tank. And what do you call a Skoda with a sun roof? A skip.
The Estelle was the main reason for the jibes, despite consistent class wins in the RAC rallies of the 70s and 80s. Questionable quality control, head gasket and overheating problems were the main reasons for the negative image, but surely nearly 2million owners in the Czech Republic alone couldn’t be wrong…
The Estelle was not an attractive car, but boy was it cheap…leading to more than 120,000 sales in the UK between 1977 and 1990.
A rugged and generally reliable runabout, the Estelle gained a cult following among owners.
But they are becoming an increasingly rare sight on our roads today because their resale value was so low that scrappage and sale back to the Czech Republic became better options for many than the UK secondhand car market.
As a result, prices for good examples today are rising. The proud owner of the one remaining Estelle 105L may well be sitting on a tidy sum…

  • Eamonn

    i can’t belive you’ve not mentioned the Morris Marina, I have 2 insured with you, so you know what they are 😉 lol

  • Marc_28uk

    Mercedes A210 EVO AMG SWB not a new car but you try and find a short wheel based version for sale. 

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