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Isobel is in driving seat with top Allegro

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A mother-of-one has been driven to distraction by a 37-year-old car that she fell in love with at first sight.

A mother-of-one has been driven to distraction by a 37-year-old car that she fell in love with at first sight.

Isobel Billingsley paid £800 for the Series 1 Austin Allegro and has not driven a mile in the two-door saloon since getting it home in Wolverhampton.

But she has spent over three years and £8,500 making the 1300 cc vehicle look exactly the same as it did when it rolled off the production line in 1973 – complete with the unique square steering wheel.

The car, with 58,736 miles on the clock, was stripped down to its shell and reduced to the bare metal before being painstakingly restored to its former splendour by sourcing every part from engine mounts to window seals to its original supplier.

This involved Mrs Billingsley from Swancote Drive, Warstones, tracing a British Leyland paint chart so that it could be an exact copy of the initial lime flower hue that was only used for three months before being discontinued.

And it entailed Michelin finding the moulds used for the tyres on the original car so that they could make four exact copies that were then shipped to the West Midlands from France.

Mrs Billingsley, aged 45, said: "My first car was an Allegro and so have always had a soft spot for them because I really like the shape.

"I thought it extremely attractive and the more I drove it the better I liked it," she said.

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"I kept it for eight years and was heartbroken when I finally had to let it go.

"Somebody reversed into it, damaging the radiator and it was never the same again."

That Allegro headed for the scrap heap but her affection for the marque continued to grow as absence made the heart grow fonder.

"A friend of mine who realised this told me that he had spotted one in good condition in the West Country," said Mrs Billingsley.

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"I went to see it and finally managed to persuade the owner to sell it to me after convincing him it was going to a good home where it would be cherished.

"I immediately fell in love with it.

"I drove it back from Somerset, put it in the garage and it has not turned a wheel since. I wish I could take to the roads in it but I cannot risk getting it scratched or damaged."

Mrs Billingsley was helped to trace genuine parts from the Allegro by Nick Newey from The Summit Garage at Gornal, who had previously handled British Leyland vehicles.

Classic car restorer Geoff Whitehouse was involved in rebuilding the vehicle.

Hotel worker Mrs Billingsley added: "I never went out and spent every penny I had on restoring the car.

"Some people thought I was mad but I believe that it was money and time well spent. I believe it is the best example of the Series 1 Allegro in the world.

"It was amazing how many genuine parts were still available lying almost forgotten on the shelves of Rover dealerships but I was lucky because in another couple of years most would have been scrapped."

The labour of love has been rewarded by news that the car has been chosen to be displayed at the Lakeland Motor Museum in Cumbria as a perfect example of the model.

It is due to be collected on a trailer next week from the garage at the home of Mrs Billingsley's parents in Coseley where it has stood since first being driven to the West Midlands with the engine being turned over once a fortnight.

She concluded: "I am delighted because not many people were restoring vehicles from this era and there was a danger that a very important part of our history would be lost for ever."Her husband Tony, aged 70, said: "I am very proud of what she has done. It was a tremendous achievement."

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