Two "Specials" from Austin/Morris

To commemorate the 20th birthday of the Mini Minor (but why not have waited until the more traditional 21st?) the Austin/Morris branch of Leyland Motors has brought out a special edition of the popular Mini, of which a run of 5,000 only is to be made.

Known as the Mini 1100 Special, we alluded to this in last month’s Editorial. The car has a plentiful supply of special equipment, such as low-profile Dunlop tyres on alloy 5J rims, with plastic “eyebrows” above these, a colour scheme of either metallic silver-grey with a black vinyl roof-covering, or rose metallic with a light beige roof, together with side-lining. Upholstery is a combination of imitation fabric and real woven-fabric seat-panelling, and there is full carpeting, a 1275GT facia with tachometer, and an alloy-spoke steering-wheel is used. Additional equipment includes push-button Unipart radio and speaker, a quartz clock down by the floor, a cigarette lighter, extra stowages including a big open box beneath the facia, twin door-mirrors, side flasher-repeaters, a lockable fuel filler-cap, retractable aerial, bumpers from the Mini Clubman and, sensible item, black-finished non-dazzle screen-wiper arms, these last also found on the Allegro Equipe described below.

The engine of the Mini Special is that from the Clubman, giving 45 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,250 r.p.m. and 56 lb./ft. torque at 2,700 r.p.m. The open facia shelf is retained, with the bodies of the adjustable ventilator outlets faired through it, and the rear stowage-bins are there, but I missed the front-door bins, so useful on my original Mini, these having gone to make room for the now wind-up windows. The Mini Special has a top pace of about 83 m.p.h. and a 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration time of 11.8 sec. But the noise level remains far too high. This is a pity, because the Mini Special is nicely appointed, well-braked, and its handling is as cheeky and safe as ever.

There is a slight feel of “squidge” under hard braking but I do not think this Mini Special is likely to suddenly divert from a straight line for no apparent reason, as my original Minibric once did, just missing a lamp-post and a junction-box and skidding across some red lights, en route to Goodwood. Arrived there, Graham Hill told me his Mini had performed the same dangerous trick.

The ride on the rubber suspension can be harsh at times, but not unduly so, and the interior door-handles are placed well away from one’s knees. The tachometer is red-marked at 6,000 r.p.m., the speedometer has a decimal total milometer, with a fuel gauge/heat dial between, and two-stalk controls and four press-buttons look after the various services. The long gear lever controls a passable gear-change, and lifts to select reverse, but the throttle tended to stick open, raising idling revs from 750 r.p.m. to 1,500 r.p.m. Openable rear side-windows and a lockable fuel filler were other items on this taut, lively but unrefined little car. I did not have it long enough to fully assess its fuel thirst under varying driving stints, but it gave just better than 40 m.p.g. of 4-star overall and the dip-stick indicated that the sump was still overfull of oil, even after 500 hard miles. But the din! It begins at 50 m.p.h. and becomes intolerable at 60 and 70 m.p.h. Only a Mini fanatic would pay £3,300 for one.

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The other BL “Special” I have been driving is the Austin Allegro Equipe. The Allegro front-drive two-door saloon is old-hat now. I used to occasionally mistake them for the then-new Alfasud and wonder why they were proceeding so sedately. The Equipe version has, however, been livened-up by installing the two SU-carburetter 1750 engine from the Maxi Hi-Line developing 90 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. from a 9.5:1 c.r. This makes the Allegro a very tireless car to drive quite quickly, as in fifth gear the revs. at 70 m.p.h. drop to around 3,500 r.p.m. This gave a petrol economy of 31.5 m.p.g., driving hard and without resort to coasting, when the range is 330 miles. Quieter running gave 32.5 m.p.g. Oil consumption was approximately 350 m.p.p.

The Equipe has too much multi-colour paint spilled over it in a startling fashion! Handling has been improved by low-profile 13″ tyres (Michelin on the test car) on alloy wheels, up-dated Moulton Hydragas suspension, and a frontal spoiler, in which Wipac Allegro spot-lamps are set. If the Hydragas feels less impressive than it once did and the Allegro somewhat unrefined, especially where its terrible gear-shift is concerned, it is a car acceptable to many families, comfortable, conventional and safely braked with servo disc/drum anchors. The seats, brightly chequered-upholstered, are fairly comfortable, but low-set. The engine “pinked” slightly on 4-star petrol, the speedometer has no “60” digit and the clock gained. BL intend to build 2,700 of these o.h.c. Hi-Line Equipes and the advice I would give to any young enthusiast whose parents insist on having an Allegro is to persuade them to try to ignore the blatant red, yellow and black side-lining, and to get one of these Specials, which cost £4,360. It is a genuine 100 m.p.h. car, able to do 0-60 m.p.h. in 11.0 seconds, and now gets along very well. The doors needed a slam to shut them but otherwise this Equipe is a convenient, well-laid-out Austin. — W.B.