The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : TOP TEN SMALL ESTATES OF THE 1970S The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : TOP TEN SMALL ESTATES OF THE 1970S
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TOP TEN SMALL ESTATES OF THE 1970S

Or, ten ways to convey luggage, children, dogs, cats and the weekly shopping at MacFisheries in style:

AUSTIN ALLEGRO ESTATE

Yes, its looks were controversial, although Allegro fans prefer the word ‘individualistic’. BL launched the three-door estate in April 1975, nearly two years after the saloon, and here is Tony Bastable putting a very early example through its paces for Thames TV’s Drive In  - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM04FZcWtT0.

He found the appearance ‘certainly an acquired taste but thought the Allegro ‘probably the best equipped and best value for money in the medium estate car field at the moment’. The last models were built in 1982, and any Allegro Estate is guaranteed to cause a stir at any classic car show.

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AUTOBIANCHI 500 GIARDINIERA

British imports ceased in 1971, but how could we not include one of the world’s most charming small estate cars? The original Fiat-badged Giardiniera debuted in 1960 as an LWB four-seater version of the “Nuova 500” with a small but useful load bay created by re-positioning the engine on its side.

Manufacture transferred to Autobianchi of Milan in 1966 and continued until 1977, a year after the demise of the saloon. Trivia detail – the Giardiniera was always fitted with rear-hinged front doors.

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BEDFORD BEAGLE

The Beagle was never a vehicle that had any claims to glamour, but from 1964 to as late as 1973 it provided honest and durable transport. The early 1970s motorist who favoured Martin Walter’s conversion of the Bedford HA Van over the likes of the Viva HC Estate tended to be less interested in fashion than carrying sacks of potatoes.

You could usually recognise a Beagle owner in your local Sainsbury’s as they tended to favour Two Ronnies style brown shop-coats. Survivors are now very rare, but the Beagle could be regularly sighted on British roads into the 1980s.

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CITROEN AMI 8/SUPER ESTATE

The Ami 6 was never a common sight in the UK, but its successor was frequently sighted outside upmarket antique dealers and coffee bars. Citroën introduced the 8 Estate in late 1969, and four years later the Super version was the Ami of choice for all drivers who liked to startle Hillman Avenger owners at the traffic lights.

Power for this rather splendid Ami was from the 1,015cc GS engine rather than the familiar 602cc unit and there was also a floor gear lever and front disc brakes. ‘It is practical and versatile, it handles well and has good road holding as well as a fine ride’ thought Car magazine in 1974. Production of the Super ended in 1976 and the standard 8 models in 1979 – and once seen an Ami is never forgotten.

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DAF 66/VOLVO 66

An intriguing vehicle that falls into the category of ‘when did you last see one?’. The 66 succeeded the 55 in 1972, and it featured a new front and uprated Variomatic transmission. By 1973 a “Marathon” Estate with its 1.3-litre Renault engine, front fog lamps and (somewhat ambitious) “go-faster” stripes was the DAF of choice for anyone who wanted a lightweight station wagon for urban use. The 66 was rebadged as a Volvo in late 1975 following the Swedish firm’s acquisition of DAF and production ceased in 1980.

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FIAT 128 FAMILIARE

To quote L J K Setright ‘It was a blessing that Fiat, in its 128 of 1969, had shown how to make a modern, efficient, safe, front-wheel-drive car: the details of the 128 are still echoed in today’s popular cars’.

The Familiare was unveiled in 1970 and Fiat enthusiasts marvelled at a small FWD estate car with a belt-driven SOHC engine, all-independent suspension, rack-&-pinion steering and front disc brakes. 1980 marked the demise of the estate, some five years before the saloon, although Zastava in the former Yugoslavia continued to build its 128-clone “Skala” until 2008.

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FORD ESCORT MK. II ESTATE

During its 1975 – 1980 lifespan, an Escort Estate was rather taken for granted – a car that was as much part of everyday life as Vision On and Play Away. Four decades later, any rare survivor appears to be not so much a car as a portal of a lost world of hostess trolleys and Sanyo music centres. The bodyshell was very similar to the outgoing Mk. I but the new square radiator grille lent the Mk. II Estate a contemporary appeal - ‘‘made for working in comfort’, as the sales copy put it.

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MINI CLUBMAN ESTATE

The 1969 revision to the Mini range saw the Austin Countryman Mk. II/Morris Traveller Mk II replaced by the Clubman Estate. Gone were the sliding windows, the centrally mounted speedometer and the (decorative) timber framing in favour of winding panes, a new instrument binnacle and a Formica decorative strip.

From 1975 onwards the Clubman was powered by the 1,098cc A-series engine (although the automatic version was still powered by the smaller unit). The later models sported twin coachlines in place of the fake wood and the last of the line “1000 HL Estate” was available until as recently as 1982.

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RELIANT KITTEN ESTATE

Or essentially a four-wheel derivative of the Robin that served as the replacement for the Reliant Rebel. The Kitten did have its advantages, including an incredible turning circle, but one drawback was its price - on its launch in 1975, the Estate version cost £1,574.82 as compared with the Ford Escort Popular Mk. II at just at £1,299.

Reliant also faced the challenge that while the Robin occupied a unique sector of the British car market, the Kitten was competing against the likes of the Mini Clubman Estate and the Fiat 127. Sales continued until 1982, but a mere 4,074 left the Tamworth factory.

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VAUXHALL CHEVETTE ESTATE

By the end of the 1970s, it seemed to be an unofficial law of British life that every high street and municipal car park had to contain at least one Chevette L Estate, usually in red. Vauxhall introduced their station wagon version of the GM “T-Car”  in June 1976, 15 months after the hatchback and Motor though it had ‘plenty of load space to go with excellent road holding, handling and good fuel economy. The Chevette Estate proved so popular it was built until early 1984, being sold alongside the Astra Mk. I and even the Nova.

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