Jusfer Laffs: My top five misunderstood motors

There was nowt on the telly, so I came up with this idea.

Here, I take a look at some British built bunkum that actually wasn’t as bad as people initially reckoned. If you agree or disagree, tell me below in the comments section – even BETTER… suggest your own in the comments section right at the bottom.

And remember kids… its just for laughs, if you take this seriously you need to get out more – ideally in one of the mentioned cars.


No:1 – The Morris Ital 2.0 HLS (1980 – 1982)

The 2.0 version only sold for two years only offered in automatic top of the line HLS trim. In all fairness it was amazingly out of step compared to the updated Cortina 2.0 that also came along in the same year. That said, the 2.0 Ital wasn’t too bad a motor thanks to its lusty torquey OHC “O” series engine.

The rear axle was a special high ratio unit to help keep your sanity high and decibels low when bowling up the M1 and extra sound insulation was added too. BL even fitted a heat sensing viscous cooling fan like the 1.3 models in the attempt to improve efficiency and refinement.

As a result it licked along rather well for a three speed auto and motorway fuel economy wasn’t that far behind the thrifty 1.3 models. Sadly, it still handled like a shot Giraffe and rusted quicker than a pushbike left out in the rain. Secretly however, I still like the ribbed paprika coloured velour interior of these.

DID YOU KNOW? 2.0 Ital was only offered in auto form for one simple reason. The Ital manual gearbox could only JUST cope with the engine torque in the less powerful 1.3 or 1.7 cars.


  • Swift performance
  • Fuel efficient
  • Easy and cheap to service and run


  • Awful road-holding if the suspension wasn’t tip top and the road was wet.
  • Poor overall build quality
  • Full up with passengers and luggage they really did feel quite dangerous to drive


No:2 – The Vauxhall Vectra 1.8 (1999 – 2002)

Despite the Vectra coming along a few years earlier, I’m sticking with the above timeline as these cars were vastly improved over the original. I have a great deal of Vectra experience and can hand on heart say that overall the 1800cc petrol facelifted Vectra isn’t the pile of crud people have you believe.

Serviced correctly these things will run the moon and back while also being DIY mechanic friendly – just make sure you change the cam belt AND water pump. Thanks to the post 99 cars having redesigned front seats, they are rather comfortable too. Performance and economy of the 1800 cars even by current standards is good enough.

The Vectra in Club upwards trim is well equipped, just don’t expect the air-con to work as the pipework that runs across the subframe was mounted too rigidly and fractures as a result. Also, if the rear doors don’t shut flush to the bodywork the chances are the metalwork around the lock plate of the wheel arch has turned into a brandy snap.

DID YOU KNOW? This generation of Vectra (96 – 02) offered a staggering thirteen engine options in total!


  • Actually not bad at soaking up long long motorway distances
  • Well equipped and advanced for its day
  • Routine servicing is cheap and reasonably simple


  • Thrashed, trashed and abused ones feel laughably shagged out
  • They can rust in some very odd places
  • Rear suspension tends to fall to bits if the knocking noises from the back are ignored


No3: The Rover 2600 (1982 – 1986)

It took eight years and a move of production before the Rover 2000-3500 range became half the car it really should have been. The 3500 V8 soon became a legend, but the lesser six potters namely the 2300 & 2600 never enjoyed the same status. Saying the words “three five” to this day conjures a memory of a rumbling burbling soundtrack to those of a certain age.

The 23 & 26 were dogged by reliability issues that despite Austin Rover finally getting a handle on when the facelifted models were launched, never held a candle to the 3500. That’s a real shame because if you were lucky enough to find one running on song, they sounded wonderfull, had sacks of torque and were only a cats whisker away from the V8 in terms of grunt.

Poor oil circulation, ruined camshafts and valve gear along with the occasional head gasket popping were the order of the day for the majority of straight six models. Otherwise the revised Rover had much better build quality and an interior that didn’t disolve in direct sunlight. The manual cars really were a good bundle of fun to drive.

DID YOU KNOW? The Met Police found the steering so dangerously light at speed that after a handful of serious crashes, garage staff fitted a smaller steering wheels and removed the power steering belts from their Rover traffic cars.


  • Still to this day a handsome thing to look at
  • Manual cars were amazing to hoon around in
  • Power and performance was really so close to the V8 models – with better MPG too


  • Earlier poor quality destroyed the cars credibility
  • Despite engineering improvements they were generally a troublesome car
  • Rampant rust was always a major issue


No4: The AWD TL 8-14 (1987 – 1992)

By 1986 the General Motors UK commercial division, Bedford, had pulled out of the UK market for buses and trucks. They wanted to buy Leyland from the Government but were barred from taking Land Rover as well – this was the real reason for the decision for the shut down of the Dunstable based factory.

Enter into the fray David Bowes-Brown who bought the scraps, renamed the company AWD and re-commenced truck production early in 1987. Using a recently developed Perkins Phaser power unit and modern gearboxes, the TL remained close resemblance to the original Bedford vehicle – this was both a good and bad thing.

Despite the bargain price tag, the UK soon entered into a recession that bit hard into small companies. MoD contracts failed to materialise (won by Leyland DAF in the end) and the old cab design couldnt be offered with a sleeper option. Sales slowly dwindled to the point where the receivers were required. What was left was sold to the Marshall Group – and the story repeated itself again.

DID YOU KNOW? The company was named AWD (all wheel drive) because GM forbade them to use the Bedford name owing to the smaller vans continued to be badged as Bedfords.


  • The Perkins Phaser (despite never gaining the reputation of the Cummins B series) offered lively performance
  • It was cheap, cheerful, economical and offered a good payload
  • Fitting staff used to say they were bombproof and a joy to work on


  • Laughably old fashioned – even in 1987
  • No sleeper cab option made it a tough sell to haulage firms
  • Resale values were very poor making buy-back terms an expensive proposition for the dealers


No5: The Austin Allegro 3 1.7 HLS (1979 – 1982)

What can be said about the Allegro that hasn’t been said already? A queer looking pudding of a car that actually drove a damn site better than it looked would be fitting. By 1979 the 3rd series car had been launched with trim revisions, better build quality and a simplified model line up.

The Allegro 3 in 1748cc twin carb form actually went like the willies and could cruise quite happily all day in overdrive 5th gear. In Cinnabar red with black vinyl roof and paprika coloured velour interior, the Allegro was almost a very civilised place to be – the recently added acoustic insulation pack made them a quiet place too.

Despite the good performance, they were rather thirsty and continued to cost the firm in terms of warranty claims. But even today – a good fettled one is still a happy little thing to drive with a really nice ride comfort too. Just a shame you feel such a berk behind the wheel.

DID YOU KNOW? Erm… I came so close to buying one a few years ago, until my girlfriend threatened to leave me if I did.

ANOTHER DID YOU KNOW? It was on record that former BL boss Donald Stokes once said of the Allegro: “That bloody car


  • Lively and torquey performance
  • Cruised nicely at speed
  • Ride comfort was actually rather smooth and soothing


  • If used hard, the poor buggers just dropped to pieces and wore out rapidly
  • Driving one makes you look and feel a right knob-head
  • Driveline and suspension just too complicated for the sector it sold in



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