My mother is a retired first-grade teacher who still takes pride in how many people she has taught to read. She’s equally proud that she had to teach me very little, as my precocious appetite for letters and words led not only to my own career in education, but also to one of my favorite hobbies, reading. When combined with my natural love of cars, it is therefore predictable that holidays involving presents quickly lead to unwrapped car books in my pile. On Christmas, one of those books was an out of print title meant for young readers. The 1967 Ford Allegro II pictured above was on page 54. We’ll get to it shortly.
The book, which is pictured above, was written by an author I’m familiar with. Henry B. Lent was a retired advertising man who went on to write, according to his New York Times obituary, over 60 books for young readers, and one of those books sat on the shelf of my elementary school.
That book was titled What Car Is That?, and it was filled with drawings and short histories of dozens of cars, ranging from the dawn of internal combustion to the then-newest offerings from Detroit. The fact that it was published in the late-1960s made it all the more interesting to me, an elementary student of the late-1980s.
Since my mom was a teacher at my elementary school, I was able to snag the same book I read as a kid when my old school cleaned out its library. The school was later converted to an old folks home – They say you can’t go back, but maybe I will someday. Nevertheless, it’s obvious what I spent most of my 5th grade year reading in class. I remember that the books on sports that my classmates were reading left me bored out of my mind.
At any rate, Mr. Lent was a writer with a passion for cars, but he unfortunately passed away in 1973 at 72 years of age. The cause? He drowned while on a fishing trip. I discovered that while researching his life for this article, and it cast a pall over my evening. Life is a series of small events that add up to a whole person, and while Mr. Lent didn’t directly create or maintain my love of cars, his influence over my youth was such that I’ve come to think of him as a sage old friend.
That is why I was so pleased when my mom reintroduced me to him last month, with this book called The X Cars – Detroit’s One-of-a-Kind Autos.
Not those X Cars.
In The X Cars, Mr. Lent wrote about the many factory experimental cars from the Big Three, mostly dating from the 1950s to the early 1970s (Chrysler got short shrift; Mr. Lent was apparently not a Mopar man). The Allegro II pictured above, as good experimental cars do, made me think of future Detroit production models.
This is one.
And this is the other. Did an obscure Ford show car from 1967 really influence two well-known and attractive offerings from crosstown rival Chevrolet, or is this one of those happy accidents in a world where everyone was copying the Italians to some extent?
Either way, the Allegro II itself was apparently the same car as the Allegro I pictured above, which was a Ford show car from 1963. Regardless of its effect on later Chevrolets, one must admit that Ford’s design department did an effective job of updating the Allegro for a more modern design ethos.
By chopping off the jet-age greenhouse and adding some racing stripes and a racy tire and wheel package, nobody would have to know that this was the same kind of car that may have been a star at the New York World’s Fair just a few years earlier. Times and tastes changed quickly in the mid-1960s.
I hope this isn’t too much of a rabbit hole I’ve fallen into. Over the course of a late-December evening, I’ve been reminded of how many of my interests are directly or indirectly owed to my mother, how much I enjoyed the late Mr. Lent’s tastes in subject matter, and how much I love automotive design minutiae. Now it might be time to figure out what ever happened to that Allegro.
As a postscript, it seems that there were two original Allegro I models, the yellow one that became the Allegro II, and a red fiberglass one that made the rounds at the car shows. Hemmings discussed the Allegro II back in 2011, coming to the same conclusions I did when I looked at its picture in my book.