Allards generally featured a large American V8 engine in a small, light British sports car body, giving a high power-to-weight ratio and foreshadowing the more famous AC Cobra - in fact, Carroll Shelby drove an Allard in the 1950s.
Prewar Allard Specials
The first Allard cars were built specifically to compete in Trials events - timed events somewhat like rallies, but through much worse terrain, almost impassable by a wheeled vehicle. The first Allard was powered by a Ford flathead V8 in a body that was mostly sourced from a Bugatti racing car. It used the American engine's high torque to great effect in this slow-speed competition.
Further Allards were soon built, all specially ordered, and fitted with a variety of large, Ford-sourced engines, including Lincoln-Zephyr V12 powerplants. By 1939 and the outbreak of war, twelve Allard Specials had been built. Sydney Allard planned volume production, but the war forced a delay to those plans. Allard's company worked instead on Ford-based trucks during the war years, and when hostilities ceased, Allard had built up quite an inventory of Ford parts.
Using these and bodywork of Allard's own design, three postwar models were introduced: the J, a competition sports car; the K, a slightly larger car intended for road use, and the L, with four seats. All used primarily Ford mechanicals, making them easy to maintain anywhere. Sales were fairly brisk for a low-volume car, and demand was high for cars in general; Allard introduced several larger models, the M and N.
Sydney Allard soon saw the potential of the US market, which was in much better shape financially than Britain and was rather lacking in quality sports cars, and thus a special competition model was soon produced with eyes on that American market, the J2. Fitted with independent front and rear suspension, in-board rear brakes, a light weight hand formed aluminum body, and a large V8 engine, the J2 was a potent combination. It proved a very state of the art race car for 1950, and was hard to beat. Sydney Allard was a Ford dealer in England, so they were designed for the Ford "flat head" V-8. More often they were fitted with various different American engines, the most frequently installed and most successfully raced were the new over-head valve Cadillac and Chrysler 331 cubic inch V-8's, which were the most powerful engines available at the time. Importing American engines just to ship them back across the Atlantic proved troublesome, so soon US-bound Allards were shipped engineless and fitted out in the States to each customer's desire.
They proved phenomenally successful, and the American mechanicals meant that unlike more exotic British sportscars, they were familiar beasts for mechanics to work on. They were used to great effect in competition on both sides of the Atlantic, including a third place overall at Le Mans in 1950 (driven by Sydney Allard himself). Of 313 documented starts in major races in the 9 years between 1949 and 1957, J2's compiled a list of 40 1st place finishes; 32 2nds; 30 3rds; 25 4ths; and 10 5th place finishes. The J2 competition models were generally more of a pure race car at the time although could be ordered in street trim. Both Zora Duntov (the father of the Corvette) and Carroll Shelby (the father of the Cobra) raced J2's in the early 50's. 90 J2's were produced between 1949 and 1951. When one hears the name Allard, usually what comes to mind is a cycle fendered short nose J2.
In an effort to extend a model that was becoming obsolete in the face of advances in sports car design, Allard introduced the J2X, or extended model in late 1951. There is much confusion on the web between J2 and J2X models, with many pictures of short-nose J2's being labeled J2X's, and visa-verse (even originally on this web page). They are not the same model nor the same car, although very similar. The J2X is more comfortable for long legged drivers, because in an attempt to improve "on the edge" handling the front suspension was reworked by replacing the rear attaching links with forward attaching links, which required extending the nose out past the front wheels, which in turn allowed the engine being moved forward resulting in more cockpit room. If you can draw an imaginary line between the leading edges of both front tires and not quite hit the nose of the body, you're looking at a J2; if the nose obviously sticks out past the leading edges of the front tires, it's a J2X. The J2X also had a obviously more pronounced and protruding "chin" under the grill which--back in the day when they were new--did not have the twin oval air vents familiar under the grill of the J2. The J2X was not as successful of an international race car as the J2, and of 199 documented starts in major races in the 9 years between 1952 and 1960, J2X's documented 12 1st place finishes; 11 2nds; 17 3rds; 14 4ths; and 10 5th place finishes. The J2X models although raced, were generally more of a road going sports car and raced less often (and thus more survive today) simply because they could not compete at the top level with the likes of the more advanced Jaguar C, and later D types, as well as the Ferrari and Maserati works cars making entries in all the later major top level international sports car races of the day. 83 J2X's were produced between late 1951 and 1953. Even though the J2's and J2X's only represent a small portion of Allard's overall production, they are arguably the most widely heralded and recognized--as well as the best looking--of all the cars produced by Allard.
Sydney Allard was an avid racer and placed first in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952 driving an Allard P2 saloon car.
A rather bizarre model was the 1953 Allard Clipper. It was hoped that it would cash in on the microcar market. This tiny car with glass fibre body was powered by a rear mounted 346 cc Villiers twin cylinder motorcycle engine and claimed to seat three people abreast with room for two children in an optional dickey seat. About 20 were made. The Allard Clipper was designed by David Gottlieb and had an "indestructible" plastic body that was made by Hordern-Richmond Ltd. This made it the first car to have a plastic body.
Allard's R&D department, unfortunately, did not keep up its former pace, and soon other manufacturers were producing cheaper and more technically advanced cars. Allard scrambled to try to keep up, but its new Palm Beach smaller car was a year later than its competitors. Allard's new K-3 also did not live up to expectations, though it was a beautiful car, and their Safari Estate, a large Woodie station wagon with eight seats, a huge V8 engine and beautiful bodywork, didn't seem to find a market.
By the mid fifties Allard was struggling as a manufacturer. Its attempt to give Dodge dealers a Corvette competitor using a rebodied Palm Beach with a Dodge Hemi engine were hit by the recession in the US economy in the late Fifties, and Allard produced few cars after 1959, and those only to special order.
Sixties Allards were simply performance modified British Ford Anglias marketed as the Allardette 105, 109, and 116. Everything ended in 1966 when Sydney Allard died; on the same night, a fire destroyed the factory and most Allard company records.
The Allard name was bought by a new company in 1991 but production never started. In 1994 a new version of the J2 were made by Allard Replicas of Harpenden, Hertfordshire in either kit or assembled versions with full agreement with the trademark holders. Production ceased in 1997.
A new version of the J2X, named the J2X MkII, is currently being produced in Montreal, Canada, and upper New York state, USA. It was displayed at the LA 2009 Auto Show.
The site where the Allard cars were produced is now a housing co op and was named after the car. Allard Gardens is now a development of 26 luxury units. In the late nineties some of the Allard cars returned to the site for a reunion.
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