A Lincoln Zephyr V-12 powered Allard
completes a special stage
in a pre-World War II Trials in England. Note the
attitude of the front wheels,
a by-product of Allard's infamous independent front
The first car to be officially called an
"Allard" was the result of a marriage of an English Ford V-8 Coupe and a
Grand Prix Bugatti body. This fusion of components was purposely built to
compete in that most English of all automobile competitions, The Trials.
For the uninitiated, an "Automobile Trials" would remind one of a Jeep
Rodeo, complete with boulders, mud, and impossible gradients with the
occasional stream fording thrown in for good measure. Into this morass the
intrepid competitor would urge his mechanical steed, and follow a course
that cunningly takes advantage of the surroundings worst features in a
series of stages. The object of the course designer would be to try and
strand the vehicle and driver. The winner of the competition would be the
team that completed the most stages with the fewest penalties.
Prior to the arrival of the "Allard Special" these events were the
playground of diminutive Singers and MGs many of them supercharged, their
tiny engines screaming at high RPM through substantial gear reduction and
skinny tires to navigate the bogs and mountains. Sydney Allard had been
competing with a modified Ford, but its size and weight distribution were
against it. So when a brand new Ford was totalled near his garage (Adlards
Motors) in 1935, he bought it, dragged it into the shop. When it
re-emerged, complete with the body off of a Bugatti racing car, the
purists swooned. CLK 5 as the car became known (that was it's English
registration or "license number") became an instant hit.
It featured the
tried and true Ford Flathead V8, essentially the same engine that Ford
built in the US. Of huge displacement by English standards it only
produced 85 horsepower in its stock configuration. But it did have torque
in abundance. And torque, combined with a chassis that had most of it's
weight concentrated on the rear axles, gave it TRACTION!!!! Now the most
dreary of conditions seemed to be conquered with the greatest of ease.
Other competitors took note, and some of the better-heeled ones began to
inquire about the possibility of acquiring similar rigs. Almost by
accident, Sydney found himself in the manufacturing business.
The cars were built to special order in the back of Sydney's Adlard's
Motors (the name was pure co-incidence, an on-going enterprise that
Sydney's father bought for his son in the early 1930s) which was becoming
a thriving Ford Dealership. Allard used Ford parts to build the cars and
at least two of the featured the Lincoln Zephyr V12 engine. It was during
the pre-war period that Allard adopted a feature that was to haunt the
drivers' of Allard's cars forever more. His own peculiar independent front
In 1936 independent front suspensions were rare. Allard had been
experiencing loss of control as his front end would bob in the air, while
climbing hills that no self-respecting billy goat would attempt. Also he
felt that adding one would improve the handling. So Sydney engaged Leslie
Bellamy, a suspension engineer, to assist in designing a simple rugged IFS
system for CLK 5.
The result was a swing arm system that in the beginning was a straight
axle that had been cut in the centre. The two pieces then had one end
bracketed to the frame at the centre of the front cross member, and still
used Ford's transverse leaf springs. It DID allow the front wheels to move
up and down independently of each other. But as time and speed would tell,
it would also allow the front wheels to move in other directions as well.
This would result in Allard's developing a reputation for squirrelly
handling, and a tendency to understeer under acceleration and oversteer
Subsequent "Allard Specials" (as all of the pre-war cars were known) and
virtually all of the Allards built after the war would feature this set
up. Sydney Allard remained convinced almost to the end of his car's
production run of the merits of this design. Later on, another
manufacturer, Colin Chapman and his Lotus cars would copy this system and
with minor revisions and would use it in a very successful line of
sports racers that are praised today for their handling!!! Coincidentally
Lotus and Allard were the only two marques that started out as trials
specialists that made the jump to becoming recognized, mainstream
Allard would build a total of 12 of his "Specials" by 1939. The cars were
built in various configurations, but by 1939 he had built the prototypes
for his first three models and had brochures printed and press releases
prepared. But his plans were torpedoed by a petty tyrant known as Adolf
Hitler . . .
During World War II; Allard concentrated on rebuilding Ford Army trucks.
The end of the conflict found him with a factory full of machine tools,
and a huge inventory of parts. He had toyed with the idea of serious
production before the War. With no personal transportation being produced
for 6 years, a huge pent up demand for new cars existed and a dearth of
product to satisfy it. So three models were announced: The J, a car
designed for competition events, the slightly larger K, a classic two seat
sports car and the L, a four passenger touring car. The cars featured
striking coachwork and were heavily based on the Ford parts inventory that
Sydney possessed. What the components lacked in sophistication, they
gained in strength, reliability and were readily repaired by any Ford
dealer in the world. This reliance on FOMOCO contents would remain an
Allard selling point throughout the company's existence.
The cars were stylish, very fast for their time and rare. Thus they had a
cachet that made them popular. Of course almost ANYTHING that passed for a
new automobile was in great demand during the years immediately following
W.W.II. But Allard was encouraged and brought out the M a 4/5 passenger drophead coupe in 1947. Then, came the P a saloon (coupe), in 1949. But
while Allard was selling everything he could build, he knew that the
situation would not last. And he felt that there was a huge potential
market for his product in the US. But while the MG TC was selling in
impressive numbers, there was little interest in America in British cars,
even the Allard.
Sydney got the idea that an upgraded
version of the J type competition car would get the Yanks' attention. He
overhauled the styling, put a De Dion style independent rear suspension
under the car, and convinced his American agents to take a couple of the
new model, called the J-2 in late 1949. At the same time, General Motors
brought out the new Cadillac 331 cid V8. It was a match made in heaven.
The Cadillac produced almost twice as much horsepower as the Ford V8, was
higher revving and ran cooler. Allard had trouble importing engines into
England to install in his cars, so he agreed to ship the cars sans
powerplant and have the engines installed in New York. Several of the new
J-2s were ordered with the Cadillac engine, and a legend was born.
early J-2 Allard was originally the property of Zora
Arkus Duntov and placed second
at Watkins Glen, NY. Engine is a Ford Flathead V-8 with
Duntov's Ardun ohv head conversion.
This car was on display at the national Corvette Museum
until recently. Brown car behind it is an Allard P-1.
The resulting sports car was a rocket.
It still retained the archaic Allard front suspension, but because of the
huge amount of suspension travel this arrangement provided, it had the
ability to transfer weight backwards under acceleration. The IRS helped to
transfer that power to the ground. It's weight at approx. 2500 lb. was
light. Most of the weight was over the rear axles which assisted the
search for traction, (if, to the detriment of handling) and thanks to the
homegrown American performance industry, the bits and pieces were
available inexpensively to provide even more horsepower. Even those
Allards that utilized Flathead Fords could be made blindingly fast, even
by today's standards. And the car was not expensive. A typical J-2 Allard
with Cadillac engine installed cost $2995 in 1950. The equally new and
exciting Jaguar XK-120 was approximately $3500. For the additional $500,
the Allard owner could have an impressive amount of engine work done, and
even stock, the Jaguar would be hard pressed to keep up.
Sydney Allard's personal car. Won the 1949
There was never really a Cadillac-Allard or later on, a Chrysler-Allard
which implies that there was a formal arrangement between Allard and the
engine providers. When you ordered an Allard, you specified what engine
you were going to have installed at the dealership and the factory would
ship the car with the correct adapters and engine mounts etc. installed.
The author is aware of Packard, Lincoln, GMC 6 cyl, Oldsmobile and Buick
powered Allards. If you wanted a Ford Flathead, Allard would provide an
English built unit that differed only in detail from the ones built in the
US. In fact, it should be pointed out that the Ford powered Allards were
by far the most popular choice of buyers around the world.
In 1950 Sydney Allard and Tom Cole drove their Cadillac powered Allard J-2
to a third place finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Only two Talbot-Lago
Formula One racers, converted to sports cars for the race, beat it. And it
raced much of the race with only 3rd gear in the transmission, the lower
two ratios becoming the victim of the engine's torque. In the US it was
hard to find something that could keep up.
A typical starting grid of a major US
sports car race during the early fifties would find a host of Allards both
J-2s and its larger brother, the K-2 at or near the front. During that
time an ongoing argument raged in the pages of Road and Track Magazine
about the alleged superiority of the Hot Rod vs. the Sports Car. And
Allard was the primary evidence of BOTH sides! The Motor Magazine tested a
stock Cadillac powered Allard J-2 in 1951 and measured the fastest
acceleration figures the magazine had ever seen. 0-60 was achieved in 7.4
sec. from a stock engine rated by the magazine at 160 hp. The magazine was
impressed, yet disappointed at the same time. They noted that the
performance of Allards in North America was much higher!
The Motor article noted a 1/4 mile with an ET of 16.25 sec. Car and Driver
noted that they had observed and were impressed with a
15 sec. ET in a Cadillac powered J-2X in 1954 (and noted that this
time was faster than that of a "production" Cobra). Tom Carsten's
wonderful J-2 posted a quarter mile in the 13-sec. range and 0-60 in
approximately 5 sec. These times were achieved on 6.25 x 16 in. STREET
Tom Carsten's Allard deserves closer
attention. The car, serial no 1850 was purchased in 1950 and when it
arrived in the US was dispatched to Vic Edelbrock's speed shop, in Los
Angeles, CA. There Edelbrock installed a mildly modified Cadillac V8, the
first Cadillac engine he had ever tuned. During the next two years this
car would become a legend as it won 8 major races in a row. Wins included
venues at Golden Gate Park, Torrey Pines, Reno and Pebble Beach. Tom has a
sense of style and it showed in the car's presentation. The glossy black
automobile was finished in red, including the interior, and all visible
suspension parts. Mounted on custom made Borrianni wire wheels (red) with
wide whitewall tires, including TWO side mounted spares (purloined from
his company's supply for it's delivery vehicles) bumpers and a LUGGAGE
RACK, the car looked more at home in front of the clubhouse at Pebble
Beach than on the racecourse. But during it's inaugural run at that
track, in 1951, it lapped the entire field including the second place
LeMans in the early 50's
The J-2 was above all, a
driver's car. The combination of large displacement V8, with s suspension
of questionable geometry and brakes that were simultaneously state of the
art and inadequate appealed to the fearless and the talented. A short list
of notables who would drive Allards include: Carroll Shelby, Zora Arkus
Duntov, John Fitch, Tommy Cole, Masten Gregory, and Bill Pollack. They
also attracted the attentions of the famous including Clark Gable, Gen.
Curtis Le May, Danny Kaye, Dirk Bogard and Steve McQueen.
The J-2s biggest failing, aside from its suspension and weight bias, was
its lack of legroom, thanks to the rearward installation of the engine.
This problem was addressed in an upgrade, the J-2X in 1951. The engine
mounts were moved forward, the foot wells extended and the nose lengthened
to accommodate the suspension location arms. The new look was somehow more
aggressive than the J-2's and this is the Allard that continues to be the
most sought after. Oddly, the J-2X was not as successful on the track as
it is predecessor. Part of the reason might be attributed to it's slightly
higher weight, another was the fact that the competition was getting
faster, and third was that handling and braking was never a strong point
of either car. In 1952 to conform to new Le Mans regulations, Allard
brought out an envelope bodied variation of the J-2X as an alternative to
the motorcycle fendered styling that had been the trademark of the
competition cars from the beginning. Both the Le Mans and the conventional
bodywork were offered simultaneously.
other area where Allards excelled was rallying. We are not talking about
the genteel Time Speed Distance Rallies that many of us have been exposed
to. One of the most popular post war competitions in Europe were long
endurance rallies, over war damaged roads, through inclimate weather. One
of Allard's first post war successes was a win in the Paris to Lisbon
Rally in 1946. During the new few years Allards would be among the
forefront of rally competitors.
Allard's finest hour came in 1952 when Sydney Allard, driving one of his
staid P-1 saloons won the Monte Carlo Rally after coming close in previous
years. The weather that year was abysmal, and of the 328 cars that started
the event only 15 would arrive in Monaco without incurring penalties en
route. The next day a regularity test was conducted to determine the
winner. Sydney took first in a car of his own manufacture, an
accomplishment that will probably stand for all time. This victory in one
of the most gruelling competition events of its day should have gained
Allard a great deal of publicity. But the death of England's King George a
week later, buried the accomplishment.
The demand for the J-2 series and the companion K-2s far outstripped the
capability of the factory to deliver them. This coupled with some
questionable business practices by some of the Allard distributors soured
many potential purchasers. Studebaker, wishing to cash in on the
burgeoning sports car market, talked with Allard about domestic production
of the Js, but the talks came to naught. Because of Allard's reliance on
foreign sources for his engines, the factory did little or no development
work on them. The Ford Flathead was still the engine of choice from the
factory, though now it could be equipped with Allard's own high
compression heads and intake manifolds. The Ardun overhead valve
conversion heads could be installed as well, (Arkus Zora Duntov was a
consultant to Allard from 1950 -1953). But this option was hardly
inspiring to someone interested in buying a real performance Allard.
Of the other original models, the L was discontinued in 1949, though there
is evidence that one or two might have left the factory later, on a
special order basis. The M and the P continued to be built but demand was
beginning to wane.
Allard realized that he needed to revamp his product
line. The first concern revolved around bringing out an
inexpensive sports car. This car, to be called the Palm
Beach would be based on Ford of England's small cars the
Zephyr and Consul. Prices would be kept down by
utilizing as many parts from these cars as possible. The
frame would be tubular steel, manufactured on jigs, and
the choice of engines being limited to a 4 (Consul) or a
6 cylinder (Zephyr). The original body design was to
feature disappearing headlights and a familial
resemblance to the J-2X Le Mans mentioned earlier. The
resulting design raised howls of protest from Allard's
North American distributors and the design was rapidly
changed. However there was interest in producing this
car as originally designed in the US and Anchorage
Plastics of Providence, Rhode Island actually built some
bodies in fibreglass to prove the viability of the
The Palm Beach was an attractive little car, and had it
been deliverable as planned in 1952 it could have been a
huge success. But a year later, when it was finally
ready, the Austin Healey 100-4 and the Triumph TR 2 were
both available and were being produced in volume. The
Allard on the other hand, was primarily built to order,
was more expensive and because of it's reliance on a
three-speed transmission, was slower.
Allard's next release was the K-3. This car can best be
described as a grown up Palm Beach. It was built to
accommodate the American V8s, and was projected as being
a fast luxurious touring car. Several were ordered in a
stripped down format for racing where they did
moderately well. Road and Track magazine described the
car as being ". . .the handsomest car the company has
yet built." The example that Road and Track tested went
from 0-60 in 8.6 sec. and the magazine commented that
the location of the gear shift (on the left side of the
driver's seat) probably caused a second's delay in that
time). The car featured 4 wheel independent suspension
and was ". . . the roomiest of all sports cars" with
three abreast seating in the cockpit.
were noted as well. Among the criticisms Road and Track
labelled at the car were inadequate ventilation, small
gas tanks, a windshield that was too short, doors that
did not open far enough, a lack of owner's manual and
tiny windshield wipers. The author went on to note that
"...and one soon gains the impression that the cars were
rushed out of the shop long before they were ready for
The factory also brought out two other vehicles during
this time period: The Safari Estate and the P-2 Monte
Carlo Saloon. The Safari Estate has to rank as the most
exotic "Woody" station wagon of all time. These unique
automobiles with tilt forward front ends housing
Allard's usual mix of V8s possessed seating for up to 8
passengers in three seats. Liberally adorned with Ash
Wood on the outside, and possessing 4 wheel independent
suspension, Allard tried to fill a niche that no one
knew existed. The P-2 or Monte Carlo Saloon, was it's
coupe counterpart. These cars were sumptuously appointed
and expensive and did not sell well.
Allard also brought out his last interpretation of the J
series competition cars in 1953, the fabulous JR.
Smaller, than it's predecessors with a sleek body that
could have been penned in Italy, and designed
specifically for the Cadillac engine, the JR was a study
in contrasts. It was the first racing car designed
specifically to take an automatic transmission. It
featured 4 wheel independent suspension when many of
it's opponents still used live rear axles. It was fast,
but still relied on the Allard split front axle that
made all of his products "interesting" to drive. Jaguar
had been utilizing disk brakes on the C type for a year,
but they were not available to Allard who had to make do
with drum brakes that were less than adequate. In its
debut at Le Mans in 1953 the JR lead the first lap, but
a broken rear axle soon took that car out of the race.
The second JR driving at a slower pace retired from
overheating and failing brakes later in the race.
The Allard Motor Company was in trouble.
Sydney had always looked on his car company as a way to finance his
competition efforts and as a combination of lark and hobby. His Adlards
Motors had evolved into the largest Ford Dealership in England, but he was
not a wealthy man, and did not have the resources to shore up Allard Motor
Co. Ltd. when the new line of cars failed to excite the car buying public.
Most of the product line was expensive, and even the relatively cheap Palm
Beach cost more than the Triumph TR 2 that it matched in performance, and
paled when compared to the Austin Healy which it matched in price.
But Allard was a competitor. In 1955,
the Allard distributor in the US had talked to a number of Dodge dealers
in the NorthEast, to see if there would be interest in a Chrysler powered
Allard for their showrooms as a counter to the Chevrolet Corvette and
Ford's Thunderbird. As a result of this survey, new bodywork was designed
for the Palm Beach's chassis, and a Dodge Red Ram Hemi was installed in a
regular production Palm Beach. The V8 powered Allard was a success. It
had outstanding performance and good handling. The new body promised a
continuation of the Italian influence on Allard's styling that first
became evident in the JR. But there was no backing from Chrysler, the
Corvette was selling poorly and in 1956 Ford had announced that the 1958
Thunderbird would become a larger, personal luxury car, abandoning the
sports car packaging that the model had been introduced with.
ahead with the Palm Beach MK II and later with a limited number of GT
Coupes built on this new design. The Palm Beach Mk II was the first
production Allard to dispense with the Allard /Bellamy front suspension
system, using instead, McPherson Struts. They were available with a choice
of Ford Zephyr or Jaguar engines (the first instance of Jaguar allowing
any other manufacturer to utilize their powerplants) and could be fitted
with disc brakes. They were gorgeous designs that suffered from some
minor execution flaws. They were also expensive, and the factory, reduced
to building cars only to special order, ceased manufacturing in 1959.
In his later years, Allard's attentions
turned to drag racing, building England's first "slingshot" dragster.
Because English law required that all competition cars possess 4 wheel
brakes and bodies, the Allard dragster did not look exactly like it's
American counterpart. It was heavier, possibly better engineered, and had
Lotus magnesium front wheels and a beefier front end to withstand the
usage of its front disk brakes. Powered by a Chrysler Hemi the car became
the focus of several trans-Atlantic Drag Festivals in England.
luminaries as Don Garlits, Danny Ongias, and Tommy Ivo took their steeds
to England and compete before the amazed British crowds at various venues.
Allard's dragster, operating under different rules was not competitive
with its American cousins, but succeeded in upholding England's honour
anyway. Allard then build a few Jaguar powered Allard Dragons for resale
and promoted other drag racing events. Today Sydney is recognized as the
"Father of British Drag Racing" as a result of his efforts.
Another late project for this inventive
mind was a twin V-8 powered sprint car. Powered by 2 WWII era Steyr Air
Cooled V-8s, mounted side by side in a wide chassis and possessing 4-wheel
drive, it must have been a handful to drive. It utilized two throttles,
two transmissions and would have required the utmost in concentration. In
it's time it was a quite famous curiosity, but it was never successful as
a competition car.
About 2,000 Allards were built in all.
The exact number is in doubt. Of these approximately 180 of these were
J-2s and J-2Xs. There were 7 JRs and 12 of the original J-1s.
The Allard Motor Co. would continue on
as a manufacturer and marketer of performance equipment, and a limited
number of Allardettes, modified English Fords were also built. On April
12, 1966 Sydney Allard died, and the same evening, a fire destroyed much
of the factories records.
The building that the Allard factory
resided in still stands. A few years ago the British Government erected a
plaque in front of it to commemorate it's place in England's history. The
current occupant is a Blockbuster Video store.