- For the English car manufacturer founded in 1899 - see Allard (1899 automobile)
Allard Motor Company Limited was a London based low volume car manufacturer founded in 1945 by Sydney Allard which commenced from small premises in south west London. Car manufacture almost ceased within a decade. It produced approximately 1900 cars before it became insolvent and ceased trading in 1958. Before the war, Allard supplied some replicas of a Bugatti-tailed special of his own design from Adlards Motors in Putney.
Allards featured large American V8 engines in a light British chassis and body, giving a high power-to-weight ratio and foreshadowing the Sunbeam Tiger and AC Cobra of the early 1960s. Cobra designer Carroll Shelby and father of the Corvette Zora Arkus Duntov both drove Allards in the early 1950s.
Pre-war Allard Specials
The first Allard cars were built specifically to compete in Trials events – timed rally-like events on terrain almost impassable by wheeled vehicles. The first Allard was powered by a Ford flathead V8 in a body mostly sourced from a Bugatti racer. It used the American engine's high torque to great effect in slow-speed competition.
Further Allards were soon built to order with a variety of large, Ford-sourced engines, including Lincoln-Zephyr V12 powerplants. By the outbreak of war in 1939 twelve Allard Specials had been built. Sydney Allard's planned volume production was pre-empted by work on Ford-based trucks during the conflict. By its end, Allard had built up a substantial inventory of Ford parts.
Using its inventory of easy-to-service Ford mechanicals built up during World War II and bodywork of Allard's own design, three post-war models were introduced: the J, a competition sports car; the K, a slightly larger car intended for road use, and the four seater L. Sales were fairly brisk for a low-volume car, and demand was high for cars in general, which led to the introduction of several larger models, the drophead coupe M and P.
Sydney Allard soon saw the potential of the economically more vibrant – but sports car starved – US market and developed a special competition model to tap it, the J2. The new roadster was a potent combination of a lightweight, hand-formed aluminium body fitted with independent front suspension (via swinging arms)and De-Dion type rear axle, inboard rear brakes, and designed for a Ford "flathead" V8. Importing American engines just to ship them back across the Atlantic proved problematic, so US-bound Allards were soon shipped engineless and fitted out in the States variously with newer overhead valve engines by Cadillac, Chrysler, Buick, and Oldsmobile. In that form, the J2 proved a highly competitive international race car for 1950, most frequently powered by 331 cubic inch Cadillac engines. Domestic versions for England came equipped with Ford or Mercury flatheads, some of which were equipped with ARDUN overhead valve hemi heads, a modification designed by Zora ARkus DUNtov, who also later raced for the factory Allard team at Le Mans.
Available both in street trim and stripped down for racing, the J2 proved successful in competition on both sides of the Atlantic, including a third place overall at Le Mans in 1950 (driven by Sydney Allard himself, who also placed first in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952 driving an Allard P1 saloon car). Of 313 documented starts in major races in the 9 years between 1949 and 1957, J2's compiled a list of 40 first place finishes; 32 seconds; 30 thirds; 25 fourths; and 10 fifth place finishes. 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 1950 and 1952.
In an effort to extend a line growing obsolete in the face of advances in sports car design, Allard introduced an 'improved' model in late 1951, the J2X (extended). In an attempt to improve handling, the front suspension's rear attaching radius rods were redesigned with forward ones, which required a forward cross member and extending the nose out past the front wheels. This, in turn, allowed the engine to be moved forward, yielding more cockpit room. There is often confusion when it comes to identification of J2 and J2X types because they are seemingly very similar. However, the most obvious differences are that the J2 nose does not extend past the front tyres and has two vents below the grille, while the J2X nose has a more protruding chin with a single vent below the grille, which, as explained extends out past the front tyres. Allard historian Tom Lush, who was Sydney Allard's Personal Assistant and Allard employee from the beginning, said in his definitive book "Allard: The Inside Story" that the chin was the most obvious difference between the two models. In standard form the spare wheel was carried hidden on top of the rear mounted fuel tank but either version could carry one or two side mounted optional spares. This allowed the use of a 40 gallon long distance fuel tank.
Arriving later during a time when sports racing car design was developing rapidly, the J2X was not as successful in international racing as the J2, as it was not as competitive when compared to more advanced C and later D type Jaguars, alongside Mercedes, Ferrari, and Maserati works entries. Thus, it headlined less often in major international races and of 199 documented major race starts in the 9 years between 1952 and 1960, J2X's garnered 12 first place finishes; 11 seconds; 17 thirds; 14 fourths; and 10 fifth places.
Known more often than not simply as the Allard 3.6-litre Saloon, the P1 was a five-seat, two-door sports saloon produced between 1949 and 1952. The cars used Ford engines and transmissions, and included a "Sports" model.
The M-Type was offered in 1948 and 1949 as a Drophead Coupé.
The 1953 Clipper was an attempt to cash in on the era's burgeoning microcar market. A tiny glass-fibre bodied car powered by a rear mounted 346 cc Villiers twin cylinder motorcycle engine, it claimed to seat three people abreast with room for two children in an optional Dicky seat. About 20 were made.
Allard introduced the 4- and 6-cylinder Palm Beach roadster in 1952. Built until 1958, the MkI was only available with four- or six- cylinder engines. A Mark II was introduced in 1956, it could be had with a six-cylinder 3.4-litre (3442 cc) Jaguar engine.
Also in 1952, Allard adapted the Palm Beach in a K3, ans attempt to offer a more civilized variant of the J2 and J2X models seen at the track. Exported to America as a potential "Corvette slayer" Dodge dealers had been clamoring for, it featured one of the most powerful engines of its era, the 331 cu. in. Chrysler hemi engine, fitted with a pair of 4-barrel carburetors. Essentially a rebodied Palm Beach, it failed to find a niche in either market in spite of its performance. Today the exceptionally rare automobile can fetch the better part of a quarter million dollars (US) at auction.
Allard P2 Safari
In an attempt to further extend its line, Allard adapted its P1 saloon to produce the 8 seater, wood sided, V8 engined, P2 Safari Estate. It too found weak sales.
Insufficient research and development meant that Allard failed to keep up with cheaper and more technically advanced cars. The Palm Beach was essentially a year behind its competitors, the K3 failed to live up to expectations, and the Safari Estate could not find a market.
By the mid-fifties Allard was struggling to remain solvent. The market was weak due to a late-'50s US recession
In 1966 Sydney Allard passed away on the same night that an arsonist, destroyed the Clapham factory and some of the Allard Motor Company factory records. The Allard factory site in Clapham is now a housing co-operative association, but the showroom and workshop in Putney remains as a car dealership.
- The Times, 13 April 1966, Obituary.
- Lawrence, Mike (1991). A to Z of Sports Cars. Bideford, Devon: Bay View Books. p. 20. ISBN 1-870979-81-8.
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