Rescuing an Allard

Loaded up

Sydney Allard blazed a trail that many manufacturers—Shelby, Aston Martin, Facel Vega, Bristol, Rover, and others—would follow: he put an American V-8 in a British-built car. He started with flathead Fords because he owned a Ford dealership in England. But the car really took off, from the starting line and in the public eye, when he installed a Cadillac V-8. The Allard was a serious performance machine that struck fear into the hearts of much larger, older, better-funded competitors.

Motorsports enthusiasts in the United States took notice and placed orders. They could not buy complete cars, however, unless perhaps they wanted flathead-Ford power. Other V-8 powerplants were not available after the war because of England’s trade policy. The country wanted goods going out and cash coming it. It would not allow Allard to buy and import American engines. Instead, U.S. buyers would tell Sydney which engine they planned to fit when the car came across the Atlantic. His shop would then outfit the chassis with the engine mounts and radiator to suit.

Allard racing

Allards raced at the top of the game until the bigger manufacturers caught up, and they continued to hold their own for years afterward in other racing venues. Today they are seldom seen and highly prized.

David Watson’s 1952 Allard J2X was one of only eighty-five produced. Its third owner raced it on the East Coast in the 1950s and sold it to a forgotten buyer. A seventeen-year-old got hold of it sometime thereafter and raced it around on his family’s farm in Titusville, New Jersey. In 1965, another New Jersey man bought the car and stowed it away. He liked to buy sports cars in need of repair and always planned to fix them. But while he often got around to the buying, he rarely managed to do the fixing.

Because of this habit, the New Jersey man’s property was scattered with classic British sports cars—Jaguars, Healeys, MGs, and others. Local residents were aware of the collection and hopeful buyers would often turn up at his door. Yet he refused their offers because he planned to fix them. Still, no fixing occurred.

Rumors of the cars found their way to Connecticut, to a dealer in collector automobiles. This prospective buyer had the winning plan: he offered to buy all the cars, and this collective sum had the power to change the owner’s perspective. He accepted, and the buyer immediately phoned every wrecker and towing service within forty miles to come and haul the cars away before anyone got cold feet.

Storage container Allard

Among the many cars lying about the property was a tractor trailer box serving as a storage barn. Not surprisingly, that storage was devoted to cars. What was surprising, though, were the cars that were hidden, and the curious manner in which they were held. Suspended from a chain in the ceiling was a race car. Below it was a classic roadster. What type of roadster was hard to determine because the lower car had taken quite a beating. The property owner would occasionally move the trailer, and when he did, the race car would bounce around and wallop the car below. Unlike the cars outside, this one was protected from the elements. Yet the cars parked outside didn’t have another car bouncing around on top of them.

The lower car was a 1952 Allard J2X, which turned up in Hemmings and on eBay. It was the rarest car on the property, and David Watson was the lucky buyer—lucky being a matter of perspective. The engine was wrong for the car and when Watson removed the manual transmission, he found a Hydramatic flexplate bolted to the crankshaft. The rear end was also wrong, and many other parts were incorrect or missing.

Watson spent a few months gathering parts and finding the correct engine—a 331-cubic-inch Cadillac V-8—and getting it worked on. He had a chassis shop fit a correct rear end. At that point, he had a rolling chassis and a horrible body with an engine in it. He loaded it onto a trailer and took it to Barry Parker’s restoration shop. When other Allard enthusiasts saw the car, their impressions were cautious at best. The consensus seemed to be that Watson’s J2X was damaged beyond repair. Watson and Parker had a different view.

Under restoration

Parker worked on the J2X continually, allowing Watson to perform mechanical work in the shop at the same time. In nine months the two men had the car in drivable condition, and in one year the car was done. When the Allard club saw the finished car, it gave Watson the Lazarus Award for raising it from the dead. Watson duly thanked Parker for his tireless and remarkable efforts.

In the five or six years Watson has owned the car, he has learned much of its history. During its racing years, the car made the motoring press and was featured in photographs in various race programs. Some of the car’s features and modifications, including a hole in the cowling to permit side exhaust, helped Watson identify it from these old photos, and tracking down the individuals named confirmed the car’s identity.

As Watson notes, “When you have only eighty-five cars total, it’s not too hard to put it together.” Chassis No. 2222 (not tied to the number produced) was delivered to the United States in January 1952, and Watson has photos of it dating back to July of that year.

Back on the track

Watson’s car no longer sits hidden as it did for so many years. He’s taken the car to Watkins Glen, as well as events in Pittsburgh and Texas. He goes to all of the Allard gatherings, trailering the car. But it’s a driver too, and when the sun shines he and his wife take it out for summer drives and errands. They also take it to car gatherings around their home in central Pennsylvania, where there’s something almost every weekend throughout the summer.

Found and restored at last, the J2X is a keeper. Watson plans to hold on to it and enjoy it.

 

This story was written by Kris Palmer and was first published in Tom Cotter’s The Cobra in the Barn book. Buy your own copy or subscribe to our email updates for a chance to win a free one. Also be sure to send in your own stories because one is going to get into Tom’s upcoming book!

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Comments

  1. Jeff

    This is what a restored one looks like: http://www.barnfinds.com/british-hotrod-1952-allard-k2-roadster/

    These are so cool, a lot of history and very collectable. I wish I had the means….

  2. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    When I was a teenager a group of us gearheads saw a J2 like this one come into a courtyard in the middle of a bunch of rented garages, and all of our collective jaws dropped. We had never seen anything like it, and it was definitely the most impressive car any of us had ever seen up to that point. The driver spoke to someone in another group of guys and then roared off. We never saw it again, but those few moments stood out in our memory, and we used to talk about that sighting for years afterward.

    This car’s backstory shows how close a car like this can come to disappearing into piles of scrap metal if someone had not come up with the cash to buy the whole collection of broken old sports cars, and then had them all quickly towed away “before anyone got cold feet”. Then someone had to come along and pony up the cash to buy it, and then take this battered, incomplete J2 and make it whole again with more infusions of cash and hard work. You’ve got to love a story like this.

  3. Mike Gulett

    When did Aston Martin “put an American V-8 in a British-built car.”?

  4. Mark E

    Mike, if you want to nitpick, Facel Vega was a French manufacturer, not Brit, and they built their own engines, much to their demise…

  5. Sunbeamdon

    WOW! The ultimate test(es) to put this one back together; well done!

  6. Robert J

    I would love to get my hands on one of the Allard replicas that come up for sale on the cheap occasionally. Neat cars.

  7. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Aston Martin used their own V8, which had twin overhead cams on each bank. Facel used Chrysler Corp. V8s in their big cars, but a French-built 4 cylinder engine for their small Facellia model. The V8s worked well but the Facellia 4-cyl was unreliable and failed often.

  8. Jeff

    I do believe side-pipes (exhaust) was an original option on the car like in the pic above and on “BarnFinds” other listing:

    http://www.barnfinds.com/birds-of-a-feather-1952-allard-k2-roadster/#comment-26133

    If so, did Shelby/Cobra & Duntov/Vette copy it for their cars? Was it a first on the Allard?

  9. Don Andreina

    These things look like the bastard child of Briggs Cunningham and Colin Chapman. Sidney Allard and Donald Healey were ahead of the game, though.

    Best side pipes ever:

    http://silodrome.com/mercedes-benz-300-slr-uhlenhaut-coupe-w196/

  10. jim s

    best part of this story is that the car is being driven. another great find

  11. Daniel Rapley

    I purchased the J2X shown from a man in New Jersey. He called me out of the blue. Heard that I was a buyer of old cars.

    The list of cars in this collection was as follows.

    Aston MK1 coupe.
    Aston MKII Coupe.
    Aston DB2 DHC.
    1961 Lincoln Convertible
    MGTD
    VW with fiberglass lincoln body on it.
    Allard J2X
    Funny car Dragster

    All the cars were rough and in need of everything.

    The Aston DB2 DHC was in the back of a box truck. the MGTD was suspended on a couple of thin pipes above the Aston. The truck had been driven from NJ to VA and back to NJ with both cars in the back. He’d been relocated. The MG had slipped and was sitting on top of the DB2.
    The DB2 was a wreck even before it went in the truck. Now it was worse.

    The J2X Allard was stuffed into another box truck body. The dragster had been suspended above it. Thankfully it was not resting on the J2X.

    The owner was an elderly man who was in failing health. He was a character. A real tough nut. He had planned to restore the cars when he retired, but never got to them.

    It was a full day pulling everything out into the daylight. All parts and pieces were put into a U-haul. Cars and parts were all brought to Connecticut where we tried to figure out exactly what we had purchased.

    The photo of the Allard on the trailer was taken in my driveway, a few months later when the car had been put together.

    The DB2 DHC went to Portugal.
    The 2/4 MKII when to a young guy in Rhode Island.
    The 60’s Lincoln convertible was sold at Hershey to a guy in his 20’s.
    Dave Watson purchased the J2X. It was rough – he’s a brave man.
    I forget where the TD and other cars went to.

    Kinda wish I’d taken a few more photos.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks for commenting Daniel. We love to hear from the people involved in these stories. If you do find any old photos, please send them in!

  12. Daniel Rapley

    Will Do.

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