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Allard Sports Cars

Allard J2

The Allard J2 had a rough beginning. The postwar resurgence of England’s auto industry was hard on many. The car companies seemed to be seeking the most profit per pound of scarce materials rather than trying to develop new models, so buyers didn’t have a great choice of cars -- or many great ones either. As bad as this may have been for the public, it was good for Sydney Allard’s fledgling business and ultimately led to the development of the Allard J2.

Allard evaluated the situation and was smart enough to realize that it wouldn’t last forever, and that he’d better get cracking on a new and better car before things changed. Allard went to the U.S. on a research trip, and came home with an important fact he hadn’t known before: Americans wouldn’t buy his existing K, L, or M models, but they might buy an updated version of his original J. The result was the Allard J2, the car that put Allards in the winner’s circle and Sydney’s name on the sports-car racing map.

Retaining the J1’s 100-inch wheelbase and the split I-beam front axle used in all Allards since World War II, the Allard J2 featured coils instead of the old transverse leaf springs front and rear, plus a De Dion rear axle with quick-change center section and inboard 12-inch Alfin drum brakes. The radius rods that had previously helped locate a live rear axle now served as locating members for the De Dion dead-axle beam. Dry weight could be as low as 2000 pounds, but never went over 2600 even with one of the big new American V-8s such as Cadillac or Chrysler.

Having improved the chassis, Allard turned his attention to the powerplant. His “off-the-shelf” engine, the flathead Ford V-8, was 18 years old in 1950, and thus no longer suitable for a serious competition car despite an enormous amount of available speed equipment -- at least for U.S. buyers. (Import restrictions kept it from being sold in England.) By coincidence, an overhead-valve conversion for the flathead Ford/Mercury V-8 was being created in New York City by Zora Arkus-Duntov (in a loft he shared with Luigi Chinetti, soon to be U.S. Ferrari distributor).

Duntov’s design, a pushrod-and-rocker-arm system much like that of the first Chrysler hemi V-8 engines, worked well in some American hot rods at places like Bonneville and El Mirage Dry Lake, but nobody in England, it seemed, could make this Ardun engine produce reliable power for any length of time. Thus, the Allard J2 arrived with a choice of flathead Ford or Mercury, the Ardun ohv conversion, or the new ohv Cadillac or Chrysler V-8s. It soon became obvious that the last were the ones to have, and the Ardun engine was dropped from production after about 75 Allard J2s were so equipped.

For all its faults, the Allard J2 was a simple, reliable competition machine. As with his previous cars, Allard used as many proprietary parts as possible, most of which were understressed and seldom caused trouble. Those that broke were easily and cheaply replaced, so it was no great problem to maintain a racing schedule with this rugged, very dependable car. The frame remained a channel-section stamped-steel affair, with cross-members for supporting radiator, engine, transmission, front and rear axles, and the rudimentary body with its bolt-on rear fenders and cycle-type front fenders.

Cars were made with either left- or right-hand drive depending on the work order and ultimate destination. With their proprietary Ford axles, early Allard J2s naturally had the same 56-inch track dimensions as contemporary Fords, but rear track was reduced to 52 inches with the J2’s De Dion axle. This sometimes made the car look as though it “crab-tracked” when in fact it was going dead straight.

The Allard J2 was a very basic car for touring or racing, little more than a British hot rod. But it was fast (especially with Cadillac or Chrysler power), exciting (for race watchers as well as drivers) and, until overwhelmed by the more sophisticated and far costlier Ferraris, Maseratis, and Mercedes, was usually the car to beat at most any event.

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