Tuesday, May 1, 2012

History of the Original Allard J2X

The original J2X was built by Sydney Allard in Clapham, England, in the 1950s. Of course, his story goes back farther than that. In the 1930s the Brits used to compete in something called trials events. These days it’s more common to compete on a motorcycle or 4x4, but it was basically a timed obstacle course for cars. Mud, rocks, hills, you name it. It required a nimble car with a lot of power to compete, let alone to actually finish the course.

Allard started putting large Ford engines into the small cars he built for the purpose and had good success with them. But before he could go into production, the Second World War intervened. Like many manufacturers, he was put to work for the government, in his case fixing Ford-based trucks.

After the war, he had a large stock of Ford parts, and could once again indulge his passion for cars. He produced three postwar models, one of which, the J, was designed for racing. The British economy wasn’t in very good shape at the time, so he developed the J2, designed for the American market and brought out in 1950. Because it used American engines, like the pre-War Allards before it, it was much easier for Americans to get fixed than other exotic imports. To save money on shipping, the cars were sent to the United States and had their engines installed there.

Allard J2 by Writegeist via Wikipedia
Only 90 of these cars were built, a few of which were produced for racing. Among the drivers to have raced in the J2 were Sydney Allard himself, Zora Arkus Duntov (later he was to become director of high performance at Chevrolet and was instrumental in making the Corvette the success it is), Masten Gregory, Bill Pollack, and Carroll Shelby (designer of the Shelby Cobra and other cars).

The J2’s most impressive showing was in 1950, when Sydney Allard and Tom Cole piloted one with a Cadillac engine to third place in the Le Mans 24 Hour. Allard also took a first at the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally. American driver John Fitch won the 1951 Argentine Grand Prix in his Allard.

The J2X (for extended) was brought out in 1951 and produced from 1951-54. The wheelbase wasn’t any longer but the engine had been shifted forward to make more room in the cockpit. It still had a split front axle, but handled better than the original J2, which had been a hairy beast to drive.

Only 83 were produced, which included 9 LeMans models designed specifically for racing. I came across one of these for sale online, said to have been driven by Sydney Allard and Jack Fairman in the 1952 Le Mans (they blew the engine and didn’t finish). The owner was looking for $1,200,000, which makes the J2X Mark II look like a real bargain.

Apart from the 1952 Le Mans, J2Xs were also driven in the 1955 Sebring 12 Hours (finishing 45th), the Watkins Glen 1956 Grand Prix (finishing 5th), and the 1961 Road America 500 Miles (11th overall, 1st in BM). Not bad for a limited production car from a small British manufacturer.


1 comment:

  1. You can see a photo of Carroll Shelby at the wheel of a Cadillac-Allard J2X in this Sportscar Digest article on Remembering Carroll Shelby: http://www.sportscardigest.com/remembering-carroll-shelby-1923-2012/?awt_l=JE9uY&awt_m=JRjP7f5vXus.C0


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