It's tempting to see these cars as holy relics; vessels of memories, style and dreams. Emblems of their art and time.
Well fuck nostalgia. My Allard J2, (soon to be available for viewing at Amelia Island Concours D'Elegance next March), was a wild beast you rode bareback, no helmet, no seat belt, no nothing, your butt a few inches off the pavement, the pavement visible in the spaces between the aluminum floor panels. The doors an aluminum skin that came all the way up to your hip bone, the louvers on the hood broadcasting heat, the front wheels bounding, visible under their vestigial cycle fenders. And you knew why open wheeled racers loved open wheels. OK, touch another and one of you will soar. Yeah, well forget that because you could see exactly what your wheel was doing, skimming the inside curb, then looking up for the short straight and lunging into the next corner. This car beat Ferraris in its time. This was the car to have to win Torrey Pines and Watkins Glen.
(click on images to enlarge).
Sydney Allard was the first and greatest-of-all-time British Hot Rodder, sticking whacking great American V8s into a clever Brit Chassis. Ol’ Sid was a racer. This car was a racer and what a racer was like a half a century ago. Wagnerian roar, spinning wheels, no radio, no heater, no top, no roll bar, no sensors except you behind the wheel and no nothing between you and the machine and the road and your foot flat to the floor with the next corner rushing up like it was in love with you. It had the same engine and weighed less than the Shelby Cobra of ten years later, so was around the same honking heart stopping performance.
The brakes were huge inboard finned aluminum drums at the back and even more huge drums at the front. There must be a God if I can have this much fun just by putting my foot down and I put my foot down. I was 28. And I believed then as I believe now, God drives an Allard.
Allard made, by any measure, hardly any cars. Going to race in the Targa Florio they took three Allard J2xs, and the one Cadillac V8 they could sneak through British customs Crash a car in practice, no problem. Yank (no pun intended) out the Cad V8 and stick it in another. Sidney Allard won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952 in an Allard. He invented or at least was the first importer of Drag Racing in England. He got his start racing in the 1930s by sticking a whacking great air-cooled Steyr aircraft engine into a Bugatti chassis with double wheels bolted on each side at the back to blow every body away in English Hill climbs. They all cried foul, sacrilege. Sydney said that’s racing. And stuck two whacking great Steyr air-cooled V8s, side by side, in the same car. He built his own Steyr Allard right after WWll, chalking the outline of the chassis on his garage floor. Needless to say the car was virtually unbeatable.
|Sidney behind the wheel of his Steyr Allard|
His last car was the Allard GT, an elegant coupe. The hood a little too short, the roof a little to high to say it was just like the Jaguar plus 2 coupes that were prettier and cheaper a few years later. It was 1958 and Sidney had them stuff a full race Chrysler Hemi V-8 in it. Sydney was dying from cancer and his wish was to get into the Monte Carlo Rally race high up into the Alps, floor it and sail over cliff into the darkness.
But by the time the Monte Carlo Rally began, he was too sick to drive. The full race Hemi would not idle below 3,000 rpm. And then, at around 3,001 rpm all of its 400+ horses came to life all at once full whack. They crashed it twice trying to get out of the garage. Sydney would have pointed it at the door and floored it.
(The author apologizes for the several repetitions of “whacking great” in the above, but that’s what Allards were and are.)