By Steve Temple

Photos by Roger Allard

Even though Shelby’s Cobra popularized the practice of putting a potent American V8 into a lightweight British roadster, he certainly wasn’t the first to do so. Back in 1945, Sydney Allard founded a company located southwest of London to build cars that competed in trials events. Also known as mud plucking, these timed runs were held on rugged off-road terrain more suited to Jeeps and Land Rovers than cars. The first Allard was powered by a Ford V8, but not the 260 ci engine that Shelby first used, as it hadn’t been invented yet.

Instead, Sydney chose the torquey flathead, installing it in a Bugatti-bodied chassis of his own design. Initially it had a front beam axle that was later changed to an independent setup by cutting the beam in half and mounting these halves as swing axles. This setup was used on nearly all Allard Specials, except for the J2X model, as we’ll see.

This chassis had so much flex that when Sydney put power to his 331 Hemi or 331 Cadillac, the front wheels would lift off the ground and the wheels would just flop there until the front came back on the ground! At that point, you never knew what direction the car would steer in. That’s why Sterling Moss, when asked if he remembered the Allard J2X, exclaimed, “The only people who could drive an Allard are Sydney Allard and fools!”

But Sydney was nobody’s fool. Importing American engines and exporting completed cars back across the Atlantic didn’t make good business sense, so U.S.-bound Allards were shipped as completed rollers, sans a power plant (called turnkey minus in modern parlance among replica manufacturers). Once they arrived stateside, newer, overhead-valve V8 engines replaced the aging, low-powered flatties, such as those made by Cadillac, Chrysler, Buick and Oldsmobile. The result was a highly competitive car with loads of power in a lightweight chassis.

Famed Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov worked for Sydney from 1950 to 1952 and raced Allards as well. Of 313 documented starts in major races between 1949 and 1957, J2s took home 40 first-place finishes, 32 seconds, 30 thirds, 25 fourths and 10 fifths. Carroll Shelby also raced J2s in the early 1950s, so no surprise that he and Zora were both enamored with V8 power in their later designs.

The J2X (eXtended) model represented an effort to improve the handling by redesigning the front suspension using the then-new coil-spring suspension with inclined telescoping dampers. The nose had to be lengthened past the front wheels to make room for revised radius rods, which were now attached to a forward crossmember. In the rear, a proven de Dion suspension design was used.

While the J2X was not quite as successful in competition as the J2, due to rapid advances of sports car racing design in general, it did nevertheless garner a dozen first-place wins with many more podium finishes, all at major races from 1952 to 1960. And that big, long hood sure gave it an imposing appearance.

An individual by the name of Roger Allard was compelled to continue production of this unmistakable design. And while there’s no direct relation to Sydney, shared DNA is clearly evident in his completed builds.

After reading a rare book on Allard history, Roger saw his first J2X at England’s Beaulieu museum. Intrigued by their shared last name, he suddenly felt a calling to keep the marque alive by building a neo-retro version for modern enthusiasts. He launched Allard Motor Works back in 1999 in order to both preserve and improve on the original.

To stay faithful to the car’s concept from the 1950s, the new Allard Commemorative Edition J2X MkIII is offered with a diverse array of V8s. The choices range in power from 350 to 700 hp and include both General Motors and Mopar Hemi V8s. Transferring power to a Ford 9-inch rear end is a TREMEC TKO five-speed manual transmission.

The chassis has been substantially strengthened and upgraded with coilover springs, tubular A-arms and disc brakes. It also includes new safety features such as dual roll bars, impact protection and drive shaft safety loops.

The new Allard Commemorative Edition J2X MkIII is built in Southern California, and has a starting price of $184,000 with a base engine. Currently a turnkey-minus vehicle, Allard Motor Works plans on delivering complete, running vehicles as soon as the Low-Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act is implemented. For now, the company has a list of recommended installers that handle the drivetrain installation.

Also available is a special MkIII model that plays into the company’s neo-retro theme. It will feature an optional full windshield, instead of the vintage-style Brooklands windscreens and emissions-compliant engines with optional automatic transmissions. Other refinements include a removable hard (or soft) top with side curtains, tilt steering wheel and even air conditioning — items Sydney likely never dreamed of. Further refinements like traction control and ABS are not included for now, as this roadster is an elemental beast that’s built to be driven with abandon, hanging the tail out with the thrill of throttle steering. If you want cup holders and a touch screen, buy a Prius.

**This article has been corrected in regards to the Allard Registry and the cars of Allard Motor Works.**