I have an old school friend, who, like me, has always had an interest in cars. In recent years he has taken to sending me photographs of cars or sections of cars and asking me to identify them. I would say that my success rate is probably less than fifty per cent, a fact that delights him immensely. In early 2022 he emailed me a set of fairly poor photos of a car and asked me to identify it. That request has led me to write this article. Although he had given me a clue by mentioning Lexus, I could not identify the car. So, I had to declare my failure, he then informed me that it was an Allard P4. Even if he had supplied me with pristine photos I would not have been able to identify it without, perhaps, referring to ‘Google Images‘. I had never heard of the attempted tie-up between a rejuvenated Allard Motor Company and Toyota’s Lexus brand. This reminded me of the Ford Healey Fiesta and Escort, which was also a failed venture. The Allard P4 was based on the then current late 1980s Lexus LS 400. This car is revealed at the end of the article. Only three were built because Toyota declined to get involved.
This brief encounter with Allard caused me to take a fresh look at the cars that I first encountered as a boy. Allard was one of the esoteric British motor car brands that particularly caught my interest as a youngster, along with Healey, Jensen, Kieft, AC, Jowett etc. etc. plus all the kit car manufacturers of the period, particularly Rochdale. Since starting this website and devoting many articles to Healey as a result of my involvement with the Warwick based Healey Motor Company Archive, the neam Allard has cropped up many times: this has mainly been in connection with Donald Healey’s personal rally driving career when, in the late 1930s, 1940s and 50s, he was competing against the founder of the Allard Motor Company, Sydney Allard. In the 1940s and 50s, they both competed in cars bearing their own names.
There were so many similarities between Sydney Herbert Allard (1910 – 1966) and Donald Mitchell Healey (1898 – 1988), I am led to list some of them here –
- They were both brave, determined and successful drivers and businessmen.
- They both won the Monte Carlo Rally, Donald in 1931 driving an Invicta, Sydney in 1952 driving a car designed and built by his company, an Allard P1 Sports Saloon.
- They and their cars made a significant impact, well beyond expectations, at the Le Mans 24 hour race in the 1950s.
- The similarities between Allard’s J2 and K3 to Healey’s Silverstone and Nash Healey, respectively.
- They both saw the advantage of putting large American engines (preferably V8s) into light British cars. Concerning the use of V8 engines, Sydney was more successful than Donald in this regard. He was influential in starting Carol Shelby on his outstanding career.
These similarities make me wonder if they met and if so did they “get on”? Maybe there are references in some of the many books that have been written about them and their cars?
In all the reading I have done for this article it is Allard the “driven man” that comes across most strongly. It almost seems that the cars produced were an extension of his personality rather than a commercial enterprise. That was certainly true of his involvement in the British ‘Drag Racing’ scene in the 1960s. Incidentally, Drag Racing was something that Geoff Healey was also interested in.
It is the Allard cars that I want to concentrate on in this article, after all, it was virtually the last car to bear the Allard name that inspired me to write it in the first place. Before we get into the cars I think that it is fitting to give a brief resume of how Sydney came to start his company.
Sydney’s father, Arthur Allard, was a successful builder and property developer: A profession he wanted Sydney and his brothers to follow but Sydney had other ideas. His interest lay in motors and machines, initially with Francis-Barnett motorcycles. At the age of 19, in 1929, he acquired a Grand Prix Morgan three wheeler handed down from his elder brother Jack. Together with his brother Dennis, he entered a three lap handicap race in 1929, at Brooklands banked race circuit and they won.
In 1932, seeing that Sydney was determined to pursue a career with motor cars, Sydney’s father helped him set up in business with Alf Brisco, some years older than Sydney and with experience in the motor trade. Arthur Allard had purchased a building from a roofing company with the name Robert Adlard. The site was later redeveloped into a block of flats with Sydney and Alf’s garage business occupying the ground floor.
It was decided to retain the name Adlards at this site, so Sydney’s new business became Adlards Motors. There was no idea of creating Allard Motor Company at that time, in fact, it was to be another 14 years or so before the Allard Motor Company was formed in 1946. However, in later years, the two businesses with comparatively similar names did cause some confusion to customers. The first twelve Allard, pre-war, specials were in fact built on Adlards Motors premises.
Sydney Allard was a racer at heart and few motor sporting activities escaped his interest. Starting with the race at the Brooklands racing circuit, referred to above, he continued competing in all types of motorsport including sprints, trials and rallies, with his own Ford based specials.
The first car to bear Sydney Allard’s name was a ‘Trials’ car now referred to by its registration number, CLK 5, built in 1936. It was based on the chassis and running gear from a crashed Ford V8 Model 48. The chassis was shortened and used the standard Ford suspension, rod-operated brakes and welded wheels. The body had a GP Bugatti tail, the steering box was also a Bugatti unit. No modifications were made to the standard 30-hp Flathead V8.
CLK 5 was so successful that two more similar Allards were built, using “imitation-Bugatti,” tails and sloping vee radiator grilles coming to a point at the base. These cars incorporated new side and cross-members purchased from the Ford Motor Company, Ford steel disc wheels, and divided axle, independent front suspension. The special with the UK registration number FGP 750, affectionately referred to as “Tailwagger II”, had a lightened chassis achieved by machining strategically placed holes. Driven by Allard himself, it proved to be very successful.
The next three Allards had 2/4-seater bodies and flat instead of vee radiator grilles. The first, AUX 59, was supplied to Sydney’s father and often chauffeur driven.
Now we come to three even more refined Allards built just prior to WWII. They had full four-seater bodies with streamlined wings (fenders) the rears being fitted with spats. At least one of them was fitted with a Lincoln Zephyr V12 engine of 267 cu.in (4.4Ltrs.) capacity and developing 110 bhp.
By 1945 Allard was building cars in order to satisfy requests made by well-heeled enthusiasts who wanted to share Allard’s success. In 1946 he formed the Allard Motor Co, Ltd; production commenced with rather stark two-seaters fitted with V8 engines and the same 8 ft 4 in wheelbase of the pre-war cars. They were known as the J type, ninety of these cars were produced. The more refined K type two-seater followed with its distinctive rollover radiator grille and headlights incorporated into the front wings. A four-seater version of the K type, referred to as the L-type was also produced at this time. In June 1947, these were joined by a drophead coupe, the M-type, using the four-seater chassis. This Coupe proved so popular that the J and L-type Allards were gradually discontinued and the K made only in small numbers.
In August 1949 work started on the P1 Saloon, based on the M type’s chassis. Coil springs replaced a transverse leaf spring in conjunction with the Ballamy type, split-axle, independent front suspension, Lockheed brakes were also specified. The Allard P1 was introduced at that year’s London Motor Show. The P type proved to be a winner with prospective customers; to meet demand the M type was gradually dropped from the range. A revised M type, referred to as the M2, did make a reappearance at the 1951 Motor Show. Meanwhile, the K-type two-seater, now referred to as the K2 had undergone significant changes making it a very sophisticated sports car indeed. It had a larger body, new-type front, pentagonal shaped, grille, new ‘quarter’ bumpers and a more capacious boot/trunk.
In August 1949, Allard had introduced a fairly basic sports car suitable for competition use, this was the J2. Fitted with a bored out Mercury engine to give a capacity of 4.4 Ltrs. (269 cu. ins.), coil spring suspension at four corners, de Dion tube at the rear, it was a potent machine. The cars were shipped to the USA without engines allowing customers there to fit their own choice of engine. Not resting on his laurels Allard improved the J2 even further leading, in 1952, to the introduction of the J2X. The ‘X’ stood for extension, the chassis frame was extended forward by 6.0 in. the wheelbase was unchanged at 100 in. The engine was also moved forward 7.5 in., adding cockpit space and improving handling. Popular engine choices were Ardun-Ford (Ardun = o.h.v. cylinder head conversion), 5.4-litre Cadillac or Chrysler ohv V8 engine. Although the J2X was an evolution of the J2 it was not significant enough to keep pace with the improvements that other manufacturers, with which Allard competed, were making: the results obtained by the J2X were not as impressive as those achieved by the J2, only 83 cars were built. Nevertheless, it is a very much sought after car now and has also led to a number of companies making replicas and even continuation cars. One of those bears the name Allard, although no relation, based in California, USA.
In late 1951, Allard started delivering the new J2X, which notably featured Allard designer Dudley Hume’s revised front suspension with parallel pivots. The goal was to race the J2X at Le Mans in 1952, but because the L’Automobile Club De L’Ouest, organisers of the Le Man’s 24 Hour Race, had dictated that cars could no longer race with motorcycle-style wings (fenders), in the short time available, Hume had to create a new all-enveloping body. Note – Healey were faced with the same problem, that is how the Nash Healey X5 was created. Hume wanted to race the new JR model that he was designing but the car would not be ready in time. The decision was made to quickly make a C-type style body to fit the J2X chassis and running gear, thus the J2X Le Mans car was created.
Hume continued to work on the JR, incorporating a number of features that he had incorporated into a variety of Allards he had developed previously. An example of that was the adoption of the P2’s twin tube chassis that increased rigidity significantly over the old formed channel design. Dudley also incorporated his revised split axle front suspension from the J2X , this brought it more in line with designer Leslie Ballamy’s original concept. Additionally, the JR adopted the new Palm Beach’s 96” wheel base and narrower 51” track. Finally, the JR was specifically designed to use the Cadillac V8 engine which was more compact and lighter than the Chrysler Hemi that Allard raced in 1952. Arguably the most significant feature of the new JR was the stunning aluminium body. Only seven JRs were built and they all exist today, they fetch a pretty penny on the rare occasion one comes up for sale. In 2013 RM Sotheby’s sold chassis number JR 3403 for $605,000!!!
In 1952 Allard decided to replace the P1 saloon with the P2 ‘Monte Carlo’ model, celebrating that famous victory. Intended to carve out a niche in the North American market, the P2 Monte Carlo saloon and sister Safari estate were big, luxurious and – in 5.4 litre Cadillac V8 form – impressive performers. Despite that neither appealed to potential customers, only 11 saloons and 13 estates were built.
For 1952, the completely redesigned K3 was released, new from the chassis up. The side rails were built up from a pair of vertically stacked Chromoly tubes, welded and reinforced with steel plates. Having a 100-in. wheelbase, this chassis was lighter and stronger than previous Allards. The K3 was a more serious touring car, with an aluminum all-enveloping body, rather than separate clamshell fenders. It had a bench seat capable of holding three abreast. Engine options were listed as British Ford, American Mercury, Cadillac, and Chrysler. Curb weight was 2580 lb. While the J2 had to do one thing, and do it well, that being to go very fast, more was expected of a serious passenger car, unfortunately, the K3 failed to deliver on several counts. It had a limited steering lock, resulting in a large turning circle, therefore, making parallel parking difficult. The doors didn’t open wide enough, and inadequate windshield wipers were teamed with nonexistent provisions for heating and defrosting. Furthermore, while a J2 represented a Ferrari-beating bargain at around $2,100, the K3 cost more than twice as much at $5,300. A mere 63 cars were sold between 1952 and 1954, with most going to the USA. Despite these negatives K3s fetch very good prices now, Bonhams sold one at the 2015 Quail Lodge auction for $96,250.
I am going to spend a little longer on this model because I believe that it was Allard’s equivalent to the Healey 100; the car that had the potential, as Sydney Allard saw it, to sell in large numbers in the USA. Whether he had the production capacity to meet substantial orders (as Healey didn’t initially) is a question that was never challenged. I came across this article on the drive-my.com website, I believe that it summarises, very well, both that potential and the reasons for it not being fulfilled. I have modified the text, just a little, to make it more readable –
“You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel sympathy for Sydney Allard. Best known for formidable, brutish proto-Cobra US V8-powered sports and GT cars, dominant in racing and rallying in the late Forties and very early Fifties. He lacked a volume seller to take him from London garagiste to major manufacturer. With the 1952 Palm Beach, he thought he’d found a unique niche to exploit and make a fortune. And found it he had – but it turned out That Triumph and Austin had the same idea at exactly the same time.
This Palm Beach I’m going to drive today bore witness to this entire, tortuous process. An early prototype, not road-registered until many years after it was built, it was Sydney Allard’s rolling testbed. The car he threw various components at, trying desperately to make his big idea work. His tiny Clapham factory, clinging to traditional handbuilt processes yet attempting to keep costs competitive, was hopelessly outgunned by the Midlands giants at Longbridge, Birmingham and Canley, Coventry. However, as the savage snarl and urgent thrust from beneath that disproportionately long bonnet attest, it seems Allard was onto something neither Triumph nor Austin could counter, or, so he thought.
I first encounter the car outside the kind of rural barn that often doubled as a mechanic’s workshop and petrol station in the 1940s. The passage of time has a habit of rendering, once controversial, designs appealing but the looks of the Palm Beach were one of the factors that hobbled it from the start. Sydney Allard conceived the car’s styling to be a major US draw at a time when the biggest-selling British sports car out there was the cycle-winged, vintage-looking MG TD. Allard looked at the new wave of expensive exotica coming out of Europe and reasoned that a new machine, MG-simple and based on mass-produced Ford Consul and Zephyr components, yet slickly full- bodied in the style of something from an Italian carrozzeria, would mark the way forward for an affordable British sports car. The name, Palm Beach, spoke of the glamour and particularly, of the U.S. market, that Allard hoped to tap into.
But Allard’s in-house styling effort didn’t impress his would-be American dealers when he toured the country with a left-hand drive prototype. The American reaction to the styling was so negative that, during his trip, Allard arranged a meeting with Joe Frazer of Graham-Paige – no longer a manufacturer of extravagant art-deco luxury cars, but a major player in the burgeoning plastics industry – to discuss the idea of supplying Palm Beaches to the US minus their factory aluminium bodies; to be fitted with glassfibre shells styled to American tastes. The plan was not pursued.”
As a result of the bad reception to the car’s styling in the US, it was restyled and launched as the Palm Beach Mk. 2 at the 1956 London Motor Show. Although the revised design was well received by the press some calling it “the best designed Allard ever”, unlike the Healey 100 when it was launched, at the 1952 London Motor Show, it did not attract many sales enquiries.
The Palm Beach was sold with the choice of a four-cylinder 1.5-litre (1508 cc) engine from a Ford Consul producing 47 bhp (35 kW; 48 PS) or a six-cylinder 2.3-litre (2262 cc) engine from a Ford Zephyr producing 68 bhp (51 kW; 69 PS). There was one V8 model built to special order for an Argentinian customer, supplied new with a 4.0-litre Dodge ‘Red Ram’ engine. The Mk 2 had the Ford six cylinder engine as standard. Only 80 Palm Beach cars were sold, seven of them being Mk.2s.
WHERE WE STARTED – THE ALLARD P4
In the late 1980s, F1-designer Chris Humberstone licensed the Allard name to return it to compete in the Group C endurance racing class. As a bizarre consequence of this effort, the company modified the contemporary Lexus LS400 in an attempt to get Toyota interested in the racing car project. Initially, Toyota did show interest but because of confusion within the Humberstone team, they lost interest. Only three Allard P4s were built.
The changes made to the LS400 were not dramatic. There is a new front end with a different headlamp treatment and there are a pair of round taillights on each side at the rear. Inside, there’s burgundy and black two-tone leather with a lightning bolt stitched onto the seatbacks. The powertrain is the standard 4.0 Ltr. 1UZ-FE V8. Having read the Humberstone/AllardToyota story, I think I may have found the subject for my next article :-).
THE CLOSING YEARS
The Palm Beach was the last Allard badged car to be produced in this era. In1957 the Allard workshops had been absorbed by Adlards Motors, an associated company and a Ford Main Dealership. A small workshop and offices, located in Clapham High Street, together with an engineering works and motor accessory shop in Putney continued to operate under the Allard banner.
During the period 1959-1975 the Allard Motor Company marketed a range of modified Fords, such as the Allardette, based on the Ford Anglia. Other vehicle conversions and motor accessories, including Golde sunroofs and Shorrock superchargers, were also marketed.
In 1960 Sydney started building the first dragster outside the USA and introduced drag racing to the UK with the staging of the 1963/64 Dragfests, from where it spread to other countries in Europe. Allard built four dragsters, which were raced by Sydney and his son Alan. in 1964 Sydney, with others, formed the British Drag Racing Association which has guided the sport in the U.K. ever since.
Sadly, Sydney became ill with cancer in the autumn of 1965 and died in April 1966 at the age of only fifty six.
His son Alan took control of the company at this time and continued to market Shorrock and Wade superchargers, engine conversions, motor accessories and from ‘1971’ turbocharger conversions.
In 1975, Allard Motor Company ceased to trade. However, Alan now based in Wales, just over the Hereford/Monmouth border, continued the turbocharger conversion and motor accessory business. in 1982 he had a book called ‘Turbocharging & Supercharging’ published. This became a widely used reference guide for many enthusiasts wanting to gather information on the power to be gained from forced induction.
Not covered in this article but I guess that it has to be mentioned, is the ill fated 1953 – 54 Allard Clipper microcar. it was a dismal failure, only twenty cars were built.
In 2012 Alan and his son Lloyd formed a new company, Allard Sports Cars Limited with the objective of reviving Allard as a specialist sports car manufacturer, after a gap of some 60 years.
In 2017 Allards moved to new, larger premises located in the Science & Technology Business Park, near Berkeley, Gloucestershire.
Over the period 2015-2020 Allard continued to sell Allard components and carried out a number of Allard restoration projects. Initially, they started work on producing a continuation J2 referred to as the J3. In 2020 a continuation 1953 JR model was completed. In 2021 work started on building a new Allard GT Mk.2.
- Allard Register.org
- Allard owners club.org
- Allard Sportscars.co.uk
- RM Sotheby’s
- Silverstone Auctions