Roger Allard, a fan of 1950s British cars, took a trip to England to acquire an Austin-Healey 100S. To find out more about this car, he tried to find some literature on the subject, and in doing so he came across a book on a car brand called... Allard! Intrigued, Roger Allard wanted to learn more about Allard cars.
He didn’t know it at the time, but this man’s life would never be the same. After all, it’s not every day that you discover a defunct brand bearing your family name! During his trip to Britain, he learned that a Californian man manufactured fibreglass Allard J2X bodies, and so he went to meet with him. Six months later, in 1999, after a series of surprising events, Roger Allard and a friend became owners of the rights to the Allard brand and founded Allard Motor Works. But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves – let’s go back to the beginning!
Once upon a time...
In 1936, Sydney Allard, a seasoned driver, founded the Allard Motor Company and produced about 1900 cars including numerous sports cars. Among other models, there were 83 units of the J2X built between 1951 and 1954, which ended up being the most celebrated Allard in auto racing. What’s more, some of the great names in racing drove the J2X to victory: Zora-Arkus Duntov, the father of the Corvette, the inimitable Carroll Shelby, John Fitch (first place in the Argentina Grand Prix) and actor/driver Steve McQueen. Due to excessively high development costs, Allard Motor Company ceased production in 1959. Sydney Allard remained active in auto racing until his death in 1966.
Back from the dead
So accurate a replica is Roger Allard’s Allard that it has been approved by the Allard Register as a genuine J2X. As proof, every MK II is awarded a badge confirming its authenticity. But to get to this point, Roger Allard had to create a modern car that was as close as possible to the original. The Quebec entrepreneur also had to meet current standards in terms of mechanics, comfort and safety. For example, the MK II is 4 inches longer than the original in order to give both occupants enough space. The gas tank is made of stainless steel with inner walls, there are impact bars in the doors, two roll bars in front and in the rear (that are quite visible), and the bumpers can resist an impact of 8 km/hr (5 mph). The instrumentation on the dashboard is an exact replica of the original but it’s infinitely more reliable... so much so that several old Allard owners want to buy it! The mechanism for the windshield wipers is not visible, but it’s there for those who want it, just like the two 12-volt outlets hidden under the dashboard.
The secret? The weight/power ratio
As for mechanics, modern is the word. Buyers have to choose between three V8s: two Chryslers (5.7 and the 6.1 Hemi) or a GM (350 Ramjet). It has a Tremec five-speed manual transmission and the differential ratio is 3.5:1. The 5.7 is the most popular and undoubtedly the best adapted to the car. I was able to try a J2X MKII equipped with this engine for several kilometres and I can tell you with certainty that the power is phenomenal. Imagine an engine with 350 horses and 400 lbs-ft of torque in a car that barely weighs 1250 kg (2750 pounds): Every horse has to displace 3.57 kg, which is a better ration than a Porsche Boxster S (4.11), a Lotus Elise SC (4.19) and a smart (11.71). And don’t get me started on the sound when accelerating... I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
It’s not terribly easy to get in, but I would have been surprised if it was. You’ll have to learn to slide in, knees first. Once seated, you’ll find yourself very low to the ground, and the front visibility is decent at best. Towards the back, the small rearview mirrors are to blame for the poor visibility, but who wants to look back when you’re driving a car like this anyway! Our car was equipped with the optional and none-too-easy-to-buckle four-point seatbelt, but fortunately Allard offers a traditional three-point seatbelt standard too.
The sound of the engine as soon as you push the start button screams sport driving. The rather firm clutch with a very far friction point adjusts perfectly. The pedals will delight heel-toe enthusiasts. Shifting is precise but the distance between gears seems a little long for such a sporty car. At low speeds, the steering isn’t particularly precise but it improves as the needle on the speedometer quickly moves away from absolute zero. As the car we tested was new and the brakes were cold, the force required to slow down the MK II was greater than normal. But once they warmed up, the brakes responded perfectly… which is imperial in a car like this! Note that it has inboard rear brakes, which means that they’re mounted on the differential, like on race cars, helping reduce the unsuspended weight. Obviously, the suspensions are hard, but the seats are surprisingly comfortable. Also surprisingly, no body noises or untimely squeaks disturbed our test drive, evidence that the car’s tubular chassis is very solid. The pinnacle of refinement, the lateral exhausts are made of ceramic, which prevents them from becoming boiling hot and burning the occasional calf. A few years ago, for our show on Canal Vox, driver Valérie Limoges had the obvious pleasure of driving the MK II on the Sanair tri-oval. Jay Leno had the same privilege in California!
Allard vs. the World
Unlike common “kit cars,” each of the MK II’s components is designed with care for impeccable results and the quality of the various materials and components is flawless. Most MK IIs sold to date were sold in the United States, were the Allard brand is well known to old car enthusiasts thanks to, among other things, the numerous appearances of the original models in races back in the day in places like Lime Rock or Watkins Glen. However, Allard is starting to make a name for itself everywhere, and requests for information from Australia, Europe and Great Britain are pouring in. AMW has one dealership in California (already an authorized dealer for the Morgan brand), as well as another in Boston and in the Middle East. Talks are ongoing with other representatives in Germany, England and China.
The retail price of an Allard J2X MK II is $138,000 USD, which may seem a little steep, but considering the quality of the car and its on-track capabilities, it really isn’t too much. If you want to buy yourself an exceptional car/fountain of youth, the Allard J2X MKII is the way to go. You’ll just have to plan on waiting between 10 and 12 weeks before you receive your unit. For more information, visit www.allardj2x.com.