News and Features
1953 ALLARD J2X ROADSTER
You’re sitting in the stands during a sports car race and all the sleek machines speed past with high pitched whirr. Then comes a thunderous bellow as an Allard roars past. One wheel lifting in the turn, the rear end crouched as if to spring. Allards weren’t the most elegant cars that ever graced a race track, nor were they the most stylishly built, but if they had one good characteristic it was a habit of winning races.
Built by Sidney Allard in England, they were a true British hotrod. With their flimsy thin aluminum body, motorcycle fenders and spare tire clamped to the side they seemed woefully out of place next to the sleek Jaguars and Mercedes. But they could go, powered by big Mercury, Cadillac and Chrysler V-8s, tweaked by the best American speed-equipment makers of the time.
The earlier J2 model placed third in the prestigious Le Mans 24-hour race in 1950. The J2X simply meant that the front cowling was extended beyond the front wheels.
Throughout the 1950s the Allards provided terrific racing passion. One car magazine writer described them as ugly ducklings on wheels with brawn, incredible acceleration and mediocre braking, but one of the most exciting race cars of its time.
The J2X Allard featured in the Cussler Museum left the factory in England in August of 1953. It was shipped to San Francisco where it was loaded on a ship and taken to Japan, where the owner, an officer in the Air Force, drove it for several years before sending it back to the states. From there the history grows dim until I bought it in Seattle, Washington, sometime in 1985.
My old Air Force buddy, Dave Anderson, reshaped the aluminum body and primed it. Then the chief mechanic for the Jolly Rancher Candy top fuel dragster rebuilt the original Cadillac engine with 3/4 Iskenderian cam and other goodies such as a dual four-throat carburetor manifold. I refused to chrome the wire wheels as some Allard owners have done, feeling it looks too gaudy for a car built for racing.
The J2X is a fun driver, almost like riding and steering a four-wheel motorcycle, and goes like hell. Obviously, my favorite driver, Dirk Pitt thinks so too. He drove it during a daring race in the novel Shock Wave.
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