Simanaitis Says

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ALLARD TALES

SYDNEY ALLARD wasn’t your typical Englishman. For one thing, he got the point of drag racing. For another, years before Carroll Shelby stuffed American V-8s into British sports cars, Sydney did the same, with a vengeance.

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Start of an Allard trilogy. This and other images from Automobile Quarterly, Summer 1970, Vol. 8 No. 4.

Dennis May’s subhead in the first of an Automobile Quarterly Allard trilogy read “the blacksmith’s revenge.” Whatever the marque might have lacked (no, make that studiously avoided) in refinement, it doubled and redoubled in potency.

In the same AQ, Dick O’Kane offered an Allard fable, illustrated by Stan Mott of Cyclops fame; and AQ editor Don Vorderman had driving impressions of the car. Both likened the Allard to Grendel, “the monster, the demon” of the Old English epic poem Beowulf.

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Stan Mott illustration from Dick O’Kane’s “Grendel: ‘Many doomed beings were descended from Cain, including the detestable outcast Grendel.’ ”

May noted that Sydney Allard used to race Morgan three-wheelers. Allard’s own designs “shared two of the Mog’s time-honored traits: crudity, mitigated by enormous effectiveness.”

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Allard J2X, 1951 – 1954. Image by cutaway artist extraordinaire Yoshihiro Inomoto.

The J2X was typical. A simple large-tube chassis was clothed in aluminum bits covering no more than necessary. Rear suspension was a reasonably effective De Dion layout. Front suspension was Allard’s split axle, a decade ahead of the Twin-I-Beam on the Ford F-series. Though Allard’s split axle made sense in British trials, fondly known as mud-plucking, its use on normal road surfaces gained another reputation.

Wrote Don Vorderman, “…surely one of the best possible ways to compensate for a poor suspension design is to keep the car at least several inches above the road.”

Copperstate pal John Sanborn, a man of taste and refinement otherwise, owned a pair of Allards: a J2X and a K2 (equally potent, but civilized with more than cycle front fenders).

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The Sanborn Allard K2 during a Skull Valley break on the Arizona Copperstate rally.

John and his wife Kathy enjoyed the modest creature comforts (remember Grendel…) for extended drives of several Arizona Copperstate 1000 rallys. He and his son Allen even took the J2X on one.

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The Sanborn Allard J2X. Note the proximity of your author’s left ear and an Allard exhaust pipe. I said NOTE THE….

My own drives of the Sanborn J2X were rather less adventurous, in the environs of Palm Springs, California. Only on the most isolated—and straight—portions did I exercise my right foot on its accelerator. Grendel lives!

Zora Arkus-Dontov, father of the high-performance Chevrolet Corvette, was also an Allard fan. His Ardun cylinder heads transformed many a flathead Ford V-8 into something worthy of Allard propulsion.

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Zora Arkus-Duntov and his Allard J2X at the 1952 Le Mans. Illustration by James Crawford, from R&T, July 1995.

Zora did more than modify Allards; he raced them too. In “Zora’s Detour to Tours,” Road & Track, July 1995, he recounted his J2X drive at the 1952 Le Mans. “Within 500 yards of the 30-mph Mulsanne Corner, I take my foot off the accelerator, coast for 100 yards and then onto the brakes. There’s only the slightest resistance and the pedal goes limp to the floor.”

Crashing through the escape road barrier, he and the Allard, still at more than 100 mph, mixed it up with ordinary cars on the road to Tours. A mile from the corner, the handbrake brought him to a stop. “The villagers are pop-eyed, but they urge me on….”

Zora returned to the circuit. “When I reach my pit, there is a sign: ‘ZORA COME IN.’ ” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015.

One comment on “ALLARD TALES

  1. Frank Barrett
    May 20, 2015

    Wow, Don Vorderman, that brings back memories! Dennis, were you on the MB press trip to Portugal for the new SL, circa-1989? Leo Levine almost left him behind…

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