The Legacy of Pioneering Speed: Allard Cars

For just twelve short years, Allard cars sent shockwaves through the automotive world. Its pre-war, high-speed performance cars were sensational, but this astonishing success didn’t last. In the pantheon of British motoring, the history of Allard is fascinating yet fleeting, a tale of innovation and prestige, quickly followed by a sharp descent into obscurity.

Automotive History
14 December 2023

Originally founded in 1946, the Allard Motor Company’s storied past harks back to an earlier motoring epoch, propelled by Sydney Herbert Allard’s passion for racing. This zeal, embedded in the company’s very core, was the catalyst for its establishment and subsequent evolution in the dynamic world of automotive design and racing. This dedicated founder could genuinely talk the torque, so to speak.

Allard’s zeal for the race track fuelled the creation of his earliest vehicles. Tailored to meet the challenging demands of trials competitions, these automobiles were a testament to his commitment to speed and precision. Designed to conquer the ticking clock in rally races, these cars were a reflection of Allard’s profound grasp of and proficiency in automotive dynamics, highlighting his prowess in channelling raw power into the competitive arena of motorsport.

At the heart of his early success were the pre-war Allard Specials. These cars, a blend of raw power and cutting-edge design, quickly earned acclaim for their exceptional performance. They laid the foundation for Allard’s reputation as a pioneer in automotive engineering, setting the stage for Allard cars’ future achievements.

The early 1950s were halcyon days for Allard automobiles, with iconic models like the 4.4-litre V8 J2, the two-seater V8 K2, the 2.6-litre inline-six Palm Beach and the 4.4-litre Ford-powered L. However, this success, like the Allard Motor Company itself, was short lived.

The late 1950s were a period of struggle for Allard. The company faced a host of issues, including financial difficulties, rising competition, and changing consumer preferences, which collectively contributed to its decline. It was harder and harder for small fish in a growing sea of corporate behemoths to keep afloat. The company fell into administration in 1957 and closed its doors for good the following year. This is the history of Allard cars.

Sidney Allard: The Forgotten Pioneer

Sydney Allard driving a J2 Allard, September 1950 (Credit: National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Allard made his name with the eponymous Allard Specials, a series of twelve, one-off cars, designed for trials events.

The first car, upon which all this future success was built, was identified by its number plate CLK 5. It was cobbled together in three weeks and was powered by a Ford V8 from a smashed-up Model 40, and used the chassis, steering column and petrol tank from an old Bugatti. Winner of the Southport Sands trials event, CLK 5 is widely considered to be the first car in the history of Allard.

The second car, FGP 750, was almost identical to the first, but with a drilled body to save weight and a slightly elongated tail.

These vehicles led to requests, even from Allard’s rivals, for him to build them similar cars. Before long, he was making cars to order, including a remarkably powerful 4.4-litre Lincoln-Zephyr V12-powered version bought by racing driver Ken Hutchinson.

Production stopped as World War II took hold, but as soon as the war ended, the Allard Motor Company was set up in Clapham High Street in London and the history of Allard cars was to officially begin.

The Age of Allard

1950 Allard J2 (Credit: National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Soon after Sidney Allard set up his business, a piece in Autocar magazine started with the line –

The first Allard was produced as a trials special and was so outstandingly successful that Allards have now been put into limited production.

The stage was set. Allard cars were only ever going to be produced in low volume – between 1946 and 1958, only 1,902 cars were produced – but they made some truly memorable vehicles.

In the immediate postwar era, Allard embarked on an ambitious journey to redefine high-performance cars with its J and K series, emerging as iconic examples of the company’s innovative spirit and engineering prowess.

The J Series

The J series, particularly the J2 and J2X models, quickly became synonymous with hardcore speed and agility, catering to the burgeoning demand for very fast sports cars. These models were distinguished by their lightweight design and powerful American V8 engines – most often the 5.4-litre Cadillac lump – a combination that made them formidable contenders on both the road and the race track.

The J series’ success in various international racing competitions, including the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Mille Miglia, solidified the company’s reputation as a manufacturer of world-class sports cars. The history of Allard was assured. At least for the time being.

The K Series

The K1, K2, and K3 were a series of stunning two-seater roadsters that offered a slightly different approach to that of previous Allard cars, balancing high performance with road-going refinement. While these models shared the potent V8 engines and robust chassis of the J series, they were designed with a greater emphasis on everyday usability and comfort.

The K series featured more luxurious interiors and slightly more conservative styling, making them appealing to a broader audience who sought the thrill of the drive without the raw intensity of a pure racing machine, so synonymous throughout the early history of Allard cars. This blend of performance and practicality ensured the K series’ popularity among a diverse group of car buyers.

Just 62 K3 versions were built, all featuring the legendary 180 hp, 5.4-litre Chrysler Hemi engine and all but six were sold in the USA. At auction, a concourse condition K3 can fetch upwards of £250,000.

The L Series

In the illustrious Allard cars history, the L series is arguably the most beautiful but perhaps the least well-known today. The four-seater roadster, of which just 191 were built, retailed at just over £1,000 and was in production from 1946 until 1950. It was available in two configurations – a 3.6-litre Ford V8 or a 4.4-litre Mercury V8 – and had a top speed believed to be no more than 85 mph.

The Slow Decline

1951 Allard K2. (Credit: National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Allard cars were an enigma. The P1, known as the Allard 3.6-litre Saloon, was a two-door executive sports saloon aimed at upwardly mobile professionals, and they followed up with the M, a drophead coupe. A bizarre eight-seater, wood-panelled P2 Safari which couldn’t find a market came next, and finally the Palm Beach, a 1.5-litre Ford-powered roadster was built which was years behind the competition. The writing was on the wall.

There was no way this niche South London car maker could compete with the Jaguar XK120, the Austin-Healey 100M, the Triumph TR3A and the AC Ace, as well as what was coming from Germany and Italy. Allard cars simply couldn’t keep up with the technological advancements of mass-produced cars that could be made far more efficiently and marketed equally as well.

By 1955, Allard was struggling to keep out of the red, the market for huge-engined muscle cars was dying – only to come back to life the following decade – and since Allard relied so heavily on the export market, a recession in the States in the later years of the 1950s signalled the death knell.

The company went into administration in 1957 and was gone for good the following year.

A sad footnote in the history of Allard cars was that on the night of April 12, 1966, Sidney Allard died and a fire swept through the Clapham factory destroying much of the Allard cars’ archive.

End of an Era: The Legacy of Allard Cars

1950 Allard K2 (Credit: Ronald Startup/Picture Post/Hulton Archive via Getty Images)

The history of Allard was one of audacious innovation and unbridled passion for speed. From the roaring success of the pre-war Specials to the post-war glory of the J and K series, Allard cars consistently pushed the boundaries of automotive technology and design.

Sidney Allard himself was an automotive pioneer and he and his company left an indelible impact on the motoring world. Allard, a name once synonymous with innovation, performance, and speed, may have ceased operations over six decades ago, but its legacy endures to this day.

The demise of Allard in the late 1950s marked the end of an era, but not the end of their story. Today, Allard automobiles are revered as collectors’ items, celebrated for their historical significance and their role in shaping the landscape of high-performance vehicles.

The history of Allard cars serves as a powerful reminder of the transient nature of success as well as a testament to the enduring impact of innovation and daring. Allard cars may have disappeared from the roads, but its pioneering spirit speeds on.


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