After a successful run building Ford-powered off-road trials cars in the early 1940s, Sydney Allard got serious about road racing in 1949 with the introduction of the J2. This new car was built lower and leaner than the trials-oriented J1, in the process becoming more elegant and streamlined. The J2 was designed to take advantage of the powerful new V8 engines coming out of Detroit at the start of the 1950s and featured a de Dion rear axle for improved high-speed handling, large Alfin drum brakes, and a revised version of Allard’s signature split front axle, designed by Les Bellamy. Sydney Allard’s timing was impeccable, as the budding American sports car racing scene was gaining momentum and buyers were hungry for competitive, race-ready cars.
As a result of that demand, a large number of the 94 J2s built came to the USA. As with most racing-oriented Allards, the cars were shipped less engine and transmission but could be prepped to accept any number of V8s, with the Ford-Ardun and Lincoln units proving popular. Despite Sydney Allard’s long-running relationship with Ford, the engine that made the J2 famous was the powerful new overhead valve, 331 cubic-inch V8 from Cadillac. With 160 horsepower in stock form and plenty more on tap, the Cad-Allards would come to dominate open road racing in the 1950s, winning at legendary circuits like Watkins Glen, Bridgehampton, and Elkhart Lake. In those formative years of the SCCA, Allard J2s were most often found at the sharp end of the field, battling Jaguars, Cunninghams, and Ferraris for victory. It took several years for the Europeans to catch on, and for a brief time, the Allard J2 was one of the most successful sports racing cars on our shores. The J2 is an icon of American motorsport and Allard’s most successful racing car of all.
Legendary drivers like Carrol Shelby, John Fitch, and Sydney Allard himself all competed in the Allard J2. One of the most prolific J2 racers was Fred Wacker of Chicago. The grandson of a prominent Chicago politician, Fred Wacker served as president of Ammco Tools from 1948 to 1986 and was a gifted engineer, pilot, musician, and racing driver. With the means to buy the best and the talent to drive it, Fred started racing in an MG TC and worked his way up to a drive with the Gordini Grand Prix team in Europe. However, it was with his famous “8-Ball” Cad-Allards that Fred Wacker truly established his racing career.
The first J2 to wear Fred Wacker’s famous number eight (a tribute to his father’s racing yacht) was this car, chassis number 99J 1577. This car was produced on June 8th, 1950, and was delivered in right-hand drive and with a 40-gallon fuel tank. Fred Wacker took delivery and immediately contacted Frank Burrell to fit a Cadillac 331 V8 in the car in time for the 1950 Watkins Glen Grand Prix. Burrell was a Cadillac engineer who had worked on the tank engine program during WWII and had also developed many special performance parts for the new overhead valve engines. According to his son Barry Burrell, Frank built an engine with one of his own special dual-quad aluminum intake manifolds, and he modified the chassis to accept a heavily reworked Hydramatic automatic transmission. The transmission had been fitted with internal parts from Cadillac’s tank engine program and modified to allow for manual shifting. While the choice of transmission may seem odd to some, the result was one of the fastest accelerating Allards of the day. It was painted in a livery designed by Karl Brocken – all black and adorned with a bold white number 8, earning the car the nickname “8-Ball”. Fred Wacker would enjoy a great deal of success with this chassis. Highlights include:
- 1950 Watkins Glen Grand Prix - 3rd Overall
- 1950 Sebring 6h – Classified 8th on Index of Performance, 2 full laps ahead on track
- 1951 Palm Beach Grand Prix – 2nd Overall
- 1951 Watkins Glen Grand Prix – 12th Overall (DNF, Mechanical)
- 1951 Buenos Aires Sports Car Olympics - 2nd Overall
Immediately following the Buenos Aires races, Wacker made a deal to sell 1577, but the negotiations fell apart thanks to new restrictions on imported cars in Argentina. 1577 returned to the USA where it was sold later that year, and Fred purchased a second J2, #2086, which would also run in his “8-ball” livery, but on a red background. Fred was behind the wheel of 2086 while battling with John Fitch’s Cunningham for the lead of the 1952 Watkins Glen Grand Prix when the two cars triggered the infamous crash that effectively ended open road racing in America.
Following its sale, it is believed that #1577 continued to race as the “Bar’s Leaks Special.” The first of several racing cars used to promote the automotive chemical company, it is believed to have run in their colors for a brief period. In 1958, 99J 1577's current owner discovered it sitting on a used car lot outside of Detroit. He was an avid sports car racer, though Corvettes were regularly outclassing the Thunderbird he was driving at the time. He saw the Allard and figured it would be just the tool he needed to beat the Vettes. A deal was struck and he would use the car on a regular basis both on the track and on the road, though he admittedly never came to grips with the power and speed of the Allard. When it was no longer competitive or practical to run as a daily driver, the Allard was put into storage.
Beginning in 2000, the owner commenced an extensive, multi-year restoration. Finished in approximately 2009, it now presents in excellent condition, retaining many period correct and unique features. The restoration preserved the car with a period-appropriated feel, and it now presents in metallic silver, yet still adorned with Fred Wacker’s signature Number 8. The original Cadillac engine was replaced long ago – perhaps when Wacker sold it in 1951 – and the car is now powered by a 1954-coded Chrysler 331 Hemi topped with dual Carter four-barrel carburetors, which is fittingly backed by an automatic transmission.
The Allard shows only light use since the restoration was completed, with the painted chassis and undercarriage appearing very clean and tidy. The body and paint are well done, and it is detailed nicely with correct Lucas lamps, wire wheels, and a removable roll bar should the next owner wish to take it vintage racing or rallying. The cockpit is faithful to original specification, with two simple seats and a Brooklands banjo-type steering wheel. The dash features a full array of instruments, with critical gauges duplicated for easy access to driver or co-driver.
With its impressive record at the hands of one of the great gentleman drivers of the era, 99J-1577 is a significant piece of American motorsports history that was active during the genesis of sports car racing in the USA. We are delighted to offer this historically significant Allard, presented in excellent condition, and ready for use in vintage racing, historic rallying, or casual tour.