Sydney Allard’s brawny J2 was one of the first British sports cars of the post-war era, explicitly targeting the burgeoning American sports car market. The open-road-racing scene exploded in the USA in the late 1940s, and the Allard J2 quickly rose to prominence as a dominant competitor, particularly when paired with Cadillac’s fabulous new overhead-valve V8 engine. While the J2 was undoubtedly fast, it also had a reputation for wild handling, and it often took a caliber of a driver like John Fitch, Carroll Shelby, or Phil Hill to tame it.
In 1952, Allard introduced an improved version known as the J2X. Outwardly similar in appearance, the J2X had a few significant alterations aimed at improving stability and driver comfort. Allard moved the engine forward in the chassis by 7.5 inches, which improved the handling balance. To make room, the front suspension and steering required significant modifications, necessitating a six-inch extension of the forward frame. The DeDion rear axle remained the same as before, with proven Jaguar/Lockheed drum brakes at all four corners. Drivetrain choice was up to the buyer, and most customers chose OHV V8 engines from Cadillac or Chrysler, making light work of the 2,300-pound J2X. Despite being less successful in competition than the J2 it replaced, the J2X is universally lauded by today’s enthusiasts as the most desirable all-round Allard sports car, and one of the best to come from Sydney Allard’s South London workshops. Just 83 J2Xs were ever built.
Proudly offered here is J2X 3144, a superb and unique Allard with a fascinating and continuous history from new. The story begins on November 19th, 1953, when Noel Kirk Motors of Hollywood, California, delivered chassis 3144 to Mr. Albert Zugsmith. The car was finished in attractive Olde English white over a black interior and equipped with the top dog Cadillac 331 under the bonnet. Albert’s son Mike Zugsmith later recalled that his father wasn’t much into cars, but his mother was, and she was the primary driver of the mighty J2X. Mr. Zugsmith was quite a colorful character, having made millions in his sales business before turning to filmmaking in the 1950s. Much of his early work fell squarely in the B-movie category, but he found widespread success with 1956’s Written on the Wind, starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, Lauren Bacall, and Dorothy Malone – who won an Oscar for best-supporting actress for her performance. Zugsmith’s Allard J2X featured prominently in the picture, painted a lurid shade of yellow for the role of Robert Stack’s “hot rod.”
The Zugsmiths sold the Allard to Jack Barbour, who continued to enjoy the car in and around Hollywood through the late 1960s. Sometime around then, the trail went cold. That all changed in 2008 when J2X 3144 reappeared in the estate of Ronald Van Kregten. It came to light that Van Kregten purchased the Allard from his friend Jack Barbour and squirreled it away in his private collection until his passing in 2002. It wasn’t until his wife passed in 2008 that the astonishing collection was made public– which included a 250 SWB California Spyder, the Steve McQueen Cobra, Clark Gable’s 300 SL, and rare aircraft Van Kregten acquired from his other good friend, Howard Hughes. During its 40-plus years in the Van Kregten collection, J2X 3144 never appeared in public, and only a select few family members knew of its existence.
The collection was dispersed in January 2009, and J2X 3144 found a home with the most recent owner of 11 years. An experienced restorer, vintage racer and well-known automotive historian, he had looked for a J2X for years, none making the cut until he discovered 3144. Although impressively well-preserved thanks to its low mileage and decades long slumber, its new custodian soon began a characteristically meticulous renovation of 3144. Finished in maroon upon his purchase in 2009, bits of yellow paint were found on the wheels and body, leading the owner to contact Allard historians Chuck and Colin Warnes of The Allard Register, suspecting this was the long-lost movie car. Identifying points as the Written on the Wind car included its rare steel disc wheels – one of only about 15 J2Xs originally equipped. Also, it has the very rare dual fuel fillers, clearly seen in movie stills. Upon tracing the ownership chain, the car’s identity was confirmed. Original build records provided by the Allard family show the car was ordered for Imported Motor Car Co. of New York, prepared for Cadillac power, but re-allocated for Noel Kirk Motors, with a clear order to ship the car on disc wheels if no wires were available. Further investigation by the most recent owner revealed 3144 retains its original Cadillac engine fitted by Noel Kirk Motors in 1953, helped by the fact that it sat in Van Kregten’s collection for at least 35 years, and never saw abuse on a race track.
The famous Allard showed just over 10,000 miles from new, and its return to health focused on preserving this originality but with thoughtful upgrades for use on rallies and tours. The owner stripped and repainted its all-original and uncut aluminum body in its as-delivered shade of Old English White. The resulting finish quality is exceptional, with beautiful detailing throughout. The interior features black leather upholstery that has taken on a lovely character from light use, augmented by its original Bluemels Brooklands steering wheel and original Smiths instrumentation in the engine-turned alloy dash. Incredibly, the original Noel Kirk Motors water transfer dealer decal remains under the dash on the firewall.
Considering most J2Xs were raced hard in their day, the vast majority have had engine changes as owners sought out the latest technology or suffered mechanical failure in the heat of battle. A J2X with its original drivetrain is an exceptionally rare find, and experts at GM Heritage verify this car’s 331 cubic-inch Cadillac V8 as a genuine “customer unit” sold to Noel Kirk Motors. Steve Johnson of AMS Racing Engines rebuilt the engine, which is balanced, blueprinted, and now topped with a 1955-dated Weiand dual-quad intake with proper vintage Carter AFB carburetors, while the original Cadillac 4-bbl manifold and Rochester carburetor accompany the sale. The engine is also still fitted with its original Noel Kirk installed porcelain coated tubular headers. Mike Miles rebuilt the original Ford 3-speed gearbox, with new bearings, synchronizers and REM-treated gears for durability and smooth operation. A 3.25:1 final drive in the original differential improves high-speed cruising ability, and a custom, mandrel-bent, ceramic coated exhaust system delivers the perfect balance of comfort and aggression. For the chassis, custom-made Delrin bushings tighten up the handling and give the car a more precise feel on the road. The brakes feature an upgraded dual-circuit master cylinder bespoke carbon-metallic linings for exceptional stopping power in all conditions. For the final touches and sorting, the owner handed 3144 over to Allard experts John Harden and Chris Campbell of The Vintage Connection. Chris declared it one of the best driving J2X he’d ever experienced, and they performed the final prep work to dial the car in for rallies and tours. Work included Magnaflux-testing all suspension components, fitting custom coil springs, and adding a custom radiator fan shroud.
Since its restoration, J2X 3144 appeared in numerous concours events, including the Road & Track Magazine Concours at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, where it won Best Sports Car and Best In Show. It also featured in a special class of Allards at the 2010 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, earning an Amelia award and completing the Eight Flags road tour with ease. While this marvelous Allard is undoubtedly worthy of entry into world-class concours, it is best suited to open road events like the Colorado Grand, Copperstate 1000, or anywhere the power, beauty, and pure driving joy of this exceptional Allard J2X can be fully appreciated.
Offers welcome and trades considered