1951 Allard J2 Roadster

Sydney Allard developed his mighty J2 sports car specifically for breaking into the burgeoning American sports racing car market. Open road racing on public streets exploded in popularity the USA in the late 1940s, as returning servicemen went seeking their next thrill. Allard arrived on the scene at the ideal moment with the lightweight J2 roadster ready to accept any number of mighty and plentiful Yank V8 engines. The car quickly became a dominant force in motorsport, especially when paired with Cadillac’s superb new OHV V8. 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 on the narrow, undulating, and downright dangerous racecourses of the day.

Allard’s reputation came from his successful, purpose-built trials and hill climb cars. The J2 shared some of the basic design principles of the more trials-oriented J1 but was considerably lower, lighter, and more streamlined for road racing. Designed to take advantage of heavy-hitting Detroit V8s, the robust chassis featured a de Dion rear axle, large Alfin drum brakes, and a revised version of Allard’s signature split front axle, designed by Les Bellamy. Allard shipped the cars less engine and transmission, providing “kits” to prepare them for the customer’s choice of V8. Sydney Allard had a long-running relationship with Ford, and many cars utilized tuned Ford and Lincoln flathead engines. But it was Cadillac’s revolutionary 331 cubic-inch overhead-valve V8 that cemented the J2’s reputation as the race car to have in the early 1950s. With 160 horsepower in stock form and plenty more on tap, the Cad-Allards were regular winners in America and Europe. During the formative years of the SCCA, Allard J2s battled with Jaguars, Cunninghams, and Ferraris at the sharp end of the field. In that brief period before the professional European teams made their way to our shores, the J2 was the dominant force in sports car racing, earning its rightful place as an icon of American motorsports.

Chassis number 99J 1787 was invoiced by the factory on the 29th of August, 1950. Records and build sheets show it was initially equipped for a Cadillac V8 engine and finished in silver over natural leather upholstery. The order also specified provisions for a Ford gearbox as well as a strengthened chassis. Once completed, the rolling chassis was dispatched to Bell Auto Parts, the selling dealer in California. In 1923, Bell Auto Parts was founded by George Wright as one of the first speed shops in America. By the 1950s, Bell’s new owner Roy Richter developed a highly successful mail-order business and founded such legendary names as Bell Helmets and Cragar Industries. Richter and his crew installed the Cadillac V8 and prepared the Allard for competition. Chassis 1787 spent most of its early days racing extensively in various West Coast events, with its owner James Chapman at the helm.

Early in this car’s life, Mr. Chapman had the original split front axle replaced with a solid axle to improve the car’s handling on undulating circuits. The split axle could cause sudden and dramatic camber change on bumps or over crests, sometimes with eye-opening results for the driver. The J2 continued to race through the 1950s, and it is believed Mr. Chapman sold it sometime around 1956. In 1962, while in the care of its next owner, the original Cadillac engine was replaced with a lighter and more compact Chevrolet 283 and four-speed gearbox lifted from a 1957 Corvette. The solid axle configuration and the Chevrolet 283 remain with the car to this day and are integral to its unique history.

As offered today, 99J 1787 is in fine order throughout. It wears a very high quality and well-maintained older restoration with excellent aluminum bodywork, lovely paintwork, and comprehensive updates for vintage racing. Body fittings consist of the correct oval air outlets, polished stone guards on the rear wing, Monza fuel filler, and single side-mount spare wheel. Twin Perspex aero screens help keep the bugs out of your teeth while on the move, and a chrome Ray Dot mirror lets you keep tabs on everyone you’ve just passed. Rolling stock consists of excellent chrome knock-off wire wheels fitted with new Vredestein Sprint Classic radials.

The J2 was born and bred as a racer, so the cabin is appropriately spartan. In this car, red leather covers the seats and side bolsters, with bare alloy floors and exposed chassis tubes. The leather upholstery displays an attractive patina with some light fading consistent with the car’s use. Stewart Warner gauges are spread across the businesslike instrument panel, with the speedo facing the brave passenger and a large Moon Eyes tach just ahead of the driver. There is also an on-board fire suppression system required for most forms of vintage motorsport. The Chevrolet small-block V8 is clean and orderly under the bonnet, detailed to appropriate levels for a racing car. The engine features tubular headers, finned Corvette valve covers, and an Offenhauser intake topped with a trio of Rochester 2 Jet carburetors. Some modern style racing parts help ensure longevity and safety when on track, without spoiling this car’s wonderfully authentic appearance. It runs well and delivers the speed and visceral excitement that defines the Allard J2 legend.

Extensive setup went into sorting the chassis for racing. This includes a re-engineered DeDion axle that is updated with a Jaguar E-Type differential, modern style open drive shaft in place of the torque tube, and fully-adjustable Heim joints. The modified solid front axle uses a transverse leaf spring, integrated steering stabilizer, and more Heim joints for fine-tuning. This arrangement virtually eliminates the problematic bump-steer and camber change responsible for the standard J2’s often spooky handling characteristics. Alfin drum brakes and modern Carrera dampers at all four corners round out the impressively well-developed setup.

Presented with a pleasingly mellowed restoration, and impressive mechanical updates, this J2 is suitable for competitive vintage racing or for entry into any number of rallies and spirited touring events worldwide. With evocative good looks, fascinating history, and thrilling performance, 99J 1787 is sure to entertain its next keeper for many years to come.


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