1953 Allard J2X Roadster

Sydney Allard’s brawny J2 was one of the first post-war British sports cars explicitly targeted at the burgeoning sports car scene in America. The popularity of racing on public road courses like Pebble Beach, Elkhart Lake, and Watkins Glen had exploded in the late 1940s, and the Allard J2 quickly rose to the top as a dominant competitor, particularly when paired with Cadillac’s spectacular 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 to improve stability and driver comfort. Allard moved the engine forward in the chassis by 7.5 inches, which improved the handling balance. That required a rework of the front suspension, steering, and a six-inch extension of the forward frame. The de Dion rear axle remained the same as before, with proven Jaguar-sourced Lockheed drum brakes at all four corners. Like the J2, engine choice was up to the buyer, and most customers chose the latest OHV V8 engines from Cadillac, Buick, Olds, and Chrysler – all of which made light work of the 2,300-pound car. By the time the J2X landed, Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar, and others pushed American sportscar racing into a new era, with professional teams, big-name drivers, and increasingly exotic machinery. While the J2X had a considerably shorter motorsport career than the J2, it considered by marque aficionados to be the best driving and most desirable machine to come out of Sydney Allard’s workshop.

Chassis number 3162 is one of the best-known J2Xs in America. One of only 83 J2Xs built, this marvelous car has enjoyed a long and storied career as a vintage racer in the hands of Allard enthusiast Robert Lytle. It boasts a fascinating and well-documented history, back to the day it was ordered. The history file contains the original order records, build sheets, numerous documents, and photos from the time it was new through its time as a dragster and its long vintage racing career with Mr. Lytle.

On December 5, 1952, the Allard Works in Clapham received the order for a left-hand drive J2X, to be prepared for a Cadillac drivetrain. A letter dated January 14, 1953, notes more details, including the color request of gunmetal gray with six red wheels, red leather racing seats, and an urgent appeal to have the car ready for the World Motor Sports Show. Upon arrival in the ‘States, the original owner, Mr. Fred Asche, had the rolling chassis delivered to the legendary speed shop Bill Frick Motors of Rockville Center, Long Island. There, Frick and his team installed a 331 cubic-inch Cadillac V8 paired with a 3-speed LaSalle gearbox.

Asche only owned 3162 for a brief period, before selling it to Jerry Hardisty at the 1955 Sebring race. Hardisty then traded it to Joe Amann of St. Louis, Missouri, around 1957. Joe and his brothers repainted the car red and enjoyed it in the St. Louis area, winning a 2nd place trophy at the 1958 Concours d’Elegance of St. Louis. After its time with Amann, the Allard made its way to Michigan and was later acquired by David Cranston of Flint, who paid $1,800 for the car with a broken Cadillac engine. Conveniently for Mr. Cranston, his father worked for the Buick Motor Division of GM and had access to a supply of experimental engines and parts that they tested in the Allard. Cranston converted 3162 into a dragster, fitting a specially prepared 364 cubic-inch Buick Nailhead mated to a 4-speed Corvette gearbox and 11” wrinkle-wall slicks. It was reportedly capable of more than 500 horsepower and turning 10-second quarter-mile runs!

After two additional owners, Bob Lytle found 3162 advertised for sale in 1981. On Christmas that year, he bought the car sight unseen and booked a one-way flight to Tampa, Florida. Bob then drove the J2X some 3,000 miles back home to Los Angeles in brutal, often freezing conditions. Once home in California’s warmth, he embarked on an extensive multi-year restoration to return the car to fighting shape. The years of drag racing took its toll on the chassis, which showed some fatigue from hard landing wheelies. Thankfully, the J2X was in capable hands. Bob was a lifetime sportscar enthusiast, devoted marque enthusiast, and experienced mechanic, doing nearly all the restoration work himself – from fabricating body panels to the porting and polishing work on the Buick Nailhead V8. He finished it off with a beautiful black paint job accented with red leather. Bob took numerous photos of the progress and wrote a comprehensive summary of the work, which remain with the car.

The overhaul of J2X 3162 was completed in August 1984, just in the nick of time to debut it at the Monterey Historic races at Laguna Seca. From that first appearance in 1984 through his death in 2009, the Allard and Bob in his signature goggles and black open-face helmet were stalwarts of the festival. While Laguna was a highlight of his year, he also loved racing at Willow Springs and took part in numerous other events around the country, including several Allard reunion gatherings. As the business of vintage racing grew more elaborate and exclusive, Bob and his so-called “Unpretentious Racing Team” steadfastly maintained a light-hearted attitude in the paddock, always at the ready to share a drink, swap stories, and lend a hand to his fellow competitors. He and his iconic black Allard were beloved by countless lifelong enthusiasts.

Today, J2X 3162 remains very much as Bob Lytle raced it for so many years. Still in its signature black livery with white “65” roundels, the car wears a fabulous patina earned through more than 10,000 miles of track duty. It wears its multitude of participant stickers as badges of honor, with well-worn red leather on the racing seats. The big Buick V8 is in its rightful place under the hood. This engine has only ever been in 3162, sourced through “back door” channels at GM, and never installed in a passenger car. Bob felt keeping the engine was essential to preserving the car’s unique history, and we are thankful he did.

Accompanying the sale is a vast photo album and a stack of race programs documenting its history, restoration, and Bob Lytle’s years of on-track exploits. Wonderfully preserved with a fabulous character, it is now ready for its next chapter and would be the ideal entry into a wide array of rallies, tours, and historic racing events around the world, from Laguna Seca to Le Mans.


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