Not all office boys become company presidents and not all secretaries marry the boss but an out and out Ford hot rod became the King of Sports Cars in England and America and almost the world.
The saga of the Allard is the kind of success story that many builders of Specials dream about, but few achieve. In 1935, a driver already well known in British trials and hill-climbs entered a home-built Special in the Rough Gloucester Trial. The car was a stark four-passenger roadster fitted on a modified Ford V -8 racing chassis of British origin. High in horses, the engine hauled the car up the many backbreaking slopes at such speed that the driver won the Northwest London Cup – a premier award. The driver’s name was Sidney H. Allard.
On that day was born the germ of an idea that has since turned him into one of the world’s most successful builders of sports cars. Inspired by his victory, Allard experimented further with his Special Allard took a stock Ford chassis in 1936 and shortened it with a little torch work in the best California tradition. To this he added an old beat up Bugatti body, mildly souped up the Ford 85 hp engine and, from that day on, started a winning cycle in English club competitive events, that had never before been equalled. Later in 1936, to get independent front wheel suspension, he cut the regular Ford front axle in two and ingeniously anchored the cut ends, which allowed him a sensational, if not too reliable front independent suspension job.
In its new guise, the car was entered for the first time as an Allard Special in the 1936 Coventry Cup and Lawrence Cup trials. Both of these were grueling tests of stamina, but his car won both. The following year, Allard scrapped the rigid Ford front-axle beam and installed a system of independent front suspension designed by an engineer friend named Leslie Ballamy. Strange things happened to the car’s steering geometry when hitting a bump or cornering fast. But that didn’t stop Allard from scoring more wins-so many of them in fact, that several of his friends decided they wanted Allards. Outstanding among them was Ken Hutchison of Bugatti and ERA racing fame and one of Sidney Allard’s first customers.
That was how in 1946 a company named Allard Motors, Ltd., was formed to build and market a “limited number of Specials.” Hutchison, eager for the highest possible power-weight ratio, specified a V -12 L- head Lincoln Zephyr engine with aluminum heads and a downdraft carburetor. This engine developed 110 brake horsepower at 3,800 rpm and transformed Hutchison’s car into a bucking broncho that called for the highest driving skill. From then on, the “Allard lads” really went to town.
In the years that followed, up until Hitler tossed the bomb, Allard built many special road-race cars featuring 12-cylinder Lincoln Zephyr engines and a dozen varieties of Ford hop-ups.
When World War II broke out, the Allard Special was running the wheels off all competitors, including works-sponsored entries and had a virtual monopoly of trials wins in the big-car class. Allard cars quickly went from good to terrific after World War II and already have scored nearly 40 international successes in every kind of competition from a hill-climb to the Le Mans 24-hour race. Faithful to dependable Ford parts, and able through his Dagenham factory connections to secure enough of them, Allard until recently built his postwar production cars mainly from Ford inspiration.
The original J Series model, fitted with either a two-seater turtle back body, a four-seater sport body or a drophead coupe, was distinguished by a long, tapering hood curving below the level of the front fenders to give excellent road vision close up. A souped-up Ford V -8 engine of 220.94 cubic inches (3,622 cc), developing 100 bhp at 3,800 rpm, powered the rear wheels through a Ford three-speed gearbox. Lockheed hydraulic brakes did the stopping.
Ford transverse-leaf suspension was used fore and aft, but a reinforced spring and a divided front axle now offered a more geometrical and less independent form of front suspension. Marles steering was employed and a ground clearance of 9 and a half inches enabled the car to buck the roughest roads without damaging the underside.
After the war, Allard again started building Ford Allards, and race men like Andy Granatelli in Chicago would import the Allard chassis sans engine and install their own hop-up Ford power plants. The fact that Allard would sell a complete car without an engine is perhaps more responsible for the car’s success than any other single reason. Actually, the Allard became more important in America than in England, where it was born.
A new and recent twist in the Allard production chain is the announcement that the Steyr-Allard is now in production.
This car uses the same Allard chassis as is in other cars, but is combined with an ex-German army Steyr air-cooled V-8 engine. One model of this car was used by Sidney Allard in winning the title of British Hill Climb Champion for 1949.
This new “sprint” car, which must mean it’s a short-snorting sports car, is to be a tour-wheel drive rig, which will make it ideal for hill climbs. It’s to be built of light alloys, and the weight will not exceed a feather 1,450 pounds. Axle to axle measurement on the drawings show it to be 100 inches, with a front and rear track of 56 inches.
Another weight-saving idea in mind was the use of a magnesium alloy crankcase, aluminum heads and cylinder barrels and duralumin connecting rods, which would have saved weight approximating that of a five-foot blonde in a size 12 dress. The difficulties of manufacturing all this, however, (excluding the blonde) left the company no alternative but to use regulation materials.
A power output of 250 bhp at 6,000 rpm is contemplated, which amounts to a lot of wheel-whirling. At present, the 79 mm bore Steyr, with a compression ratio of 11 to 1 develops around 165 bhp at 5,500 rpm. With the new heads and barrels of 88 mm bore, compression ratio is 12.5 to 1 and breathing characteristics have been improved.
The Steyr Allard will be available with two-speed gears or in a model with four forward speeds and a reverse. This takes into account the variety of racing events possible to be entered.
Detail items not yet set are the number it will seat (a single seater is proposed) and the size of the fuel tank, which may again depend on the type of races run.
America’s Willy Frick and Phil Walters can take the bow for the Allard’s outstanding popularity throughout the world. They installed in an Allard chassis for Tom Cole, an English driver racing in America, the first Cadillac engine ever to sit between an Allard’s frame members. The firm of Tappet Frick (Ted Tappet is Phil Walters’ old racing name) started the ball on its onward rush. With the Tappet-Frick Cadillac installation the Cadillac Allard became the most outstanding winner of sports car events in America, with a record not even closely approached by all other makes of foreign sports cars combined.
Wins and course records at Bridgehampton, Watkins Glen and other major sports car events started to go to the Allards. With the introduction of the Chrysler V-8 engine, which also drops into the Allard chassis like an olive into a martini, the 1951 Bridgehampton race and course record was smashed into a thousand pieces, erasing the old Cadillac Allard records.
And while we’re on the subject of engines and Allards, a question has been raised as to whether the Cadillac engine offers improved performance over a modified and souped Ford-Merc mill in the J-2. It has been tabulated and proved that the Ford-Merc can be made to equal a slightly modified Caddie motor by using the proper gear ratio to take advantage of the Ford-Merc’s higher rpm. The cost of installing either engine runs about the same, but the wear and tear on the higher-revving Ford motor would kick it out of commission faster than the Cadillac.
Numerous other motors have been tried or have been thought about in connection with the Allard chassis, but from what I’ve seen, I’ll continue to stick with the Chrysler Allard or the Cadillac Allard.
What’s it all about? Is the Allard the greatest sports car in the world? No, but it comes pretty close. What’s better you ask. On these shores where the best products from abroad compete, the Allards have been almost invincible. It’s a cinch to say a Ferrari or Aston-Martin or Jag XK 120 is better, but at the finish line this doesn’t seem to hold much water. The Allards have taken them all, time and again.
This has been a great source of frustration to the pure pro-foreign products boys but maybe there’s an answer. In the first place, the Allard is a comparatively cheap sports car to buy. With a Cadillac engine it sells for just a hail under $4,000 delivered in America and that’s penny-ante stuff when compared with the price -tags on Ferraris, Alfas and even Aston-Martins.
The biggest thing in its favor is the fact that you can buy one without an engine and install a Cadillac or Chrysler engine in it. Now, I have written many times that I feel there are no engines in the world better than either of these engines from the standpoint of performance and reliability. Here’s where I get in an immediate hassel with the pro-foreign so called purist. They can point out and rightly so, that the Ferrari engines or a dozen others show far superior weight to horsepower ratios, much better performance per cubic inch displacement and a dozen other factors that make the imports far superior to our big monstrosities in every way except one the most important one-they can’t beat our big slobs over here.
On these shores there are two definite schools of thought. One favors magnificent high horsepower performance out of peanut size engines, sometimes blown, and the other prefers huge power plants of mammoth displacement with terrific torque. The peanut boys are all out for developed horsepower through extreme rpm and the torque boys want wall smashing torque at low rpm. I have heard the virtues of both types of power plant argued all night and into the dawn, but in my book there is only one answer. The torque boys have kicked the teeth out of the high rpm boys consistently in American races. I do feel that the Allard, plus American power plant, is one of the world’s best.