1952 Allard J2X
RACED BY THE LEGENDARY CARROLL SHELBY MULTIPLE TIMES
THE CAR THAT CAN BE CONSIDERED THE GENESIS OF SHELBY AUTOMOTIVE
RACED MULTIPLE TIMES BY SHELBY, WITH 4 VICTORIES AND A SECOND PLACE
WINNER OF THE 1954 KIMBERLEY CUP AT THE BUENOS AIRES 1000 KM
CONTINUOUS HISTORY AND FULLY RACE PREPARED WITH FIA HTP
HIGHLY ELIGIBLE FOR THE WORLD'S FINEST HISTORIC RACING AND RALLY EVENTS
Sydney Allard and the distinctive high-performance lightweight sports cars he created in his Clapham High Street premises were extraordinarily successful post-War motor racing machines, dominating rallying, endurance circuit racing, trials, hill climbs, sprints and road racing - particularly in North America - as well as establishing drag racing in the UK. An ex-South West London Ford dealer pre-war with a few home-built competition specials to his name, Sydney Allard was very much his own man, doing things his own unique way and winning the Monte Carlo Rally, the British Hill Climb Championship and taking a podium finish in the 1950 24 Heures du Mans in one of his own cars in the process, shared with Tom Cole.
After the cessation of hostilities in 1945, Allard set about building his own unique brand of sports cars, quickly establishing his company’s reputation with fun but somewhat crude two-seaters. He replaced these early Allard models with the stark and purposeful J2 roadsters in the summer of 1949; a classic front-engined sports roadster owing many of its details to the Steyr-Allard sprint car in which the Clapham proprietor had won the British RAC Hill Climb Championship in 1949. The Clapham-built aluminium-bodied J2s were available for delivery from 1950 with a variety of engines, usually American and frequently a Chrysler, Cadillac or Oldsmobile V8, though many were built with Ford's flathead V8. Each alloy-bodied J2 retained Allard’s characteristically sturdy box-section chassis side members and divided swing-axle coil front suspension, combined with a De Dion rear suspension set up using coil springs with a proper location. The J2’s bodywork was exceptionally light for this minimally-equipped two-seat roadster with traditional cycle wings and exposed headlamps.
In the autumn of 1951 the J2 was superseded at the Earls Court London Motor Show by the improved J2X model, fitted with a 5.4-litre Chrysler ‘Fire Power’ engine (although other power trains and transmissions were also available), the V8 motor being mounted seven inches further forward in the J2’s chassis to allow for a more spacious and comfortable cockpit. The J2X’s fuel capacity was also increased to a total of 40 gallons (182 litres), with the nose section ahead of the front wheels lengthened to enable the axle radius rods to be carried forward ahead of the beams. The revised J2X’s rear axle could now also be fitted with a quick-change centre section to facilitate rapid gearing for a particular motor circuit or course.
Many J2X buyers opted for the modern 5.4-litre Cadillac V8 engine and transmission to create a formidable competition car with enough brute power to defeat contemporary Jaguars and Ferraris in sport car races. The J2X took numerous chequered flags in period, despite the model’s sometimes wayward roadholding habits, due to the Allard’s swing-axle front suspension, which required some learning and familiarisation. A total of just 83 J2X models were built by the time Sydney Allard ended production in 1954, making them very rare indeed.
For the American market, Sydney Allard produced the chassis and bodies and shipped them to the United States without an engine. In the case of chassis #3146 (arguably one of the most famous and celebrated of all Allard J2Xs built), this car was ordered by Texas Oilman and keen sportsman Roy Cherryhomes, to be configured for the Cadillac 331 V-8 engine, the weapon of choice for early 1950’s hot rodders. Cherryhomes approached young upstart driver and chicken farmer Carroll Shelby to drive his car in SCCA events in Texas and the plains states. At the time, General LeMay of the Strategic Air Command was organising races on his airfields, drawing tens of thousands of spectators to each event. Though Shelby wasn’t paid, all expenses were covered for a fast car with an excellent mechanic.
Shelby drove the Allard for the first time at Eagle Mountain, Texas, on 26 October 1952, a race he duly won. At the time Carroll Shelby said ”It was hot that Saturday morning and I was working on the farm. I was wearing my striped farmer coveralls. Eventually I realised that if I was going to get in any practice, I’d have to hurry up. So I took off just the way I was.
When I got in the Allard, I realized how much cooler the coveralls were than regular driver outfits. Well, seems like everyone got a big laugh out of that and my picture appeared in the papers. I got more publicity because of those doggone coveralls than I did from winning the race!”
Shelby went on to race 3146 multiple times in 1953, placing first overall in four races and second in another. At the end of that year Shelby managed to persuade Cherryhomes to allow him to ship 3146 down to Argentina for the inaugural Buenos Aires 1000 km, to be held at the Autodromo Oscar Y Yuan Galvez. A number of American teams had also decided to make the journey, where they would be competing for the Kimberley Cup, which was the trophy created for the top-placed American team. So in January 1954, the car was shipped to Argentina where Shelby and Dale Duncan (Masten Gregory's brother-in-law) competed against some of the world’s top teams and drivers. After a challenging race they finished tenth overall, and won the Kimberly Cup.
Shelby’s performance in this race caught the attention of Aston Martin's team manager, John Wyer who promptly offered him a works drive. History records that Shelby found much success with Aston Martin, culminating in him winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in the exquisite DBR1. It seems certain that it would have been so much harder for Shelby to establish Shelby Automotive, had he not been noticed by Wyer at that fateful 1000km race in Argentina. Of course, Shelby later went on to conceive and build the iconic Shelby Cobra, a car that has become the single most iconic American sports car in history. He stated on numerous occasions that his experience with the Allard’s combination of a lightweight British chassis and coachwork, paired with an American V8 was his inspiration for the Cobra. The rest as they say, is history!
3146 was had six different owners between 1954 and 2018 when it was acquired by the present owner. Between 1970 and 1989 it was restored twice, each time sympathetically so, to ensure its originality was retained (evidenced through correspondence with Shelby and Jack Joerns (his original mechanic on the car). In 1990 Shelby and Joerns were reunited with 3146 at the Rolex Monterey Historics event, where Shelby autographed the rear bodywork (which remains today).
This exceptional car still retains its original chassis and body having been lovingly maintained throughout its active life. In recent years the present owner has invested a significant amount in overhauling the car mechanically to ensure it is as reliable and competitive as possible. Breathing through two Holly 2BBL carburettors and Edmunds manifold, its 331 cu in Cadillac V8 has been fully rebuilt, to develop 285 bhp. 3146 has a FIA Historic Technical Passport (HTP), extensive spares package (including removable roll bar), seat belts and plumbed-in fire extinguisher system. Today, 3146 presents in excellent condition, and qualifies for the finest events worldwide. This is a rare opportunity to acquire such an important part of American sports car racing history.