by Mike –
A mutual friend introduced me to Roger Allard and after talking with him for sometime over the phone I asked him to write this article telling us all about the new Allard J2X MkII.
Text and photos by Roger Allard
The Allard J2X MkII story began unexpectedly in 1995 at a small car show in West Sussex, England, some 60 miles from the birthplace of the original Allard J2X. Hoping to treat myself to a long-term dream of owning an Austin-Healey 100S, my wife and I combined a holiday with a car search in the south of England for my 50th birthday. We began by visiting many of the small weekend car shows in the area, hoping to find the elusive Healey. But, by the end of our holiday, all I had come across that was of interest was a small out-of-print edition of a book by Tom Lush, titled “Allard: The Inside Story”.
Hijacked by my family name on the cover, I was amazed that, as an avid sports car fan, I had been completely unaware of the existence of the Allard brand or its distinguished racing history in the 1950s. Captivated, I instantly became hooked on the remarkable Allard story and in particular, the J2X.
A quick trip to the Beaulieu Auto Museum in the Southampton area was made with the hope that I would see one ‘in the flesh’. Not to be disappointed, a stunning Allard J2X had recently joined the museum’s permanent collection. The coincidental nature of these two occurrences was significant for me – the book, followed by the sudden appearance of a real J2X for public enjoyment – (ironically, it was parked alongside a Healey 100!).
Upon my return to Montreal and after many months of research I concluded that the memory of this incredible competition roadster, built and raced by Sydney Allard (no relation) in London was evaporating from the collective racing consciousness. Yet, it was clear from my research that Sydney’s J-type racers were very much a part of auto racing history and I came to see that time was the J2X’s worst enemy. Only 83 were built between 1951 and 1954. These were shipped around the world and competed successfully in various events, leaving many in dire condition, or worse, scrapped. Those that survived were locked away in collections with only a few brave souls returning to the track to compete occasionally in vintage racing.
Although I never thought of myself as a missionary, I sensed that there was a task to be accomplished here – to raise the profile of the Allard J2X and restore it to its legitimate place in the consciousness of the sports car world. An ambitious goal but, what direction to take? Replica? Continuation? Or something else? Sensing that the replica route would be too limiting, as these could not be produced in a large enough quantity to be noticed or even affordable, I opted to re-introduce the J2X on a modern platform of our own design. In order to appeal to a new generation of drivers who are ignorant of the Allard legacy while, at the same time, keeping the original’s bold looks and its performance DNA, Allard Motor Works (AMW) decided to make a number of changes to the original design.
We proceeded to identify the weaknesses of the J2X through numerous interviews with owners, racers and collectors and then, began to check off all the quirks and deficiencies of the original as we corrected them. Two prototypes were built and tested, followed by thousands of hours of fine-tuning along the way. The result was the creation of the new Allard J2X MkII.
Since all of the design and component changes are available on AMW’s web site, I will summarily outline the significant innovations that make the J2X MkII unique. These include provisions for better handling and a more comfortable ride. This was accomplished by stretching the wheelbase to 106”, thus providing more stability at high speed, more comfort in the cockpit and a lower center of gravity. Tall drivers are now comfortably seated on fully adjustable leather bucket seats rather than on the original bench seat. The steering is rack & pinion and the suspensions are fully independent and adjustable. The large cross-drilled disc brakes do a remarkable job when required for panic stops. In the rear, these are located inboard to optimize grip on uneven road surfaces.
A full trunk was added for the convenience of golfers and long distant travelers. The rigid tubular steel chassis includes a number of safety features such as double roll bars in the cowling, double roll bars over the fuel tank, lateral impact bars in the doors, steel floors and steel yokes over the drive shaft’s universal joints. The body is a combination of steel, aluminium and an aircraft-quality composite. Each material is chosen for its functionality, its ability to contain heat and noise and its durability and show qualities. In this regard, the car’s steel louvered hood, the steel stone guards and its grille are the envy of metal craftsmen and have been singled out by owners of the originals who need replacements parts. (Close-up photos can be seen at Allard Motor Works).
Confident that we had reached our objectives and that we now had a safe, reliable and comfortable roadster with optimum handling and performance characteristics, we moved to the next step – visibility and validation of our concept. Timing was essential as the decision to move forward was first and foremost a business decision. Well before we delivered our first J2X MkII, it was evident through the 1990s that there was a growing appetite for anything that was retro. A number of iconic models had resurfaced to the delight of the car world – the Datsun 240Z, the Thunderbird, the Mustang and the Indian motorcycle to name a few. These had come back to ‘center stage’ with a ‘modern dress’. This trend has persisted to this day with the return of the Camaro, the Charger, the Challenger and new variations of the Mustang.
The J2X MkII, of course, was not intended to be a mass-produced vehicle. AMW designed the new roadster to target a niche market that appreciates quality, reliability, comfort and performance. What differentiates the Allard J2X MkII in this market is its fidelity to the original design. It is unmistakably British! Visually, the MkII makes a bold personal ownership statement reflecting the driver’s choice of car, his desire for uniqueness and his passion for true roadster driving.
The efforts deployed in the design and construction stages have paid off. The road testing experience as well as the careful scrutiny of the car’s fit and finish by respected collectors, racers and the media were unanimous in reporting that the J2X MkII scored full marks on all counts. Road tests and track tests were consistently and conclusively positive and can be seen or read in numerous media on four continents today. These include Jay Leno’s Garage, Fifth Gear TV, AutoWeek, SPEED Channel, Bloomberg TV, L.A. Times, The Robb Report (Top 10 Exotic Car of the Year) and Road & Track to name but a few.
Personal endorsements include legendary racers Damon Hill, Brian Redman, Bill Pollack, as well as the late John Fitch and Al Moss. In 2007, when chatting with Sterling Moss at a concourse event in Newport, he remarked “The only people that I know that would dare drive an Allard on the track were Sydney Allard and fools!” Following his inspection of the MkII, he did however acknowledge that the new J2X was a car that Sydney Allard would probably have dreamed of racing.
The J2X MkII’s penetration into the niche market is also enhanced by the authentication it receives from the Allard Register. This recognition testifies that the new J2X represents the look and spirit of the original accurately. Consequentially, each of our new cars is delivered to its owner with a special serial number that continues from the end of the original Allard Motor Company’s roster of production Allards – some 1,900 total between 1936 and 1959.
AMW’s mission is not yet complete since the company is introducing new features to the J2X MkII that will enhance the ownership experience. First, we have recently digitally scanned the entire vehicle to complete the design of a full windshield and a hardtop. This is intended to extend the driving season for many owners and make a long-distance journey more pleasant. We are also studying the option of a right-hand drive for the many frustrated potential owners in other parts of the world.
I will note here that only seven original J2Xs were RHD since the roadster was primarily exported to America and Europe. Both configurations are, therefore, period correct. And finally, we are considering a dedicated track version, as our standard MkII is not far from this configuration.
Slowly but surely, AMW is expanding the Allard ownership experience by growing its dealership network, by resizing its two facilities that are currently located in Champlain, New York and in Montreal. We are present in three continents after having launched in Shanghai in April of this year. However, I hold true to our commitment not to release more than 100 MkIIs per year worldwide. This is to assure the new owners that they are driving a roadster that is exclusive and unique.
The essence of the new J2X MkII is captured in our slogan: “Allard J2X MkII – Rarely Seen. Never Forgotten.”
Roger Allard is the founder and President of Allard Motor Works.
More photos are in the two page slide show below and below that is a video of Jay Leno and Roger Allard at Jay Leno’s Garage and another video of an episode of the Fifth Gear TV show with Vicki Butler-Henderson.