My Car Quest

February 25, 2024

The Allard J2 (And J2R) – The Predecessor To The AC Shelby Cobra – Update

by Mike – 

See the Update and Correction at the end.

Sydney Allard founded the Allard Motor Company in England in 1936. Allards usually used a large American V8 engine in a small, light British sports car chassis and body, giving a high power-to-weight ratio preceding the better known AC Shelby Cobra.

Allard J2

Allard J2R

The first Allard used a Ford flathead V8 in a body that was primarily a Bugatti racing car.

Allard J2

Specially ordered Allards used a variety of large Ford engines, including Lincoln Zephyr V12s. By 1939, the beginning of WWII, twelve Allard Specials had been built. Sydney Allard was planning to go into volume production, but the war interrupted his plans.

Allard J2

Allard’s company worked instead on Ford powered trucks during the war, and when the war ended Allard had accumulated a large inventory of Ford parts.

Allard J2

Using these Ford parts, and bodywork of Allard’s own design, three postwar models were introduced: the J, a race car sports car; the K, a larger car intended for street driving, and the L, a family car with four seats. All used primarily Ford components allowing for easy maintenance.  Sales volume was reasonably good, and Allard introduced additional, larger models, the M and N.

Sydney Allard realized the potential of the market in the United States where the people had money to spend on cars and there were few sports cars to buy after World War II.

Allard J2

Allard created a model targeted for the American market, the J2, fitted with a new independent rear suspension. They were available with a variety of different American engines, including a new Cadillac V8, which was much more powerful than the Ford engines.

Allard J2 wheel

Allard soon realized that the best approach to this market was to ship a rolling chassis to the United States and have the engine installed locally. This proved to be very successful, and the American components made it much easier for service and parts sourcing for Allard’s customers.

Allard J2

It all came to an end in April 1966 when Sydney Allard died, at the age of 56. On the same night, a fire destroyed the Allard factory along with most of the Allard company records.

In 1952 and 1953 Zora Arkus-Duntov, a former employee of Allard, drove an Allard J2 with a Cadillac engine at The 24 Hours of Le Mans. Carroll Shelby also raced an Allard-Cadillac J2 in the United States early in his driving career.

It is likely that the successful Allard formula of an American V8 engine in a light chassis design inspired the development of the Chevrolet Corvette and the AC Shelby Cobra. Zora Arkus-Duntov later worked for General Motors and is the father of the high performance Corvette.

Update and Correction

I mistakenly gave the impression that the car shown above is a J2 and as reader Shell Kanzer points out to me in a private email this is not a J2.

I did some more research and discovered this is a 1955 Allard J2R. My research included finding my photo of the owner’s sign that was on the car where the year, make and model are identified. Don’t you wonder why I didn’t pay attention to that before?

This seems like a small difference (the name J2R vs. J2) but the body styles are completely different. The J2R is the sports car version.

A J2 is shown below (photo by Writegeist).

Allard J2

Allard J2

Wikipedia has this to say about the J2 and J2X (a variation of the J2): “There is much confusion on the internet as to labeling of J2 and J2X types – the most obvious differences being that the J2 nose does not extend past the front tires and has two vents below the grill, while the J2X nose extends past the front tires and usually has a single vent below the grill placed on a more protruding chin.”

My thanks to Shell Kanzer – I encourage all readers to let me know if I make a mistake or if you disagree with me.

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  1. CindyMeitle says

    The top Allard is exquisite and I was very proud to have the car on display at the 2012 Intermountain Concours d’Elegance in Utah this past September. Owned by Vijay Mallya, it’s one of only 8 of it’s kind in the world. More important, it’s one of ONE with a single door…definitely one of the rarest Allard’s in the world. Malcolm Page takes care of half of the Mallya Collection located in California and notes that “women love this car” and he is correct. I am one of the women who is INSANE about this car and the very reason I wanted it at my event. For those interested in reading more about Allard cars, my friend Roger Allard has a terrific website about the J2 cars. Thanks for posting on these cars Mike, in recent yeas I’ve fallen in love with Allards, a little more each time I see one.

  2. Shelby also raced a J2X # 3146 to many victories

    • Thanks for the info.

      I have a question: does anyone doubt that the Allard influenced Shelby to develop the Cobra?

      • Good Question, By the time Shelby finished racing in 1960’s many of the cars racing were european but had engine swaps to more powerful American power plants.

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