1952 ALLARD J2 ROADSTER
Sydney Allard created his mighty J2 sports car with the specific goal of breaking the burgeoning American sports racing car market wide open. Road-racing on public streets exploded in popularity the USA in the late 1940s, and Allard arrived on the scene at the ideal moment, with the lightweight J2 roadster ready to accept any number of mighty and plentiful Yank V8 engines. The car quickly became a dominant force in motorsport, especially when paired with Cadillac's superb new OHV V8. 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 on the narrow, undulating, and dangerous racecourses of the day.
Allard's reputation came from his successful, purpose-built trials and hill climb cars. The J2 shared some of the basic design principles of the more trials-oriented J1 but was considerably lower, lighter, and more streamlined for road racing. Designed to take advantage of heavy-hitting Detroit V8s, the robust chassis featured a de Dion rear axle, large Alfin drum brakes, and a revised version of Allard's signature split front axle, designed by Les Bellamy. Allard shipped the cars less engine and transmission, providing "kits" to prepare them for the customer's choice of V8. Sydney Allard had a long-running relationship with Ford, and many cars utilized tuned Ford and Lincoln flathead engines. But it was Cadillac's revolutionary 331 cubic-inch overhead-valve V8 that cemented the J2's reputation as the race car to have in the early 1950s. With 160 horsepower in stock form and plenty more available, the Cad-Allards were regular winners in America and Europe. During the formative years of the SCCA, Allard J2s battled with Jaguars, Cunninghams, and Ferraris at the sharp end of the field. In that brief period before the professional European teams made their way to our shores, the J2 was the dominant force in sports car racing, earning its rightful place as an icon of American motorsports.
It is with pleasure that we offer this outstanding 1951 Allard J2 roadster, chassis number 99J 2123. This highly-desirable J2 is a superb well-equipped example with a fascinating, well-documented history from new. Original factory invoice and build sheets show the order for this car came through on the 7th of June, 1951, specified with knock-off wire wheels, left-hand drive, left-hand spare wheel, twin fuel pumps, headlamp stone guards, and fittings to receive a Cadillac engine. The records also show the buyer requested a red interior and supplied a sample of metallic blue paint for the body. Delivery took place on the 31st of August, 1951, to Mr. Del Lee of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, via Wood Motors of Detroit. Mr. Lee immediately handed his new Allard over to Cal Connell of the legendary shop Detroit Racing Equipment where it received its race-prepped Cadillac engine. Marvelous period color photographs show the car finished in dark metallic blue with a red interior, a single side-mount spare, and distinct polished alloy Borrani wire wheels.
Del Lee ran the car in numerous regional events at such legendary tracks as Thompson Speedway, Bridgehampton, and Watkins Glen. Multiple period photos show the car at the Detroit Region SCCA ice-racing event on Lake Orion, Michigan, providing a superb record of the car's original specification. At the Lake Orion event, reports say Lee thrilled the crowd near the front of the pack, only to throw it away when he spun while avoiding a bale late in the race. He seems to have experienced mixed results in competition, with his best moment coming at the Giant's Despair Hillclimb in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Having scored a 4th in class in 1951, he returned in 1953 with 99J-2123 to take 1st in Class B and the Hollenback Trophy for Fast Time of the Day.
Sometime around the 1954 Watkins Glen Grand Prix, Del Lee sold 99J 2123 to Fred Lavel of Birmingham, Michigan. It appears Lavel had Lee drive the car in the Glen race, before taking it back home. The following year, Lavel took the Allard to Bonneville, running it up to 127.47 miles per hour. At some point, Mr. Lavel replaced the Cadillac engine with a DeSoto Adventurer Hemi supplied by his friend and Chrysler man, Virgil Exner. The first trip to Bonneville clearly triggered the salt addiction, and he went to extreme measures in the quest for speed for the following year. For the 1956 event, Lavel removed the alloy Allard bodywork and set it aside with the idea of polishing it. He fitted slick and aerodynamic fiberglass body made by Sorrell, along with a Halibrand quick-change rear end, and Powerflight automatic transmission mated to the Hemi. He even brought along a second, hotter DeSoto engine as a spare. With better aero, the car ran a respectable 150.75 miles per hour, but mechanical woes prevented further runs.
After Bonneville, 99J 2123 led a relatively quiet life. Around 1958, Fred Lavel removed the Sorrell body, loosely refitted the original alloy bodywork which he had in storage, and sold the car to John Whitlock. It seems Mr. Whitlock did little with the car, selling it on the 17th of August, 1968 to Robert Vandepaer or Jersey City, New Jersey. Lavel likely removed his Desoto engine before selling the car, and at some point, one of the owners fitted a 56 Corvette small-block V8 mated to a Jaguar Moss four-speed manual transmission. It is in this configuration that the most recent owner discovered the car in 1993 sitting in Vandepaer's Jersey City garage.
Photos in the file show the original Allard aluminum coachwork separate from the chassis when it was discovered. According to the previous owner, the body spent the last 35 years carefully stored away and preserved. Since most J2s were raced hard and their tricky handling made for frequent off-course excursions, very few have survived with their original bodywork intact. The new owner embarked on a complete restoration, returning the car to period-correct specification, including the fitment of a 1959-specification Cadillac 390 V8. At the time of the restoration, the owner only knew the car had been blue, but did not have the color photos. He chose this stunning bright blue (a 1970 AMC color) over red leather upholstery. Details such as the Borrani wheels remain in place, and the owner sourced a very rare factory soft top and full-width windscreen. Updates include a robust Muncie M21 gearbox, triple Strombergs on an aluminum Weiand manifold, and polished Offenhauser valve covers. The original tachometer runs electric internals for the sake of reliability, and the brakes reverted to original-style Jaguar drums.
With the restoration completed, the owner used this beautiful Allard J2 as Sydney Allard intended. He participated in numerous VSCCA events on the East Coast, including the Fairmount Vintage Grand Prix, Pocono Vintage GP, Lime Rock Fall Festival, and two Allard reunion events at Pocono and Watkins Glen in the late 1990s. Along with the extensive history file, the sale includes numerous spares (including a Halibrand Quick-Change) and a VSCCA Log Book. The mildly-tuned Cadillac engine makes it a superb choice for pre-1957 road events and rallies, thanks to its torque, reliability, and driver-friendly nature. The high-quality restoration is all the more impressive considering this J2 spent so many years as a racing car. It is in beautiful condition, with excellent blue paint, supple red leather, and superb detailing all around. With well documented, fascinating history and an outstanding restoration, Allard J2 2123 is an exceptional example of the Anglo-American hybrid that set the race track alight during the dawn of American sports car racing.
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STOCK NUMBER 6609
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