It's shiny and extreme, weird, overdone, and in-your-face in a manner that puts a grin on you just walking around it


Sydney Allard's famous one-off hillclimb car, the 1947 Steyr-Allard, is the best known of all his vehicles. Allard competed in the British Hillclimb Championship with this car for five years, finishing 3rd in 1947 and 1948, 1st in 1949, 2nd in 1950, and 3rd again in 1951. The car held records at various hillclimb courses and sprint events in which it competed. After being sold in 1952, the car continued to compete until the early 1960s. It was acquired by the current owner in 1994 and restored to active competition in 2001. This car has been fully documented in hundreds of books and magazine articles.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1946 Steyr-Allard Hillclimb Car
Years Produced:1947
Number Produced:1
Original List Price:n/a
SCM Valuation:$203k on this day
Distributor Caps:$250
Chassis Number Location:Engine compartment on firewall
Engine Number Location:Top of front case
Club Info:Allard Owners Club PO Box 1378 Marston Mills, MA 02648
Alternatives:1952 Allard J2, 1938 ERA D-type, 1948 Cooper JAP
Investment Grade:B

This 1946 Steyr-Allard Hillclimb Car sold for $203,500 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, on January 17, 2009. (Disclaimer: My company was the successful bidder and bought this car for a client; obviously we like it.)

There is no such thing as a subtle Allard-that’s the glory of them. Actually, that might not be completely fair: In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Allard produced a number of sporting yet conventional cars. They were also suitable for grocery getting or tea with the vicar, but the point is that nobody remembers them.

If you say Allard, all anyone thinks of is the J2 and J2X. They were Spartan, cycle-fendered phallic things with huge engines, the handling characteristics of a grocery cart, and the adrenaline equivalent of a snub-nose .45. In other words, cars for real men. The Steyr-Allard was a one-off hillclimb special, created in a skunk works out of spare bits as a personal toy, but in many ways it presaged the J2. It marked the change from slow but unstoppable “mud trials” Allards to the speedy cars that would define the marque.

Sydney Allard was born in 1910, the son of a successful London real estate developer. But he preferred machines to brick and mortar and embarked (with his father’s very grudging support) on a path that went from maintaining to modifying to eventually building sports cars. Not one for the “right crowd and no crowding” Brooklands scene that defined British road racing in the 1930s, Allard gravitated to trials events.

The worst bits of field and stream

Trials were a uniquely British motorsport that entailed taking the worst bits of pasture, stream, and hillside and seeing who could drive furthest (or with the least number of catastrophes) through the inevitable mess. Speed had virtually nothing to do with it. Allard proved to be very good at both driving and designing effective trials cars, and by the end of the 1930s, his dealership was successfully serving both the public and the trials community.

His company was named Adlard’s Motors, originally an in-joke that has caused confusion ever since “Allard” came along as a car manufacturer. Adlard was kept busy through the war as a repair and remanufacture facility for Ford-based military vehicles.

After the war, Allard moved ahead with the idea of a complete model line: The “K” would be a competition-oriented sports car, the “L” was to be an open tourer, and the “M” a full saloon. As a service to friends, a few “J” models were to be built as pure competition cars.

Allard had a long association with Ford, and a substantial stock of mechanical bits built up over the war, so the idea was to use primarily Ford mechanicals on an Allard chassis with bodies built by local craftsmen. Though materials were difficult to find, he managed to produce a few cars in 1946 and the future looked bright. Allard also set up a private garage away from the main works and staffed it with several of his best men. Their first project was a hillclimb car.

Allard was using the flathead Ford V8 for power in his cars, but rather by accident two Steyr-Puch 3.6-liter V8 engines happened to be lying around the shop. The Steyr V8 was originally designed as a German light aircraft engine, but had been adapted to both vehicle and stationary use during the war. They were 100 pounds lighter than the Ford.

150 hp on alcohol fuel

The engines had ended up in a surplus auction where a friend of Allard’s bought them out of curiosity. They only made 45 hp out of the box, but the potential was clearly there for a light, powerful sprint engine. When Allard’s boys were done, the engine made 150 hp using alcohol fuel, eight motorcycle carburetors, and 12:1 compression. The lack of fans on an air-cooled engine meant only a few minutes run time before overheating, but it was enough for a run up the hill. The frame used a couple of J1 rails, joined with some channel and large-diameter tube, and the normal Bellamy split front axle.

The original car used a live axle at the back, but it was almost immediately replaced with an experimental deDion assembly that worked so well it became the production rear suspension for all Allards. With the exception of the steering arrangement (which remains truly awful) and of course, the double rear tires, the resulting special has the same mechanical layout as the production J2 that was to follow. The car was successful from the beginning, winning or contending for the win at virtually every event it entered for five years, and it marked the beginning of the Allards we venerate today.

Though it’s a glorious beast, there is almost no way to take this 1946 Steyr-Allard Hillclimb Car seriously. It’s too much of a caricature of itself, a full-scale Tonka toy, the kind of thing your six-year-old would treasure above all his other playthings. It checks all the boxes-it’s shiny and extreme, weird, overdone, and in-your-face in a manner that puts a grin on you just walking around it.

The problem from a market standpoint is that there is virtually nothing you can do with it. It’s a hillclimb car, made to go flat out up a winding dirt road for no more than two minutes at a time, after which you coast back down and do it again. They do a bit of this in the U.K., but almost none of it in the U.S., which brings up the question of why it was auctioned in Scottsdale.

In the U.S., the only buyer for a car like this is an established Allard collector who wants a significant bookend for his collection. The supply of buyers is thus very limited, and though everyone in the tent loved the car, there were few paddles raised. We were both surprised and pleased when the bidding stopped with us.

This is a car that was killed by market timing. A year ago it probably would have brought twice as much, but discretionary funds are now scarce, and pure collector pieces have suffered the consequences. For our capable and motivated client, the lack of competition created a great opportunity. We think, and I suspect you already know what I’m going to say here, that the car was very well bought.

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