A tech inspector looked at the front suspension of a J2X and said, "Wow! Where's the 'crimes against nature' checkbox on this form?"


During the mid-1980s, Glenn Shaffer began a search for an Allard J2 with racing heritage. He found this Allard J2 in Lima, Peru, suspecting it was the "missing" #2 Le Mans race car that had been driven by Peter Reece and Alfred Hitchings in 1951. The car on offer here has been subsequently confirmed and documented by Allard experts to be that car.

When discovered, the Allard was complete and had the correct 1951 Cadillac OHV V8 engine, but the chassis was in need of a full restoration. The car included features not commonly found on other J2s, like a 55-gallon fuel cell, aluminum-reinforced body, and vented front fenders.

After completing the restoration, Shaffer competed in some of the top vintage races in North America with the Allard, including the prestigious Monterey Historic Car Races at Laguna Seca, and was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours in 1994.

Only 90 J2s were originally built and only a handful are "competition only" models. With a 390-ci, 300-plus-horsepower Cadillac V8, fed through a four-speed manual transmission, this J2 is brutally fast, a real favorite with race fans on the West Coast vintage circuit.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1951 Allard J2 Cadillac Le Mans
Years Produced:J2, 1950-1952; J2X, 1952-1954
Number Produced:J2, 90; J2X, 83
Original List Price:$4,500
SCM Valuation:$60,000-$110,000
Tune Up Cost:Cost per hour to race: $500
Distributor Caps:$15
Chassis Number Location:Brass plate in engine compartment
Engine Number Location:Depends on engine fitted
Club Info:Allard Owners Club, 10 Brooklyn Court, Brooklyn Road, Woking, Surrey, GU22 7TQ, U.K.
Alternatives:1949-1950 Jaguar XK 120 alloy roadster, 1962-1965 AC Cobra
Investment Grade:B

This 1951 Allard J2 Le Mans Race Car sold for $324,000 at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction held on Jan 22-25.

Sydney Allard was a racer from the start, and though his company made mostly prosaic sedans, his heart was in the competition-oriented J series cars, the J2 and the J2X. Their primary difference was that the X had the engine moved forward seven-and-a-half inches, leading to a revised front suspension. While this supposedly improved the handling, the biggest benefit for most vintage racers is that it also allows for a cockpit large enough to fit normal human beings without requiring amputation.

Few “normal” racers are found in Allards, however, as these cars are the exclusive province of the real “he-men” of vintage racing. Those with any interest in a car’s “feminine” attributes-handling, steering precision, ride comfort, protection from the elements, etc.-should look elsewhere.

Offering nothing in the way of design subtlety, J2s are all about horsepower-to-weight. Allard used the biggest, baddest engines he could get his hands on, though in the beginning that wasn’t much. Early J2s used an English Ford 3.6-liter flathead V8 (making maybe 100 hp), attached to a three-speed transmission-hardly the stuff of legend.

Cadillac helped the cause when it introduced its 331-ci V8, the first of the “modern” postwar engines. Light, compact and powerful (all of 150 hp claimed), the Cadillac V8 was the hot ticket, but import restrictions made them difficult to get in England. (Most, if not all, U.S.-export cars at this time were shipped without engines, which were supplied and installed by the importer.) The first few Caddy motors Allard laid his hands on were used in the factory racers, including the J2 pictured here.

When Chrysler brought out its Hemi in 1951, the J2X was adapted to accept it, so many of these cars were fitted with Mopar, rather than Cadillac power.
The chassis is a strange combination of crude and sophisticated. The front suspension could be the prototype for Ford’s Twin I-Beam truck design, strong but with terrible geometry, a leftover from the marque’s trial car origins. We once had a tech inspector at Monterey look at the front end of a J2X, take a deep breath and say, “Wow! Where’s the ‘crimes against nature’ checkbox on this form?” On the other hand, the rear suspension is amazingly nice, a de Dion design using a Ford center and inboard drums.

Supple is not a word you would use to describe an Allard. The ride is buckboard stiff, the cars push like crazy at the limit, and if the steering is the slightest bit worn or out of alignment they’ll wander something awful. On the track you deal with this by driving like a real cowboy. Entering a corner, you try to get the car slowed down enough, then try to get the front to turn in. Once it does, you need to jump all over the gas to get the back end to come around and drive the car out with the go pedal. It makes for a crowd-pleasing show if you’re brave enough to do it, and can be a lot of fun.

If you choose to do a vintage rally, the technique is a bit different-I’d call it “coping.” I drove a 1,000-mile event in a J2, spending hours wondering if that nice person in the car up ahead would like to trade out for a few miles. At one point, they closed down a section of the road for a speed run and I managed to go 108 mph. The engine was only turning about 3,100 rpms, but I just didn’t dare go any faster. Trying to keep the Allard from wandering too much on the rutted highway was terrible.

Restoring an Allard can be just as challenging as driving one. When our shop was going through a J2X, we found it had actual pieces of welding rod and splatter sticking to the joints in the frame. When we started to clean them up, the experts said, “No! Don’t do that! That’s how you know it’s original!”

Of course, the biggest part of the Allard persona is the conviction that too much horsepower is never enough, and modern vintage racing setups push this belief to the limits. When this J2 ran at Le Mans, it had a more or less stock 331 with a strict 4,000-rpm redline, driving through a Ford three-speed transmission. But a car like that wouldn’t even keep up on a pace lap at your typical vintage race.

Today, most Allard J2s (including this one) have the 390-ci Cadillac V8 from 1958-1959, which looks the same on the outside but makes well over 400 horsepower in racing trim. The transmission of choice is now a four-speed Borg Warner T-10, first built in 1957. (The three-speeds from the 1949-1952 period wouldn’t stand a chance against the bigger engine.) While this setup may be far from original, Allards were certainly raced in this state in the late ’50s, so who’s to complain?

The SCM Price Guide lists J2Xs at $60-110k, which is probably too low and needs revising, as my polling of the Allard die-hards says they’d peg a car like this at $175,000-$200,000. Even so, there’s still another degree of separation between that price and the $324k that bought this car. I’ll admit that I haven’t got a clue as to why this car sold for so much money, and nor does anyone else that I’ve asked.

All I can say is that this J2 Cadillac was beautifully done, with Le Mans history, center-stage at Barrett-Jackson and televised on The Speed Channel. And for someone, all those things added up to an extra $124k valuation.-Thor Thorson

(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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