Allard built just 119 K2 sports tourers from 1950 to 1952 and — now as then — each K2 is appreciated for its impressive performance potential on both road and track, as well as its distinctive styling and exclusivity.
This K2, chassis number 91K3019, is something more special yet. As Allard documentation on file confirms, it was constructed expressly for exhibition at the 1952 New York Auto Show, and it was specified with features typically found on the competition-oriented J2X, including a De Dion rear suspension, Alfin finned drum brakes and wire wheels. No engine was fitted from the factory, as was typical for new Allards, but provisions were made to accommodate a Cadillac V8. The resulting car was effectively a J2X that rode on the K2’s 106-inch wheelbase and wore the K2’s attractive bodywork.
The following year, it was sold to its first owner of record, a J. Dany of New York. He would retain the car until 1960, notably replacing its Cadillac engine with a more-powerful 392-cubic-inch Chrysler “Hemi” V8 circa 1957.
The output of the rebuilt Chrysler Hemi V8 and the rigors of highly competitive FIA-legal vintage racing necessitated numerous prudent modifications and upgrades. Since the original Allard suspension uprights were vulnerable to cracking under heavy use, new uprights were fabricated from billet material for superior strength. New axle shafts from Spicer were fabricated and installed, along with modified and machined Jaguar rear-axle hubs, and much larger Buick drum brakes were added for improved stopping power. Halibrand wheels complete the car’s purposeful, period-correct look.
|Vehicle:||1952 Allard K2 Special Roadster|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plaque on firewall|
|Engine Number Location:||Front top center of V (Hemi)|
|Club Info:||Allard Owners Club|
|Alternatives:||1948–54 Jaguar XK 120, 1952 Cunningham C2, 1950–52 Ferrari 340 America|
This car, Lot 182, sold for $117,600, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Phoenix, AZ, sale on January 26, 2023.
Like smoky whiskey and mechanical bull riding, Allards are an acquired taste. Anyone who learned to drive after the mid-1960s will be shocked to pilot one and terrified to race one. With tons of power in a primitive chassis, an exposed driving position, heavy steering and mediocre handling, there is not a hint of subtlety anywhere. But in the early 1950s, they were arguably the fastest car you could buy. Then and now, that counts for a lot.
All about Allard
Sydney Allard was born into comfortable circumstances near London. He grew up in the 1920s playing with motorcycles, graduating to full motorcars with the purchase of a small garage business in 1929 (confusingly named Adlards Motors). By the mid-1930s he had built his first competition special, and his preferred milieu was trials.
Trials was a particularly English sport, more concerned with getting through horribly tough terrain, potholes and mud than going fast, and it favored strong, durable cars with lots of low-speed grunt. Allard quickly learned that the route to success was putting a big American V8 into a light and strong chassis. Carroll Shelby was still in diapers.
Having built a few Ford-based specials for himself and doing well in trials competitions, he found himself being asked to build cars for others. Aside from competition use, his specials proved to be very quick road cars. Prior to the war, Allard built 12 cars, including a pretty one using a Lincoln V12. During the war, the garage took to repairing damaged Fords for the military, using a highly efficient assembly-line approach. By 1943, Adlard had 230 employees and was producing about 40 rebuilt vehicles weekly.
In January 1945, anticipating the end of hostilities, the Allard Motor Company Ltd. was formed (Adlard remained as a parallel operation). By early 1946 it had announced details of its new models. They all used Ford mechanical components, so they were easy to service and repair. Over the next decade, Allard produced a variety of cars, but the competition-oriented J and sporting K models are the ones of interest.
Js and Ks
In the early post-war years, Great Britain was an economic basket case. Everything was rationed, materials were difficult to procure, and with huge debts, the country desperately needed export income. As a result, manufacturers producing for export (read: to America) were given privileged access to essential raw materials.
Jaguar and Allard took particular advantage of this, with Allard first displaying the J2 and K2 in New York at the 1950 auto show. With no engine- or drivetrain- manufacturing capability, Allard built rolling chassis and sent them to have American engines and transmissions installed here before being delivered.
As the flagship brand for General Motors, Cadillac introduced the first modern V8 engine in 1949. With overhead valves, thin-wall casting techniques and higher compression, the Cadillac 331-ci V8 was hundreds of pounds lighter than anything before — and much more powerful. Chrysler countered with its 331-ci “Hemi” V8 in 1951. It was more powerful but also heavier. Ford stayed with the flathead until 1954. Chasing the performance market, Allard mostly used the Cadillac engine, with Hemis somewhat later. The gearbox was almost always the Lincoln Zephyr 3-speed.
Allard’s J and K models were mechanically almost identical, with the K frame six inches longer than the J (106 inches versus 100) and the K using a live axle compared with a De Dion IRS in the J. With the frames so similar, putting a J-type IRS into a K was simple: bolt it in and lengthen the torque tube. Being more pur sang, the J used a narrow nose with cycle fenders while the K had a full body over the wheels.
All Allards of the day used the infamous split-axle front suspension, comprised of an I-beam axle split in the middle with a center pivot point. This was an artifact of the early trial days when strength and lots of travel were essential, but it proved less wonderful on a performance road car. I recall presenting a J2X at tech inspection in Monterey and having the inspector ask where the “crimes against nature” checkbox was on the tech form.
Great to drive, great value
Like certain other experiences, few people will ever forget their first few drives in an Allard. In their day, with maybe 180 horsepower, a 3-speed, and the handling and ride expectations of 1950, they were exhilarating and quick. Today, with easily twice the horsepower, a BorgWarner 4-speed (introduced in 1957, but everybody uses them), and stickier tires — but the same brakes, frame and suspension — the impact is memorable.
As I said, they are an acquired taste. I personally love them, but tempered by reality. On a smooth, modern racetrack, you can fling one around and enjoy the raw, brutal power it lays down. On a crowned, rough two-lane highway in a crosswind, they can be a serious challenge. Trust me, I know.
Allard K2s used a live rear axle arrangement that was heavy and didn’t handle well, but this car, with its J-type De Dion inboard-brake IRS, is very much a long-wheelbase, full-bodied J2. The problem here is that the market really doesn’t want K2s. The J2 and J2X (in mid-1951 they moved the engine seven inches forward for leg room to create the X) are much more striking, pure and masculine. That’s the image collectors have when they think of an Allard. In the past 30 years or so, K2s have never been worth more than about a third of an equivalent J2 or J2X. This continues to hold true today.
On the other hand, that makes this car a great value. The visceral experience is the same as a J. It will be equally competitive on the track. (With Allards, lap times are more a function of bravery than finesse.) The investment values of the J and K are effectively locked together; if you don’t mind the look, the value is solid. This car was fairly bought and sold. ♦