Older readers will remember who Sydney Allard was. He was quite a remarkable man in his day, a bit like an English version of Carroll Shelby.
He specialised in building lightweight sports and racing cars powered by flathead Ford V8 engines. When he wanted them to go faster he inserted Lincoln V12s. He had to apply his genius to the war effort after 1939, but when hostilities ceased he came back even more enthusiastically, formed the Allard Motor Company and found a way to shoehorn Cadillac and Chrysler V8s into his agile little cars. Allard and Tom Cole finished third in the 1950 Le Mans 24 hour in a Cadillac-powered Allard J2, despite the fact that the car only had the use of top gear for much of the race.
Allard also built quite a sophisticated sports saloon, the P1 (and sold more than a few of them), and it was in one of these that he won the 1952 Monte Carlo rally outright.
Sydney Allard may well have been an inspiration to the Americans, as the aforementioned Carroll Shelby gained a lot of valuable experience with Allard cars, and Zora Arkus-Duntov, who will receive another mention later in this story, actually worked for Allard for a time.
The Allard J2 enjoyed considerable competition success on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 1950s, and cars destined for the USA were normally shipped without engines so that aspiring racers could choose from the increasing variety of OHV V8s coming on stream.
But good things never last forever and with the arrival of the C-type Jaguar the outdated Allards were starting to lose their competitive edge. Sydney Allard looked around for another big idea, and that’s when he had his brain explosion.
Early fifties Britain was a country of shortages, austerity and general doom and gloom. Most people were still driving around in worn-out pre-war cars as the industry had to export most of its production in order to earn foreign exchange.
Enter the horrific Allard Clipper; something further from what had built Allard’s modest empire would be impossible to imagine.
This thing looked like it was squeezed out of a toothpaste tube and then had an afterthought coupe-like roof plonked on top. No doors, just a low cutout for the ladies to hitch their skirts and flop in. A bench seat for three, and if you were unfortunate enough to have kids you had to park them in a rear-opening boot where you would be unable to see if they had fallen out or not.
The unfortunate Clipper rode on three tiny wheels which a wheelbarrow would be embarrassed to have, and was motivated by a single-cylinder 350cc Villiers air-cooled two-stroke that powered just the left rear wheel.
Only 20 were made, and most came back to sort serious problems with overheating or transmission issues, and it all ended when the manufacturer of the fibreglass body found that they were costing about double what they were charging.
At the same time Allard’s old friend, Arkus-Duntov, was instrumental in the success of another fibreglass-bodied car which went on to be the longest-running and arguably the most successful sports car in history, the Chevrolet Corvette.
As for Allard’s other friend, Carroll Shelby, the car that made him famous was the Cobra, based on the AC Ace, another British car very similar in concept and timing to Sydney Allard’s last car. That was the ambitiously named but relatively unsuccessful Palm Beach.
The Allard Motor Company folded in 1958, and Sydney Allard died in April 1966 after a short illness. He was only 56.