Allard JR Le Mans Roadster

In 1936, Sidney Herbert Allard built a successful trials machine from Ford and Bugatti parts. His 1949 National British Hill Climb Championship came in a loud and fearsome special, with four rear wheels powered by a war-surplus Steyr V-8 tank engine.

The first post-war production models of the Allard Motor Company, founded in 1946, featured American Ford flathead V-8s, more often than not fitted with Sidney’s own alloy speed parts, such as intake manifolds and cylinder heads. By the early-1950s, larger American OHV V-8s like Cadillac and Chrysler Hemis became available, so in true hot rod fashion, Sidney wasted no time shoehorning these into his J2X and JR sports racing models.

The first Cadillac engine obtained from the U.S.A. was immediately installed into Allard’s own J2 racing car, which was entered in the 1950 Tour of Sicily. It also competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans that same year, where Allard finished 3rd overall. The J2, J2X, and JR Allard models were also extensively raced in the U.S.A. in the early-1950s, scoring convincing road racing victories over the latest Ferraris and Jaguars at the hands of such legends as Tom Cole, Erwin Goldschmidt, and Fred Wacker.

Beautiful or brutal—take your choice—these Allards were the epitome of early fifties sports car design with their slim alloy bodywork, cycle fenders, flashy knock-off mounted wire wheels, and huge power plants. Cornering at speed was a challenge as a result of Sidney’s affection for a semi-independent front suspension, which was created by chopping a Ford solid axle in half before mounting the two pieces in a swing arm fashion, giving the front end a radical and unusually positive camber appearance. Handling and braking deficiencies notwithstanding, Allards scored major overall race results at Le Mans, Monte Carlo, Watkins Glen, Pebble Beach, and Sebring, where the J2s finished 1st and 2nd in 1950. Sidney Allard embraced the American hot rod idiom of “there is no substitute for cubic inches.”

Allard’s J2X cycle-fendered sports cars looked both brutal and beautiful, but Sidney knew they were aerodynamically disadvantaged on longer circuits such as Le Mans. Accordingly, the new envelope-bodied and streamlined JR model was introduced for 1953. These were essentially mechanically identical to the J2X, though seriously modified for circuit racing. Only seven JRs were built, with two cars serving as factory entries at the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans.

This historic Allard JR, registered NLN 650, was one of two driven by none other than Zora Arkus-Duntov (later dubbed the “father of the Corvette”). The sister car, NLN 652, was piloted by Sidney himself and led the first lap of the race, only to retire with a cracked brake drum after three-quarters of an hour. Duntov's JR, co-driven by Ray Merrick, survived until 1:00 a.m. before it too was withdrawn with engine problems. While running, however, it was credited by the Automobile Club de L’Oust, with a speed of 145.35 miles per hour on the Mulsanne Straight!

After that, NLN 650 returned to America with General Curtis LeMay upon his transfer to the head of the Strategic Air Command. Sports Car Club of America racing followed, especially those events held at Strategic Air Command air strips; it is likely that the good general only had to seek his own permission for such activities. Drivers included Colonel Reade Tilley and Fred Wacker, of Allard “Eightball” J2X fame. 

NLN 650 returned to England and remained inactive for some 20 years, until UK based Michael Knowles paid what he described as a “staggering £3,200” for the car. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased by Gordon Keller, of Palo Alto, California, who had the car prepared for vintage racing and entered it into various West Coast events, resulting in a fine 2nd place at the 1981 Monterey Historics.

Syd Silverman then purchased NLN 650 from Keller in 1982, after which the car migrated to the East Coast and was subjected to a total restoration by Chris Butler, of D & J Automotive in Dublin, Ohio. After several seasons of vintage racing, NLN 650 was treated to what almost amounts to a second restoration by J. Harden’s Vintage Connection, of Oklahoma City. During the restoration, a persistent overheating problem was cured and rear safety hubs were installed.

The two Le Mans JR Allards were re-united in 1990 as part of the Allard gathering at Monterey, after which both cars, NLN 650 and NLN 652, completed trouble-free runs on the Colorado Grand. The full racing potential of the Le Mans JR was demonstrated by UK guest driver Tony Dron, who won the Group 4 race at SVRA’s Walkins Glen 50th Anniversary Meeting in 1998. The cars that Mr. Dron put on the trailer included Lister Chevrolets, C and D Type Jaguars, and North America’s fastest examples of Lotus and Porsche.

The Allard was under the care of its previous owner from 2001 to 2007 when the current owner purchased the car. As it was then, it is now offered with a comprehensive selection of spares, including original components, a logbook dated 1985–1999, the original bonnet, roll bars for vintage racing, exhaust manifolds, a correct and original quick-change rear end, a correct spare transmission, and numerous racing spares. It has also been fitted with the original auxiliary fuel tank that it ran with at Le Mans. Additional shipping arrangements will need to be made after the sale, as these parts will not accompany the car on site. Since its acquisition, NLN 650 has been properly maintained and remains in excellent vintage race condition.

Est. 350 bhp, 365 cu. in. Cadillac overhead valve V-8 engine with dual four-barrel carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, semi-independent front suspension with split axle, rear de Dion axle with coil springs and tubular shock absorbers, and Lockheed four-wheel hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 100 in.

Part of the RM Auctions event in Arizona in January, 2013.

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Miller Photography Inc.

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