Featured: After More Than Six Decades Of Dormancy, Allard Is Picking Up Where It Left Off

After More Than Six Decades Of Dormancy, Allard Is Picking Up Where It Left Off

Will_Broadhead By Will_Broadhead
October 15, 2020
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Photography by Will Broadhead

The genealogy of most historic car marques that still exist today is rarely pure. Even the most hallowed of family owned manufacturers are likely to have a price put on their heads, and those that preach about their heritage may be more mutt than they would like to admit. But does that matter? Well, if the badge survives and remains faithful to its trajectory, then it’s hard to argue from the opposite perspective without supporting rigid dynasties.

Perhaps because I’m British and I’ve seen my fair share of once-cherished brands swapped around like football cards over the years, it’s refreshing and intriguing to find a manufacturer that attempts to return to its former glories so many years on, and under the same family ownership no less. Outside of Porsche these kinds of family legacies tend to exist among the lower-volume brands, which makes the stories all the more charming. Ours is being written in a small pocket of rural Gloucestershire, on one of the UK’s formula nuclear sites.

Allard may be a name familiar to some, a British manufacturer that appeared in the 1930s born out of a complete desire to go racing. The history of the company is an interesting one in its own right, but 60 years since the name was dissolved like so many other companies in the period of post-war austerity, the Allard’s mission is one of resurrection and renewed hope, as the company gets ready to sell its first new machine since insolvency stopped the first incarnation in its tracks in 1958.

The cynical among us—and believe me, it’s easy for us Brits to be cynical about cars—will inevitably say we’ve seen it all before; look at what happened with Norton recently, for example. The difference in this case is that Allard is still owned by the Allard family, including a tooth and nail fight to secure the trademark. And this car has been engineered by Sydney Allard’s grandson, Lloyd Allard, alongside his father, Alan.

The car itself is a continuation model of the JR, the 1953 sports car that succeeded the company’s J2 model that had given them victory at Le Mans. Only seven original JRs were built back then, making this car—more than six decades their senior—number eight. It’s a tool room copy of their 1953 Le Mans entrant, and though Allard doesn’t have the same resources that companies like Aston do, this is as compelling a continuation model as they come.

While some continuations aim to be on the road, Lloyd and Alan very much wanted to continue the family’s legacy on the race track, and set about engineering this JR to comply with the FIA’s regulations with regards to the issuing of an historical technical passport, a fact they’re both rightfully proud of.

At the time of its first creation, the JR’s makers opted to put Cadillac V8s in their lightweight, boxed, and braced chassis. They were particularly prominent in the US, often beating the bigger production houses of Ferrari and Jaguars in sports car series. The continuation JR is meant to take up those reigns despite being destined for vintage racing these days. The car houses a re-engineered version of the original-spec Cadillac motor, a 5.4L overhead-valve V8 rated at 300hp at its peak.

Listening to startup in the Allard workshop is enough to make your head feel like a bass drum beaten by a deity of Detroit. I’m surprised when Lloyd tells me that this car isn’t fitted with open pipes that. “It was just too noisy,” he tells me matter of factly. Being next to it in this echo chamber, I’m thankful for whatever silencer they’ve fitted. But to complain about a competition car being loud is halfway to losing your enthusiast credentials, and with so many race circuits now unable to host un-silenced track days (here in the UK at least), it just isn’t an option for cars like this.

Lloyd talks spec with me a bit as I circle the car, going through the different gearbox options—three or four-speed with a diff and quick-change gears, as well as being able to vary the ratio for different circuits and events—and while it’s clear that this car is purpose built for circuit duty, the tech isn’t as important to me as the energy this car gives off. It’s a dramatic but unfussy shape with a tremendous expanse of bonnet coated in, you guessed it, British Racing Green. The coachbuilt panels are made using the original body buck, which can be found upstairs. “We haven’t tidied up there just yet,” Lloyd says as I peek up there and see some of the remnants of this building’s past life as part of the UK’s nuclear industry. It’s a strange juxtaposition, the almost utilitarian backdrop of a passed power, with a much older remnant sat within it, being reborn. It’s easy to lean into some melodrama in these circumstances, and this case of continuation feels honest and indebted to its past for more than just a neat bit of heritage marketing.

After it’s properly warmed up I get to see the Allard in action, albeit just within the grounds of a local country house rather than a circuit of yore. But this is just the sort of location that may have hosted local sports car races in the post war period, the likes of Goodwood, Donington Park, and Oulton Park spring to mind, particularly the latter, and as the green machine rises above the crest in front of me I’m briefly plopped into a timeline well before the start of my own. If that’s not a big part of why we prefer old cars to new ones I’ll start shopping for leases on a Mondeo.

Of course, this car is a product, something they hope to sell. Of course Allard needs to make money to survive, but not all products of capitalism must be tightly shackled to spreadsheets. The clear reverence in Lloyd’s voice as he describes his family’s company—what they’ve done and what they hope to do—is enough to knock some surface rust off of even the harshest skeptics. You may not prefer old British marques and that’s totally fine, but I think everyone who likes the history of fast cars can recognize when something is born out of love. I can keep doing my impression of the waxing poet, but I’ll leave the final words to Lloyd.

As a family we have been passionate in reviving and continuing the legacy of what Sydney Allard created over eight decades ago. Since we’re all passionate drivers, engineers, and archivists, it’s been important to stay true to our roots. We see this car as a tribute, and we’d love to see the JR continuation model follow in the footsteps of my grandfather’s legacy, and get back to Le Mans.”

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Gasoline_Junkie

I think an all new Allard would be the perfect home for Cadillac’s new twin turbo Blackwing V8

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