The Sphinx has been found!

In 1954, Tommy Sopwith bought an Allard JR chassis (#3405) from Sydney Allard. Tommy had a custom body built and then added an 3.4L Armstrong-Siddley Sapphire straight six. The car was very competitive...regularly beating C-Jags. In  the late 50's, Sopwith sold the Sphinx without engine to Brian Croot. Croot installed a Jag straight six and raced the car through the late 60's. Sometime in the late 80's the Sphinx then went to France and disappeared; resurfacing occasionally, only to go back into hiding.

Well, the Sphinx has finally resurfaced! Manny Dragone has contracted with the Estate to auction the car at their Greenwich Auction on June 4. No estimate has been given, but we'd expect a car with this pedigree to go for no less than $350,000. If you attend the auction please take lots of photos!

Click here to visit Dragone's auction page

Click here to read more about the Sphinx on Motorsport magazine's web page

Number Plates...

As you are no doubt aware, the chassis number plates used by the Allard Motor Company were not the most durable items. For many years we've offered reproductions of the newer brass plates, but we've never had any of the smaller zinc plates. Fortunately one of our members shared their old plate with us so we could have some reproductions made. Instead of zinc plated brass or aluminum, we had these made out of stainless steel. The black portion is etched (recessed) just like the originals. The stainless plates measure 3" square; while the brass plates measure 4" wide x 3 1/2" tall. We've also scoured Ebay to source period correct letter and number punches. Click here to let us know if you need a replacement.

The Kenyan M...and a gift for a father.

We've said it before...the best thing about running this site is the people and stories that find us. The other day, we received an email from Nick Goodey who let us know that his father had owned an Allard back in Kenya in the mid 50's. His father David was in the RAF and the car was an M he bought from an Indian in Nairobi who said it was imported by a previous owner who intended to enter it in the Coronation Safari Rally (1953)*. The steering box was well worn and he “Obtained"a box off a LHD Ford V8 Pilot which, when fitted and the vertical drop arm re-positioned reversed the steering! David bought the car in 1957 in Nairobi and it was sold in early 1958 as he needed a saloon for longer trips on game photo shoots and adventures.

[We checked the archives and found that six Allards were exported to Kenya. It appears as though this car was chassis 819; shipped on December 17, 1948; it was painted black with blue interior. We also checked the entries for the 1953 Safari Rally and no Allards were listed as entrants.] 

Fast forward 60 years or so and son Nick wanted to get his dad David a gift to remember his old Allard. Being a bit of a craftsman, Nick created the wireframe sculpture below of his fathers old M. The sculpture is almost 18" long! We were so impressed with the wireframe so we asked Nick if he accepts commissions. Nick replied that he does, with the basic pricing around NZ$250, 200GBP, or US$285 and varies due to size and detail. If you are interested in discussing a commission with Nick, click here to email him.

Remembering Syd

On April 12, 2016 we remember Sydney Allard on the 50th anniversary of his passing. As we sought a fitting a way to remember the Guv’nor, we found the story below from our 1973 January/February issue. The story was unaccredited so we assume that Sydney’s friend and our original Publisher, Ray May was the author. We hope you enjoy this look back and hope that you learn something new about the man that created the cars we love.

The late Sydney Allard, Managing Director of the Allard Motor Company, manufacturers of Allard cars and general engineers, also of Adlards Motors Ltd., Ford Main Dealers, was a professional engineer (A.M.I.Mech.E.). He was born on June 19th, 1910, and learned to drive on an elder brother's 1924 two-speed Douglas motorcycle, and commenced driving cars in 1926. He was a member of many motor clubs, and his first competitive event was in 1928 when he competed in the Dartmoor Trial, which was organized by the Maidstone Motor Cycle Club. This was an all-night event starting at Hindhead, Surrey and finishing at Minehead in North Devon, and included many very tough sections on Dartmoor. Between 1928 and 1936 he competed at Brooklands Racing Circuit, Surrey, and Syston Park, Leicestershire with Morgans, and in cross-country trials with Morgans and Fords. He built the first Allard Special in 1936 out of a crashed Ford V8.

He competed in Hill-climbs in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Italy and Switzerland, and raced in the U.K. and Europe, including the Tourist Trophy, Le Mans 24 Hours, Mille Miglia, and Targa Florio. His major· competition successes were – Winner of R.A.C. British Hill Climb Championship, 1949; 3rd place at Le Mans (1st in class, course record) 1950; Won Monte Carlo Rally, 1952. Pre-war he had many successes in cross-country trials, e.g. February, 1939 won Premier Awards in succession in the following: Kentish Border Car Club's Stafford Clark Trial; Maidstone & Mid-Kent Club's Bossom Trial; North-West London Motor Club's Coventry Cup Trial; Sutton Coldfield & North Birmingham Club's Colmore Cup Trial, and the Southsea Club's President's Trial. Between 1936 and 1939 he competed in 60 events, (all in Allard’s) and won 20 Premier Awards, 14 Class Cups, 33 Team Awards, 17 1st Class Awards, 11 2nd Class awards and two 3rd Class awards. Only failed to win an award on four occasions. Failed to finish only once – through inverting the car during event!

Sydney Allard's favorite events: Le Mans 24 Hours Race and Prescott Hill Climb. Most frightening event: probably Le Mans (mist in the early hours of Sunday morning). Most memorable event: Mille Miglia (road race in Italy), in a Cadillac Allard. The start was at night time, and heavy rain was falling. He overtook a Ferrari that had started several minutes earlier, but after 125 miles he hit a kilometer stone – a glancing blow and was forced to retire -the Ferrari finished 3rd! Most embarrassing moment: having to explain the reason for driving through a hedge when the remainder of the entry had kept on the road, resulting in what is now called 'Allard' s Gap' at Prescott Hill Climb. He liked most types of competitive events, though "Driving Test” events he found the least interesting. Proudest moment: winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952.

Allard Motor Works News

We just received a press release from Roger Allard’s Allard Motor Works announcing that he was moving vehicle manufacturing from Montreal to Valencia, California (just outside of Los Angeles). This piqued our interest so we quickly sent Roger an email to see what was going on.

Basically the time had come to split with his fabrication contractor. After a search for a new fabrication partner, Roger found the right team in Valencia. The shop has lots of experience building specialty cars for Hollywood along with several high-end hot rods. Once fabrication is underway, a new Allard assembly shop will be opened next door. This new setup should also help reduce lead times.

Along with the transition to a new shop, a new and improved J2X will be coming, the MkIII. The new car should feature a heater, full windshield, an optional sports windshield, adjustable steering column, adjustable foot pedals, one inch more of ground clearance, a RHD option, power steering, an automatic transmission option, and shortly after…an removable hardtop (t-top) option. AMW is also exploring having aluminum bodies fabricated. The plan is to launch the J2X MkIII in June of this year. Given our proximity to Valencia, we are looking forward to bring you a road test of the new car.

There’s one other important feature the new car will come with…an engine. This year, the US Government passed a piece of legislation called the “Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015” which basically allows companies like AMW to finally deliver cars with the engine installed. Previously, buyers had to had source the engine and have it installed by a 3rd party. Available engines include the modern Chrysler Hemi, Cadillac and the GM RamJet V8s, ranging from 350 hp to 700 hp – and all emissions compliant.

We wish Roger and Allard Motor Works the best of luck in this new phase of his business! Please click here to read the full press release from Roger and Allard Motor Works.

For Sale: Allard GT-7105CHR Coupe

We are excited to offer you a very special Allard...GT-7105 coupe. Bob Girvin has decided that it is now time to sell his unique Allard. This car was originally fitted with a hi-po Chrysler 392 that was soon replaced with a more conventional 392 so the owner could actually drive it. For over 30 years Bob Girvin has regularly raced his GT, making it one of the most raced Allard's ever. Now that he's retired from racing, the car has been returned to a more streetable tune, but it remains ready to race. Click here to learn more about this unique car.

The P1 Road Test

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the Allard P1. Let’s be honest, it’s not the prettiest car in the world. However, when you compare it with the competition at the time, I think it was actually pretty attractive from a “form follows function” perspective. The competition featured a lot of chrome and sweeping curves that made them look more glamourous than they really were. Engine-wise, all of the P1’s compatriots at the time we powered by straight 6 engines (or less), while the P1 and Ford Pilot were powered by war surplus Flathead V8’s.

We’re all familiar with Sydney Allard’s 1st place finish in the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally. But the Guv’nors P1 was by no means a standard P1…it was more of a P1X, featuring coil sprung front suspension and a DeDion rear suspension. The flathead powering the car was also the more powerful Mercury 24-stud flathead with Allard dual carb manifold and aluminum heads*…plus a few other tricks that we don’t know about. When you think about it, the P1 was really one of the first muscle cars – in stock trim it was relatively anemic, but with a few of the option boxes selected, you could blow the doors off of just about any other tin-top on the road.

Unfortunately very few P1’s remain today, we know of a little over 40 cars out of the 559 cars that were built – and a handful of those 40 or so cars have been converted to J2 replicas. Even rarer is finding a running P1 here in the USA, we know of only 3 or 4. Fortunately one of those cars resides at the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum. The TBAM owns chassis #1885, which was originally sold through Bristol Street Motors on January 13, 1950. It was painted grey with a marron interior. The car was imported to the United States in 1958. The Emmanuel Cerf was kind enough to take me for a spin in the car and he even offered me the keys!

1885 is in very good mechanical and cosmetic condition. It has been lightly restored and maintains what appears to be the original factory build quality. The doors close with a solid clunk, but there is a fair amount of flex. The seats are comfortable and I must say the suicide door entry is a pleasure – it’s a shame the design is frowned upon today.

Driving the car was a bit of a mixed bag. Acceleration is quite good, especially when keeping in mind that this was a British passenger car from the late 40’s. The steering was heavy and the car wallowed a bit, but it was smooth at speed. My biggest frustration though was with the 3-speed column shifter. The shift linkage is quite complex, consisting of what can best described as a couple of scissor linkages that miraculously shift gears with a deft movement of the shift lever. I struggled with finding first gear from neutral – at one point the linkage jammed completely at an intersection. Fortunately the Cerf’s mechanic came to our rescue and was able to fix it after a few minutes. Apparently the scissor linkage can lock up on itself when handled incorrectly by a ham-fisted American like myself.

Other than that, the car was fun to drive. By no means does it handle like a ’56 Chevy Bel Air, but they are two completely different cars. A Chevy or Ford from the mid 50’s had the benefit of being created by hundreds of engineers and designers; and put together on a production-based assembly line. The J1, K1/2, L, M, and P1 cars essentially shared the same chassis layout with the only variations coming in wheelbase and a later switch to coil springs. Allard had just a few draftsmen & engineers; the cars were styled by Sydney and friend Godfry Imhoff! Even comparing Allard with its contemporaries of Austin, Alvis, Jaguar, and Triumph – what Allard accomplished with the P1 and the other cars was pretty amazing.

When driving the P1, I could imagine the car with 50% more horsepower, tuned suspension, and fresh tires blasting through the Alps like Sydney Allard. Sadly the shifter quickly brought me back to reality. However, with some more seat time I’m sure that I could come to grips with that blasted shifter. If I ever bought a P1, I would give serious consideration to converting it over to a floor mounted shifter. Sacriledge! I know, but in the name of drivability, it should be considered.

While the standard flathead was fairly anemic, it was easily tuned. In America, there was a wide variety of tuning parts available to the intrepid hot rodder. Unfortunately American tuning parts were nearly impossible to obtain in post war Europe – while exporting was essential to rebuilding post-war economies, importing foreign car parts wasn’t exactly at the top of the governments priority list.

-Colin Warnes

*The Allard dual carb manifold is a direct knock-off of Eddie Meyer’s manifold – it was replicated without Eddie’s permission. The Allard aluminum manifold was a direct copy of Edelbrock’s flathead manifold, which was apparently done with Edelbrock’s blessing. The parts were acquired by Reg Canham on a trip to the US in 1948 and smuggled back to Britain as carry-on baggage aboard his Trans-Atlantic flight.

The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum

I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to meet interesting people and to travel around the country (along with some foreign destinations) from time to time. I work in the packaging machinery industry (the food you buy has to get in those boxes or bags somehow) and have been lucky enough to get to know the Cerf family; who are also in “the business” with their company Polypack. If you are an automotive enthusiast from the Southeast, then you are likely familiar with the Cerf family that hails from Tampa Bay, FL via France. Patriarch Alain, along with twin sons Emmanuel and Olivier run the company alongside their Tampa Bay Automobile Museum (TBAM) which houses a collection of eccentric automobiles that you will find no equal to here in North America. The collection is devoted to automotive engineering oddities and the unique personalities that created them. The TBAM also happens to own a very nice Allard P1.

Unfortunately my company doesn’t have any customers in the Tampa Bay area so I’ve never had a good excuse to visit the Cerf’s and their collection. However, this past November, the Cerf’s and Polypack hosted the annual meeting for our industry trade association (PMMI) – this was the perfect opportunity to see their cars and hopefully test drive their P1 (see separate road test).

As with most museums, the TBAM is a great place to host a party. Some of the cars were moved around to accommodate the caterers, wet bars, and a couple of hundred guests. This being a special event hosted by the Cerf’s, they gave us the VIP treatment. Are you familiar with the Fardier de Cugnot? It is the first self-powered vehicle, which was first demonstrated in 1770 by its builder Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot. The Cerf’s built a replica based of the original steam-powered Fardier which amazingly still resides in a French museum, although it is missing several bronze components that were “liberated”. The Cerf’s replica is authentic to the original, except for a few minor differences made to the boiler in the name of safety & usability – the original Fardier had a few critical design flaws because the technology was still developing. The great thing the about the Cerf’s Fardier is that it’s not a static display…they drive it! We were fortunate to get to see it go for a drive in the museum/company parking lot. Let’s just say that it isn’t fast, but it is an amazing technical achievement for a 245+ year old machine.

The TBAM is a litmus test for car nuts. When you walk in, you see all sorts of beautiful cars with interesting names. A fake car nut will casually walk around, taking notice of the DeLorean or the nice Mustang and then quickly leave. A real car guy will stand in front of the 1953 Hotchkiss and try to figure out how they managed to build an aluminum front boxer engined, front wheel drive car with an integrated transmission and transverse coil spring double A-arm suspension. A real car nut will notice that the Mustang is not just any ’65 Mustang, but that it features a Ford sanctioned Ferguson all wheel drivetrain and Dunlop anti-lock brakes…no doubt where Ken Block got the inspiration for his Gymkhana 7 Mustang!

There are just too many cars to highlight here, but some that deserve a close look are any one of their eight Tatra’s, the Avion Voisin - C7 Chastness (art deco masterpiece), the three-wheeled Mathis VL 333, the Ruxton, and the Gerin Aerodyne Prototype.

The Gerin Aerodyne is probably my favorite car in the collection, which also happens to be the most recent addition to the collection. The Aerodyne was built in 1925 by Jacques Gerin and features a very interesting laminated wood and aluminum aerodynamic chassis. The front & rear suspension, engine, and transmission feature some very complicated castings that must have been very expensive back in 1925 for this one-off vehicle. I could have stared at the Aerodyne all day; soaking in all of the intricate details.

In addition to the automobiles, the design aspect of the museum itself is a treat. Being French, it should be no surprise that the Cerf’s brought some style to the architecture of the museum. Additionally, the Cerf’s serve as patrons to the local art community and throughout the museum you’ll find a number of unique paintings and sculptures.

When you visit, you may be lucky enough to run into family Patriarch Alain. If you do, take some time to ask him about their self-designed & installed 1,000 panel solar array that produces 270 kW. Or you can ask him about petrol vs. electric vs. hydrogen powered vehicles…if you have strong opinions about any of them, be prepared to earn a thing a two about hydrogen power, of which Alain is a vocal advocate.

Next time you are in the Tampa Bay area, make a point to set aside at least a few hours to visit the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum…you won’t find a collection of cars like it anywhere in North America. The TBAM (www.tbauto.org) is located at 3301 Gateway Centre Blvd., Pinellas Park, Florida 33782 and you can contact them at 727.579.8226 or info@tbauto.org

-Colin Warnes

 

Elkhart Lake via Tom Porter

The Road America Allard gathering and Jaguar event went very well. My brother Willy and I arrived Wednesday night before the event with the freshly restored E-jag , two TIGA Sports 2000’s, and the Allard J2X.  By 9:00 pm we had them all unloaded into a track garage space and we were ready to start the weekend. Thursday was a test day – (which we didn’t pay for) so we focused on preparing the TIGA’s for Friday tech inspection (tires, fuel, battery charging, and nut-n-bolt). 
Thursday night the weather brought heavy rain and I was VERY thankful for a water tight garage. The track reported that over 2 inches of rain fell overnight. Due to the threat of the severe weather we had a couple of nice cars “sleep over” in our garage: a 1957 Lister Jag (driven by Walt Hansgen to victory in the 57’ June Sprints and a gorgeous white 1953 Allard J2X - one of 2 steel wheel cars - both owned by fellow Milwaukeean and author Colin Comer. Needless to say the “sleep overs” were amazing…the next night we had a beautiful 120 Jag along with Jere Krieg’s Allard join us for the night. Friday was overcast and a bit cooler. Willy and I had good fun driving the TIGAS without much issue, other than we don’t get enough seat time and stay up way too late drinking and taking pictures of cars sleeping over! 
For the Allard event Saturday, cars were displayed at the Road America Center. We had around 20 Allards show up, which I was told was a great turnout; by far the most I’ve ever seen in one place! All the cars were gorgeous and the folks that own them couldn’t have been more pleasant to spend time with.  Of special note was Bob Girvin’s 1957 Allard GT Coupe (1 of 2 cars built) and the last car off the Allard production line. Saturday the weather turned spectacular, sunny and warm combined with the trees changing colors in the Kettle Moraine Area; it was amazing. 
That night we all met at the Ostoff Resort in downtown Elkhart Lake for a car show called “Gather On The Green” where the 20 Allards and approximately 100 other beautiful cars showed up including a 120m jag, Lister Jag, 300SL,166 Ferrari among others (that I can’t remember) were displayed. Many of the cars in attendance drove a lap of the original road course, which was a blast.   At the end of the night, after the cars were judged; we came home with “Best of Show – Allard Group” a distinguished honor for sure! 
Sunday morning we put the Eddie Jones #9’s on the car (as it was in circa 1952) and I drove the Allard at Road America for the Allard parade lap.  I wore Bill Cooper’s 1955 drivers’ suit and my father, Bill Porter’s helmet and we really looked the part. Having all 4 of Dad’s cars there (and all of them running!) was a special moment. Sunday afternoon and night we got them all home and put away, still running and strait which is always an accomplishment. Special thanks to Andy Picarrello, Deb Kornelli, VSCDA, and the great folks at Road America for making this a fantastic ELVF event!

Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – September 18-20, 2015

Thanx to Andy Picariello & Tom Porter

Deb and Mike Korneli, organizers of the September, 2015 Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival (ELVF) contacted Andy in the fall of 2014 on behalf of the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association (VSCDA). They asked Andy if he could get some Allards to attend their annual event at Road America. If so, Allard along with Jaguar, would be the featured marques at this event. Andy got the word out, and succeeded in getting 17 Allards there – including his own burgundy Hemi-powered J2 and his blue Cad-powered K2. 

Events started that Friday, with an Allard display at the Road America Center, followed by the Driver’s Dinner at the venue. Saturday was a busy day, starting with the Road Course Re-enactment. This was a tour of the original road course, where the Road America event started 65 years ago. Several Allards attended this, along with the race cars and the display Jaguars. Following this, all the cars assembled on the lawn of the Osthoff Hotel. Andy Picariello’s J2 was placed beside Augie Grasis’ J2X. Both cars had competed against each other in 1953 – Augie’s being driven by Carroll Shelby, Andy’s by Dale Duncan. This was followed by an Allard dinner at Siebken’s Pub, arraigned again by Jere Krieg. Sunday was the race day. Allards were afforded a parade lap before the feature races.

Andy had hoped that 4-5 Allards would be racing, but in the end was glad that two J2X’s would be able to thrill the crowds with their on-track bravado. Augie Grasis was at the wheel of his Carroll Shelby veteran. He started in second spot on the grid for Saturday’s Sprint Race, quickly took the lead, and had a great time dicing with a ’33 Ford Indy car to his first place finish. The Elkhart Lake Road Coarse reenactment tour was soon to follow – a great show for the spectators, but the slow stop & go driving caused heating problems for Augie’s Allard. The result – a blown head gasket that relegated his J2X to a static display role for the rest of the weekend.

Vince Vento decided to enter his J2X just ten days before the event. Through diligent efforts on the part of his team and a certain measure of luck, he was able to get his car set up and delivered in time. Vince was experiencing some shifting problems with his Hydramatic during practice, so he prudently decided to forgo Saturday’s Sprint in favor of Sunday’s Allard/Jaguar Feature Race. Throughout that event both Vince and the race fans had a wonderful time experiencing and witnessing the Allard’s adrenalin imbalance as he wrestled his beast to a respectable finish.

Tom Porter had a great time piloting his Allard J2X on the Allard Parade lap while wearing a 1955 driver’s suit and his late father’s vintage helmet. Bill Porter, incidentally, had owned and raced all four of the Porter family’s cars (a Jag E-Type, the J2X and two TIGA’s) at Elkhart Lake, so Tom and his brother Willy felt this occasion was especially nostalgic.  Tom’s weekend was topped off when his J2X won “Best of Show – Allard Group” for Saturday night’s Gathering on the Green.

The J2X field was filled out by Colin Comer and Barb Pinkenstein who brought their Allards over from the local Milwaukee area, along with Richard Hansen’s and Jim Netterstrom’s J2X’s. 

The J2 contingency was represented by Andy Picariello’s and Dana Mecum’s cars, along with Tony Cove’s ‘work in progress’ J2 that he trailered over from his home in Ontario. Many an Allard owner is intrigued by the opportunity to inspect an Allard project car that effectively displays so much of an Allard’s unique ‘innards’. Seeing these projects also gives encouragement as we work on our own projects. Keep up the good work, Tony!

Bob Girvin’s unique Hemi powered Allard GT (one of two Allard GT’s, the last production Allard, and the only GT set up for racing), and was honored with the well deserved People’s Choice Award. 

The rest of the Allard field was rounded out by the three pristine K2’s of David Gaunt, Peter Zimmerman and Andy Picariello, Tom Kayuha’s K1, Terrill Underwood’s L-Type, Jere Krieg’s Palm Beach and Wilson Ryder’s J2X Mk II. Harold Haase made the trip from his home in CT – but alas, without his original and well preserved J2X – which is now on the way to its new home in Belgium.

Per Andy, it was a memorable event, thanks to the hospitality shown to us by all involved. Deb Korneli did an outstanding job to assure that we had a good time. Jere and Julie Krieg served us well as our social secretaries. The long journey for most of us was well worthwhile.

The Last Checkered Flag, George Barris

The "King of Kustomizers," George Barris passed away today, he was 89. So why should Allard owners care? Well, Mr. Barris layed his skilled hands on at least one Allard that we know of...a K2 chassis 3021. The car was originally sold through Noel Kirk and it was painted blue with a red interior. That soon changed when actor Jeff Cooper bought the car in the mid 60's. Jeff commissioned George Barris to modify the body and Von Dutch to paint the car.

It's hard to see in the photo, but Barris added stylized spats to the rear wheels and it appears as though the door hinges were changed from rear to front mounted. Did you catch the other modification? Look at the headlights; Barris covered over the headlights and mounted them on a custom bumper...very cool!

Unfortunately this is the best photo we have of the car, which was from Amelia Island several years ago. If you have any other photos...please share them with us!

Carroll Shelby’s Allard to the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival

-Augie Grasis

Allard and Elkhart Lake. Carroll Shelby and Elkhart Lake.  Carroll Shelby and the Allard. All linked together in sort of a “six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon” way.  Allards have been inextricably linked with Elkhart Lake as they dominated the front of the field in the early ‘50s when the races were held on the roads and streets surrounding Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  Burt Levy immortalized the Allard in his story The Last Open Road, which culminates at Elkhart Lake and features fictional ex-RAF-fighter-pilot-turned-racer Tommy Edwards wrestling his Allard in famous tracks across the country.  Real life drivers such as Fred Wacker truly did race Allards on the open roads surrounding Elkhart Lake.

Carroll Shelby started his career in an Allard.  As a matter of fact, he drove MY Cadillac powered Allard J2X (#3146) in 10 races in 1953 and won 9 of them.  In January 1954, Shelby raced the car #11 the 1000KM in Buenos Aires Argentina.  His 10th place performance (with co-driver Dale Duncan) landed him a ride with Aston Martin and the rest, including a LeMans win, is history.  And Shelby is a legend at Elkhart Lake too where he won the Road America 500 in 1957 in a Maserati and later dominated with his Shelby Cobras.

Needless to say, when George, Mike and I learned that Allard would be the featured marque at Road America for the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival we were excited beyond words.  We wanted to make a good showing among our Allard brethren.  We were excited to show the racing world the coolness of one of the most successful combinations of sports car and hot rod.  And mostly we were excited to run the Carroll Shelby J2X at Road America—a true horsepower track.  We raced there in July 2014 at the Hawk and it was awesome—heart-stopping acceleration, diabolical Allard swing axle handling punctuated by non-stopping brakes!  A true 50’s hot rod sports car experience.

We put our learnings to work in our preparation.  A taller rear end would get us to our 5500 red-line at the end of the straight. Racing brake linings would stop us better for turn 5.  No need to work on the motor—sounded strong to us!

Besides the mechanical work to prepare for the race, we began corresponding with Andy Picariello, the Allard Reunion organizer and were surprised and disappointed that, though there were 18+ Allards entered for the weekend, we were the only ones thus far who planned to race.   Then, at the 11th hour, enter Vince Vento with his J2X.  Vince is a new owner of a beautiful black Cadillac powered J2X, and one of only two with a hydromatic transmission.

Vince’s car had been used as a prototype by Zora Duntov in designing the 1955 Corvette.  
Vince and his girlfriend Estelle, are brave, optimistic people.  Vince decided just 10 days before the event that he was going to race.  While running his business and traveling for other events Vince arranged new tires, new brakes and shipping from Florida to Wisconsin for a car he had never raced, over his cell phone.  Though I have often heard in my business life that “hope is not a strategy,” Vince’s optimism and hope were clearly the core of his plan!

Our caravan, including Dan & Brenda’s motor home, rolled into Road America Thursday night. After setting up camp for Team Allard and going through tech we headed for Siebkens for a couple of pre-race beers and the world’s #1 race bar.  Surprisingly we arrived at the track Friday on time and ready for the first of our two practice sessions.  Vince and Estelle found us, but couldn’t find their car, which was supposed to be shipped to a tire dealer to get racing tires mounted.  After several phone calls to the driver and tire guy and many rental car miles, the tires were finally mounted and Vince and his black beauty arrived at the track for the afternoon practice session.  The shakedown sessions for both J2X were successful but not without some challenges.  The hydromatic transmission on Vince’s car was slipping out of gear and not shifting properly.  While the #11 Shelby Allard set the fastest time for the group, we experienced a late session spin which we later learned was from a differential oil leak spraying oil on the right rear tire.

Friday night Road America hosted a dinner at the track for the competitors Friday with all 18 Allards on display.  Despite the cool temperature, the threat of rain, and the free beer inside, many of the racers from other classes spent an inordinate amount of time drooling over the fabulous gathering of Allards.  Just as the party wrapped up it started to rain; and rain it did, all night until morning.

Qualifying for our group was scheduled to be first on the track on Saturday morning.  While it had quit raining an hour before our group went out, the track was slick as snot and the group 1 drivers tiptoed around the turns.  In the meantime, Vince decided that, given the transmission issues, he would forego any preliminary sessions and save the car for the Allard/Jaguar feature race on Sunday.  In the end, the #11 had qualified second behind a well driven MG for the afternoon’s Sprint Race.

Saturday’s Sprint race turned out to be a real barn burner.  Our #11 Allard took the lead from the start followed closely by the 1933 Ford Indy car of Rex Barrett.  The two cars were never more than a couple of car lengths apart the entire race, but the Allard ultimately prevailed by a mere .5 seconds at the checkered flag.

There was no time to celebrate as the Elkhart Lake Road Course reenactment was immediately following our race.  The parade of 15+ Allards, many Jaguars and an assortment of other racing sports cars toured the 1951-52 road course around picturesque Elkhart Lake to the waves and applause of fans and locals on lawn chairs in the countryside.  The track finally weaves its way on to Main Street where hundreds of race fans are gathered to see, hear and smell the fabulous cars of the past.

I am sure the reenactment was a fun experience for most drivers, (it started that way for my bride Pami and me) but soon became stressful and worrisome as the temperature gauge pegged out as we approached Main Street.  A blown head gasket proved to be the end of our race weekend as we finished our “tour” with Pami at the wheel being pushed down Main Street by the crew and myself.

Undaunted, we found our place in the Gather on the Green Concours at the Osthoff Resort facing Elkhart Lake, with a stunning display of 18 Allards of all types.  After our long push down Main Street we decided to leave the #11 in “as raced” condition, adorned with the oil, radiator overflow and grime of the track.  We were placed next to Andy Picarillo and his famous J2.  Our cars had met before—at a West Texas Air station SCCA race!  Andy brought a photo (below) from 1953 of our cars on the front row, his driven by Dale Duncan and the #11 by Carroll Shelby.  The weather was fabulous, the company was interesting, and the cocktails were flowing—life was good, despite our broken car! 

Dale Duncan in #54 and Carroll Shelby in #11

Dale Duncan in #54 and Carroll Shelby in #11

Dana Mecum’s J2.  Carroll Shelby drove a couple of races in this car in 1951.

Dana Mecum’s J2.  Carroll Shelby drove a couple of races in this car in 1951.

Andy Picariello and his two brides!

Andy Picariello and his two brides!

Sunday dawned a fabulous day and it was all hands on deck in the Allard pit, to help Vince make a good showing in the Allard-Jaguar Feature Race.  The grid truly looked like a blast from the 1950’s as Vince was lined up next to the ex-Briggs Cunningham Lister Jaguar from the Collier Collection.  Vince drove an inspired race as he lowered his time on every lap. Estelle and I watched from turn 5 and were sure we could see Vince grinning through his full face helmet every time he hammered the big Cadillac motor up the hill!  As the checkered flag fell on this beautiful black J2X, it was mission accomplished and a strategy well played! 

Vince Vento in his gorgeous J2X

Vince Vento in his gorgeous J2X

As we packed up for Kansas City and bid farewell to our old friends and our new friends, I noted a little smile on George and Mike’s faces.  Was it the satisfaction of a good race weekend?  A successful gathering of so many cool cars? 

Or maybe it was the anticipation of tearing into that Cadillac motor when we arrived home! Until next year

The #11 Crew—Brenda & Dan Rapp, Mike Caraway, George Hull and Pami Grasis

The #11 Crew—Brenda & Dan Rapp, Mike Caraway, George Hull and Pami Grasis