Shelby J2 For Sale at Mecum's Monterey Auction, Lot S109

Mecum High Performance Auctions is offeringJ2179 at their Mecum at Monterey Auction on August 15. The car is listed as Lot S109.Shelby enthusiasts will know this car as one of two Allards that Carroll Shelby raced in the the early 50's. The auction catalog describes the car as follows...

"The post-WWII influx of exotic European racing marques such as Ferrari, Jaguar and Porsche, and their dominance on American tracks, caused some homegrown racers to rethink their approach to the sport. For many sportsmen on a tight budget, the answer lay in the combination of a small lightweight chassis and large-displacement engine, most notably a Cadillac or Chrysler. In the early 1950s the most successful sports car in American racing was based on that very formula, and it came from English manufacturer Sydney Allard, whose roadster-bodied Allard J2 was specifically built to accept large American V-8 powerplants and their strong drivetrains. Capable of accelerating to 60mph in under six seconds and with a top speed over 150, the J2 completely dominated the budding SCCA circuit in the United States for two years and, in doing so, proved vital to launching Carroll Shelby’s almost mythical career as professional race driver, Le Mans winner and manufacturer of the World Championship-winning Cobra.

Shelby had barely begun driving in competition when in March 1952 Louisiana businessman Charlie Brown hired the young Texan to drive his Cadillac-Allard, #J2179, at the SCCA-sanctioned Pottsboro hill climb. Shelby deftly handled the over-powered racer, overwhelming the competition and serving notice of his considerable talents. Two more wins in SCCA regional races earned Shelby widespread recognition as a consistent winner and drew the attention of Aston Martin owner David Brown, who gave Shelby his first race as a professional driver in 1954. Shelby continued his rise to the top of the sport, winning the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans with Roy Salvadori driving an Aston Martin DBR1.

Shelby returned from his years in Europe having driven almost every kind of race car imaginable, including Grand Prix Aston Martins and Maseratis. Armed with that wealth of experience, he was convinced he had the formula to build a fast and reliable sports car that could take on the world’s best and win. But that formula did not have its roots in the Aston Martin that, with its economical inline-six was typical of the European sports car model. Instead, it reached back to the lightweight platform and big-bore American V-8 of Charlie Brown’s Cad-Allard J2. Two events then serendipitously converged to give Shelby the raw ingredients for his world-beating creation: A.C. Cars of England announced its new Ace roadster chassis, and Ford began producing a new, lightweight V-8 with seemingly unlimited potential. Following the proven Allard formula that had given him his first wins as a driver, Shelby sold both Ford and A.C. Cars on his plan and created the legendary Cobra that eventually won the GT World Manufacturer’s Championship.

And it all began with Charlie Brown’s Cad-Allard J2, serial number 179. The last of a total of 90 J2 Allards built, J2179 was ordered on August 15, 1951 with special instructions for Black paint, Red leather upholstery and a “bulge in the bonnet to take Cadillac.” It was then shipped to Texas and fitted with a 331 cubic-inch Cadillac V-8, after which it was purchased by its original owner Charles Brown of Monroe, Louisiana. Records show that J2179 was twice driven by Fred Cook, and then raced at least three times in SCCA competition by Carroll Shelby to three wins.

“I’m not going to quarrel with anyone who might feel like calling this machine a hairy brute”, Shelby wrote later of the J2, observing that “once you got to know its temperament and master some of its oddball traits, it took something costing twice as much to beat you,” a fairly accurate description, in fact, of his own legendary machines.

Brown then sold the car to Wilfred “Pop” Gray, who raced it in the Indianapolis area before selling it to his son Bob, who ran it as “Bob’s Special”. Records indicate Gray Senior drove J2179 in seven events including the 1955 Elkhart Lake SCCA Nationals and the Mount Equinox Hillclimb, all in B/Modified. The car was later owned and raced by Dan Saunders at Wilmot Hills, Wisconsin.

Professional restorer Chris Leydon, who bought the car in 1972, repainted it Red, reupholstered the interior in Black and equipped it with a full windshield and wire wheels.

In 1979 J2179 was featured in the documentary “The Great Classic Cars”, narrated by Sir Stirling Moss. In 1997 J2179 was invited to the Monterey Historic Races as part of a special display celebrating that year’s featured honorees, Carroll Shelby and his Cobra, and participated in the special parade lap sessions in the company of Shelby’s Le Mans-winning Aston Martin DBR1. In 2005 the car was featured in an episode of Gotta Have It TV.

J2179 has been restored to its original color scheme of Black with Red leather upholstery, and is equipped with what is believed to be its original Cadillac engine block, No. 51 6233874 and correct Ford three-speed transmission. The Cad is fitted with triple Stromberg 48 carbs on a vintage Weiand intake manifold, a Crane Competition camshaft and the custom exhaust originally built and installed by a young fabricator who would go on take his own place among the giants of racing, Mickey Thompson."

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 Photos by David Newhardt