By Richard Saunders – with Chuck Warnes and Otto Meijer
Back in 1959 I drove my J2 Allard (No. 2156) over 1300 miles from San Diego CA to Bremerton WA. I underwent some major surgery at that time, and after an extended recovery I was finally able to drive the J2 again.
The young guy delivering newspapers on local roads (herding a used-up Model A Ford) noticed my J2 Allard. He soon found an opportunity to pay me a visit. ‘Skip’ Torbitt was seventeen, small in stature, and appeared a lot younger. We talked a lot about cars, and I gave him a ride in my J2. During a subsequent visit Skip announced that if I knew of any Allard for sale, to please let him know – as he decided he had to have an Allard. (I’ll never know how he convinced his parents).
Fate stepped into this scene. A few weeks went by, and we saw an ad for an Allard in the Seattle newspaper. Skip arranged to see the car, and I was recruited as the Allard expert to accompany him on the ferry over to Seattle. We then commenced our hunt for the address through the West End streets. Then, as we entered one street a bright red K2 Allard caught my eye.
Richard Saunders and Skip Torbitt's mother in the red Allard K2, 1959
The bonnet was off, and six single-barrel carbs set off a fresh Oldsmobile V8. Skip took it for a test drive and was thrilled. He willingly paid the $1500 asking price and we put the K2’s bonnet in the back seat of my sedan. So off we went down the hills of West Seattle to catch the ferry across Puget Sound back to Bremerton. I later talked Skip into having the bonnet modified to accommodate the six carbs.
Skip's car with modified "bonnet" to accommodate the six carburetors
A few months later he informed me that he and his parents, along with his sister, were venturing to Hawaii to live. The family would sail their 30 foot sloop across the Pacific, and the K2 would be shipped over by freighter. I did get one letter letting me know all arrived safely – with the sloop secured in the marina, and the K2 in the parking lot of the yacht club. I answered Skip’s letter, but didn’t hear from my young friend again.
I wanted to get back to San Diego, so in the late summer of 1960 I pointed my J2 southward and hit the road. Years later as I watched Magnum PI on TV, I often thought about Skip and the roar of his K2 Allard on those same roads around the Hawaiian Islands. He may not be a ‘PI’, but I am sure he enjoyed that bright red K2 Allard!
Fast forward – autumn 2010. Otto Meijer’s black K2 was one of the 22 Allards at Watkins Glen this past September, where it was one of several Allards that ran on the Grand Prix Tribute tour over the original race course Friday evening, September 10. Note the gold sticker on the side window in photo 3.
Allard at Watkins Glen, September 2010, with Phoebe and Otto Meijer aboard
Otto contacted the Allard Register a few weeks later inquiring about some means to replace his missing number plate. In the course of our discussions he reported that he purchased his K2 in Toronto, Canada in 1985.
Allard 1985, Kingston, ON, Canada, with Meijer family and Floyd the airedale
Like many an Allard, it had seen service as a dragster, and was in pretty rough shape. However, engine (a 289 ci 1960's small block Ford V8) and transmission (three speed, possibly original) were in good shape. There was evidence that the car had a fire in the bulkhead area, and that sheet metal had been replaced there, including the fire wall. Hence, no number plate. He had no other information about the car’s history.
Otto’s restoration over the next few years included converting to splined hubs and installing 72-spoke chrome wire wheels, new front brake drums, a new hand brake, windshield wipers, speedometer, fuel pump, new steering wheel, a new hood without the "bubble", all new electrics, extensive wooden frame body work and a fresh paint job, changing the color to black. As he was doing that, he found evidence of the car’s original red paint. One thing that Otto did not replace was the 1964 vintage inspection sticker on the side windshield – from Hawaii.
Allard 1993 front
Allard 1993 back
Allard, winter 1993, with Sue Meijer, Fulton, NY
Finally Otto replaced the chrome side vents with articulating black ones, the flat front bumpers with properly curved sections and mounted ovals in the front vents. The original 1960's Sunpro tachometer, which gave twice the RPM with the present double points Ford V8, was replaced with the same size retro model where the number of cylinders can be dialed in. Oversized tires were replaced with the correct 6.00 x 16 radials, which greatly improved road handling. This is what the car looks like today:
Allard K2, fall 2010, owner Otto Meijer; Butler, NY Cobblestone Schoolhouse behind
Further remarks from Otto regarding the car's history and identity:
The New York State registration document states that this is a 1952 Allard, Vehicle Identification Number: CALDR121658. From this I conclude that the car was first registered in California (CA), and that it was a left hand drive (LDR) model.
From the Allard Car Production Record in Tom Lush's book "Allard...the inside story", we know that a total of 22 Allard K2's were shipped to the US in 1952. The chassis numbers of that group are 3017-3026, 3028, 3029, 3031, 3033-3036, 3125-3127, 3130 and 3133. Knowing that the car's original color was red, that it was a left hand drive model – it may be possible, by way of elimination, to decide what its chassis number was. In my correspondence with Tom Lush in 1991 he was able to make suggestions regarding the chassis number based on his knowledge of original color and RH or LH drive from the K2 production records. Unfortunately I did not realize and did not tell him at the time that it was a red 1952 LH drive model exported to the US. Consequently that search did not lead to a possible plate number.
From one of the photographs that Richard Saunders provided we know that the Washington State license plate was ATX 498 in 1960. As Richard states in his part of the story, the 1960 dash was not factory original. From what can be seen in his photographs and from what it looked like in 1985 and still today, this dashboard is quite possibly one and the same. Refer to the following two photos, the first of which is a rear shot of Skip Torbitt's Allard in 1960, the second is a recent take of the Allard dash today.
Skip Torbitt's Allard, with Skip (left), Richard Saunders and Skip's mother; Washington State plate number ATX 498 is readable
The dash today; its shape and dial dimensions appear to be the same as in 1959
The 1964 Hawaii inspection sticker number is: Passenger 1C-5680. My inquiry with the Hawaiian MVB was not successful; all their MVB records are destroyed after six years.
Close-up view of the Hawaii Motor Vehicle Bureau sticker
I sold the four steel wheels to AOC member Jim Stickley in 1993. I sold the original damaged fly-off handbrake to AOC member Mike Knapman in 2010. I had purchased a new chrome plated one from Allard Motors retiree Dudley Hume in 1989.
I still have the original hood that was on the car in 1985. I removed the plastic "scoop", so that the Aluminum sheet cutout is visible. There is an asymmetry to the cutout that may have been necessary to accommodate the six carburetors in the earlier Oldsmobile configuration of the car. Also visible are remains of the original red color. I will continue to probe for the history of the car, now that the Hawaiian episode is known.
1985 hood top
Another 1960 photo showing the Allard hood and carburetors