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Before the Shelby Cobra There Was the Allard Car Company.


If you have read thru the testimonials page on the website you will begin to get an insight into the vast array of vehicles that Fifth Avenue customers own and drive. One that recently appeared was David Stein's "Allard" motor car. I have received quite a few emails asking "what the heck is an Allard...? " is a little insight into the Allard Car Company.

Sydney Allard started the Allard Motor Company Ltd in the UK, a few months after the end of WWII. He was a gentleman racer with strong engineering instincts and he created vehicles that would take a slew of 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions in major races, including podiums at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a win (with Sydney himself behind the wheel) at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952 (interestingly the 2nd place finisher that year was a young Stirling Moss).

The Allard K3 that Dave owns,  was the follow-on model to the original K1 and K2. It is essentially a British chassis and body that was sent to the USA where it was fitted with the owner’s engine preference. Most were fitted with Cadillac 331 engines. A very limited number were fitted with a higher performance Chrysler Hemi V8.

The lightweight alloy body coupled with a semi-independent swing axle on the front and de Dion-type rear axle suspension gave the car exceptional handling, the Hemi V8 with dual 4-barrel carburetors and mated to a 4-speed manual transmission gave the Allard K3 overall performance that could comfortably match anything of the era.

1953 Cadillac 331 Engine Powers The Allard

The K3 was built between 1952 and 1956; each was painstakingly made by hand which resulted in some variance between models from different years. Allard’s facilities were never quite on par with other British car makers, resulting in a low production volume of only 62 units.

Carroll Shelby of Cobra fame owned and raced an Allard for a short time in his early years and was impressed by the strong performance and good handling of the Allard. The Allard must have indeed made an impression on Carroll which eventually lead to his introduction of the Cobra in the 1960's.

While the Allard was clearly first with the concept of big American engine in a sports car type body, due to the limited production it never became as famous nor as popular as the Cobra would become in later years.

While not so common today the GM Hydramatic transmission came standard behind 331 Cadillac engines during the 1950's. The Hydramatic was the first automatic shifting transmission developed by GM in the 1930's and became a popular option for all GM makes beginning in 1940. That explains why it was a logical choice for the Allard during the 1950's.

The GM Hydramatic was also the first automatic transmission to be modified for drag racing. The Hydramatic proved to be so reliable that by the early 1950s, 25 other companies including Hudson, Nash, Willys, Lincoln and even English luxury brands like Bentley and Rolls Royce were buying the Hydramatic transmissons from GM to use in their own models. They were also used commmercially in Divco delivery trucks.

The GM Hydramatic Transmission in the Allard Chassis

The Hydramatic eventually made its way into military tanks, including the M5 Stuart and M24 Chaffee tanks. The Stuart was powered by a pair of Cadillac V8s, each of which had a Hydramatic bolted to it. Another interesting factoid is that the Hydramatic transmissions were four speed transmissions. They did not have an overdrive, as fourth gear was 1:1. Hydramatics also did not use a torque converter that multiplied engine torque, instead a basic fluid coupling was used.

Dave's car remained in California through its first three owners and has spent the last five years in Indiana as part of a private collection until David recently purchased it.

Because Allard's are somewhat unknown I wanted to feature David's car not only because of it's rarity and the fact that it is in excellent condition...I also wanted to show you the unique feature David's car has...overdrive!

 The R-11 Overdrive Transmission and Solenoid.

Dave car was fitted with an R-11 overdrive onto the back of the Hydramatic transmission.  That of course took some special machine work on the output shaft of the Hydramatic transmission to adapt the R-11 overdrive.

Dave contacted Fifth Avenue after he recently purchased the car to learn how an R-11 overdrive worked in a normal application and to see if I could help him figure out how it was designed to operate in his Allard.

There Is A Short Black Lever Just To The Inside Of The Chrome Lever That Manually Engages The Overdrive

None of the conventional overdrive controls are present. There is no dash cable present, the overdrive is engaged via a short lever on the floor to the left of the driver's seat. Together Dave and I will figure out how his works.

Meanwhile I thought you might enjoy learning a little bit about the Allard car company and see yet another example of a Borg Warner overdrive installed in a unique application.

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About Me

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Since 1987, Fifth Avenue owner, Randy Rundle, has been making antique, classic and special interest vehicles more reliable and fun to drive.