If enthusiasm was all it took, Andrew Leach would see Allard resurrected and atop today’s sales tables.
But even in its heyday it was a niche brand, a low-volume manufacturer founded by Sydney Allard in 1945, in south-west London. Around 1900 cars were built before the firm closed in 1958.
The format of American V8 engines in light, streamlined bodies imparted a fabulous power-to-weight ratio that drew such aficionados as Cobra designer Carroll Shelby and Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov to the brand. Yet despite their elegance, these were not sunny-day cruisers for the well-heeled. They were designed for competitive Trials events – timed rally-like contests over terrain all but impassable to ordinary cars, that used the high-torque characteristics of the V8 engines they employed to their absolute best.
Around 560 P1s were built, of which fewer than 50 are thought to survive.
Allard worked on military vehicles during WWII, then built a range of post-war cars, including this P1, a model that won the Monte Carlo rally in 1951, with Sydney Allard and Guy Warburton behind the wheel — around 560 were built, of which fewer than 50 are thought to survive.
It’s not their rarity that draws Leach, as much as the racing heritage. He grew up with Volkswagens – learning to drive in a 1956 Beetle, then owning a succession of Porsches, being drawn by the engineering and Ferdinand Porsche’s engineering history. He got involved with drag racing, and Western Springs Speedway. Being a petrolhead is, “My curse. My wife has fits at times,” he says, and “She’s jealous of the Allard”. As you would be. It’s gorgeous.
Initially he was looking for a project to distract his teenager from gaming.
“And see if I can get him bitten by the bug.” He was trawling TradeMe looking for TVRs, when he saw a nice 1962 Griffith.
“I was marvelling at the work that went into it, and saw a guard in the photo I couldn’t recognise. So I asked what it was. It was an Allard ... ”
Long story short, the widow of this car’s owner was considering a sale, though it took eight months of negotiating, through an intermediary, before the deal was done.
Andrew Leach used 3D technology to print the door handles in stainless steel.
Andrew “liked that it was different, it was unique,” and he liked the big 3.9-litre Ford flathead V8 that powers it. “You can take the boy out of West Auckland, but you can’t take West Auckland out of the boy.”
Then he started doing some research. “I spoke with Sydney Allard’s son, and found the Allard guys in the UK, the US and Australia were a power of help.” This was the first Allard new to New Zealand, on March 22, 1951, originally gloss black with maroon leather, bought by the farmer who owned Otago’s Cargill’s Castle and the surrounding farm.
“A lot of farmers had foreign currency, and you needed means to afford these cars, you were in the market for Jaguars, or Astons.”
His research brought his car to life, and when he got his hands on it, two-and-a-half years ago, halfway through its restoration, he was still working on the research. Fortunately the Ford powerplant means there’s plenty of knowledge and parts, though the car was sometimes called “the Blacksmith’s Revenge, and for good reason”, given the luscious curves of the bodywork – and the fact the doors, bonnet and various components are aluminium, to keep weight down. “It’s all hand made, and was all about going racing, so it was a coil and shock with a split front axle, it’s almost independent rear, with giant Lockheed drum brakes.”
The car has spent most of its life sitting unused, so it’s virtually original, though the wheels are fresh wires from the XK era. Going over the engine gave Andrew a bit of a kick in the pants, he thought he knew all about V8s, being a Westie, but he didn’t know enough about flatheads, so resorted to Chris at C&R Automotive.
His own skills came in for parts, “I was missing the bonnet vent and door handles, you have to make a buck and beat the heck out of aluminium, and not one Allard is identical to another.”
He ended up linking to Massey University, trialling 3D printing in aluminium, then using the same tech to print the door handles in stainless steel.
“The purists would pull their hair out at the mix of old and new, but it solved problems.” The P1 was only finished on August 1, for Andrew’s first time behind the wheel of any Allard, and this car’s first road time since the 1960s.
“It absolutely rips around corners. They were known as the widow makers, and their drivers as the tail waggers. They push into the corner, oversteer, and bite.” Will he race it? “Oh yes. I want to get it out on the track and see what Allard was about.”
He says the marque is seeing a resurgence, with Lloyd and Darryl Allard at the helm, and soon he’s off, with anecdotes about the ‘dry as toast’ Sydney Allard, and snippets of his gorgeous car’s history, passed on over coffee as rainsqualls stream over his car’s gorgeous curves, outside.
“Some people knit, have little hobbies; this is my version of gardening.”