CC Capsule: 1954 Allard K2 – Proto-Cobra With World’s Most Contorted Shift Lever

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(first posted 3/31/2013. Updated 4/15/2018)     Passing by the Sports Car Shop always requires a brief stop to see what’s currently on display.  I’d seen this splendid Allard K2 through the garage windows for months, but when it finally made it out front I had to take a closer look. I knew that Allards had a certain cobbled-together quality, despite their handsome bodies. But when I poked my head into the passenger compartment, I  almost couldn’t believe it: Prepare yourself for the worlds most contorted shift stick:

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So which way is first? It’s hard to believe there wasn’t a better solution, like Volvo used in their cars with forward mounted stick shifts. But here it is, in a world-class restoration.

Sidney Allard built an ever-changing array of cars, mostly sporting ones, from 1936 to 1966. The big years for Allard were the post-war era, when the combination of big American V8 engines stuffed into a small English roadster created the proto-Cobra.

Allard J2 Leach_07_1000sc

The Allard J2 had a superb racing career, including a third place at LeMans in 1950, and a win at the 1952 Monte Carlo Rally, with Sidney himself at the wheel. Allards were the terror of the west coast sports racing scene well into the fifties.

 

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The K2 was a bit more civilized then the J2, and came with your choice of any Yank V8. This one sports a big Lincoln 317 cu. in. OHV unit with some 160 hp, and a highly primitive solution to fitting the gear shift under the dash.

The suspension is a pretty primitive affair as well: the front has swing axles. It is waht it appears to be: a Ford forged front beam axle cut in two and the two inner ends mounted on pivots. The closest thing is Ford’s twin-beam truck suspension, but it  minimized camber change by overlapping the two long beam halves. Not so here; just two axle halves pivoting in the middle.

It’s quite rare to see that with a front suspension. And it lead to…a number of vintage pictures of Allards with wild front camber, like this one. Must have been fun to drive.

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The rear is a solid axle with a transverse spring, and is undoubtedly a Ford product too. At least it wasn’t cut in half and turned into swing axles. I’m half surprised that wasn’t the case. The whole car has the air of a classic American hot rod, albeit with some nice English touches. That bent-over-a-stump stick shift definitely falls into the Yankee shade-tree category.