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“Best-looking ever” Allard wasn’t enough to keep the company’s carbuilding efforts alive

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos courtesy Silverstone Auctions.

Sydney Allard cared about many things when building his sports cars. Aesthetics were not among those priorities. Yet with the Palm Beach Mark II, the prototype of which will head to auction in May, he had on his hands perhaps the sleekest car to come out of his works. Too bad it came far too late to keep the works doors open.

Along with their utilitarian looks, Allard’s J-series cars provided performance aplenty with their tuned Ford flathead V-8 engines. By the early 1950s, however, Allard sensed a need for a more economical car, one that wouldn’t rely on the flathead and that could be used on a more regular basis. “With the American market in view, [the new car’s name] had to express something of meaning to them,” Tom Lush wrote in Allard: The Inside Story. The new car, based on a downsized chassis and Ford Zephyr components, thus became the Allard Palm Beach.

The first-generation Palm Beach, however, looked rather plan and boxy, especially up against the Triumph TR2 and the Austin-Healey 100, both of which debuted right around the same time with either smaller price tags or better performance. “It seemed that the small Allard was doomed from the start,” Lush wrote.

No more than 75 of the cars dribbled out of the Allard works between February 1953 and August 1955. Robert Forsyth, the American market sales manager for Allard, got Dodge to agree to supply a Red Ram Hemi V-8 to install into a Palm Beach chassis in hopes that the two companies could eventually collaborate on a more powerful, less staid version of the Palm Beach, but with slowing sales in the United States, Allard decided the collaboration wouldn’t be worth its resources.

Not long after the company discontinued the Palm Beach, customers started to inquire about it again, only to find out that Allard was at the time occupied primarily with refitting old cars and going racing. Still, according to Lush, “after much discussion it was decided to restart building.”

Allard himself designed a new modified MacPherson front suspension that used flat torsion bars for the old Palm Beach chassis, and the company used Forsyth’s suggestions for a curvier design to fashion a new roadster body, which Jack Jackman formed from aluminum. By October 1956, Allard had two complete Mark II chassis ready to go to the Earls Court Motor Show: a bare chassis fitted with a Jaguar XK 140 engine and a complete car fitted with a triple-carbureted Zephyr 2.5-liter straight-six engine (though mounted on a Mark I divided-axle chassis, stamped 72/7000Z).

The show “was mildly successful, a few orders being taken,” Lush wrote, though the Suez Canal crisis that erupted a couple months later led to at least a couple canceled Mark II orders and probably kept other customers from placing their’s. In total, Allard built eight Mark IIs, most of them powered by Jaguar engines, and most of them roadsters like the Earls Court show car. Two, however, were built as coupes, and one of those was powered with a tuned Chrysler Hemi for a member of the DuPont family. Mark II production – and with it, all Allard automobile production — ended sometime in 1959.

The Earls Court show car, registered as 545 EXR, served as the company’s demonstrator and photography car during that time, then with the end of production went to Brian Howard, an Allard employee. Howard held on to it until 1968, when he sold it on to the Hemsworth family, which eventually put the car into storage in 1976.

It remained in storage until Sydney Allard’s son and grandson formed plans to restart Allard production in 2012. Their plan was to offer an updated Mark II, dubbed the Mark III, as a continuation car, though without any blueprints or drawings, they needed an original Mark II from which to take measurements. So they bought 545 EXR from the Hemsworths and tore it down to make their patterns.

The aluminum body panels had survived the years in storage well, but almost nothing else did, according to the Silverstone auction description for the car. So grandson Lloyd Allard replicated the car’s sheetmetal inner structure as part of the duo’s restoration of 545 EXR, which wrapped by spring of 2014. A year later, the Allards sold 545 EXR at auction for £89,600 (about USD $140,000 at the time).

The Mark II prototype is now expected to sell for £75,000 to £95,000 (about USD $99,000 to USD $125,000) when it crosses the block at Silverstone’s Sale of British Marques, scheduled for May 11. For more information on the sale, visit SilverstoneAuctions.com.