Loretto, Ont.-Some cars you own. Some cars you lease.
Other cars, if I may borrow a term from former Wheels truck correspondent Cam McRae, you simply have “stewardship” over for a limited period of time. You then hand that responsibility on to someone else.
I had the exclusive opportunity to witness such a handover recently in this little town northeast of Orangeville.
The car in question was an extremely rare Allard J2X, built in 1953. After passing through several pairs of hands early in its life, the car has been owned by — well, under the stewardship of — Alan Sands for the past 55 years.
According to the best available scholarship, this was one of only nine Allards ever imported into Canada, the third-last, and the last of this particular model.
Have you never heard of Sydney Allard? No worries; he never heard of you, either.
But over a decade before Carroll Shelby
stuffed a Ford V8 into an AC Ace roadster and called it ‘Cobra,’ Allard, a British racer and ultra-low-volume manufacturer, did essentially the same thing with his all-aluminum British sports car.
His weapon of choice was a 331-cubic-inch (5.3-litre) Cadillac V8, which was installed after the car was brought across the pond. No point in shipping the engine across the ocean twice.
The result was the J2X, of which perhaps 83 were ever built.
This particular example is thought to be the fourth-last example built, and was acquired by Alan in 1962. It has been a treasured part of his eclectic collection of vintage cars ever since.
It’s no trailer queen, either. These cars were meant to be driven, and raced. Alan has a number of trophies as witness to its (and his) talents.
Some of the Allard’s competition events took place not far from where I live, at the Rattlesnake Point Hillclimb, on Appleby Line north of Derry Rd.
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Alan Sands, right, who has owned this 1953 Allard J2X for the past 55 years, hands over the vehicle to new owner Larry Titchner.[/caption]
A friend of mine, fellow auto scribe Bill McLauchlan (brother of singer Murray) once told me about competing in this event — must have been mid-1960s. I still can’t imagine how somebody must have walked or driven up that hill to drag the timing cables into place — surely, there was no wireless timing gear in those days. According to Google reports, it seems cars did that run in less than a minute! I’d be hard-pressed to do it in twice that time today, even in a modern powerful car with much better tires than you would have had back then.
Looks like that event died in 1965. With the multimillion dollar houses there now, there’s no way it’s ever coming back, even if the road hasn’t changed much, apart from it is now paved (albeit, rather poorly ...).
Alan entered his Allard in the first Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Owen Sound in 2013. It won the ‘Spirit of Driving’ award, a feat it repeated last year.
At that first Cobble Beach event, Alan met Larry Titchner, who immediately fell in love with the brilliant blue roadster. Larry, a Toronto businessman, has housed his collection of rare cars in his man cave in the city. He knew this had to be his collection’s crown jewel.
He told Alan at that first Cobble Beach event that if he ever were to sell the Allard, that he, Titchner, had to be the buyer.
That time has arrived.
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This is an open car. Peek over your right elbow, and there?s the road ? right there![/caption]
Alan, who is now 82 years old and living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, realized that none of us get out of this alive. Initially, his plan was to pass the car on after he went to that Big Pit Stop in the Sky.
Larry convinced him that it would be better to make the transfer while Alan was still with us, so he could be assured the car was in good hands. It will sit beside another Allard in Larry’s collection, a model K3 Roadster, a more modern-looking car which may be even rarer than the J2X.
After the paperwork was completed, Larry gave me a ride in the car. Like any 65-year-old car — heck, like any 65-year-old person — it required a certain amount of prodding to get it started. But it roared to life, and we proceeded down Alan’s long driveway and out onto the highway for a brief spin.
This is an open car — ‘open’ in a sense unknown to people under the age of 50. Peek over your right elbow, and there’s the road — right there!
The big engine powers the car effortlessly, and it seemed surprisingly easy to drive.
The car is currently on its third transmission. Alan is not sure what the first one was. The second was the old Moss four-speed manual with synchromesh only on gears 2 through 4, which was also used in Jaguars of that time period. It now sports a four-speed all-synchro Corvette box.
Despite the brutally cold winter weather, Larry and two friends, Mike Rathgeb and Bill Watson, drove the car back to Toronto in shifts, the ‘nondrivers’ warming up in the BMW they had arrived in.
Alan and Larry understood that as a journalist, I had to ask how much Larry paid for the car. As a car enthusiast myself, I understood that they wouldn’t tell me.
According to contemporary reports, Alan paid $2,000 for the car in 1962. I’m betting Larry paid a bit more than that.
website which keeps track of such things, suggests an Allard J2X should change hands for somewhere in the six-figure range U.S. None of those figures are decimals.
The important thing is: one of the rarest cars ever brought to this country is in good hands for another generation.
Congratulations to Alan and Larry for maintaining this gorgeous piece of automotive sculpture.
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Alan Sands paid $2,000 for the car in 1962.[/caption]
Countdown to the Concours: Allard J2X MkII