Number Plates - FGP 750

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In the nineteen-thirties Sydney Allard was a great enthusiast for mud-plugging trials and being a Ford agent he naturally showed a lot of interest in the powerful and light 30 h.p. V8 Fords. After whetting his appetite with one of the lightweight 1934 TT Ford V8 cars he built his tirst Allard Special, which was a star, pointed-tail two-seater using 30 h.p. V8 Ford components and it was not long before acquaintances asked that he should build replicas for them. This started the Allard Motor Company in South London and after selling off the prototype car which had proved very successful during 1936, Allard built four cars the following year and three more in 1938. The last of these was for his own use and is the subject of our number plate this month. It is FGP 750 and was built during the autumn of 1938, ready for the winter trials season.

New Ford parts were used in the construction, the channel-section chassis being boxed by welding plates to it, and modified to suit the 100″ wheelbase, independent front suspension on the Ballamy swing-axle system was used, as on all Allards at the time, while the normal transverse leaf spring Ford V8 rear-axle layout was used. The 3.6-litre side-valve Ford V8 engine and three-speed gearbox were mounted well back in the chassis, the Ford torque-tube being suitably shortened. E.D. Abbott of Farnham, the well-known coach-builders, built a light altuninium two-seater body, with a Bugatti-style pointed tail and small rudimentary mudguards were fitted, with minimal lighting equipment as the car was intended to be used purely for competitions. The cockpit was a mere 34″ wide across the seats and a spare wheel was carried on the passenger’s side of the scuttle: needless to say there were no doors, but a full-width windscreen was fitted. The radiator shell was the angular style derived from the original Allard Special.

FGP 750 was ready for the trials season of 1938/39, registered in the name of S.H. Allard on December 1st 1938, and was an instant success, scoring seven consecutive Premier Awards and assisting in ten Team Awards, the team being the Allard “Tailwaggers”, comprising Guy Warburton with the prototype Allard Special CLK 5, Ken Hutchison with FGF 290 and Sydney Allard with FGP 750. It competed in twelve trials that winter and only once failed to win an award, but not content with mud trials Sydney used it during 1939 in all manner of events, including speed trials, hill-climbs and driving tests. During that summer it underwent a major rebuild, the engine being bored out from 77.79 mm. to 80 mm., which increased the capacity to 3.8-litres and an improved crankshaft was fitted, with the radiator cooling fan mounted on the front of the shaft, so that a lower radiator could be used, together with a sleeker and pointed cowling, as was being used on the road-going Allard tourers. A twin Stromberg carburetter layout was used, the flywheel was lightened, the compression ratio raised and a higher axle ratio fitted. In its original form FGP 750 recorded 17.5 seconds for the standing-start quarter-mile, and after the 1939 rebuild this was improved to 16.8 seconds. As Sydney Allard was competing in a speed trial or hill-climb nearly every weekend, extra performance was continually being sought, and the car often gained fastest sports-car time or fastest unsupercharged car time. At Wetherby in Yorkshire, it won its class, set a new class record and a new sports-car record. At Prescott it set a new sports-car record and at Lewes Speed Trials it was third in the all-comers class.

Just before the war put a stop to sporting activities in September 1939 the Allard FGP 750 reached its peak of development, with new cylinder heads with 14 mm. sparking plugs, in place of 18 mm., an 8 to 1 compression ratio and the all-up weight was down to 16 1/2 cwt. The standing-start quarter-mile time was down to 16.2 seconds and it clocked 105 m.p.h. over the flying half-mile, its absolute maximum being quoted as 108 m.p.h. Allard’s competition season was not without its excitement, for he crashed FGP 750 at Prescott (not through the famous Allard Gap at the top, that was in another Allard) and at Horndean on the South Downs he rolled the car over with the Editor of Motor Sport in the passenger seat! [I remember it well! — W.B.]

When the war started Allard had a replacement car under construction that was lighter and lower than FGP 750, but it was not completed until 1946. During the war Roy Clarkson bought FGP 750 and in 1942 Ken Hutchison, a life-long Allard man, bought the car. He had it tidied up and painted blue; Sydney would never have it painted, leaving the bodywork bare aluminium as he was obsessed about weight and could not see the point of drilling holes in everything to save weight and then putting 5 lb. of paint on everything!

When the Allard Motor Company returned to business with the post-war Allards, FGP 750 had another major rebuild at the factory, with the original engine being replaced by a 4-litre Mercury Ford VII, special Edelbrock alloy heads and twin carburetter inlet manifold, an Iskenderian camshaft and it was sold to Lady Mary Grosvenor for use in sprints and hill-climbs. At this time it was given a small door on the passenger’s side, but otherwise it retained its stark appearance. In 1947 it was bought by Henry Pritchard in North Wales and he retained it until 1963 when it went to Ronald Moore of Birkenhead, who kept it for three years. It stayed in the North of England when Maurice Bell bought it, but his father eventually insisted he got rid of it as he considered it to be a lethal device in which his young son was eventually going to kill himself. It then passed to Desmond Sowerby, the present owner and for some years now it has been in a dismantled state, undergoing a slow rebuild, but it is all there and very original, as I was able to verify for myself when I visited Sowerby in North London recently.

Many Allards were famous and many Allard registration numbers could feature in this series, but FGP 750 is the Allard for me, probably because I was lucky enough to see Sydney Allard in action with it in mud-trials, in driving tests and hill-climbs and speed trials in 1939. By then the competition sports car could be a pretty sophisticated vehicle, like a 328 BMW, a 2900B Alfa Romeo or a 57SC Bugatti, so that the sight of “Syd” in his shirt-sleeves driving the stark FGP 750 was the personification of the “hair-shirt” syndrome, which obviously affected a speed-crazy youth of eighteen who was watching from the sidelines. — D.S.J.

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