The boys from one of our sister Haymarket magazines, Classic & Sports Car, stood next to the Allard J2X Mk2 in the Autocar parking lot, sucked their teeth and tilted heir heads. "Well," they said, "it's not as bad as it could be, is it?"
So that's the verdict of people who know the original Allard J2X, the 1950s road car and Le Mans racer. This follow-up, this 21st century recreation, similar of skin but different underneath, officially "could be worse." Talk about damning with faint praise.
The original Allard was a British-built special with American V8 power. The 2011 variant, made in Canada, is a Mk2, not a remake. It's a longer, more habitable and more capable "continuation" rather than, like the myriad Cobra and GT40-alikes, a replica.
Beneath a GRP body (which looks almost, but curiously not quite, like the original) lies a tubular steel chassis suspended by wishbones at each end, with beefy brakes and a modern steering rack.
Detroit iron is retained, in the not insubstantial form of a 5.7-liter Chevy V8, making a tidy 350hp, while the brakes, but not the steering, get servo assistance.
The engine's lovely in a car this light (2,756lbs). There's ample power in any of the 5-speed Tremec manual's gears, it makes a terrific sound whether you're on or off the throttle and the gearshift, though, long, is accurate. Allard reckons the J2X is good for 60mph in 4.6sec, which I don't doubt. The pedals are well spaced and weighted, too.
Despite the Mk2's increased dimensions over the original, the Allard retains an old-school driving position. The seats are small and the big wheel sits in your lap. The steering itself is precise and nicely weighted, and there's sound road feel, too.
The Allard is enjoyable to drive. It rides well and the grip is strong, although you'll want to be on your game if you want to be messing with the limits – the J2X slides fairly progressively but the driving position means it's not easy to steer quickly.
It's better enjoyed by backing off, surfing on the torque (400lb-ft at 3,500 rpm) and sucking in the experience. For some drivers, nothing else will do.
Me? I borrowed a pair of orange-lensed goggles, which gave the world an eerily appropriate sepia tint. Didn't stop my eyes watering, mind you. Although that might have been the price, which starts at $138,500.