Europe’s First Dragster: The 1961 Allard Chrysler
Text by Alan Currans and Brian Taylor
Sydney Allard can rightly be described as the father of British drag racing. In 1960 he decided to build Britain’s (and indeed Europe’s) first dragster - the Allard Chrysler. He commissioned his team to design it in the autumn and placed an order with the Moon Equipment Company for a GMC 6-71 blower, complete with Hilborn fuel injection. At the same time he started to prepare a 354 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi V8 engine. The RAC sprint car regulations of 1960 (there were no drag racing regulations in the UK back then) required the engine to be covered and so a front mounted blower was chosen to enable much better streamlining.
Sydney went on to organise a series of demonstration runs in 1963 with Dante Duce driving Dean Moon’s Mooneyes and Mickey Thompson in the Harvey Aluminum Special dragster. In 1964 he went one better (well - several better really) with a series of six Drag Racing Festivals featuring an American team which included the cream of the sport at that time. He did the same in 1965 and so the sport of drag racing was launched in Europe.
The Allard Chrysler was retired in 1964 and fortunately it has been kept under cover ever since. The car has been in the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu for many years, sans engine, purely as an exhibition piece. Brian Taylor, author of the book 'Crazy Horses - The History of British Drag Racing' became aware of the car whilst doing research for his book at the Museum and hatched a plan to restore it to cacklefest condition. He obtained the permission and co-operation of the Museum and formed the Allard Chrysler Action Group.
ACAG has a website ( www.allardchrysler.org
) where you can read about the project in more detail including how to lend your support by donation or sponsorship to restore this important piece of the sport’s history. You will also find merchandise for sale and you can be assured that 100% of the profits are ploughed back into ACAG’s coffers to help fund the restoration. The dragster also has its own Facebook page.
The Allard Chrysler pictured in 1964 at one of the DragFests organised by Sydney Allard. (Jeremy Cookson)
When not going about his duties as Patron of ACAG, Nick Mason plays the drums in a little band called Pink Floyd. He is also a Trustee of the museum. (National Motor Museum, Beaulieu)
ACAG stalwarts from left to right - ex-Santa Pod Raceway chief starter Stu Bradbury, ex-racer Herb Andrews, and motoring writer and ACAG Chairman Brian Taylor (shame about those trousers!). They are seen publicising the cause at an historic racing meeting at Silverstone. (ACAG)
Legendary Formula 1 and motorsport commentator Murray Walker also pictured at Silverstone. (ACAG)