Shelby’s Old Allard is Still Racing Strong

Shelby Allard, Carroll Shelby,Road America, Allard J2x

One of the fastest Group 1 racing cars circling Road America during the recent Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival was a 1953 Allard J2X.  Carroll Shelby drove the Allard for Texas businessman Roy Cherryholmes back in the ‘50s. Nowadays the car belongs to Augie Grasis III, of Kansas City, who seems to like old racing cars that were owned by famous people and have links to his hometown. Grasis also owns a ’33 Studebaker 2-man Indy car that was driven by Tony Gulotta, a legendary racer who just happened to hail from Kansas City.

Shelby Allard, Carroll Shelby,Road America, Allard J2x

Carroll Shelby was a through-and-through Texan, but his co-driver in the Allard during the 1954 World Championship Argentine 1000 Kilometer race was Dale Duncan who, like his brother-in-law Maston Gregory, was from Kansas City.
Grasis says he didn’t buy the car because Shelby drove it. “They don’t come up that often,” he says. “People typically buy them and keep them, so I probably would have bought it no matter who was connected with it. The fact that Carroll Shelby drove it was just the icing on the cake.”

Shelby Allard, Carroll Shelby,Road America, Allard J2x

A history of Shelby by Michael T. Lynch says that he drove Allards owned by Charles Brown and Roy Cherryholmes, but it doesn’t say which car came first. Auctioneer Dana Mecum knows the answer to that question.  According to Mecum and his friend Kevin Caulfield, Shelby’s road racing career began in 1952 in an MG TC. He then caught the attention of Charlie Brown a Louisiana businessman who owned an Allard J2 chassis number J2179. Later that season, Brown wanted a driver for his J2 and turned to Shelby.

Shelby Allard, Carroll Shelby,Road America, Allard J2x

The following season Shelby was invited to drive Cherryholmes’ J2X/3146 that is now owned by Augie Grasis. It competed in about 10 races and won nine. “Most were SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) races in Texas,” Grasis said. “But in January 1954 they took the car to Argentina to compete. Aston Martin team manager John Wyer saw Shelby race and offered him a job.
“The Allard was kind of the start of Shelby’s professional career,” Grasis explained. After Shelby raced it, it went into a barn and resurfaced around 1970. After a string of owners, a man named Peter Booth ultimately got the car and re-restored it to the exact livery it was in when Shelby raced it.

Shelby Allard, Carroll Shelby,Road America, Allard J2x

Booth took the car to the 1990 Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca where Carroll Shelby drove it. He signed the car, too. Grasis bought it about two years ago. “It’s a lot of fun and we’re having a lot of fun racing it,” he said. “We brought it here to Road America and this is only the second race we’ve had it at. It’s going to be a few years before we get it all sorted out.”
Grasis said he looks forward to taking his J2X to the Colorado Grand and other rallies because it’s a fast, powerful, wind-in-your-face type of car. “It is something that we are going to enjoy and treasure,” said Augie. “We will try to get out to a lot of events so people can see it and enjoy a piece of racing history.”

About John Gunnell 104 Articles
John “Gunner” Gunnell has been writing about cars since ‘72. As a kid in Staten Island, N.Y., he played with a tin Marx “Service Garage” loaded with toy vehicles, his favorite being a Hubley hot rod. In 2010, he opened Gunner’s Great Garage, in Manawa, Wis., a shop that helps enthusiasts restore cars. To no one’s surprise, he decorated 3G’s with tin gas stations and car toys. Gunner started writing for two car club magazines. In 1978, publisher Chet Krause hired him at Old Cars Weekly, where he worked from 1978-2008. Hot rodding legend LeRoi “Tex” Smith was his boss for a while. Gunner had no formal journalism training, but working at a weekly quickly taught him the trade. Over three decades, he’s met famous collectors, penned thousands of articles and written over 85 books. He lives in Iola, Wis., with his nine old cars, three trucks and seven motorcycles.
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