Born in Brough in 1932, the son of a garage owner, Henry Clifford Allison began racing in a Formula Three Cooper-JAP in 1952. He raced a privately entered Cooper until 1956 when he was spotted by Colin Chapman and given a works drive for 1957. That year he won the 750 class and the Index Of Performance at Le Mans for Lotus.
On their debut at Monaco in 1958, Allison finished sixth in the Lotus 12, repeating the result in Holland, and then finishing fourth at Spa, where he might have won if the race had lasted one further lap. Tony Brooks' Vanwall crossed the line with fading oil pressure and a seized gearbox, while Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari blew its engine on the final corner and Stuart Lewis-Evans' Vanwall was creeping with broke suspension. Ironically, this early promise had already delivered his best result of the year. A brilliant drive later that year at the Nürburgring went largely unnoticed in the wake of Peter Collins' fatal accident. Allison loved the 'ring, recalling "One of the reasons I enjoyed it is that a lot of the little roads in the Lake District, close to home, were very similar to it." He drove a Scuderia Centro Sud Maserati 250F in the Portuguese Grand Prix but retired and finished the season with the Lotus 12 with a 7th in Italy and 10th in Morocco.
In sports cars he finished third in the Nurburgring 1000 Km race driving with Mariise and finished second at Sebring in the 12 Hour race driving with Jean Behra. They won $1,500 in prize money. Allison was credited with the fastest lap with a time of 3 minutes 21.6 seconds on the 97th lap of the 5.2 mile course.
His performances had attracted Ferrari, whom he joined for 1959. At Monaco that year the Ferrari factory team fielded truncated versions of the cars they ran in future grand prix races. At Monte Carlo the Ferraris' long sleek snouts (air scoops) were cut away to allow more air into the cooling systems. Wolfgang von Trips lost control of his Porsche in a bend where the street was steeply inclined to Casino. Allison's Ferrari crashed into him as he spun. The Lotus of Bruce Halford came next into the blind curve and became part of the wreck. Allison and his Ferrari suffered the least damage while von Trips sustained a gashed face, and Halford had a cut to his arm. Neither of the three cars could continue.
In 1960 he won the Argentine 1000Km race driving with Phil Hill and in the Argentine F1 Grand Prix he dragged his front-engined car to second place, but the future was small and rear-engined, as Moss won in the Cooper. A crash at Monaco during qualifying, when the gearshift pattern had been changed but nobody had thought to tell him, left him hospitalised and listed in serious condition. It took him almost the rest of the year to recover from his injuries. Interstingly, when he awoke from a 16-day coma he found he could speak fluent French, which was odd since he had understood not a word of the language previously.
He returned in 1961, driving the UDT-Laystall Lotus. He also raced a Lotus Monte-Carlo finishing 2nd in the Lombank Trophy at Snetterton and 3rd at Oulton Park, Aintree and the International meeting at Silverstone. At Le Mans he shared a t50cc Lotus Elite with Mike McKee retiring on lap 102. However another heavy crash in practive for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa ended his career as he suffered broken legs and spent two years recovering. It took him a long time to get over the disappointment, especially as both Phil and Graham Hill, had both become World Champions, in 1961 and 1962.
He went quietly back to Brough to work in his father's Grand Prix Motors garage business, occasionally driving the local school bus in his later years. It was only when he made occasional visits to grands prix in the nineties that he came to realise that people still remembered him with respect, and at Monaco in 1992 he admitted "I don't want to sound big-headed, but at the time of the accident in Monte Carlo, I knew I was already driving as quickly as the other drivers at Ferrari, and probably a bit quicker." Allison once shared a Lotus with historic racer Malcolm Ricketts on a re-run of the Mille Miglia. At one checkpoint he was personally sought out by Luca de Montezemolo. That, and the reception he got on his return to the Grand Prix paddock, did not compensate for the lost career, but one of the finest fellows in the sport quietly admitted that he was overcome to discover that he had not been forgotten.