1938 LAGONDA V12 FOUR DOOR SALOON
Engine no. 16023
Engine: V12, overhead camshalf to each bank, 4480cc, twin downdraught SU carburettors, 175bhp at 5500rpm; Gearbox: manual four speed with synchromesh; Suspension: independent front by wishbones and torsion bars, live rear with half elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: hydraulically operated four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
By the late 1930s Lagonda was an honoured name amongst British high performance car builders. Their fast 4.5 litre six had been extensively raced by Fox and Nicholl and won the Le Mans GP d'Endurance in 1935, going into production as the very handsome, rather expensive Rapide. But the company was meanwhile in deep financial trouble and went into receivership. A buyer had to be found, offers were solicited and on the day after that Le Mans triumph, the sealed bid envelopes were opened. Alan P Good, lawyer and financier, snatched Lagonda from under the nose of Rolls-Royce. Drastic measures were taken and for the moment, Lagonda's convoluted model range was cut back to the big six with a revised chassis. Good clearly believed that if you were in the prestige car market you might as well go the whole way. W O Bentley was by then serving out his contract with Rolls-Royce and Good offered him the chance to build a new car of great refinement, readily capable of 100mph even with the heaviest of formal bodies. Together with Tresilian, one of Rolls-Royce's rising stars, they produced a remarkably compact short-stroke V12 engine, of smaller swept volume than the Phantom III, but more powerful. It was installed in a massive chassis of considerable merit with torsion bar independent front suspension.
As the Lagonda V12 was launched Bentley outlined his objectives. He had created a car that would go from zero to 100mph in top, had made gearchanging largely superfluous, yet had provided acceleration through the gears superior to any non-racing car. The entire mechanism was to function so smoothly that passengers would be unaware of anything but pure motion. He achieved all of this and finger-light steering with precision of control, stability and a supple ride. The Lagonda was an undoubted masterpiece.
Finished in black over silver, this four door saloon, with its balanced lines and twin sidemounted spare wheels, is a superb example of the English coachbuilder's art. Just 129 were made and they are accordingly rare. The car is Swiss registered.