1939 Lagonda V12
Year of manufacture1939
Number of seats2
The ex-Dick Watney, Lagonda Motors
1939 Lagonda V12 Saloon
Registration no. GVU 675
Chassis no. 14105
Engine no. 48
'In making an evaluation of the better British cars, the Lagonda V12 certainly must be considered an excellent design and one that contributed to raising the state of the art - not forgetting, of course, that it probably should be considered W O Bentley's masterpiece.' - Road & Track, October 1978.
A quite remarkable piece of automotive engineering, the W O Bentley-designed Lagonda V12 was one of the outstanding British models of its day and one of the exclusive handful of 1930s road cars that could exceed 100mph in standard tune.
First seen in 1936, the Lagonda V12 did not commence deliveries until 1938 and only 189 had been built before the coming of WW2 ended production. The advanced chassis employed double-wishbone independent front suspension and was available with a varied choice of coachwork, including limousine. Frank Feeley, stylist of Aston Martin's post-war 'DB' cars, was responsible for the elegant factory bodywork. As usual, the short-chassis Rapide roadster provided even more performance.
The V12's announcement demonstrated that the revitalised company was very much back in business, an impression Lagonda's decision to enter the 1939 Le Mans 24-Hour Race can only have enhanced. The marque already possessed a creditable Le Mans record, a short-chassis 4½-Litre driven by John Hindmarsh and Luis Fontes having won the endurance classic outright in 1935. In October 1938 a Lagonda V12 saloon driven by Earl Howe had covered 101.5 miles at Brooklands in a single hour, despite having to stop to change a burst tyre, and this together with other high-speed tests, during which the car had shown complete reliability, indicated that it would be a highly suitable candidate for reviving British prestige at Le Mans. Accordingly, it was decided to enter a two-car team in 1939 with the aim of securing valuable data, and then to mount a full-strength challenge the following year. In the race the two streamlined two-seater Lagondas fared better than expected, Messrs Brackenbury and Dobson finishing in third place with Lords Selsdon and Waleran fourth. Had a less conservative race strategy been employed, then either might have won.
The factory-bodied Lagonda V12 saloon offered here was originally built for the then managing director of Lagonda Motors, Richard 'Dick' Watney, and delivered to him on 24th October 1939, shortly after the outbreak of WW2. Mr Watney left for Australia immediately after the war and the Lagonda was then rebuilt by the factory and sold as a new car to one F C Price of London NW1 on 27th June 1946. Mr Price registered it in Manchester on 15th May 1947 as 'GVU 675'.
The accompanying Lagonda Club letter from its Hon Registrar, Arnold Davey, lists the following subsequent owners in factory and Club records: Major R de C Vigors of Chester (1948), R L Steynor of Ledbury (circa 1950), Les Buckton of Morton Bagot (May 1970) and David Dunn of Monkstown, Dublin (circa 1975). The Lagonda subsequently went to Australia where it was owned by Marcel Seroussi of Prahran and later Armadale, Victoria, and in August 2005 was recorded as owned by Advocate J P Labesse of St Lawrence, Jersey, Channel Islands. The car next changed hands in June 2013, apparently to another member of the Labesse family. Now reunited with its old UK registration, 'GVU 675' is described by the vendor as in generally good condition, its engine running very smoothly. The car is offered with aforementioned correspondence, MoT to September 2014 and V5C registration document.