'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. Not only that, but the magnificent, 4.5-litre, V12 engine produced sufficient torque to endow the car with a walking-pace-to-maximum capability in top gear.
For Lagonda, the year 1935 had brought with it bankruptcy and rescue, its benefactor being a young solicitor named Alan Good. Good reorganised the company and recruited W O Bentley, by then disillusioned with life at Rolls-Royce, which had acquired Bentley in 1931. Bentley succeeded in refining the muscular, Meadows-engined Lagondas while working on a vastly more-advanced design that many consider the great man's finest.
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.
According to information kindly supplied by the Lagonda Club Archivist, Arnold Davey, factory-bodied chassis number '14059' was delivered in January 1939 through dealers Gaffikin Wilkinson of Hanover Square, London to an A F Lingard of Combend Manor, Elkstone, Cheltenham. The car was finished in Cerric Grey with maroon trim and grey hood, and came equipped with Ace wheel discs, tonneau cover, gaiter springs to the rear, special hub nuts and a rear bumper, the latter being classed as an extra! It was next owned by one B Collins of Sidbury Hall, Bridgenoth, Shropshire. Laid up during WW2, the car did not emerge from hibernation until 1951 when it was serviced by marque specialists Davis Motors having covered only 31,000 miles. The current vendor purchased the Lagonda at the Alexandra Palace auction in 1979, by which time it had been fitted with the engine out of '16037' a V12 saloon de ville. After a few years on museum display in Blackpool, the car was driven to the Lakeland Motor Museum at Holker Hall. Some time later an attempt to start it resulted in an engine failure and in 1996 the Lagonda was taken back to the owner's home in Norway. An engine rebuild was subsequently carried out in Oslo by a friend of the late vendor, an aircraft mechanic specialising in Hercules engines, who discovered that the cause of the failure had been a broken valve. Described as in generally good condition, the engine being very good, this rare Lagonda V12 drophead is offered with a history file containing many Lagonda Club magazines and newsletters, original Autocar road test reports, a Lagonda Club Illustrated Spares Catalogue and a Lagonda 12 Cylinder Instruction Book.
Should the vehicle remain in the EU, local import taxes of 5% will be applied to the hammer price.