Formerly part of the Holthusen Collection 1939 Lagonda V12 Drophead Coupé Registration no. 7645 H Chassis no. 14065 Engine no. 14065
'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.
The rare Lagonda V12 drophead coupé offered here was ordered new by Lord de Ramsey, who specified two spare wheels and the built-in jacking system under the driver's floor. The car was first registered on 5th April 1939 as 'MG 6484', this number being part of a series issued irregularly via the MG Car Company distributors University Motors, which might well have been the original suppliers. By July 1949 the car had covered some 49,844 miles, as recorded on the factory record card, and had also been tuned by the works that same month in preparation for the Alpine Trial. By 1960, chassis number '14065' was in the hands of a Mr A P Steward, who shipped the car to New Zealand where it remained in his hands until 1976. The car's history thereafter is unknown until 1989, at which time it was
re-imported into the UK. It seems likely that it may well have spent some time off the road in storage in New Zealand, because by the time it arrived back in Britain, the body's timber frame had suffered from a damp climate.
Offered for sale by Paradise Garage in London, '14065' was acquired from them by Bernd Holthusen on 24th October of that year, joining what was then the most important representation of the Lagonda marque ever assembled. It was found that, with few exceptions, most of the body frame required renewal although fortunately the original aluminium body panels had been well preserved and were reusable. A five-year body-off restoration then commenced. The chassis and all mechanical elements were entrusted to marque specialist Peter Whenman of Vintage Coachworks at Hartley Wintney, Hampshire while construction of the new body frame and coachwork restoration was undertaken in Hamburg.
The classic lines of the Frank Feeley-designed body, in this case installed on the 10' 4" chassis, are as breathtaking today as they were in 1939. There is ample accommodation for four adults at a sacrifice of some boot space, but this is compensated for by an ingenious fold-out luggage carrier that retracts behind the lower rear valance with its integral number plate. The latter swings downwards, permitting the folding carrier to be swung out and locked, whereupon the valance is then returned to its normal position. No doubt costly to manufacture, the convertible hood is exceptionally well constructed and capable of being folded very compactly, just like all Lagonda hoods of the period. Other noteworthy features include adjustable shock absorbers; thermostatically controlled carburettor/choke and radiator shutters; adjustable steering wheel, seats, backrests and windscreen ventilation; and the original Phillips radio. Lagonda's short-stroke V12 engine was renowned for its flexibility and quietness, aided by the sound insulating qualities of the double-ply woollen carpeting, leather trimmed interior panels and coachbuilt body construction.
The current owner purchased '14065' when the Holthusen Collection of Lagonda motor cars was sold by Bonhams at our Goodwood Revival Meeting Sale in September 2002 (Lot 104). Finished in two-tone brown/beige with tan leather interior, this superbly presented Lagonda drophead is offered with sundry restoration invoices, current road fund licence, recently expired MoT (April 2013) and Swansea V5C document. As we said in 2002: 'There will be no finer warranty than to own an ex-Holthusen Lagonda...'