Car funded by aristocrats' desire to go racing at Le Mans expected to realise in excess of £1 million at Bonhams

Collectors' Motor Cars and Automobilia
15 Sep 2012
Chichester, Goodwood

The car borne out of the desire of a pair of enthusiastic Lords to spend a newly-acquired fortune to go racing at the Le Mans 24-Hours Endurance Race, is to be offered for sale at Bonhams.

The 1939 Lagonda V12 Team Car will be on display at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on Friday 29 June and will go under the hammer at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale on Saturday 15 September, where it is expected to realise in excess of £1 million.

Funded by 26-year-old Lord Selsdon's newly-acquired £65,000 inheritance, close friends Selsdon and Lord Waleran brought the car home in fourth place on their 1939 race debut, an incredible achievement. The event, which took place from 17 - 18 June 1939, was to be the last at Le Mans until 1949, due to the outbreak of WWII.

Selsdon was persuaded to finance the car's build and entry by 34-year-old Eton and Trinity College Oxford graduate Waleran, who was a keen Lagonda enthusiast.

Neither had raced before, and they used the journey to Le Mans as the sole test and running-in for the car, which bore the number 6.

James Knight, Group Motoring Director at Bonhams, said: "In this day of ultra-professional race outfits, it is hard to look back and imagine a time in history when two friends with some money to spare could get in a sports car and go racing - and at Le Mans of all places. But they and others did, and were known as 'Gentlemen Drivers'."

After its Le Mans debut, the car was entered for the following August Bank Holiday Brooklands race meeting, the last ever at the track. Driven by Lord Selsdon and now numbered 5, it crossed the line in second place.

After Brooklands Lord Selsdon went on to take part in a number of other races, including winning the next Le Mans 24 Hours in 1949 in a Ferrari 166MM, alongside co-driver Luigi Chinetti.

Lord Waleran went on to serve with distinction in WWII, gaining the rank of wing commander in the RAF volunteer reserve, and being mentioned in despatches. Previous to his one-time race experience, he had links to the Devon area, and had served as assistant private secretary to the Governor-General of New Zealand between 1927 and 1930.

At the outbreak of war, the chassis was stored opposite the Lagonda factory in Staines, near London, where it lay undisturbed until, in 1944, a V-1 'Doodlebug' flying bomb fell close by. Fortunately it emerged from the blast relatively undamaged, avoiding the ensuing fire.

After this near-miss the car returned the workshop, where it was restored to running order.

Since the war, the car has resided in a number of prominent collections, and it is offered for sale in excellent working order.

Only two such cars were ever built, and Bonhams sold the sister Le Mans entry, 'Number 5', at their Goodwood Revival sale in 2002.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

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