1938 Lagonda V12 Rapide Drophead

By 1935 Lagonda boasted a stellar and well-deserved reputation for its marvelous sporting automobiles. Despite the accolades, the company nonetheless found itself facing receivership. In spite of the press coverage and prestige that came with the M45’s upset victory at the 1935 Le Mans 24 hour race, the company needed a swift revival plan to boost sales. Management brought in 29-year-old financial wunderkind Alan P. Good, who quickly set about amassing enough investors to save the firm. Concurrently, W.O. Bentley arrived at Lagonda in the wake of his company’s takeover by Rolls-Royce. Having served out his contract with Rolls-Royce despite being treated as little more than a glorified test driver, Bentley jumped ship to Lagonda, where his talents were put to good use. Alan Good and W.O. Bentley each had a point to prove, and the two men were motivated to produce the very finest car in Britain. W.O. dusted off plans for a highly advanced V12 engine and set about developing it for use in an all-new Lagonda.

The Lagonda V12 was a marvel of technical sophistication. It was powerful and turbine-smooth, yet intricate and expensive to produce. Given free reign, Bentley would have taken as much time as he needed to develop the engine, but Alan Good was in understandably in a hurry to get the car to market. Despite the development time constraints, the 60-degree, overhead-cam V12 is widely considered to be W.O. Bentley’s masterpiece. In standard trim, the engine was good for over 150 horsepower, with later versions topping 180 horsepower. Despite its complexity, the V12 is revered for its long-term durability, as proven in the 1939 Le Mans 24 hour race, where V12 Lagondas finished 3rd and 4th overall and 1st and 2nd in class. Bentley intended the 1939 effort as a testbed for an all-out assault on the top prize at Le Mans in 1940, but the outbreak of war meant that race never happened, and the French classic did not return until 1949.

Many buyers chose to have their V12s bodied by outside coachbuilders, primarily on the larger 11-foot wheelbase chassis. Coachbuilders like James Young and Thrupp & Maberly applied their craft to the superb V12 line, with typically excellent results. But it was Lagonda’s in-house body shop that was responsible for the most memorable and beautiful coachwork on the V12. Using the short, 10-foot, 4-inch wheelbase chassis as a basis, chief designer Frank Feeley penned a breathtaking three-seat drophead coupe body with flowing, full-figured wings, sweeping body lines, and compact dimensions. The aptly-named Rapide was elegant, purposeful, and without a single bad angle. Applying the experience gained at Le Mans, the Rapide was tuned for ultimate performance and driver comfort. Of the 190 twelve-cylinder Lagondas produced, just 17 left the works in Rapide specification before WWII halted production. The Lagonda V12 Rapide is revered by collectors and considered one of the most exceptional driver’s cars of the 1930s, delivering a surprisingly modern driving experience in superlative style.

The stunning V12 Rapide on offer is chassis number 14068, believed to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, Lagonda Rapide drophead coupe produced. With well-documented history from new, it presents in beautiful condition thanks to a superb specialist restoration and years of care by passionate enthusiasts. The extensive history file reveals the first owner of this Rapide was Alfred James “Jimmie” McAlpine of the influential McAlpine family construction business in Britain. Jimmie was a noted sportsman and petrolhead, and he maintained an impressive collection of cars through the years, including a V12 Hispano-Suiza and numerous Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. Records show he specified “special mushroom” paint (a dark, greenish-gray) over a green hide interior. It seems Mr. McAlpine drove the car with purpose, as service records indicate it returned to the works service department on November 22nd, 1929, following a shunt. While undergoing repairs, McAlpine took the opportunity to request a thorough service and upgrade to the latest specification. Updates included a new water pump, late-type distributors with revised firing order, modified kingpins, and new springs to bring the car up to Sanction II specification. It is believed that it was around this time when it received the most notable modification – the addition of the Le Mans-style intake manifold and quartet of SU DAL carburetors. Subsequent service records through 1941 mention tuning and adjusting four carbs, leaving little doubt that this desirable modification took place in the first owner’s stewardship. The original, numbers-matching engine remains with the car to this day.

Now with his lovely Rapide in ultimate spec, McAlpine enjoyed it through the end of 1955 when he sold it to Arthur Ormsby. By the early 1960s, 14068 was in the United States, in the hands of Stephen A. Lincoln of New Jersey. An active early member of the Classic Car Club of America, Mr. Lincoln was passionate about his Lagonda, and he used it regularly. The Rapide remained with Lincoln and his wife until his estate sold it in 1983. After two years, the buyer sold the car to collector Dr. Terry Bennett of New Hampshire. In 1991, Bennett sold 14068 to another renowned collector, Knox Kershaw of Alabama. Kershaw kept the car until 1997 when Dr. Winfried Kallinger of Austria persuaded him to part with it. Kallinger commissioned a restoration by British firm Plus 4 International and tasked the highly respected firm Crosthwaite & Gardiner with rebuilding the intricate V12 engine. Receipts show C&G milled a new crank, pistons, connecting rods, and camshafts as part of the extensive £50,000 overhaul.

Dr. Kallinger enjoyed the car around his native Austria and elsewhere, which included an invitation to the 2010 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. After many years of care, he eventually sold the Lagonda to high-profile British collector Lord Bamford, who entrusted Clark & Carter Restorations Ltd to perform a concours quality body restoration in the striking dark green and cream livery it wears today. Some additional mechanical refurbishment was done to ensure the car is sorted and ready for the road. The most recent owner acquired the Lagonda from Lord Bamford and has continued to maintain it to a high standard. Since its most recent restoration, the fabulous Rapide has appeared at the Concours d’Elegance at Hampton Court and the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it scored a Best in Class.

The striking livery highlights Frank Feeley’s effortless, flowing design. Wheel spats, painted discs, and the folding windscreen further emphasize the Rapide’s sporty and streamlined profile. Fit, finish and detailing befit a Pebble Beach class winner, with exquisite brightwork and paint. The cabin’s beautiful green leather is in excellent condition, showing just the slightest signs of character from light use. The three-seat cabin also features a rare, period-correct Phillips radio along with beautifully restored original instrumentation and switchgear. While in the care of the most recent owner, this magnificent automobile is sorted for enjoyment in high-level concours and touring events. The sale of Chassis 14068 represents a rare opportunity to acquire a numbers-matching, impeccably-restored Lagonda Rapide in the single most desirable specification, ready for participation in the world’s most prestigious motoring events.

 

Offers welcome and trades considered 

 

$1,250,000

Stock number 6595

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