Despite winning Le Mans in 1935 Lagonda looked to be going the same way as Bentley financially until it was rescued with an injection of cash by it’s new chairman 30 year old Alan Good.
Good hired two former Rolls Royce employees to design today’s featured car, none other than W.O. Bentley himself was responsible for the chassis while his colleague Stuart Tresilian was responsible for the 4.5 litre / 274 cui single overhead cam V12 motor.
In late 1938 early 1939 Good announced that he would like to enter a Lagonda V12 into the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours race.
W.O. Bentley who was to be prepare the car, originally designed as a production vehicle and never intended for racing, was adamant that this should only be done to see if the cars would last the distance in anticipation of a full onslaught in 1940 to which Good agreed.
A short V12 chassis was lightened by drilling out as much dead weight as possible from the chassis members and independent front suspension arms. The V12 aluminium block motor was fitted with four carburetors and produced over 200 hp.
Good had hoped that Mercedes Benz star Richard “Dick” Seaman would drive chassis #14089 but Mercedes objected and so leading ERA runner Arthur Dobson was joined by Brooklands regular Charles Brackenbury at the wheel of the car which would become known as Old Number 5.
During the preparations Lord Selsdon came into a substantial inheritance and persuaded Alan Good to enter a second car which he was to share with Lord William Waleran.
Observing strict instructions from W.O. the drivers of the two Lagonda’s lapped at a pre arranged speed and they completed 239 laps and 238 laps respectively, four more than the 235 laps completed by the winning Delahaye in 1938, but short of the 248 laps recorded Jean-Pierre Wimille and Pierre Veyron in their winning supercharged Bugatti type 57C.
The Lagondas finished third and forth behind the Ecurie Walter Watney Delage with Old Number 5 ahead of it’s sister to secure first and second in the over 5 litre / 302 cui class.
Dick Seaman tragically was killed at Spa after an accident in his Mercedes Benz the following week.
The beginning of hostilities in 1939 meant the 1940 Le Mans 24 hours would not take place and so the Lagonda V12’s never got the chance to prove their true potential although they did finish first and second in one of the last races run at Brooklands before war broke out.
Lord Selsdon would, briefly, share the winning 1949 Le Mans winning Ferrari 166MM with Luigi Chinetti.
While Old Number 5 seen here at last years Goodwood Festival of Speed would briefly end up in the hands of Fighter Pilot and Racing Driver Robert, later Roberta, Cowell.
After war Lagonda became part of David Brown’s portfolio which included Aston Martin and was merged to become Aston Martin Lagonda.
Thanks for joining me on this “Old Number 5” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Maserati Monday when I’ll be looking at the prototype Maserati Tipo 60. Don’t forget to come back now !