Page 1 of 2 Next >> Lagonda's fortunes bounced up and down in 1935. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy, yet a Lagonda managed to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Two months later the company's immediate future was secured thanks to a capital injection of the company's new chairman, the 30-year old Alan Good. He had great plans for Lagonda and to realize them he hired none other than Walter Owen Bentley, who had recently been released by Rolls-Royce. The assignment of the company's new technical director was straightforward, but by no means easy; build the best car in the world. This meant taking on the likes of Rolls-Royce and Hispano Suiza. If anyone was up to that daunting task it was Bentley.
Lagonda's existing line-up consisted of several six cylinder engined cars, which were formidable machines, but not anywhere near the level of the latest V12 engined Rolls-Royces and Hispanos. The V12 engine was synonymous for excellence and luxury; exactly what Lagonda needed. Compared to the competition, Lagonda's brand new V12 engine was relatively small with a displacement of 'just' 4.5 litre. The engine was designed by Stuart Tresilian, who had come from Rolls-Royce together with Bentley. Constructed from aluminium, it featured single overhead camshafts. At the engine's launch an output figure of 180 bhp was quoted, although 155-160 bhp was closer. That was still considerably more than the Rolls Royce V12.
In good Bentley tradition the chassis was a sturdy affair with a boxed steel ladder frame and a substantial x-shaped reinforcement. A break with tradition was the adoption of independent front suspension, through two equal length wishbones and torsion bars. The rear suspension featured a more traditional live axle. The brakes were highly advanced with two independent master cylinders for the hydraulic system. Other high-tech features included four built-in hydraulic jacks. To achieve a better weight balance, the four-speed gearbox was mounted seperately from the engine in the center of the chassis. Simply dubbed the 'V12', the new Lagonda was available as rolling chassis or with factory designed and built coachwork. Production commenced within in two years after Alan Good took over.
Towards the end of 1938 Good and Bentley had brought Lagonda back to a much healthier condition. Particularly the twelve cylinder Lagondas were among the very finest and fastest road cars available. It was clearly time for a new challenge. Much to the surprise and dismay of Bentley, Good suggested that it might be a good idea to take a two of the V12s to Le Mans. The V12 had never been designed with racing in mind and was above all too heavy for racing. Reluctantly Bentley agreed to develop the V12 into a racing car, under the condition that the first outing would be a 'toe in the water' test in preparation for an all out assault in 1940. Bentley's machines had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times, so he was well aware that the six months he had before the race had to be spent well. Page 1 of 2 Next >>