Monterey | Lot 330
1938 Lagonda V-12 Rapide Drophead Coupe
$1,200,000 - $1,500,000 USD
| Monterey, California
17 August 2019
- One of just seventeen V-12 Rapides produced; the highest specification
- Upgraded by the factory with Le Mans–specification Sanction II engine
- Originally delivered to Alfred “Jimmie” McAlpine
- Formerly owned by Knox Kershaw and Lord Bamford
- Proven award-winning specialist restoration; cosmetically and mechanically superb
- W.O. Bentley’s advanced engineering masterpiece
After a half-hearted attempt at remaining with his namesake company following its acquisition by Rolls-Royce, W.O. Bentley moved to Lagonda, another respected name in swift touring cars. It was at Lagonda that Bentley produced an engine that many consider his masterpiece, the fabulous V-12, a 60-degree design with modern overhead valves with a single overhead camshaft for each cylinder bank and utilizing numerous special metals for lightness and durability. It was mounted on a box-section frame with independent torsion-bar front suspension and hydraulic drum brakes.
The Lagonda V-12 was as close as any automaker came in the late 1930s to a “modern” automobile, with outstanding performance and superb road manners. Reportedly it could accelerate in top gear from a crawl to 105 mph, and that was in stock form, with two SU downdraft carburetors. The two V-12s sent to Le Mans in 1939 had Sanction II engines, with four carburetors apiece, and achieved 3rd and 4th overall and 1st and 2nd in Class—this despite the fact that W.O. Bentley had “speed-limited” them. It was all merely a test, in preparation for the real competition in 1940—something that World War II sadly ensured would not happen.
A total of 187 Lagonda V-12s were produced for Europe and North America’s most discerning motorists, including a who’s who of society and racing drivers. Of these, just seventeen were the “ultimate” specification Rapide, produced on the shortest 124-inch-wheelbase chassis. Twelve of these cars were fitted with a uniquely sleek drophead coupe body, drawn by Frank Feeley and produced in-house. Based upon the Le Mans cars’ engineering, the Rapide was crafted with an emphasis on all-out performance but spared nothing in the matter of comfort and fine style. It was one of the great machines of its decade and a fitting coda to W.O. Bentley’s distinguished career.
V-12 RAPIDE NUMBER 14068
The current owner believes that chassis no. 14068 was the first Rapide drophead coupe produced. According to the files of the Lagonda Club, it was finished in “mushroom” with a green leather interior and delivered in October 1938 to Alfred James McAlpine, grandson of the British engineering giant Sir Robert McAlpine and son of construction baron Sir Alfred McAlpine. “Jimmie” McAlpine was a noted automobile enthusiast who owned and drove many of the great European Classics.
McAlpine maintained the car until 1949; it was returned to the Works in 1941 and upgraded with the so-called Sanction II “Marine” upgrade, a revised firing order, and an intake manifold with four SU DAL carburetors, as had been used on the V-12 team cars at Le Mans two years prior. Significantly, it retains the engine, carburetors, and manifold setup to this day. Now capable of some 206 bhp, the car remained in McAlpine’s ownership for many years more, before he sold it to Arthur Ormsby in December 1955.
In the early 1960s, the Lagonda moved to the United States, and by November 1961 it was in the ownership of Stephen A. Lincoln, then of Sparta, New Jersey. Mr. Lincoln was an early member of the Classic Car Club of America and built friendships in the close-knit East Coast Lagonda circles; photographs published in The Classic Car show it as one of several Lagondas that annually attended Princeton football games.
The car was eventually acquired from Mr. Lincoln’s estate sale in 1983 by a gentleman in Massachusetts, and about two years later it passed to Dr. Terry Bennett of New Hampshire. Renowned enthusiast Knox Kershaw acquired the car from Dr. Bennett’s collection in 1991 and maintained it in his own stable in Montgomery, Alabama, still in extremely original condition, for the next six years.
In 1997 Mr. Kershaw was persuaded to sell the V-12 Rapide to Dr. Winfried Kallinger of Austria. Dr. Kallinger was very enthusiastic about driving the Lagonda. The car was restored by the firm of Plus Four, with the engine rebuilt by the noted British firm of Crosthwaite & Gardiner; receipts for the very thorough work, including the milling of a new crank, pistons, connecting rods, and camshafts, are on file.
Dr. Kallinger eventually sold the Lagonda to Lord Bamford, the highly respected British collector of performance automobiles. Lord Bamford brought the car to Clark & Carter, who refinished the body and interior to the present elegant color scheme, dark green over ivory, and performed further mechanical restoration, including overhauling the carburetors, rebuilding the throttle bodies, fitting new brake linings and hoses, and overhauling the centralized chassis lubrication system.
Most recently the V-12 Rapide has been part of a highly regarded American Lagonda collection. It was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2017, earning 1st in Class honors, and returned to its homeland for an appearance at the Concours d’Elegance at Hampton Court Palace just this past year. It is ready for further concours appearances on either side of the Atlantic as truly one of the most superb examples of its kind.