A recent article by Arnold Davey in the excellent Lagonda Car Club Magazine threw my mind back with a jolt to schoolboy years. His article was about the Lagonda Fetes held at Brooklands from 1927 to 1930, when the Lagonda Company opened up the famous Track to owners of their cars. Thus, for a day, ordinary drivers could have a taste of motor racing in their Lagondas.
My mother had a family friend who was secretary to a Mr Longden, who represented or owned a business making those enormous shiny-black Hume water and sewage pipes, which might then be seen beside our roads, ready for burial.
Where do I come in? Well, one day Mr Longden told his secretary he was going to take his Lagonda to the one-make day at Brooklands, and would be accompanied by a young nephew. When asked on the Monday whether this had been enjoyable, the answer was, “Yes, except that my passenger showed no interest, reading comics all the time”.
His secretary remarked how much her friend’s young son (me) would have enjoyed it and Mr Longden said that, had he known this before, he would gladly have taken me instead.
Because the races’ entry lists were only assembled on the day, the programmes did not list the competitors. So I shall never discover whether Mr Longden had a 2-litre Speed Model or was in a saloon. But if anyone has a Lagonda logbook containing his name, I would like to know…
Those long-ago frolics included one-lap handicap and scratch battles for every available type of Lagonda from 12/24s (race won at 47mph) to sportscars and saloons, and timed Test Hill ascents, Ladies races, etc, with Mr Alfie Cranmer, Lagonda’s technical director, racing driver Major Oates and other Lagonda associates presenting the cups. There was a two-lap Mountain Handicap for Lagonda sales-staff, and Team cars and the very latest cars from Staines were demonstrated. Lord de Clifford won the 1930 Obstacle race.
Splendid that Mr Davey who, with Anthony May, wrote that wonderful Lagonda history in 1978, has been able to secure this facet from the past. He says Mr Cecil Vokes, maker of those pancake carburettor filters, was terribly annoyed when the Fetes were stopped, blaming the British Automobile Racing Club, but! think the cause was that it had to reduce the number of fixtures at the Track due to noise complaints.
The late Robbie Hewett bought Yokes’ Lagondas, a 3-litre tourer and the 4.5-litre Le Mans winner, after his demise. Lagonda Ltd had copied Alvis Ltd and Henly’s, their agents, in these Fetes, as did the Ford Motor Company when they staged an elaborate Ford Day at Brooklands.
If I was deprived of that Lagonda experience I did at least have a run, aged just 14, in the then-new supercharged 2-litre. Having written a letter to The Autocar expressing the view that the correct way to supercharge was to blow air into the carburettor(s), Mercedes-Benz sensed a possible sale and, assuming I was adult, offered me a run, which! had, wearing my school cap, at 100mph along the Barnet bypass in a 36/220.
As if that wasn’t thrilling enough, Lagonda Ltd, in order to defend their more conventional method of supercharging, invited me again mistaken for an adult to meet up with Mr Cranmer, and I was again taken for a fast drive in the 2-litre Speed Model.