THE LAGONDA RAPIDE VIVID ACCELERATION, HIGH CRUISING SPEEDS AND SILENT COMFORTABLE TRAVEL ARE FEATURES OF THIS STRIKING 4-LITRE CAR.
THE announcement of a 4i-litre Lagonda at the end of 1933 was an event which brought real satisfaction to the large-car enthusiasts and the new Rapide, which made its bow to the public in such striking fashion at the 1934 T.T., when three of these cars finished fourth, fifth and eighth, and carried off the Team Prize, marks a further step in safe high-speed travel. The Rapide differs from the earlier model: which is still retained, in having a high-compression engine modified to withstand the extra
strengthened chassis six inches shorter than its prototype, and Girling mechanical brakes. These alterations have still further improved handling and performance, making the Rapide the equal of any unsupercharged sports car, British or Continental on the road to-day. We tested one of these cars for a distance of 500 miles over a variety of conditions varying from the densest London traffic to wide and deserted roads in the West Country, and found that its high all-out speed and acceleration has • not been obtained at the expense of flexibility and smooth running. Only on the open road, of course, can it come to its own, and then sweepin along at 70 to 80 m.p.h., behind the shapely bonnet with the wind rushing past and theghost of a lowpitched exhaust note in one’s ears, the driver really feels the full satisfaction of driving a car that is a thoroughbred. At 85 m.p.h. the engine speed is under
3,000 r.p.m., and if roads permit the car can be kept at this speed indefinitely, without giving the impression of being forced, while an effortless 70 can be maintained on half throttle or less. Where the roads are winding or h lly,
the natural instinct is to drop into third gear, which permits a maximum of 80 m.p.h. With third engaged the car can be hurled along in difficult country in the most satisfying way, and only by glancing at the speedometer can one realise how fast the bends and corners are being taken. Unlike a previous generation of fast cars the Lagonda shows no tendency to” hop” when put fast into a corner, and makes no bones about road-holding on adverse cambers, while the adoption of a wheelbase six inches shorter than that of the”
Long Chassis makes one forget that the car one is handling is one of the largest on the English market.
While on the subject of cornering, some mention must be made of the type of steering fitted. It was particularly high geared, requiring only 1+ turns to swing the front wheels from lock to lock. There is a strong caster action too, and the car holds its course perfectly on straight roads with the minimum of effort on the part of the driver, and only a slight movement is needed when taking fast bends. On the other hand a good deal of effort is needed when taking sharp corners, and especially when mano3uvring at low speeds.
With this type of steering we should have preferred a larger steering wheel and more cut-away at the side of the body, though there is also the question of weather protection to be considered. Alternatively the lower-geared steering fitted to the long-chassis model may be substituted, and this would probably be preferred by those who used their car in town and country as well, leaving the high-geared type for owners who prefer the quick movement undoubtedly welcome when the car is to be used for competition purposes. With the institution of 30 m.p.h. limits in all parts of Great Britain, smooth running at low speeds is a matter of considerable importance. The Lagonda showed itself excellent in this respect and sailed along without a murmur through the built-up areas, giving foot passengers and cyclists a much better chance of admiring the lines of the car than they would have had in the days when one could use one’s discretion when passing through such places. 30 m.p.h. by no means represents the minimum on top, 15 and even 12 m.p.h. being
possible, though naturally a change of gear was called for when getting way from the latter speed. It goes without saying that these built-up areas when they form a large proportion of the route to be negotiated made a great difference to the average speed obtainable on the normal car as compared with those one found possible before the limit came into operation, but this latest product of the Staines factory does much to restore the status quo. Every, time a de-restricting sign comes into sight, the driver only need drop into third and wait until he has crossed the invisible “starting line,” and then tread on the accelerator. The car gets away in a really striking manner and the driver finds his speed restored to 75 m.p.h. with the minimum of fuss and within a quarter of a mile of
It must be a very heavily restricted route on which the Lagonda will not average 40 m.p.h., 50 m.p.h. is normal on good main roads, while on open, deserted, but by no means straight roads we attained the very unusual ” moyenne ” of sixty miles an hour. One of the finest features of the car are the Girling brakes, which allow one to main the highest average speeds with
confidence and perfect safety. Light enough in action for easy operation under normal conditions, a full pressure on the pedal brings terrific stopping power into play. One occasion which we remember vividly was when driving at considerable speed at night-time with heavy rain beating down and very considerably cutting down our range of vision. Suddenly we sighted a level-crossing gate, the only warning of which was a dim red lamp and that obscured until the Lagonda was almost upon it, by a stationary car. We had no hesitation in applying the brakes with full force, and found we pulled up safely and with an ample margin, without locking the wheels or deviating from the straight. From 40 m.p.h. the car can be brought to rest on dry roads in 52 feet, a figure which gives some idea of the efficiency of the brakes.
The maximum speed on the indirect gears is respectively 32, 55 and 85 m.p.h., with an engine speed of 4,000 r.p.m., while on top, the engine is only doing 3,200 r.p.m. at ninety, which should ensure a long life and an ample margin for those long and tempting 110 m.p.h. slopes one occasionally finds on the Continent.
The gearbox is light to handle, with a short lever under the right hand, but the change down into second needs to be accurately judged to avoid making a noise. First and second gears are closer than one usually finds, making it possible to get away promptly from low speeds, second to third is slower, with third to top close again, and the changes can be speeded up still further by using the clutch stop. Third is completely silent and the other two gears hardly audible. The clutch is light in action, and a freewheel is fitted.
The engine is dead smooth up to 3,500 r.p.m., and only slightly less so up to its maximum, though thanks to the fine torque low down one seldon needs to take it to the limit. A small amount of tappet noise can be heard when ticking over or running below 20 m.p.h. on top, but disappears at higher speeds. The engine is flexible, picks up smoothly without flat-spots and in fact shows none of the faults one associates with smaller engines tuned to give high power-output, while it revs up with commendable speed when a rapid change-down is required.
As will be seen from the chart, the car displays really striking acceleration, but unfortunately we were unable to determine the all-out speed, as the sparking plugs fitted would not withstand full throttle for long periods. On Brooklands we achieved a timed speed of 94 m.p.h., before pre-ignition set in and we are informed by the makers that this particular car has previously been timed at 98 under unfavourable weather conditions, and the elusive hundred should be possible with everything functioning correctly. These figures were established with the windscreen folded down, which allowed us to try out the detachable aero screens supplied with the car ; these proved extremely effective. With the windscreen raised the car will still do over
90 on the level, no small achievement in view of the fairly high radiator and the very ample mudguarding. A good point is that the whole of the off-side and the top of the near-side mudguard can be seen from the driver’s seat. The body fitted to the Ra.pide is as handsome as it is practical, and a high standard of finish is reached both in the paintwork, and the upholstery. The car we tested was finished with silver-grey, a special cellulose paint with a metallic lustre being used and contrasted effectively with the light blue of the hood. The hood stows neatly and without complication into a well at the rear of the
body, where it is secured by a close fitting cover, and the tonneau cover is held stiff and free from wrinkles by elastic bands sewn to the underside. The side curtains are secured against rattle and chafing in large pockets in the front doors and are quickly reached by undoing two clips and a pair of zipp fasteners. The allweather equipment is really efficient and gives complete protection against rain and drafts.
The front seats have pneumatic cushions and squabs and give the comfort and support one expects from a car costing £1,000. Those at the back seem more limited as regards space, but actually there is ample room for two six-foot passengers owing to the cunningly designed foot wells.
There is at least six inches of head room with the hood erected and all those who occupied the back seats during the course of our test were agreeably surprised by the steadiness and easy riding in this position. The spare wheel on the car we tested was stowed in a special locker under the petrol tank, while the top part of the sloping rear panel swings down to form a
luggage platform. On another type of body design the wheel is attached to the outside of the rear panel which then swings to reveal a locker capable of taking two or three suitcases. Turning now to the chassis specification, the engine is a special 4i-litre, 6-cylinder engine made by Meadows for the Lagonda Company, and has a chromidium cylinder block and head and an aluminium crankcase. Push-rod overhead valves are used with the usual set-screws and lock-nuts for adjusting the clearances, while the oil filler is fitted to the top of the cover and provided with a filter. Two S.U. carburetters are used, with a double
electric petrol pump, and a two-way tap which allows the last 4 gallons to be drawn from the 20 gallon rear tank. The petrol consumption over the whole of our strenuous test was about 12i miles per gallon. Esso Ethyl may be used for ordinary running but the ignition lever has to be used freely at low speeds to
avoid pinking. We found Cleveland Discol very satisfactory in this respect but consider that for maximum performance a small proportion of neat benzol should be added to the fuel.
Two sets of plugs are used, those on the offside being fired by a Scintilla magneto while a coil is used on the other side. This system of dual ignition in conjunction with a Kigass primer ensures a certain start under all conditions. A water pump is fitted on the off-side of the engine and a fan is also supplied though this was disconnected during
our test. Thermostatically controlled radiator shutters are a good feature and we found that the engine warmed up within two or three minutes of starting. The crank-shaft is carried in four main bearings, and this, the tappets, and all
other engine parts are force-fed. Three gallons of oil are carried in the ribbed sump, and an edge-type oil filter is used.
The clutch is of the single-disc dry type, and the four-speed gearbox embodies helical pinions for the constant mesh and silent-third gears, and all gears are ground.
Behind the gearbox comes the freewheel, which is locked at will by a lever between the two front seats, then an open propellor shaft with two universal joints, driving the back axle with its spiral bevel gears. The chassis is a sturdy structure with channel section side-members and swept over the back axle. It is braced by tubular cross-members, two particularly stout ones being place in the centre part of the chassis. The underslung springs are half-elliptics with shackles at the rear
ends, and hydraulic and telecontrol adjustable friction shock-absorbers are fitted to the two axles. The spring shackles and other chassis parts are lubricated from a set of grouped nipples on either side of the engine.
The massive 16-inch brake drums are heavily ribbed and cadmium plated and this same finish is used for the springs.. The brake mechanism is of the Girling type, in which the whole system of operating rods is under tension. The shoes are expanded by wedges, giving the minimum of friction, the hand brake is fitted with a racing rachet which flies off when the lever is pulled. The 12-volt lighting system has compensated voltage control, and P. 100 headlamps are fitted as standard, on the car we tried, the more streamlined Long Distance type were fitted, and gave a
fine driving light which showed five to six telegraph poles on the main road. The dip and switch mechanism is controlled by a foot-switch placed within easy reach of the driver’s left foot.
To the long-distance motorist who expects his car to stand up to prolonged spells of hard driving without losing its tune or calling for constant adjustments the Lagonda Rapide undoubtedly will make a strong appeal.
A high-geared car of this type would be a special joy on the Continent, where the long straight roads call for a steady ” 75″ without fuss, while the body lines could scarcely fail to excite admiration even amongst the critical inhabitants of the Cote d’Azur. Definitely a worthy member of the exclusive circle of luxury sports cars and a car one would be proud to own.