A CAR TO COVER THE GROUND
THE 41-LITRE LAGONDA HAS AN ALL-OUT SPEED OF 95 M.P.H. AND A SAFE AND SOLID FEELING WHICH ENCOURAGES THE MAINTENANCE OF HIGH SPEEDS It seems generally recognised nowadays that in order to obtain consistent high speeds with comfortable touring coachwork, a big engine is almost
essential. This dictum was recognised and turned to good use on the first of the 4i-litre Lagondas, produced some three years ago, on which the speed, ‘though not the acceleration, was almost identical with the model at present under review. To the hard-driving sportsman the roughness of the engine and the undoubted harshness of the springing were matters of small importance, though they prevented the car being fully appreciated by the wider public nowadays interested in fast motoring. When the new Company took over last year it determined to alter all that.. With Mr. W. 0. Bentley as Technical Director, the aim has been not to ” kill that tiger,” that highly entertaining rush of power obtainable ft (am the large 6-cylinder engine, but to turn it to better use, making the car perform with the smoothness which one expects in this year of grace from a car
.costing £1,000 On the early experimental cars this process of ” refinement ” was carried, in our opinion, almost too far, but the production cars have a likeable and virile personality which is in no way lessened by the fact that the engine is almost unnoticed and that the springs really do smoothout the inequalities of the road.
First impressions are usually strong ones, and one ‘could not help being impressed by the handsome, clean lines of the bodywork, with its absence of frills and excrescences, and the neat way in which the wheels had been sunk into the front wings. The scats, which are upholstered with rubber latex, are yielding but firm enough to prevent sidesway, both wings are visible over the impressive bonnet, and the steering wheel comes nicely to hand. Moving off from the centre of London, there was a ready response to the
accelerator, a pleasant murmur from the exhaust pipe and a flow of smooth power. The gears snitched smartly in E.nd out and altogether one was conscious in a word of a thoroughbred motor-car. The first taste of freedom as one reaches the Portsmouth-Kingston By-Pass en route for Brooklands is memorable, or should be, and the way the car leapt up to seventy in third and eighty in top gave promise of quite unusually rapid motoring. On gaining the Track we found the section round the Fork obstructed by barriers put up in connection with one of the car races, and though a sufficient space for one car had been left, one was kept on the qui vive for workmen emerging from the Vickers Sheds, making it inadvisable to shoot through the narrow gap at full speed. In spite of this obstruction we had no difficulty in getting up to 95 m.p.h. by the time
the Railway Straight was reached. Coming off the banking at this speed the car was unusually stable, thundering round without a tremor, hands off and without a movement from the front wings or radiator, proving what can be done with a rigid chassis and conventional springing when the designer is Mr. Bentley. With the windscreen in its normal position the timed speed over a flying half-mile worked out at 92 m.p.h., while with the screen folded down and replaced by one of the glass aeroscreens, which serve as ‘side-pieces to the main screen when the latter is in position, we obtained 94.7 as the average we as of several runs. The speedometer was at least 10 m.p.h. fast at the top end of the scale, the finger being far beyond the calibration, which
only read to 100. In view of the commendably high speed of which the car is capable, an optimistic speedometer scarcely seems to be required. On a fast main highway such as the Portsmouth Road, the Lagonda makes an irresistible call to speed, and with the smooth-running, silent engine, the normally easygoing driver finds himself impelled to drive at a steady ” eighty ” wherever con ditions permit. The engine speed at that figure is only 3,500 r.p.m. and the car runs perfectly happy with throttle eased back. The exhaust note is almost inaudible, and no sound comes from the engine, and as far as can be gathered from the general feel of the car, one could continue indefinitely at this rate. After our experiences driving flat-out on Brooklands, there could be no question of the car’s at
car’s stability at speed, while the brakes give every assurance of quick and certain stopping in emergency. With large drums and the Girling system of operation, they pull the car up without deviation or fuss in 56 feet from 40 m.p.h. A light pressure is suffident for ordinary purposes, the pedal pressure being progressive until the fullest effect is reached.
The maximum speed can be obtained on stretches a mile or so in length, or if one is feeling in less heroic mood, the car can be run at a silky 55-60, reserving the power of the engine for ascents of main-road hills at 75 m.p.h. At the other end of the scale the car will pull away smoothly from 10 m.p.h., though being somewhat high-geared, it naturally does not get fully into its stride until about 85 m.p.h. or roughly 1,500 r.p.m. If the accelerator is pushed right down at low speeds on top or third, a certain amount of pinking can be heard, evidently symptomatic of the engine working at Its highest efficiency, for the car thereupon darts forward with encouraging speed, and without any perceptible roughness. The next step was to try the car over narrow winding roads, the hardest test for a car of the Lagonda’s weight and wheelbase, but one which singles out the sports car from the fast and often rather unstable touring car. The particular stretch of road chosen measured twenty miles in length and from one’s experience of it in a touring car, 50 m.p.h. seemed about the limit on its few straight stretches. When we got going along it on the Lagonda, however, we found a real need for a red mark on the rev.-counter dial, showing that we were getting up to the region of 75 1 Only a faint murmuring when we changed down at 70 and kept
the engine between 3-5 and 4,000 r.p.m. showed how this 41-litre was turning over, and one is amazed at the improvement in balance which has been wrought during the present regime at Staines. Talking of gears, incidentally, top and third• were the only ones used, the reserve of power on the latter gear being sufficient to whisk the car away from sharp bends and hair-pins, second being only once engaged when bulked on a hill. The average speed over those twenty miles worked out from Ordnance
Map and stop-watch, which is not a bad main-road running.
The springing is controlled by a set of a special type of Luvax hydraulic shock-absorbers, one of which is fitted with an oil pump which generates pressure in accordance with axle movement. The pump communicates through pipes with control valves on all four shockabsorbers, increasing the damping effect as axle movement increases. By moving a small lever mounted on the steering column and which operates a regulating valve in the pipe line from the pump, a ” hard ” or ” soft ” setting of the shock-absorbers can be obtained. was 44 m.p.h., speed even for . By using reasonably flexible road springs in conjunction with these special shockabsorbers, the new Lagonda has been given suspension which is a happy compromise between racing stiffness and the soft springing of the tour
ing car. Indeed, with the regulating lever in the” hard” position, the car can be slung round sharp corners at quite surprising speeds with no tendency towards rolling, and the same applies to fast bends taken at speed. With this perfected system, in fact, we can see no call for friction shock-absorbers, unless possibly the car were to be used for racing. The steering is geared considerably lower than on the old-series “4s,” it calls for more wheel-winding when manceuvring though, of course, less effort is needed. Driving fast on the road we noticed no disadvantages. The steering wheel is noticeably steady and free fromf kick” when passing over rough roads, and the castor action centres the steering after rounding a bend. If the car were to be used
abroad, the steering lock might be with advantage increased, and attention is being devoted to this matter.
Everyone has his ideas of how the gear-ratios should be spaced but, in our opinion the arrangement chosen on the Lagonda with top, third and second close ratios and bottom a comparatively low emergency gear, is the ideal on a powerful car. The only disadvantage is that if the engine is revved too much in bottom, one has to wait a second or two in order to get a quiet change into third, though this could easily be overcome by fitting a clutch stop. Second to third is a fast change, making use of the synchro-mesh mechanism on the latter gear. Changing from third to top, the lever snicks straight across, so that by making full use of the gears, really stirring acceleration can be obtained. The synchro-mesh mechanism does not prevent one indulging in double-clutch changes when in the mood, but accurate judgment is required to avoid getting the lever “caught up” by the cones. With an engine speed of 4,000 r.p.m. the road speeds on the gears are 81, 58, 75 and
98 m.p.h., but in practice, owing to the ample flow of power low down, one normally does not take the engine above .2,500 r.p.m. in the indirect ratios. Both second and third are silent-running when driving and just audible on the over-run.
The driving position is a comfortable but alert one, well suited to covering long journeys at speed. The short gearlever and the hand-brake, with its racing ratchet are within easy reach and the steering wheel comes well into the lap. The usual throttle and ignition controls are carried in the centre of the steering wheel ; the latter control is only required when starting or running slowly in towns. On the steering column are mounted the mixture control and the shock-absorber regulator. The very adequate Lucas P.100 headlamps have dip-and-switch mechanism, with a foot-operated switch, the centre fog-lamp being put into action by means of a separate switch on the dashboard.
The all-weather equipment leaves nothing to be desired, and when the sidecurtains are in position, the interior of the car is as snug and warm as any drop-head coupe. The windscreen is• deep and placed close to the driver and there is ample head-room when the hood is up. Swinging flaps in the sidecurtains assure good ventilation with everything in position. When the car is opened up the hood drops without complication into a well at the back of the body and is protected by a flush-fitting hood-cover, while the side-curtains are carried in pockets in the two large doors, behind panels secured by clips and zipp fasteners. Front and rear seats give ample leg-room for the tallest passenger, foot-wells being employed to increase the room available for the rear passengers.
The spare wheel is carried in a metal cover sunk half-way into the off-side mudguard. A similar cover is carried on the near side but in this case is used for storing tools, spare plugs, the starting handle and the pump for the fourwheel hydraulic jacks. If a second spare wheel is specified, the tools and accessories are carried under the bonnet.
At the rear of the car is a luggage lccker capable of taking four good-sized suit-cases and the rear panel, when open, provides room for further hand luggage or a small trunk. Turning now to the mechanical side, the engine first of all commands our attention. Cylinder-head block and crankcase are each separate units, the two former being made of cast iron. Vertical overhead valves are used, operated by push-rods, and the rockers and their standards, which are all positively lubricated, are interchangeable. Two plugs per cylinder are employed, the ignition in each case being by Scintilla magneto, with automatic advance and retard and a supplementary hand control. The two carburetters are S.U.s, and the jets are movable by means of a hand-control on the steering column to give a rich mixture for
starting. Exterior water passages are provided between the head and the cylinder-block, and the cooling is assisted by water-pump and fan. The radiator is large and fitted with thermostatically-controlled shutters.
The crankshaft is balanced and carried in four main bearings. The sump holds 2i gallons and the oil-filler is situated on the top of the rocker cover, an accessible arrangement and one which allows the oil to flow in quickly. The engine is mounted on reUer at four points.
The clutch is of the normal dry-plate type, while the gear-box rather unusually nowadays is separate from the engine. , Its features are synchro-mesh on third and top and a constant-mesh second gear. The propeller shaft is open, with two needle-bearing universal joints, and tha final drive is by spiral bevel.
The chassis has straight side-members slightly upswept to clear the front and rear axles, with three tubular crossmembers of unusual size. The special shock-absorbers !lave already been described. The steering is by worm and nut, and the Girling brakes operate in 16-inch ribbed drums. The rear petrol tank holds 20 gallons, of which two constitute a reserve supply which may be turned on from the driving seat. Two filler caps are used, one on each side of the chassis, a great convenience if the car is to be used abroad. The petrol consumption ‘works out at 13 m.p.g. and leaded fuel
is required. The twin electric petrol pumps are carried with the batteries cut-out and fuses in a double bulkhead under the bonnet, which also serves to isolate the driving compartment from the heat of the engine. Anyone who handles and examines the new Lagonda cannot fail to be impressed with the fine workmanship and the many points of practical value which have been embodied in the chassis design and the lay-out of the
body. The car is one of the fastest, safest and most robust on the British market to-day and one which will delight the most inveterate road-burner, and yet contrives to cover the miles with a quietness and smoothness which spell freedom from fatigue at the end of a long journey.