RUMBLINGS, October 1941
HERE must be many people who regret the passing, or at all events the scarcity, of big open cars in the old tradition. Somehow, although such ears as the 3and 44-litre Bentleys, ” 30,198 ” Vauxhall and 3-litre Sunbeam were all marketed as saloons, yet on first mention of them you in variably thought of them as open tourers. With these thoughts in mind, I was most interested to come upon a car which might almost be said to be representative of the last of the big, open fast cars. K. N. Hutchison bought it as a shopping car for his wife, and although he does not disguise his marked preference for American-type vehicles, nevertheless I think he gets consderable fun out of this other car and has more than a passing regard for it. Little wonder, after trying it ! The car in question is a 44-litre Lagonda ” Rapide ” of the model that inunediately preeeded the i.f.s. version of this famous chassis. Its lines are a remarkable balance between those current around 1925 and those of the present day. The car has all the powerful, businesslike appearance of the old-type open car with the beauty and completeness of a modern production. I rather prefer the flowing wings to the later helmet pattern, the running boards look by no means out of place, and yet the concealed hood, single-pane screen with its side panels and the neatly cowled dumbirons and tall radiator seem so much more fitting than the unconcealed starkness of certain old motors. Those who scorn the open car as of limited use in our fickle climate may note that with all the weather protection in place this Lagonda is actually warmer than a saloon, nor do the side screens rattle and flap as such things were once wont to do. When not wanted they stow away in zip-fastened pockets and the interior appointments are in keeping with those of a closed car. Here is all the fresh-air appeal and essential rightness of a fast open car with very much of the convenience of a saloon, and I found it a most pleasant combination. And this Lagonda is fast ; 80 m.p.h. shows on the speedometer on any straightish piece of road and the needle flickered around ” 90 ” on more than one occasion. Almost equally intriguing was the high maximum in third gear, in which 70 m.p.h. was attained and held for very considerable distances, so effortlessly that many times I thought the car was in top gear. Hutchison believes that 80 m.p.h. should be possible on this ratio under favourable conditions. Another very striking feature of the 44-litre Lagonda is the low engine speed by reason of high gearing. Thus at a rousing 70 m.p.h. the six-cylinder Meadows engine, that runs reasonably if not entirely happily on ” Pool,” is turning over at only 2,400 r.p.m. ; at 50 m.p.h. at a mere 1,700 r.p.m. ; 50 m.p.h. in second gear is equal to 3,600 r.p.m. and 70 m.p.h. in third to 3,200 r.p.m. Hutchison drove in a most spirited manner and, although the action of the suspension under fast cornering was very different from that of i.f.s., clearly the car was extremely controllable. It could be flung into bends so that the tyres protested and the tail slid considerably, and yet work at the correct moments on the tiller always lined it up exactly where it was wanted in relation to approaching traffic. Actually the Suspension is comfortably soft, with Telecontrols front and back to stiffen it as required. Obviously the Lagonda belongs to the select circle of cars which, by reason of really sound brakes, accurate steering, impeccable road-clinging and outstanding performance, are able to be driven extremely rapidly over public roads in perfect safety and without offending anybody. Dallying too long in the sunshine until he was late for tea, Hutchison then brought the Lagonda over a 40-mile cross-country route, embracing two sizable towns, and averaged something like 53 m.p.h.—yet he wasn’t using all he had .got all the way by any means and an Army convoy had us stationary for a quite appreciable time. Whatever the success of the V12 Lagonda after the war, I feel that Staines will still find a ready market for the “Six.” Now, of course, it has the same chassis as its catalogue companion and the engine, incidentally, has two magnetos instead of the real dual ignition of Hutchison’s 1935 car. Other points you might like to know about Hutchison’s are that it had a stubby right-hand gear lever controlling the plain gearbox, outside mirrors on both wings, a free-wheel locked by a short eentral lever, typically Lagonda-type filler caps, a 16-gallon tank, rev.-counter reading to 5,000 r.p.m., a 120-m.p.h. speedometer and 6-in. x19-in. tyres. Oil pressure read 40 I b.,isq. in. at :30 m.p.h. and 30 11)./sq. in. at 50 m.p.h. Much of the car’s attractiveness was attributable to the jewelescent ” finish, of the kind introduced, I believe, by the Talbot concern. This Lagonda is for sale and someone will get a good motorcar, for it has been recently overhauled by Lagonda Ltd. ; the back axle is notably quiet. Incidentally, Hutchison advertised it for disposal ” as owner wants faster car,” which many of his friends thought an excellent joke, seeing that this car must be capable of close on 100 m.1).1). Actually, the owner really does anticipate a slightly higher speed and from a smaller
car—you see, he is seeking a ” 328 ” At present he has a Ford Eight saloon. a Ford Ten saloon, an old Ford V8, his Allard ” Special,” and something very special in 4-litre Ford V8 saloons, all in use except the Allard, the only car which did not accompany him to his uncle’s charming house at Farnham’. Hutchison’s big problem at present is to decide what sort of car will best suit post-war competitions, which is quite as difficult as deciding what form such contests will take ! Shortly after the run in this six-cylinder Lagonda I was able to put in a further 60 miles driving in the
medium-chassis V12 Lagonda saloon (cha N. 16063) of which a comprehensive road-test report was published last month. I do not think it would be unfair to the ” Six ” to say that the ‘i 2 is 10 m.p.h. faster everywhere. Along suburban roads you have difficulty in keeping it below 70 ” and on any short straight it achieves a very happy 80.” Petrol had to be conserved and I had not intended to hurry, yet on the first fastish piece of road encountered. which happei led to be the long left-hand bend of the Kingston By-pass, I found the speedometer needle sitting at ” 90 ” and with an entire absence of effort. It seems a bigger car than the ” Six,” yet it is equally controllalde. in spite of suspension so supple that really rough. unmade roads can be taken at speed in complete comfort, albeit with the front torsion bars having a busy period. I know of no other car that goes so fast so easily. And it is quite straightforward to handle. After the war this wilt be one of the world’s most-talkedabout cars. If Staines goes ahead with a production version of the be Mans V12, short-chassis four-carburetter job, giving it rather higher geared steering than the saloons and perhaps a greater range of drwer-control over the suspension. Continental contenders for the title of fastest road car arc likely to have a surprise coming to them. But I rather wish the right-hand gear-change of the 41-lit re had been retained for the V12 ; I can give no logical reasons why.
Believe it or not
Bunny Tubbs tells this beautiful story about Major ” Goldie ” Gardner. ft is said that ” Goldie ” was approaching a light-controlled crossing in his wellknown ” 38/250 ” Mercedes-Benz and, as is his wont, went neatly down through the cog-swapping process while pulling up. Whereupon a mobile police-gentleman did come up to him, saying, ” Ah ! Obviously your brakes are weak ! Otherwise you would not have used your gears in stopping the car.” ” Very well,” said
Goldie (vide Tubbs !), “I tell you what I’ll do. You bring your car up behind mine and, when the lights change, drive along behind me. At 40 m.p.h. I will give you clear and ample warning and then apply the anchors.” The uniformed gentleman agreed. The two cars moved away. In due course ” Goldie ” gave the stop sign, then stood hard on the Mercedes’s brakes. Came a scream of tyres, followed by a crash and the tinkle of glass. Going round to the back of his car to inspect the damage. Goldie ” (vide Tubbs ! !) remarked : “That is going to cost you quite £150 ! ” Good story ?
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We are very sorry indeed to hear that Martin Soames is reported missing in action wfth the E.A.F. Soames served his apprenticeship with Leyland, Ltd., and while there built a very fast Morgan three-wheeler. Later he ran a Ford V8 in trials, usually accompanied by his brother, then a medical student, and their odd-jobs boy. The Ford achieved some notable successes, and at the outbreak of war Soames was wit h .Adlards Motors, Ltd., furthering the Allard “Specials.’ which resulted in more trials and sprint succes,c,.. He was a close friend of K. N. Hutchison. He also gained some Brooklands successes by spirited handling of Harmer’s comparatively slow Type 37 llugatti. He was of a retiring nature and possessed a charming manner that endeared him to all whom he chose to class as his friends. He went to considerable pains to join the R.A.F. as a pilot as soon as the war cominenced.