THE LAGONDA RAPIER
B,•,,….I N4i a small-capacity fourseater touring_ car capable of well Over 70 m.p.h. is by no means an easy task, and there is considerable temptation to cut down weight and to reduce the rigidity of the chassis in order to achieve the required performance. An examination of the sturdy chassis and components of the new Lagonda Rapier reveals that this car departs not at all from the high traditions of former models which have come from the Staines factory, while the overhead camshaft engine provides the necessary power from a capacity of only 1,104 c.c. Fixing the capacity above the 1,100 c.c. limit was deliberately done to emphasise the fact that the car is intended as a fast tourer and not for competition work. The benefits of the rigid chassis are as soon as one
as soon as one takes the wheel. The car rides equally well on rough or smooth surfaces of road or track, and the ‘steering is free from any feeling of snatch on uneven roads. It is quite high-geared, is free from back-lash, and has a useful caster-action. The weight distribution, the double:dropped chassis, and the fact that the body is well within the wheel-base all contribute to give good cornering, there is no rolling even on acute bends, and only deliberate brutality on corners will cause the tyres to scream.
The brakes are quite the best we have tried. The Girling mechanism, which expands the shoes by means of wedges instead of cams, is light in operation and completely progressive. The mean stopping distance of several attempts from 40 m.p.h. was 48 feet, and there was never a suggestion of locking any of the wheels when deviating from the straight. The hand-lever operates all four brakes and is fitted
with a racing-type rachet, which only engages when a knob on the top of the lever is depressed, and springs off again as soon as the lever is pulled.
The engine is less smooth than a six, but gains by its good torque and healthy feeling at low speeds. The maximum revs. are 5,600, which give speeds of over 40 m.p.h. and nearly 60 m.p.h. on second and third gears, but for general running we preferred to keep down to 5,000 r.pm. The valve gear was less silent than one would have expected, and the exhaust note was prominent at maximum revs. ‘The maximum speed timed over a quarter mile was 80.3 m.p.h., which seems very creditable in view of the substantial body fitted. At 60 m.p.h. on top gear the engine is running at about 4,300 r.p.m.
The Lagonda Rapier is definitely a big car in. miniature. as this front view shows.
A plate clutch of normal design is fitted between the engine and the selfchanging gear-box, and is freed by the gear-change pedal during the first part of its movement. It takes up the drive smoothly, and almost equally important, disconnects the gear-box from the engine when” neutral “is selected, thus avoiding the rumbling sound sometimes experienced on self-changing boxes always coupled up to the engine. The gears are preselected by means of a small lever mounted on the driver’s right and working against an indented quadrant, with a spring catch to prevent engaging reverse. This form of control has much to recommend it, especially if the driver is accustomed to cars with an orthodox type of right-hand gear-change. As may be expected in the case of a small car a substantial body, the gears have to be used freely to get the best performance. Just a touch of revs, in each gear and an instant change-up gets the car unstuck from a standing start with the minimum of effort, while third gear takes the car very quickly through winding roads or gives enough speed to overtake most of the traffic to be met with on the main thoroughfares. 55 or 60 m.p.h. seems to be the natural gait of the Rapier, with an extra 10 m.p.h. when long stretches of fast roads present themselves, and with the good suspension, the rigid feeling of steering and chassis, and the excellent brakes it would be hard to find a car up to twice its capacity, which covers the ground with less effort. The only drawback we found on the scorching day on which the car was tested was that the engine ran about 95 degrees Centigrade, so that the cockpit became rather warm. A pair of scuttle ventilators would have overcome this trouble
The driving position, though less upright than we should have liked, was a comfortable one, with the thin-rimmed Ashby steering wheel coming right into the lap. The ignition lever is in the centre of the wheel, but never requires to be moved from the fully advanced position, except when starting and pulling at low speeds on top gear. The slowrunning adjustment is conveniently placed alongside the steering column. The pedals are well placed, and since the gear-box does not project at all above the level of the floor-boards, driver and front passenger have plenty of room for their feet.
Both the power unit and the chassis of the Rapier have been constructed on very substantial lines and should have a useful life, quite comparable to that of the larger Models in the Lagonda range. The engine has two overhead cam-shafts, which are each driven by chain from the front end of the unit and carried. in four bearings, and may be detached from their driving sprockets without disturbing the timing. The combustion chambers are hemispherical, with 14 mm. plugs centrally disposed. The cams operate direct on to hardened thimbles on the top of the valves, and the clearance is adjusted by shims inside the thimbles.
….file cylinder block and the crank-case are made together, and the crank-shaft is carried in the latter in three plain bearings. The crank-shaft is of massive construction with disc webs and fully balanced, and the connecting rods are steel with plain big-ends.
Two S.U. carburetters are fitted and are supplied from the eight gallon rear tank by an electric pump. Part of the supply is held _in reserve by means of a twoway tap. The magneto is carried on the near side of the engine, driven by the helical timing wheels, and the dynamo occupies a corresponding position on the other side. The aluminium sump holds two gallons, and an external gauze filter is easily removed for cleaning. The radiator is fitted with a thermostat, and is assisted by a water pump.
A single-plate clutch, as has already been explained, precedes the self-changing gear-box. The transmission follows orthodox lines, with an open propellor shaft, with two enclosed universal joints and a bevel driven back axle.
The chassis has massive flanged side members swept up behind the engine, and also at the rear to clear the back-axle, giving a low centre of gravity. Six tubular cross-members are used and a triangular bracing between the front dumb-iron tie-bar and another member just in front of the radiator assures perfect rigidity in this important part of the chassis. The springs are seraielliptics of normal type, and Hartford friction shock absorbers are used all round, those at the back being set parallel with the axle. The steering gear is by cam and roller, and the Girling brakes do their efficient work in ribbed 13-in. drums, and are operated by light rods. The instrument board was well equipped, with the Smith rev, counter under the driver’s eye, and the headlamps are
Engine : 4 cylinders, 62.5 mm. bore, 90 mu. stroke, capacity 1,104 c.c. Tax M. Two overhead camshafts. Magneto ignition. Two S. U. carburettors.
Gearbox : Four speeds and reverse. Epicyclic self-changing. Right hand control Separate clutch. Ratios 5.27, 7.06, 10.54 and 17.92 to 1.
Dimensions : Wheelbase 8 ft. 4 in. Track 3ft. 1.11 in. Weight 181 cwt.
Price with four seater open body £368.
of large diameter. An unusual but welcome item of equipment was the large fog-cum-spot light mounted alongside the wind-screen and supported by means of a tubular stay.
The body lines of the open car are those traditional to the English sports four-seater, scaled down somewhat of course, for the 8 ft. 4 in. chassis, and are fully in keeping with the sturdy nature of the frame which carries them. The bold radiator with its distinctive curved header tank and the sloping rear panel are typically `Lagonda’ The tail panel can be swung back, incidentally, to give access to a small luggage locker.
The interior of the car is well upholstered in leather, and the two front seats afford good support to legs and back. The rear seats are also well padded, but with the front seats set for a six-foot driver, a passenger of the same height sitting at the back would find his legs come close tip to the front seats, but the feet are not cramped, as wells are provided under the front seats. A single tall rear passenger or two small ones would find plenty of room, with a seating position low enough to give good protection from the wind.
The Rapier breaks new ground in bringing together the low tax and small upkeep of the light car and the long wearing qualities and high cruising speed of the” medium-weight” tourer. Lagonda enthusiasts, hitherto prevented by financial considerations from owning one of the larger cars, have reason to rejoice at the appearance of the junior member of the family built in the same tradition.
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