FURTHER IMPRESSIONS OF THE V12 LAGONDA
A Road-Test Report of one of the most outstanding of modern high-performance Cars N that Sunday When the victory V campaign began we were able to take out on test the only remaining demonstration V12 Lagonda, and are thus able to qualify and supplement some impressions of this interesting car which Peter Clark wrote for us last October. As it happened, the car was the medium-chassis 11 ft. wheelbase saloon. The need to economise petrol restricted the test to just under 124 miles, shared amongst five drivers. Even so, within these limitations, it was very evident that the Vi 2 Lagonda is one of the greatest autonif,biles. that has ever happened. So often we continence a testreport by saying that the driving position is excellent and visibility good. Certainly this is so with the I,agonda. The separate driving-seat adjusts easily and really far forward, and the variable angle of the squab, set by operating two screwed stops, is a, point we especially appreciated, as °illy too often one has to recline in an ieellicient posture because tlw seat allows
of no other position. The wide and actually very lengthy bonnet looks quite modest from inside the car, and not only are both off and near-side front wings visible, but the top of the near-side he:!dlamp as vell, So that the sire of the car is of no moment even to a new driver. The screee pillars are on the thick side, hut one sits so close to the screen, which is nicely raked and notieeat ?ty wide, that visibility is not impaired. The central gear-lever, in a ball-gate, is slender yetnot springy, and conies almost up to the steering-wheel rim, in an ideal position. The hand-brake. on the right, is too close to the cushion when the driver’s seat is fully forward, but it has a racing fly-oil action which to some extent relieves this difficulty. The pedals might be a trifle larger, including the right-hand treadle accelerator, which is just a metal strip, while the other two are high off the floor ramp, at rather too great an angle. These, however, are minor points. which we did not grow as accustomed to as would have
been the case had a test of our normal duration been possible.
ON THE ROAD
One’s first impression is of the extrume silence of the engine, and very soon tile V12 is up to so m.p.h. in the same imposing absence of all apparent effort. When the starter engages and the engine runsup, there is quite a burst of exhaust noise, but thereafter all is silence, only a slight tremor under the floor reminding one that 180 b.h.p. is being: produced mere inches away. We took the car briskly over Staines Bridge and could not. have gone more than a few miles before we had considerably exceeded 80 m.p.h. The Lagonda is like that. You imagine you are progressing at 45 to 50 m.p.h. and further depress the very light throttlepedal. There is no increase of effort, no sensation that you are going at all fast, except wind-noise round the body ; a glance, however, shows the speedometer
–to be going from ” 70 ” to over ” 80 ” .
The manner Of going suggests high gearing because, although it will literally go everywhere in top gear without protest, it does not really commence to move until beyond 30 m.p.h. in that gear and is not very evidently brisk from low speed in third gear. Once it starts, however, it goes up to really rapid rates of progression More easily than any car of our acquaintance. Its cruising speed may be put at anything the road allows ; in our case up to about 84 m.p.h. Equally intriguing is the surge of the rev.-counterneedle round to 5,500 r.p.m., the maximum limit of engine-speed. A check of the readings on both dials showed that at 2,000 r.p.m. in top gear the speedometer shows 40 m.p.h., and that at 2,500 r.p.m. in third the m.p.h. reading is again 40. At 70 m.p.h. in top the engine is doing 3,500 r.p.m. and at 75 m.p.h. just over 3,700, most comfortably within its limit. The highest speed we attained was about 84 m.p.h., corrected, solely because no by-pass road was at hand and we did not feel justified in winding things up to a greater extent over the narrow, reasonably busy highway into Winchester on which visibility is limited by a series of undulations. At this speed the engine was doing 4,200 r.p.m. and there was plenty of throttle in reserve. A rough check of the speedometer over a, measured distance of approximately half a mile suggested that it was rather less than 7 per cent. (1m.p.h.) at an indicated 50 m.p.h. Making the Lagonda come down to this speed was like braking most cars from 50 to 30 m.p.h. for a built-up area, and at 84 m.p.h. we had no compunction at all about removing our hands from the wheel and placing them behind our head. The steering had a good deal of free movement in the push-pull rod-joints, but with occa sional straight-line correction, there was no impairment of accuracy, and the castor action was extremely vigorous after a sharp corner. Although slight bonnet and some headlamp movement was evi dent, no column judder is felt and only the very tiniest suggestion of return motion through the wheel. The steering is generally very light, even “silky,” in -action. In our opinion it is, nevertheless, too low-geared, 3* turns being demanded, lock to lock, albeit the lock is very generous. The suspension gives extremely line riding over all surfaces, levelcrossings and hump-back bridges included, and at both low and extreme speeds. Nor is the independent front suspension possessed of any peculiarities, and defii:itely it is not unduly soft, failings found in quite a number of i.f.s, systems. The Lagonda must be cornered really ” roughly ” to make the tyres protest, and it is not prone to rolling, save, perhaps, on slow corners—remember this is virtually a town-carriage of 11 ft. wheelbase I The Lockheed brakes were well-suited to the speed, but the brake pedal would have been more comfortable to operate had it been clear of the steeringcolumn ; it is directly under it, which prevents easy use of the ball of the foot. The car slows securely from any speed, to the accompaniment of a not unplea.sing low hiss, but quite heavy pedal-pressure was required and definitely the action was not progressive, which rather spoils the fun in a oar so fast that it must, perforce, be braked for the majority of the twists and turns on which British roadmakers pride themselves. We formed the opinion that the brakes were due for adjustment and had been warned that the shoes might snatch for the first few miles. The clutch takes up the drive efficiently and positively and asks only moderate pedalpressure. The gear-lever locates reasonably well and double-declutch changes go through very nicely ; the synchro-mesh is also good, but seems to prefer not to be hurried. Incidentally, in forming an opinion of the gear-change, one realises how very seldom one changes gear–actually we ran steadily, and turned on full lock, at under $ m.p.h., or 400 in top gear’ slower than which the handthrottle would not take us. The engine opened up thereafter with no hesitation and no pinking. There is an over-ride control taking effect on the rear springs only, operated by the -left-hand lever in the steering-wheel centre. The effect is not really very noticeable from the driving-seat, but the rear-seat occupants appreciated the ” soft ” setting over bad surfaces at low speeds, while, at ” hard,” a notorious hump-back bridge at Frimley was taken in perfect style at 54 m.p.h. This control-lever, and the hand-throttle, have serrated ratchets and are a trifle harsh in movement. Ignition advance • and retard is entirely automatic. The normal engine-temperature was 65-70 C.,
and oil-pressure between 70-75 lb.Jsq. in. The 18 in. steerii•g-wheel has four rather unusually-plac.ed spokes, but these do not obscure the instruments. Reverting to performance, we did not try for extreme speeds on the gears, but the engine-speed went very responsively up to 4,800 r.p.m. in first gear and 5,300 r.p.m. on Second gear, during an Acceleration test. Normally, we started in second and made upward changes atabout 3,200 to 3,900 r.p.m. To humour a falling fuel-gauge, only one licceleratioli test was made, during vi Welt the chancre from first to second was foolishly muffed. Even so, with full complement of occupants and against a stiff headwind, using the rev.-limits aforementioned in place of the readily-attainable 5 500 r.p.m., 0-50 m.p.h. took 12 seconds, ‘0-60 m.p.h., 14.3 seconds and 0-70 m.p.h. 20 seconds, checked by two stop-watches. Inadentally, the initial getaway was superb, the clutch going in at 3,000 r.p.m. A cheek from a steady 30 m.p.h. to 60 m.p.h. in top gear showed 13 seconds. The former test was finished in third gear, when 70 did not give rise to any change of demeanour. At fifty in second, a yen, regular achievement, the engine-speed is a mere 4,500 r.p.m., and in third, 2;450 r.p.m. Similarly, in top, the V12 goes along at nearly 85 m.p.h. on every reasonable occasion, the engine doing 1,300 r.p.m. • the Lagonda not only is smooth and silent at this pace, but somehow imparts a setvce of this well-being to the occupants. It also rides rocksteadily and handles magnificently at what is still a very rapid road-speed. To some extent wind-noise is disconcerting, but this seems largely dependent on the strength of the prevailing head-wind, and no attempt has been made to streamline the saloon, the windows having liberal,
curving rain-valences and the waist-line a wide external “decking.” The roof, though, is quite low and top-hats would presumably remain beside their owners. The four-door, four-light saloon body is Lagonda Ltd.’s own and beautifully finished, while the detail work is really nicely done. The car will seat five, but the outer arm-rests rather restrict space in the back, where two persons are mmfortable, but three a thought intimate. The external appearance, long lines wellbalanced by the rear boot and flowing wings, black finish relieved by very thin and modest chromium headings, place the Lagonda amongst the most imposing and dignified cars that have ever been built—which statement is written in all sincerity.
MATTERS OF DETAIL
• Fuel being low, we pulled the car on to a popular grass parking place Some eight miles out of Peterborough, and got down
to a prolonged study of detail matters. Reading from left to right, the fascia carries : a rather small cubby-hole with lockable lid, thermostatically-cont rolled cigar-lighter energised by push-in actien, rev.-counter reading up to 6,000 r.p.m., central electrical panel, fuel-warning light and interior lamps switch to each side, speedometer reacting to 120 m.p.h., ammeter, fuel gauge, oil-pressure gauge and water-thermometer as small dials within line large dial, and a very effective pullpush knob controlling the soft/loud notes of the horn. The electrical panel possesses a push-button starter-switch, normal lamps switch, oil tell-tale lamp switch, rheostat control of separate instrumentdial lighting, as distinct from the dashlamps, and the wiper switch. The Berkshire wipers have separate” start” knobs, the screen winds out to give excellent visibility in fog, and there is a central mirror of rather limited vision—at least, with three persons on the rear seat, all anxious to watch the dials ! The speedometer and rev.-counter are A.T., the electric instruments II.K.S., and the clock a Smith & Sons (M.A.) product. The rear blind, controlled effeetively from a, slidecontrol by the driver. the interior lamps had their own individual switches and there was a padded footrest to the left of the chach-pedal, with a nicely-acting headlamp-dinuner therein, so set as not to operate when the left foot was merely at rest on the pad. There was no chance to test the lighting arrangements, but one of the Lucas P100 headlamps had a Hartley mask and there was a central Lucas fog-lamp. Different Yale keys, incidentally, were needed for locker and boot, cubby-hole lid and door, the lock of the last-named being in the front passenger’s door-handle. Twin fuel tiller caps are used, one in each rear wing, and the spare IA heel lives under a detachable cover on the off-side ; there appeared room for a spare-%% heel shelf under the boot, if required, on moving the locked panel carrying the twin rear lamps. The rear boot w(nild hold about five large suit-cases, but there is no provision for carrying anything on the lid, which has a strap to hold it open : the locker-floor has a slight downward slope to facilitate unloading, and the fuel-hoses run through it. Apart from this really capacious locker, there is a small shaft above and behind the rear-seat squab. Upholstery is in high-grade leather, and there is a ” companion ” in each rear arm-rest. The rear doors possess deep pockets and the front doors have plainer Ones, held partially closed by centrally-fitted elastic ” pulls.” The driver’s door-handles are well ‘clear of his elbow, and the windows wind down rapidly ; there are no ” pulls” for rear-seat passengers. The sliding-roof action is normal, anti the rear seat has a folding arm-rest. The doors hinge about very slender central pillars. A curious point was that rev.-counter and speedoMeter needles moved in opposite directions. The coachwork is the makers’ own, and they deserve great credit for it. There was not a trace of body-noise. There is a propeller-shaft-tunnel running the length of the car, but it does not unduly impede leg-room. helmet-type wings give a very modernistic touch, without appearing quite so accentuated as on the first V12s. The tools are sensibly laid-out in the wellknown Lagonda dummy spare-wheel cover on the near side, and a useful inspectionlamp is included ; the cover hinges forward and does not detach like that of the real spare-wheel container. Here, too, is the operating lever and selectors for the D.W.S. hydraulic four-wheel jacking system. This operated most effectively, and caused no concern to a lady of slight build. The bonnet fasteners functioned
well and the petrol gauge was very accurate, a not-too-vivid “tell-tale” light gives warning of impending inunobility with some four gallons am in the tank.
It was not easy to assess fuel consumption, but we would put it at about 11 m.p.g., driving hard, and that with a car weighing, we believe, about 39 cwt. 2 qr.
The radiator has dummy shutters of rather flimsy aspect, and a normal external filler-cap, opening on a hinge. The engine is truly imposing, with its big, polished valve-covers emphasising the wide angle of the ” V.” The exhaust off-takes on the outside Of the blocks are set beneath aluminium shields which, in conjunction with the mesh-sections in the bonnet, isolate them in a ” box ” from other components. Fuel-feed is by twin horizontally-opposed S.U. pump with a Zenith filter below. The two downdraught S.U. carburetters live between the blocks, and ignition is by Delco, with one distributor per block and automatic control only by governor and suction. Behind a light bulkhead are accommodated two 6-volt batteries and the fuel-pumps. A six-bladed fan assists cooling and there are supplementary water off-tqltes from the rear of each cylinder-head. The oil filler now lives on the off-side valve-cover, as on the Le Mans ears. There I: a big air-cleaner over the carburetters, and vernier adjustment of ignition-titu ing. The arrow-type oil-level indicator is on thc tT
side of the sump and is lit At night by a tiny electric lamp. Having concluded this visual survey of the engine, we made a very interesting test. Much Comment having been passed about the inaccessibility of the Lagonda’s plugs, we decided that No. 4 in the off-side block was the worst-placed and set Joe Lowrey to remove it against the stop-watch. Using the spanner from the tool-kit, he had the plug out in 17 seconds and back, with its lead (push-on terminals) on, in 50 seconds, a total of 1 minute 7 seconds. To provide a comparison he later did the same operation on his own n.H.G., which has screwon terminals, and had No. 4 plug out and home in 37 seconds. So, with the proviso that it is essential to use the special spanner with rubber centre which grips the plug, and that gloves are desirable if the engine is hot, the V12 Lagonda does not show up at all badly in the matter of rapid plug-changing. Other points we ot)ted were that chassis-lubrication is entirely automatic, that no internal ” pulls ” are deemed necessary to vacate the car, and that the disc-wheels are shod with 6.50 in. by 18 in. Dunlop ” Fort” covers. After this examination we reluctantly returned this great. car to its makers, regretful only that a far longer test bad not been possible ; we look forward to conducting such a test when
the war is over, perhaps in an open, shortchassis version. When peace returns there will be no need to seek a market for a car which, in 11 ft. wheelbase form with most luxurious, closed Coachwork goes up to 100 m.p.h. under reasonable conditions, performs generally like a sports car and yet inactions with an entire lack of effort. After which, to conclude with conventional superlatives would be redundant. We will c(viltent ourselves by saying that we do not consider the V12 Lagonda an expensive car ; the pre-war price of the model tested was C1,600. TECHNICALITIES W. 0. Bentley designed the V12 and it appeared first at Olympia in 1936, rather hastily presented, and went into production in late 1937. He set out to embrace seven ideals in the one car and has succeeded , admirably. The engine is a tweive-cylinder 600 ” V” of 75 x 84.5 flLm.'(4,480 c.c.), commanding an R.A.C. rating of 41.8 h.p. It develops 180 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m., and over 220 b.h.p. in Le Mans form. A camshaft on each head Operates two o.h. valves per cylinder, the camshafts being driven by gears and chain from the crankshaft. The latter runs in four bearings and is balance-weighted. Light alloy connecting-rods run direct on the nitro-hardened journals without the Interposition of bearing-metal. Cooling is by pump, with thermostatic control and the S.D. carburetters are exhaust hot Spotted. Blocks and heads are nickel iron castings, the blocks being staggered to Permit two connecting-rods per journal and are in one with the crankcase. The camshafts are castings and actuate the Vertical valves through simple, directacting tappets. The light alloy pistons have floating gudgeon-pins. Lubrication is by two pumps, one of which feeds the main bearings and the other the valvegear and minor engine-bearings, while the baffles in the three-gallon sump open and close automatically in resisting oil-surge. The drive passes through a di;. singleplate Borg and Beck clutch, having an outboard bearing behind the withdrawal mechanism, to a four-speed, separate gearbox with centre bearings held in iron castings. The box is lubricated from a plunger-pump and has an aluminium casing. The gear ratios arc 4.73, &a,
9.46 and 16.4 to 1. There is ro -mesh on second, third and top nit iis. Transmission is by open shaft with needlebearing universal joints enclosed at both ends in oil-tight casings, to a semifloating, hypoid-gear rear axle. Front independent suspension is by transverse links controlled by torsion bars and damped by hydraulic shock-absorbers. Rear suspension is by long half-elliptic loaf-springs outside. the side-memhcvs, hydraulically clamped under driver control ; a torsional anti-roll rod is also fitted. The frame has 8 in. deep boxsection side-members. The fuel tank holds 20 gallons, giving a range of approximately 220 miles. The 12-volt electrical system has a 90 amp. hour capacity. Dunlop 3.62 in. by 18 in. knock-off hub wire wheels are used. At 100 m.p.h. the engine speed in the long or medium wheelbase chassis is 5,000 r.p.m., or well within the safe limit. Braking is Lockheed hydraulic with 16-in, drums and twin master cylinders. The dimensions of the car tested were : Ovcrall length : 16 ft. 8 in. ; wheelbase : 11 ft. ; track : 5 ft. ; ground-clearance : 71 in. The short chassis has a wheelbase of 10 ft. 4 in. and a top gear ratio of 4.45 to 1; and the long chassis a wheelbase of 11 ft. 6 in., the weight of the former in
chassis form being 27 cwt. The makers are Lagonda, Ltd., Staines, Middlesex.