I like Lambdas

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I was reminded of the Lancia Lambda by a letter in the VSCC Bulletin debating whether this landmark vintage car was made in production form with very narrow rear doors to its advanced monocoque body. In 1942 I bought a 1926 Sixth Series Lambda tourer in pretty rough condition. It set me back £25, or was it £15, plus £10 for two new batteries? Presumably it had been shortened, for it had ridiculously narrow rear doors useful only for passing one’s legs through, which I cannot believe figured on any production model. Otherwise it was quite standard, except for a fold-flat screen. I went immediately to London in it, and was somewhat abashed, after driving into a West End garage, to find they charged on the length of one’s car…

The Lambda was a long car despite its compact V4 engine with ohc valve-gear beneath the ‘Dome of St. Paul’s’ valve-cover. The wheelbase was 10ft 2in or 11ft 2 1/2in, so for trials and similar events they were sometimes drastically cut-and-shut. In unmolested guise, what a great car this was! Out in 1921, before 3-litre Bentleys and 30/98s had taken to the roads in any numbers, it flaunted a stiff one-piece chassis/body, independent front suspension, a centre ball-gate gearchange, and in-built trunk, against rivals with ‘cart’ front springs, flexible ladder-frames, difficult right-hand gear-gate and exposed luggage racks. A landmark indeed!

What a car to be seen in, in the mid-1920s when the Weymann saloon cost £875 and cost the outrageous ‘Airways’ saloon £975. Kathleen Taylor took hers through the 1938 Monte Carlo Rally, and of the VSCC folk who used Lambdas I recall Flying Officer Buckle playing with two Lambdas, and Julian Jane and John Vesscy who won the Lycett Trophy in 1949 and 1952 respectively. Vessey also won the Pomeroy Trophy in 1953 with a rather quick 1927 model.

My Lambda was not in those categories, but served well enough for war-time journeys to RAF aerodromes, where the air-crews would gather round it, but which my MAP boss disliked, saying a Ford Ten was better suited to a temporary Civil Servant along with a dark suit. But I was able to buy it two wheels with almost-new Michelin zigzag-tread tyres for £1 each and it was going fairly well until Holly Birkett borrowed it, drove it hard, then left it out in the open with the bonnet up, on a snowy night. I think this was what warped the head, something to which these cars were prone. Soon afterwards I was posted away and never saw PX 4213 again. I wonder what became of it?