Barn-stored, one-off Lagonda V12 heads to auctionFri, 04 Apr 2014 00:00:00 -0700
Lagonda is now a nameplate associated with Aston Martin; even though the two companies' histories have been closely intertwined for the past half century, Lagonda was once an independent marque whose creations rivaled those from Crewe and Newport Pagnell. The marque's historical models are rare on any side of the pond now, but every once in a while we see one of its cars make a grand entrance.
This V12 two-door Hooper saloon was a one-off built for the wife of the owner of Hooper Bodies Ltd. and was first registered in 1939, two years after the debut of Lagonda's 5,509cc V12. The design of the body itself is the embodiment of Hooper's "Razor Edge" design, though perhaps not its most radical expression. As with many celebrated Hooper designs of the 1930s, the body features square, upright doors, and a long and high hoodline leading to a short and slanted windshield. The fenders, as on this example, tended to be on the "heavy" side visually, though the lines are quite elegant and wonderfully proportioned.
This Lagonda V12 weathered the war in storage and was then sold to industrialist Harry Ellard in 1952, with 19,226 miles on the clock at that time. Ellard was quite successful and was one of the wealthiest people in the Midlands, having made his fortune in the metal-pressing business. He was also a car collector and was noted to have the tendency to purchase the latest and the best automobiles just as they were debuting. The Lagonda was in his possession until July 1984, when it was sold off along with some 40 other cars that were kept in a large barn in the English countryside.
By most accounts, Ellard liked driving new cars and rarely drove any one particular car for more than a year since he was constantly buying new vehicles. Additionally, he tended to stop driving a given car at the first sign of (often minor) mechanical problems. As these are mid-century cars we're talking about, that meant that cars were usually parked at the 20,000-mile mark when something went just wrong enough to prevent the car from starting. Despite his extensive wealth, Ellard was not interested in keeping all his cars in running condition all the time, and as a result his barn was filled with relatively low-mileage vehicles that were either comatose or in desperate need of a basic service appointment.
The profile is reminiscent of Hooper's other efforts, though the car is a bit shorter than some of the larger Rolls-Royce cars.
We spoke to R.G. Wood-Muller, president of the U.S. chapter of the Lagonda Owners Club, who had seen this car just prior to that 1984 sale. Wood-Muller told us that he had the chance to see most of Ellard's cars at the very barn in the Midlands where they were kept in the early 1980s, while visiting a friend in the U.K. He remembered seeing the Lagonda in the Ellard collection, and upon seeing the photos in the current auction catalog, in 2014, remarked that it appears to be in the same cosmetic condition as when he saw it last.
Hooper's heyday was really the early 1930s, when the coachbuilder worked with Rolls-Royce chassis. The company drew on history and experience dating back to 1805 and supplied multiple members of the British royal family, including several reigning monarchs such as King William IV and Queen Victoria. Hooper managed to move almost seamlessly into aircraft and automobile production during the First World War, though during the course of the next two decades they focused their attention (as did a great many other coachbuilders in Britain and on the continent) on the most exclusive automobiles. Hooper was eventually bought out by Britain's Daimler, though it continued building bespoke bodies before going dormant in the 1950s.
The interior featured quite a progressive design for the time.
After the 1984 sale that saw Ellard's cars sold off, this Lagonda didn't receive a restoration and stayed in its second owner's collection until 2001, when it traded one storage space for another. The car is believed to be in the same condition mechanically as it was found in Ellard's collection in 1984, which is perhaps self-evident after a single glimpse at the photos.
This car will be offered by Silverstone Auctions at their April 12 sale at the NEC in Birmingham, England, alongside a couple other incredible time capsules, like the Aston Martin DBS twins.
By Jay Ramey