1962 Aston Martin Lagonda Rapide
Aston Martin boss David Brown always liked the Lagonda brand, and if Aston Martin as a whole was something of a hobby, Lagonda was Brown’s personal pet project.
A Lagonda fit for ‘DB’ himself should be roomy enough for four and their luggage, powerful enough for relaxed high-speed travel and carry understated coachwork from the ‘English Gentleman’ school of design. Nearly 800 very expensive, DB2-based Lagonda saloons and convertibles were built before production was suspended in 1957 to allow the factory to gear up for the new DB4.
Four years later a new Lagonda took a bow at the 1961 Paris Salon. It was closely related to the world-class DB4, but had a stretched chassis (16in longer wheelbase), four doors, a bored-out engine and de Dion rear suspension. It was simply titled ‘Rapide’ – a fitting name, as it was a surprisingly swift machine and one example was even an unlikely contender in 1960s saloon car racing…
The engineers at Newport Pagnell had effectively fitted a twin-carb version of the 3,995cc DB5 engine, tuning it for greater torque and driveability. Power was quoted as 236bhp at 5,000rpm. Most cars came with a Borg Warner automatic gearbox, though the David Brown four-speed was an option in period and many Rapides have been subsequently retrofitted with either that or the later ZF five-speed. The de Dion rear axle gave the Rapide both a comfortable, fine-handling ride and greater interior space.
Bodywork was hand-rolled in the time-honoured English tradition and secured to the strong platform chassis by a Superleggera thin tubular framework. Inside, passengers relaxed in an opulent interior of wood veneer, chrome and leather. At £5,000 incl. tax (DB4 £3,900 incl. tax) it was an expensive motor car. Individual specifications varied, but picnic tables, electric windows and a radio with electric aerial were standard features.
Production of the Rapide finished in 1964, after just 55 cars were completed.
This Motor Car
Lagonda Rapide ‘110/L’ was shipped on 9 April 1962 and shown on the company’s stand at the New York International Auto Show later that month. According to a copy of the factory build sheet that accompanies the car, it was delivered on 15 September 1962 via official New York sales agent J.S. Inskip to retired R.A.F. Group Captain, Hugh Marsland Groves.
Groves, the son of early military aviation pioneer Robert Marsland Groves, was a resident of Sarasota, Florida. Promoted from Squadron leader to Wing Commander in January 1940, Groves left the Royal Air Force with the rank of Group Captain and by the early 1960s had settled in comfortable retirement at 1404 Lake Shore Drive, Sarasota, FL. The left-hand drive Rapide was delivered in Black Pearl with Red Connolly Vaumol leather and had an automatic gearbox and push-button Motorola 808 radio.
Entries in the service page of the build sheet make fascinating reading, and include a visit by renowned factory technician Rex Woodgate to carry out “numerous rectifications” only a few days after the car’s delivery. In June 1965, with recorded mileage of 21,814, ‘110/L’ underwent a comprehensive schedule of work by the factory. In addition to rebuilt front suspension, a new torque converter for the automatic gearbox and extensive work on the cylinder head, the bonnet was modified by adding a cooling vent. This unique feature can be seen on the car today.
After this period, the official record of service work conducted by Aston Martin finishes. History does not record exactly when the car was sold by Group Captain Groves, but the current owner has supplied us with the following records:
14 July 1989 sold to Melvin Ritter, Tucson, Arizona
18 June 1993 sold to Paul Sabine, Murrumbeena (Melbourne), Australia
9 November 2001 sold to Chris Kourtis, Brighton (Melbourne), Australia
At some point in its life the car’s colour was changed from black to silver. It benefits from a conversion from automatic to manual, its period-correct David Brown four-speed gearbox allowing a spirited driver to really stretch the legs of the big straight-six.
While in Australia, ‘110/L’ was featured in a variety of magazines including the June 2003 edition of Australian Classic Cars. It won Best in Class (Modern Classics) at the Melbourne Motorclassica exhibition October 2013.
Following Mr Kourtis’s period of ownership our client bought the car from a European dealer. In May 2017, driven by its owner from Neuchâtel, it was then presented to the jury at Villa d’Este. Following the event, it made the return journey of over 300km without missing a beat, more than justifying its selection for the Concours class ‘Faster, Quieter, Smoother: Heroes of the Jet Age’.
Totally ‘on the button’ for events, tours and concours, it comes complete with a FIVA card dated December 2016.