Lagonda

Lagonda_LB_290
Chassis number LB 290/1/157
Registration WKX 428
Henry Fry Racing One “HNR1”
In 1947, at the time that the Lagonda Company was in receivership, several of the remaining staff manufactured a one off sports racing car based on the prototype 2.6. The basis for this car was the chassis from the first prototype LBS/ESX1, which had originally borne the radiator and badge bearing the name “Lagonda –Bentley”, which had caused Rolls Royce motors to successfully sue the company and thereby contribute to its collapse. This car had been crashed and substantially stripped for spares and was rebodied as a lightweight, open two seater. Major suspension modifications were made to lower the car which was fitted with a tuned version of the LB 6 engine, moved slightly rearward, and a close ratio box gearbox. The outriggers on the chassis were removed and the fuel tank repositioned. The idea was apparently to offer the prospective buyer of the company a car for racing use, but this was never taken up. It is possible that the car may still survive in rebuilt form as LAG/49/77. The better known and documented racing Lagonda were the V12 racers of 1954 and 1955. David Brown wanted to produce a luxurious Lagonda along the lines of the best pre war offerings and consequently ordered the design for a new V12 engine, using the services of Willie Watson.

This 4,486 cc unit was essentially two of the LB6 series engines mated to a common crankshaft, although unfortunately, because of weight considerations and the problems involved in making a light cast iron block, a decision was taken to construct the crankcase and block in aluminum. This was to have far reaching consequences. The main bearings were of the solid cheese variety which relied on the different expansion components, crankcase and block, out of aluminum to hold the bearing in position. By making both components, crankcase and block, out of aluminum, this process no longer worked, and the bearings suffered bearing problems when hot. The solution to this was to make bearings tighter, which meant the engine could not function properly until it was warm, necessitating preheated engine oil and water. The chassis was a conventional tubular ladder type, similar to the Aston Martin DB3S, with de Dion rear suspension and trailing links and torsion bars to the front. The final drive was a larger (8.23 inch) development of that on the DB3S, and the brakes used Alfin Drums, which where again larger. The body work also resembled the DB3S, although it was larger with a wheel base of 8 to 4 inches and featured a three part grill initially, which was later revised. The whole vehicle weighed 2,513 Lbs . This project was given a code DP115, which was chassis reference DP 115/1 and 2, with a third spare chassis being built but not used. A number of engines were built, DP/100/1 to DP/100/6? The maiden outing was Silverstone in May 1954 when Reg Parnell took DP 115/1 to 5th place despite oil pressure problems. DP 115/1 crashed at Le Mans in June the same year, after achieving 148.27 mph on the Mulsanne Straight. Reg Parnell achieved 4th place in DP 115/2 at Silverstone in July. This was the Legonda’s best result. According to John Wyers account in “Racing with David Brown Aston Matins”, DP 115/1 was given a new chassis frame, believed to be DP 115/3 at the end of 1954 while the damaged to the rear body was repaired. In 1955 there was a suggestion that many of the components from DP 115/1 as well as the engine and transmission were built in to DP 166/1, which had a more modern space frame chassis and disc brakes, and the body discarded, ending up in Coleys West London yard. The only race that the revised car DP 166/1 completed in was the 1955 Le Mans, when it retired after 93 laps having run out of fuel, apparently due to a wrongly fitted and leaking fuel cap. Subsequently, the chassis frame from DP 166/1 was stripped, and the components reassembled into 115/3 with a new body and this and DP 115 /2 were refurbished for the film Checkpoint. The fate of the body from DP 116 , which differed from the others in that the whole front end lifted to allow access to the engine , does not appear to have been recorded though it would not be unreasonable to assume that it formed the basis of the replacement fitted to DP 115/3 . Both cars at the time unregistered with the local authorities according to Fred Hobbs in his book “A life with HWM” were purchased by HWM along with the spares. They were then given Surrey registration numbers and were offered for sale by them in 1956, since when they have been in possession of the current owner. Of the (5?) engines known to have been built two are in the cars referred to in this history and a third is known to have been in a Jenson 541. As to the discarded body from DP 115/1 this was rescued in 1955 from Coleys by Colin Mason of Berkhamstead and used in the creation of his special based on a Tojerio chassis, which still survives. The present owner of 677 DAR ( T Mc Whirter) has constructed a DP 115 Special using the body shell and the 541 engine( reworked and reengineered by Crosswaite and Gardner) along with some spares , mounted on a new chassis frame made to the original drawings . LB 290 /1/157 registered WKX 428 was manufactured by Lagonda in 1955 as a two door roadster in Tudor Grey, and was delivered to AE Railton, Works Director of Messer’s Ideal Capsules Ltd in Edinburgh Avenue Slough on the 19th August 1955. The car was subsequently purchased by Dr Henry Fry a prominent 1950’s sports car racing driver. Dr Fry was a highly respected Florida dentist, a founding member and life member and past President of the Miami Sorts Car Club (MSCC); a charter and Life member and past regional Vice President of the Sports Car Club of America SCCA, a prominent and successful sports car racing and rally driver and most significantly 2nd place winner (in class) of the 1958 Sebring Grand Prix Endurance. Dr Fry (who was already looking for a DB3S car as early as December 1955 having looked into the possibility of buying a car direct from the factory) acquired LB 290 in 1956 and commissioned John Tojerio who was familiar with Aston Martin and Lagonda cars (having built several specials using components provided by Aston Martin) to build him a two seater sports racing car for SCCA “C” sanctioned sports car races (Class C Sports 3000cc to 5000cc class C production 2700 to 3500 cc, Class C includes Jaguars, Maserati’s, Corvettes and T – Birds. In addition many Specials powered by Chevrolet and Ford engines fall in this class) in the USA. Tojerio who was originally commissioned to rebuild the burnt out wreck DP 101/30 (which was heavily crashed and burnt out while driven by the then owner/ driver Simon Plunkett in 1956 at the B.R.S.C.C. Brands Hatch meeting) which was subsequently deemed uneconomic to repair ;used the remaining intact components ( apart from the engine which was retained and eventually transferred to DB3S/4 with DP101/32 being replaced by this unit 130) along with useful parts that could be utilized off LB290 on a new chassis, using the identity of Dr Fry’s Lagonda car.

Built to sports car, SCCA Class C sanctioned events in the USA. Tojerio used the same designed chassis as DP 101/30 being a conventional tubular ladder type, with de Dion rear suspension with longitudinal torsion bars, located with watts linkage a five speed ZF gearbox in unit with the engine .The final drive was a large 8.23 inch and modern Girling disc brakes where incorporated , replacing the old Alfin drums. Henry Fry decided to keep the registration of HNR1 for his US registration , at the same time WKX 428 remained the UK registration of the car , HNR1( as a UK registration) being eventually transferred as the registration to DB3S/4 in 1957 from its old registration UXC999. The car was tested and possibly raced in the UK before being transported over to the USA where it had a successful 1950’s career in SCCA sanctioned races. Henry Fry ran the car under “Henry Fry Race One “hence his US registration HNR1. At this point the histories of DP101/30 and LB290 became intertwined with DP101/30 taking on a new life in SCCA races under the chassis number LB290. The car was successful in races through out the USA and was a regular entrant at the Miami sports car races and Daytona sports car races in the late 1950’s which was Henry Fry’s home track. LB290 raced most of the major circuits in the USA including Lime Rock, Watkins Glenn and Bridgehampton to name a few east coast circuits. By all accounts the car met with some modest success in SCCA National sanctioned events. Picture of the car being tested on the first page, by British driver Tony Everard after the Tojerio rebuild in late 1956.
Lagonda_1955 BARC
Car competing at the 1955 B.A.R.C. members Goodwood event with Tony Everard driving, which it won with an average speed of 76.31MPH .