1963 Aston Martin Lagonda Rapide
No. 53 of only 55 made; few owners, the current since 2003; over £115k spent on restoration including rebuilt engine and uprated ZF 4-speed gearbox; interesting history; matching numbers; a lovely example of this rare and aristocratic Aston
The Lagonda Rapide was very much the personal project of Aston Martin boss, David Brown, who loved the idea of a luxury saloon that he would enjoy driving as much as being driven in. Most unusually he even put his own face on the brochure for the car, stating that: "We wished to create something which should, from the outset, invade the future audaciously and set such an advanced standard of mechanical perfection, beauty of form and all-round performance, that no other car would compare with it."
Unveiled in 1961 after three long years in development, the Rapide was a truly bespoke motorcar that was hand-built to order, no two cars being exactly alike. Effectively a four-door version of the outstanding DB4 but with a DB5 engine, it shared the same platform as the DB4, extended by 16" and reconfigured by Harold Beach to allow for DB5-style De Dion suspension and a spacious rear passenger compartment. As with the DB5, it was clothed in lightweight Superleggera magnesium aluminium alloy coachwork by Touring of Milan.
Powered by a 4.0 236bhp version of the Tadek Marek-designed twin-cam six that would also power the DB5, the Rapide certainly lived up to its name, sprinting to 60mph in 8.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 130mph. Borg Warner three-speed automatic transmission came as standard, although eight cars were ordered in four-speed manual form, DB5-style triple carbs being another option which added some 25bhp to the power output.
Dual circuit, servo assisted disc brakes ensured sportscar stopping power, while fittings to the ‘gentleman’s club’ interior included electric windows, picnic tables to the rear, Wilton carpets, remote fuel filler flap opening and a Motorola radio as standard.
Costing some £5,000 when new, the Rapide was 25% more expensive than a DB4 and well over twice the price of a Jaguar MkX or an E-Type so ownership was restricted to a privileged few. Just 55 examples were made before production came to an end in 1964, of which 47 are thought to survive.
As copies of the original factory build sheets confirm, this particular car is the third from last of the 55 made and was built to order for aircraft manufacturer, Hawker Siddeley. Originally Aegean Blue with a Fawn Connolly hide interior, it was delivered on 19th December 1963 with the registration number 1077 PP (a transferable number it retains to this day) and is believed to have been the personal car of Hawker Siddeley Group Chairman and Managing Director, Sir Arnold Hall (1915 – 2000).
One of the outstanding aeronautical engineers of his generation, Hall pioneered gyro-electric gun sights for RAF fighters which doubled their ‘kill rate’ in World War Two, designed the compressor for Frank Whittle’s first jet engine and chaired the Anglo-French research group that developed the supersonic engines for Concorde. Hall came to public prominence in 1954 when his brilliant detective work finally identified the design flaws responsible for fatal crashes by the De Havilland Comet jet airliner, being rewarded with a knighthood later that year.
A green logbook shows that by November 1974 ownership of 1077 PP had transferred to motor traders Sanders & Co of Hendon, NW4, from whom it was acquired by Nicholas Channing of Surrey in September the following year. Already the owner of another Rapide (chassis number 46), Channing was to keep the car until July 1984 when he sold it to Robert McNab of Kensington, W14, at which point an old MOT shows that it had covered just over 80,000 miles. McNab kept the car for 19 years but barely used it, selling it to the current owner in August 2003.
In 2004/05 the car was handed over to Graham Whitehouse Autos of Halesowen to get it in roadworthy condition, invoices showing that some £12,000 was spent on various jobs including an overhaul of the braking system with new discs and pads all round, much work to the suspension and the electrics, a thorough engine tune and a stainless steel exhaust. Most significantly, it was fitted with a more modern ZF 4HP22 four-speed automatic gearbox in place of the original three-speed unit, a well-known conversion in Aston Martin circles and which transforms the driving experience.
Living in Central London and with nowhere to store the car, the vendor loaned it to motoring journalist Martin Buckley, who was to use it frequently and often wrote about it in Classic & Sportscar magazine. The car clocked up around 9,000 miles over the next six years (taking the total to 90,650) before the decision was taken to treat it to the more extensive restoration that it now required. To this end it was entrusted to Cotswold Classic Car Restorations of Cirencester for a stem-to-stern refurbishment while retaining as much originality as possible.
A thick file of bills shows that over £60,000 was spent on the car between 2011 and 2014, including a bare metal repaint in Dubonnet Rosso, a full engine rebuild (new pistons, liners, bearings etc), a sympathetic refurbishment of the interior, new windscreen plus a host of other improvements too detailed to list in full here, the whole process also being recorded in photographs on file.
In 2016 another £7,500 was spent at Aston specialist Desmond Smail, which included a full overhaul of the braking system with reconditioned calipers, new pads, new hoses, rebuilt master cylinder etc. It also received new suspension bushes, new steering rack mounts and various other minor jobs to address issues thrown up by the MOT.
In October 2019 at 91,174 miles the torque converter developed a fault so both that and the ZF gearbox were rebuilt by Graham Waterhouse at a cost of £5,481. The vendor estimates that well over £115,000 has been spent on the car during his 18-year ownership with invoices to show most of the work plus records of other expenditure for which the invoices have gone astray.
Flying through its MOT in April this year with just a couple of advisories, the car has been starting promptly and running nicely as we have moved it around on site, with a sweet-sounding engine and healthy 60psi oil pressure. As you can see in the photos, it remains in generally good order throughout and has covered only a few hundred miles since the engine rebuild so it will need a period of careful running in before the performance is exploited to the full.
On offer here at a fraction of the price of a comparable DB5, this graceful matching numbers motorcar, with few owners and a known history from new, is ready to embark on the next chapter of its interesting life to date.
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email [email protected]
* All charges are subject to VAT