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.