Lagonda Lean

Lagonda Lean

The Aston Martin Lagonda first entered production in 1974, and was designed to be one of the most revolutionary cars ever built, but being revolutionary was something Aston Martin should have had as far off their minds as possible!

When the car was launched, the company had just recovered from bankruptcy, and logically should have been playing things safe to try and recover their losses. But instead, what they did was design a car that was to be the cutting edge of automotive technology.

Designed by William Towns, the intention was to make a car that was so low and smoothly streamlined as was humanly possible. The result was a car that was so low that even when I was kneeling down next to this example it was still lower than me! Although such examples of cars are commonplace amongst Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s, this car is neither, it’s a 4-door luxury limousine, not a two-door supercar!

But the problems with the Lagonda weren’t just about its low styled body, internally the car was like a substation! To try and be cutting edge, Aston Martin designed the car to be digital in every conceivable way. All readings on the Dashboard were displayed with LED’s rather than analogue needles, and everything was controlled by push-buttons, the kind you’d find on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise!

However, cutting edge does not always guarantee outright success, and the poorly made wiring inside the car meant that none of the electrics ever worked. The problem was then compounded by the fact that fitting the electrics to the car in the first place cost 4 times more than the budget of the entire car! The result was that when the first Lagonda left the factory a year late and thousands of Pounds over budget, the car was simply undrivable because of its faulty electrics.

And just to top off what could already be described as an insanely reckless car, the price tag for it was £50,000. Aston Martin were certainly being optimistic with that price tag, probably expecting to make a fortune off of their angular wonderchild. However, they had forgotten to note that there had just been an oil crisis and the idea of driving a £50,000 car powered by a gas-guzzling 5.3L V8 engine didn’t exactly ring everyone’s bells! The result was that Aston Martin only made 645 of these cars during its 16 year construction run, and not one of them made their money back!

So, Aston Martin, cash strapped and barely working, decided to make a car that had an outrageous design, outrageous electrics, an outrageous price tag and an outrageous engine, and expected to make a profit?

Today, many look back on the Lagonda as one of the most abysmal failures of automotive history, frequently popping up on ‘Worst cars ever made’ lists with other ambitious cars of that era such as the Rolls Royce Camargue. But today there is something of a cult following for these curious and crazy …

1982 Rolls Royce Camargue

1982 Rolls Royce Camargue

What you’re looking at here is the Rolls Royce Camargue, very much the Rolls Royce that time forgot. What can you even say about it? It’s one of the most iconic automotive failures in history, and certainly a car that Rolls Royce fans are always very quick to wince at when I mention it at RREC conventions.

So where did this curious car come from? To truly understand this mighty machine you need to go back to 1969, where a massive change in the image and style of the world was starting to hold sway. In the world of autos, the curvature of the 1950’s and early 60’s was giving way to the angles of the 1970’s, the decade that gave us the ‘Wedge’ sportsers and boxy saloon cars.

Rolls Royce, who at this point were building three cars, the Phantom VI, the Silver Shadow, and the Silver Shadow Two-Door Saloon (later to be known as the Corniche), were looking for a new design that would drastically alter its image from that of the Shadow. Originally, the intention was to use their new brainchild to replace the Two-Door Saloon, but due to financial difficulty within the Rolls Royce company, later followed by bankruptcy after the RB211 Jet Engine project, the company chose instead to save costs and rebrand it as the Corniche instead.

For their new car, Rolls Royce chose not to have it designed in-house like previous models, but went for the first time to Pininfarina of Italy. Throughout the remainder of 1969 the company toyed with many sketches, until in 1970 a final design was chosen and given the go by the Rolls Royce management, with the intention for a launch in either late 1972 or early 1973. Within the company, the project was dubbed "Delta", but was later changed to DY20, with ‘D’ signifying Delta, ‘Y’ signifying it was based on the SY (Silver Shadow) platform, and ’20’ shortened from 120 which was the car’s wheelbase of 120 inches.

But as mentioned, following the amount of money poured into the new Rolls Royce RB211 Jet Engine Project for the Lockheed Tristar, the company was bankrupt as of the 4th February 1971. The result was that the Motor Car Division, whose future now rested in the hands of the Official Receiver, had to look closely at all aspects of the business. This led to the splitting of the Rolls Royce company, with Rolls Royce Motors Ltd. being founded and placed under the ownership of Vickers, whilst the bankrupt Rolls Royce Ltd. was nationalised.

During this turbulent period, the DY20 project was closely scrutinised and the Receiver gave the go-ahead to commence the project, but following a critical review of the engineering specification for the car, a decision was taken to delay the launch date until 1975.

With development continuing, HJ Mulliner Park Ward, who already built the bodies for the Corniche, were chosen to manufacture the bodies of the DY20 project. In the summer of 1972, the first …

1973 MG MGB GT

1973 MG MGB GT

Oh the MGB, the last great British Sports car?

A motor that refused to die even though British Leyland simply couldn’t stop messing around with it. The MGB is an example of a car that went from one of the most loved and lovable cars in British motoring, to what many describe as an empty husk broken and bent for legislation purposes. But the MGB would have its way in the end!

The story behind the MGB begins in 1962, when the car was designed to incorporate an innovative, modern style utilizing a monocoque structure instead of the traditional body-on-frame construction used on both the MGA and MG T-types and the MGB’s rival, the Triumph TR series. However components such as brakes and suspension were developments of the earlier 1955 MGA with the B-Series engine having its origins in 1947. The lightweight design reduced manufacturing costs while adding to overall vehicle strength. Wind-up windows were standard, and a comfortable driver’s compartment offered plenty of legroom. A parcel shelf was fitted behind the seats.

The car was powered by a BMC B-Series engine, producing 95hp and giving the car a 0-60 of 11 seconds, perhaps not the briskest acceleration, but of course this car was more a comfy little cruiser, ambling about the countryside in sedate fashion admiring the views. The MGB was also one of the first cars to feature controlled crumple zones designed to protect the driver and passenger in a 30 mph impact with an immovable barrier (200 ton).

The roadster was the first of the MGB range to be produced. The body was a pure two-seater but a small rear seat was a rare option at one point. By making better use of space the MGB was able to offer more passenger and luggage accommodation than the earlier MGA while 3 inches shorter overall. The suspension was also softer, giving a smoother ride, and the larger engine gave a slightly higher top speed. The four-speed gearbox was an uprated version of the one used in the MGA with an optional (electrically activated) overdrive transmission. Wheel diameter dropped from 15 to 14 inches.

Upon its launch the MGB was given almost unanimous acclaim, largely due to its advanced and innovative design combined with its beautifully and sleek styling. Previous sports cars of the same calibre had always been levied with a reputation for their ropey nature, with a majority of previous models being simply remodelled versions of the MG’s and Triumphs that dated back to the end of and in some cases even before World War II. But the MG was different, and if I’m honest, a large part of its appeal is due to its small, low body, and it’s poky round headlights that make it look rather cute. It’s the kind of car you could give a name, preferably a girl’s one. Either way, the MGB sold in hundreds, disappearing off to all corners of the globe, touring the South of France, storming across the deserts …

Triumph Spitfire Mk I Roadster (1962)

Triumph Spitfire Mk I Roadster (1962)

The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries during and after the Second World War. The Spitfire was built in many variants, using several wing configurations, and was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. It was also the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. The Spitfire continues to be a popular aircraft, with approximately 55 Spitfires being airworthy, while many more are static exhibits in aviation museums all over the world.

The Spitfire was designed as a short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft by R. J. Mitchell, chief designer at Supermarine Aviation Works (which operated as a subsidiary of Vickers-Armstrong from 1928). In accordance with its role as an interceptor, Mitchell designed the Spitfire’s distinctive elliptical wing to have the thinnest possible cross-section; this thin wing enabled the Spitfire to have a higher top speed than several contemporary fighters, including the Hawker Hurricane. Mitchell continued to refine the design until his death from cancer in 1937, whereupon his colleague Joseph Smith took over as chief designer, overseeing the development of the Spitfire through its multitude of variants.

During the Battle of Britain (July–October 1940), the Spitfire was perceived by the public to be the RAF fighter, though the more numerous Hawker Hurricane shouldered a greater proportion of the burden against the Luftwaffe. However, because of its higher performance, Spitfire units had a lower attrition rate and a higher victory-to-loss ratio than those flying Hurricanes.

After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire superseded the Hurricane to become the backbone of RAF Fighter Command, and saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and the South-East Asian theatres. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire served in several roles, including interceptor, photo-reconnaissance, fighter-bomber and trainer, and it continued to serve in these roles until the 1950s. The Seafire was a carrier-based adaptation of the Spitfire which served in the Fleet Air Arm from 1942 through to the mid-1950s. Although the original airframe was designed to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine producing 1,030 hp (768 kW), it was strong enough and adaptable enough to use increasingly powerful Merlin and, in later marks, Rolls-Royce Griffon engines producing up to 2,340 hp (1,745 kW); as a consequence of this the Spitfire’s performance and capabilities improved, sometimes dramatically, over the course of its life.

Mk V (Types 331, 349 & 352)

Spitfire LF.Mk VB, BL479, flown by Group Captain M.W.S Robinson, station commander of RAF Northolt, August 1943. This Spitfire has the wide bladed Rotol propeller, the internal armoured windscreen and "clipped" wings.
Late in 1940, the RAF predicted that the advent of the pressurised Junkers Ju 86P bomber series over Britain would be the start of a new sustained high altitude bombing offensive by the Luftwaffe, in which case development was put in hand for a pressurised version of the Spitfire, with a new version of the Merlin (the Mk VI). It would take …

Ford Model T Touring 1914 (8367)

Ford Model T Touring 1914 (8367)

Manufacturer: Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan – U.S.A.
Type: Model T Touring
Engine: 2896cc straight-4
Power: 22 bhp / 1.600 rpm
Speed: 72 km/h
Production time: 1908 – 1927
Production outlet: 15,458,781
Curb weight: 750 kg

– On October 1, 1908, the company introduced the successful Ford Model T (also known as Tin Lizzie, Tin Lizzy, T‑Model Ford, Model T, or T), designed by Childe Harold Wills, Joseph A. Galamb and Eugene Farkas,
– At first assembled in Piquette plant and from 1910 in the Highland Park plant.
– It was Fords first mass production car (instead of individual hand crafting). The chassis was drawn by workers on a carriage trough the factory. Later, the sleds were replaced by carts on rails and mechanically drawn ("electric lines").
– This was not the first production line with completely interchangeable parts ever (that was Olds Motor Works, Lansing, Michigan – USA with the Model R Curved Dash), but it was the first time an entire plant worked with this system.
– The bodies were still to 1919 from other manufacturers, notably OJ Beaudette and Kelsey.
– It was Americas first automobile with standard left hand steering, while driving on the right was "the right way".
– The ignition system used an unusual trembler coil system to drive the spark plugs (used only for stationary gas engines) but made the T more flexible to use a range of fuels, like gasoline, kerosene or ethanol.
– The Ts in-line engine was the first engine with a removable cylinder head.
– The transmission is a standard two-speed planetary unit with a magneto located in front of the flywheel. This magneto supplied ignition current generated in a set of stationary coils.
– One had to have special driving techniques in order to keep the planetary gearing under control. So in many States you needed an extra / special driver’s licence.
– The early models had a foot-operated transmission brake and hand-operated rear wheel mechanical drum brakes.
– An option were the "Rocky Mountain Brakes", additional external band brakes only on the rear axle.
– The parking brake works on the tie rods to the drum brakes on the rear axle.
– The suspension employed a transversely mounted semi-elliptical spring for each of the front and rear beam axles which allowed a great deal of wheel movement to cope with the dirt roads of the time.
– The Model T’s built prior to 1919 were supplied with non-demountable wheels. This meant that if a flat tire occurred, the tire had to be removed from the rim and a new tube installed. In 1919, demountable wheels were available which allowed for a spare rim with the tire attached to be carried.
– The wheels were wooden artillery wheels with pneumatic clincher type tires, with steel welded-spoke wheels available in 1926 and 1927.
– Balloon tires with steel wires reinforcing the tire bead became available in 1925.
– Henry Ford: “Any customer can have a car painted any …