Lagonda V12 Le Mans Works Team Car

This Lagonda V12 is the 1939 Le Mans class winner.

“I want to take the V12 to Le Mans next year.” Those were probably the words of Lagonda chairman Alan Good when he stormed into the office of his technical director Walter Owen Bentley just before Christmas in 1938. Bentley then had six months to build a racing car equipped with the new twelve-cylinder Lagonda engine. “It will be impossible to win. We’ll just try to finish the race; we can win next year”, he retorted.

Bentley altered the V12, increasing maximum power from 180 hp to 206. He reduced the weight by using lighter steel and by drilling holes in the frame, covering them with aluminium discs. The car was given the race-number 5, hence its nickname ‘Old Number 5’.

Arthur Dobson and Charles Brackenbury made up the team. Dobson started well but was outclassed by the French Bugattis and Delages. Around four o’clock in the morning the Lagonda was in sixth position, but eventually advanced to third position behind Gerard/Monneret’s Delage and Wimille/Veyron’s Bugatti; the Lagonda held that position until the finish. A privately owned sister car finished fourth. However, ‘Old Number 5’ did win its class. The car covered 239 laps, a distance of 3,220 kilometres, at an average speed of 133km/h. It was officially clocked at 223 km/h on the 5 kilometer long Mulsanne Straight.

The following year, in 1940, war broke out and Le Mans was not run. After the war the Lagondas were sold to Charles Brackenbury. ‘Old Number 5’ had a few more owners before it was acquired by the Louwman Museum.

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