Pre-war racing specials are part of the very fabric of motoring in the UK and each represents the unique story of a car and the people that built and developed it. These specials were common during the pre-war period as factory single seaters were rare and expensive, so people looked to the cars with the most potential for speed and handling to convert. An obvious choice for this conversion was the Lagonda Rapier with its twin overhead camshaft 4-cylinder engine, displacing 1,104cc and breathing through twin SU carburettors. In this original set up it would rev comfortably to 5,500rpm and had a top speed of 75mph. These cars also ran an ENV 4-speed pre-selector transmission and featured 13” diameter Girling brakes which also added to their appeal for racers.
Lagonda Rapier RSU 278 offered exclusively here at Autostorico was reconstructed from a dismantled state in 1989, and fitted with an Eagle Replica body constructed by Geoff Henderson. It is a well-made and accurate copy of the bodies made by Newns of Thames Ditton. It was part of a large collection of Rapiers, many in bits, owned by Elliot Elder, who died at quite a young age. His collection was dispersed and this car was reassembled by Brian Fidler, who had several Rapiers. The Rapier Register has comprehensive records of all cars, however this car was re-registered as all records were lost when it was taken apart.
Considerable attention was paid to getting the car as close as possible to original, so the under-bonnet layout is authentic, as is the gearbox (ENV75 – close ratio), and rear axle (ENV, with high-ratio differential). Brakes are standard Girling.
It is fitted with a 1500cc engine with Jaguar Con rods, so it is strong and powerful. The rear axle was recently rebuilt with new CWP and bearings, and improved oil seals and breathers. The track rod/tiller rod ends were also replaced. It has five nearly new Blockley tyres on nearly new MWS wheels. The Rapier also features a hood that packs away in the rear.
The car has good performance and has twice won its class on handicap at Prescott hill climb. It has been taken to France several times, including to the Chanteloup hill climb, and Angoulême where it took part in the street racing. It was always driven there and back, and was totally reliable. It has also been raced in the UK.
In experienced hands this racing Rapier is competitive, with the advantage of being a tractable road car.
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