The 1939 Lagonda V-12 Sedanca Coupé & A Proper SunbeamTuesday, May 19, 2009
Last Saturday Rebecca told me,”I want to go to the English car show at VanDusen.” Anything that Rebecca might be interested in that is out of the normal for a girl her age I applaud. Rosemary, Lauren, Rebecca and I went to the show. We were unaware that the show was going to close at 4 when we got there at 3:15. The first cars we looked at were the Morgans. There were 55 of them including three, three wheelers!
Because the show was going to close I told Rebecca, “Let’s go to see the best car here. I knew exactly were to go. I went to the upper area of the garden where they usually display the Lagondas. I was looking for Liz Haan and Bill Holt’s maroon 1939 Lagonda V-12 Sedanca Coupé. This car won the best in its Lagonda Class at Pebble Beach in 1999. It is perfect. Some years ago I had taken my young daughter Ale to see Ed Aveling’s convertible and supercharged Auburn. Ale looked at the car and said, “Daddy why don’t new cars look as new as this one?” If Ale had been with us she would have said the same thing about the maroon Lagonda.
Lagondas are rare cars because few were made. The Holt/Haan Lagonda is especially rare. Consider that it was specially ordered by the King of England in early 1936 and by the time it was delivered to him in New York in 1939 he was the Duke of Windsor. After the war the car exchanged many hands and ended up as property of the wife of a man who owned a North Vancouver car dealership. It was in a terrible condition and it could not be driven.
The maroon Lagonda that Rebecca and I inspected was spotless. We showed interest and in particular I was staring at the beautiful running boards with the chrome strips. Bill Holt came up to us and opened the trunk. He opened a beautiful case lined in green billiard felt. In it was what looked like a brand new tool kit. Holt told us, “I searched through Europe for a year to complete this.” Since Holt is a retired psychiatrist I was not about to question his unusual obsession.
Lagondas are unusual in many ways. The body of the maroon Sedanca is of aluminum laid on an ash chassis. The engine and its racing package was installed in 2 Lagondas (much lighter than this car’s 5000 pounds) that ran in the 1938 Le Mans. I asked Holt if the Duchess would have sat in the back seat. “No, she would have been in the front as the Duke drove the car.” I asked Liz Haan if she ever drove it . “I sometimes do but it is almost impossible for me to park it.” Of course the Lagonda has no power assisted steering.
From the Lagonda Rebecca took me to see a lineup of Sunbeams, Sunbeam Alpines and Sunbeam Tigers. Rebecca was attracted to the plain Sunbeams (not plain at all) and properly called “Proper Sunbeams”! The light blue one you see here has an interesting story. A car exactly like it and in the same colour was driven by Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief. I did not pursue with Rebecca the Sunbeam Alpine that caught my eye. It was red with a black top. The owner confirmed my suspicions. “Yes it is exactly like the one Elizabeth Taylor drove to her death in Butterfield 8, Daniel Mann’s 1960 film with Lawrence Harvey and Eddie Fisher. The scene where Taylor grinds the heel of her pumps into the front of Harvey’s shoe is a scene that I have never forgotten for its implied pain and eroticism. Rebecca will have to wait a few years before we see that film together.
I do apologize to Bill Holt and Liz Haan for my photographic travesty of their beautiful car. I simply spent too much time on the unusual running boards. Perhaps the next time I just might get a bit more of it. This situation reminded me of one of which I wrote here.