A rare 1939 Lagonda V12 Team Car will be among the highlights at the upcoming Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on 29 June. The car which was born out of the desire of a pair of enthusiastic Lords to spend a newly-acquired fortune to go racing at the Le Mans 24-Hours Endurance Race will go under the hammer at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival sale on 15 September. It is estimated to fetch in excess of £1 million at the auction.
Funded by 26-year-old Lord Selsdon's newly-acquired £65,000 inheritance, close friends Selsdon and Lord Waleran brought the car home in the fourth place on their 1939 race debut. The event, which took place from 17 - 18 June 1939, was to be the last at Le Mans until 1949, due to the outbreak of WWII.
Selsdon was persuaded to finance the car's build and entry by 34-year-old Eton and Trinity College Oxford graduate Waleran, who was a keen Lagonda enthusiast. Neither had raced before, and they used the journey to Le Mans as the sole test and running-in for the car, which bore the number 6.
"In this day of ultra-professional race outfits, it is hard to look back and imagine a time in history when two friends with some money to spare could get in a sports car and go racing - and at Le Mans of all places. But they and others did, and were known as 'Gentlemen Drivers'," James Knight, Group Motoring Director at Bonhams stated.
Bonhams mentioned on its website that after its Le Mans debut, the car was entered for the following August Bank Holiday Brooklands race meeting, the last ever at the track. Driven by Lord Selsdon and now numbered 5, it crossed the line in the second place.
After Brooklands Lord Selsdon went on to take part in a number of other races, including winning the next Le Mans 24 Hours in 1949 in a Ferrari 166MM, alongside co-driver Luigi Chinetti.
Lord Waleran went on to serve with distinction in WWII, gaining the rank of wing commander in the RAF volunteer reserve, and being mentioned in despatches. Previous to his one-time race experience, he had links to the Devon area, and had served as assistant private secretary to the Governor-General of New Zealand between 1927 and 1930.
At the outbreak of war, the chassis was stored opposite the Lagonda factory in Staines, near London, where it lay undisturbed until, in 1944, a V-1 'Doodlebug' flying bomb fell close by. However, it emerged from the blast relatively undamaged, avoiding the ensuing fire.
After this near-miss the car returned the workshop, where it was restored to running order.
Since the war, the car has resided in a number of prominent collections, and it is offered for sale in excellent working order.
Only two such cars were ever built, and Bonhams sold the sister Le Mans entry, 'Number 5', at their Goodwood Revival sale in 2002.