13th Mar, 2024 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Lot 132

1935 Lagonda Rapier de Clifford Special
Reputedly one of seven survivors (from c.10 made)

Sold for £58,500

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: CGH 602
Chassis No: D11033
MOT: Exempt

  • Current family ownership since 1966
  • Pleasingly, thought to retain its original John Charles & Co coachwork and engine
  • A true automotive unicorn
  • Among a tiny number of ‘de Clifford Specials’ subsequently made
  • Reputedly one of Seven survivors (from circa ten made)

PLEASE NOTE: Since the catalogue went to press we have been contacted by the Rapier Register who have kindly pointed out the following inaccuracies: “As you can read in the excellent tome (Twin-Cam Extravagance by Chris Wiblin) published in 2021, a new company called Dobson's and de Clifford Ltd was set up in 1934 with Cyril Dobson (not Charles) and Edward Southwell Russell, 26th Baron de Clifford (a different person from racing driver Freddie Clifford) as joint directors. They intended to market a de Clifford Special Lagonda Rapier with varying degrees of tuning for racing, trials or road-use. In practice, they produced ten de Clifford Specials in 1934/5. The first to be completed, with a body by E J Newnes, was driven by Lord de Clifford and Charles Brackenbury in the 1934 le Mans 24-hour race. A further six, like this example, had a John Charles-built two-seater body with a distinctive fin on the tail. Just three of these are known to survive with their original bodywork intact, two in the UK and one which has been overseas for many years”.

Introduced at the 1933 Olympia Motor Show, the Lagonda Rapier was intended to capitalise on the growing market for small capacity sports cars. Although based around a conventional ladder-frame chassis complete with all-round semi-elliptic leaf-sprung suspension and four-wheel Girling 13-inch drum brakes, the newcomer boasted a highly advanced engine. The work of consultant Thomas 'Tim' Ashcroft the 1104cc four-cylinder unit utilised twin overhead camshafts to produce a quoted 50bhp @ 5,400rpm. Praised by the contemporary motoring press for its performance, refinement and agility, the model was supplied in bare chassis guise only and bodied via the likes of E.D. Abbott, John Charles, Maltby and E.J. Newns. Prohibitively expensive to manufacture, the Rapier was dropped when the Staines firm went into administration during 1935. Convinced that the reborn Lagonda (LG Motors Ltd) had made a mistake, Tim Ashcroft, William Oates and Nevil Brockelbank secured the rights to the small capacity sports car shortly thereafter. Operating as Rapier Cars Ltd of Hammersmith they contributed a further 46 cars to the total production tally of 470 before closing their doors in 1938.

Entering the historical narrative of the Lagonda Rapier, Edward Southwell Russell, also known as the 26th Baron de Clifford, Lord Clifford or Lord Freddie De Clifford, was very much a motoring enthusiast, he first competed with a Lagonda in 1929 winning a Gold Medal in the London to Exeter Trial, before attempting the Monte Carlo Rally in 1931, the RAC Rally in 1934. Based in Staines not far from the Lagonda factory, Charles Dobson & Lord de Clifford Ltd were appointed marque concessionaires during 1934. Choosing to focus on the Rapier, the new concern put themselves on the map so to speak by entering a pared back two-seater version for that year’s Le Mans 24-hours. Driven by Charles Brackenbury and Lord de Clifford it took the chequered flag in a highly impressive 16th place overall (and may well have finished higher had the engine not dropped down to three cylinders for the final few hours). “A two-seat prototype of the new Lagonda Rapier, it was fitted with a short-crankshaft 1080cc and an over-sized 82-litre fuel tank.” Spurring 2017, p.169

Among a tiny number of ‘de Clifford Specials’ subsequently made. Charles Dobson & Lord de Clifford Ltd are believed to have offered three states of tune for owners, normal, sporting and full race. These were to be the series of cars – a short lived run, of course - marketed as de Clifford Specials. Come 1935, under the management of Alan Good, the Rapier was discontinued and with it, the end of chassis and component supply and thus an abrupt end to the de Clifford Specials. Some sources suggest there were only ten of which Seven have survived including the Le Mans entry de Clifford Rapier. Chassis D11033 was first registered in London as ‘CGH 602’ on 4th September 1935. Pleasingly retaining what is thought to be its original John Charles & Co coachwork complete with raked windscreen, prominent tail fin and flowing wings, the handsome two-seater is further understood to remain in possession of its factory-fitted engine and include De-Clifford modifications such as 1 1/4 bronze SU carbs ( Standard were 1 1/8) and a 21 slat radiator grill ( standard was 24). It is also believed this example has an enlarged header tank and “special" intake manifold.

Surviving World War Two, an accompanying continuation logbook issued to Robert Speer Esq of Tavistock Road, London, on 3rd September 1963 indicates that ‘CGH 602’ may not have left London until three years later when it entered the current, Staffordshire-based family ownership. Garage proprietors at the time, they have cherished the ‘de Clifford Special’ for almost six decades. Well-known to The Rapier Register, the green-hued machine participated in the ‘Parade des Pilotes’ at the 2004 Le Mans 24-hours and has been a frequent visitor to Lagonda Club and VSCC events throughout the UK and Europe (a Brittany Ferries still adorns its rear as does a quick-release fuel filler cap). We are also told that 'CGH 602' had been invited by Aston Martin to Brooklands’ Centenary Festival in 2007 and the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklands Race Track, re-enacting the 1907 opening parade.

Off the road for the past five years or so, ‘CGH 602’ is not currently in running order and will require recommissioning prior to use. Presenting as an older restoration (including circa 1960s sportscar seats), this rare as hen’s teeth Rapier is surely worthy of another long-term custodian. Offered for sale with V5C Registration Document, continuation logbook, handwritten journal and sundry paperwork. A wonderful opportunity to own an automotive unicorn!

For more information, please contact:
James McWilliam
07943 584760


All successful bids must be paid in full by midday the day after the auction at the latest.

You can collect your new pride and joy from our venue until 1pm the day following the sale or our partners are on hand to help arrange safe transportation:


Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 13th Mar, 2024

An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held at the iconic and visually stunning Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Venue Details 

To enquire about entering your classic or performance car into the auction please call our sales office on 01925 210035, email sales@HandH.co.uk or click here: Enter Your Classic Motorcar 

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Tues 12th March from 12pm
Wed 13th March from 9am

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