Lot 48 (Imperial War Museum Duxford, 18th March 2020)
Sold for £204,750
(including buyers premium)
Registration No: GPH 299
Chassis No: 12318
According to the Hon. Registrar of The Lagonda Club Mr Arnold Davey, chassis number 12318 was supplied new to HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. A factory-bodied Drophead Coupe built on the short (127.5in) wheelbase, it was issued with the Surrey registration number ‘GPH 299’ on 7th May 1938. Born in Germany, university educated in Switzerland and working in Paris before his marriage to Princess Juliana of the Netherlands during 1937, Prince Bernhard assumed Dutch citizenship that same year. An ‘international jetsetter’ before the phrase had been coined, he had a love of fast cars owning over sixty during his lifetime. Relocating to England when the Nazis invaded Holland, Prince Bernhard – whose social circle included King George VI – volunteered his multi-lingual services to British Intelligence. Vetted by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame on Winston Churchill’s orders, his application was turned down. Undeterred, he logged more than 1,000 flight hours aboard a Spitfire as part of the RAF’s No. 322 (Dutch) Squadron and later flew a number of combat missions over Europe under the pseudonym ‘Wing Commander Gibbs’.
Acting as personal secretary to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and helping to organize the Dutch Resistance, Prince Bernhard also contributed to the Allied War Planning Councils and had been appointed Commander of the Dutch Armed Forces by 1944; all the while driving ‘GPH 299’. Returning to the Netherlands after its liberation, he was present during the Armistice Negotiations and German surrender at the Hotel de Wereld on 5th May 1945 but made a point of only speaking Dutch. Post World War Two, Prince Bernhard became a founder member of the influential Bilderberg Group and the World Wildlife Fund’s first president. Embroiled in a bribery scandal with the US aircraft manufacturer Lockheed during 1976, he remained a prominent figure in Dutch society until his death twenty-eight years later. Able to count Nelson Mandela, David Rockerfeller, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Ian Fleming and Walter Bedell Smith as personal friends, his had been no ordinary life. Indeed, Fleming is rumoured to have used the Dutch Royal (whose earlier title had been His Serene Highness Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld) as the inspiration for his character Count Lippe.
Remaining in England with the advent of peace, the LG6 first came to the Lagonda Club’s attention when it was bought by the vendor’s father during 1958. The vendor vividly remembers being taught how to drive behind the wheel of ‘GPH 299’ not to mention polishing the Drophead Coupe well enough for it to be awarded second place at the Lagonda Club’s September 1959 Rally! Passing through the hands of various British and German owners thereafter, the LG6 was painstakingly restored from the chassis up by renowned marque specialist Peter Whenman of Vintage Coachworks during 1992-1993. Belonging to Knut Schmiedel at the time, ‘GPH 299’ was featured extensively in Bernd Holthusen’s definitive book ‘Lagonda’ (Messrs Schmeidel and Holthusen had worked together at Scangraphic). Reunited with Prince Bernhard for a photo shoot outside Soestdijk Palace in 1993, the Drophead Coupe remained in Mr Schmeidel’s care until entering current ownership during 2002.
Delighted to be reunited with ‘Penelope’ as his father had christened the LG6, he was thrilled when she won the 2003 Lagonda Club concours. A true testament to the late Mr Whenman’s skill, ‘GPH 299’ is described by the vendor as remaining in ‘excellent’ condition with regard to its original engine, gearbox, bodywork, paintwork, electrical equipment and interior trim. Maintained by David Wall of Wroxham for the past eighteen years and kept in a heated garage, the Drophead Coupe was invited back to Holland to participate in the 2016 Palais Het Loo concours where it won its class. Reluctantly offered for sale, this magnificent Post Vintage Thoroughbred boasts a remarkable history and is worthy of close inspection.
Introduced at the 1937 London Motorshow, the LG6 was the brainchild of Lagonda's then technical director W.O. Bentley, who had recently joined the firm after being released from a contract with Rolls-Royce stemming from the sale of his own company to them in 1931. The Lagonda LG6 and V12 were to be the result of this union. Though similar to that of the V12, the LG6's chassis had nothing in common with the earlier LG models being of diagonally cross-braced rather than ladder construction and featuring independent front suspension by wishbones and torsion bars. Braking was hydraulic and included a tandem master cylinder for increased safety. It was powered by the final incarnation of the venerable 4.5-litre six-cylinder OHV Meadows engine, now producing 140hp, allied to a four-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears. Decidedly expensive and boasting nigh-on 100mph performance, only 85 LG6 cars were made before the outbreak of World War Two, of which 67 were built on the short (127.5 inch) chassis and 18 on the long (135.5 inch) chassis.