By John Quilter
From time to time Aston Martin, using their Lagonda brand, launched four door saloons. In 1961 they brought back the Lagonda name again with the Rapide saloon which was based on the then current Aston Martin DB4 but was the first car to use the new dual overhead camshaft 4 litre inline six which produced 236 bhp, at 5500 RPM and 288 foot pounds of torque at a relatively high 3,850 RPM. With this power unit the car was reported to reach 60 miles an hour from a standing start in 9.0 seconds, quite fast for the era. It then went on to an impressive top speed of 130MPH.
This was the last Lagonda to use a six cylinder engine although this engine was also standard fitment in the DB5. The Rapide used a De Dion rear end and unlike many Aston Martins of the era, used disc wheels. Most came with a three speed Borg Warner automatic gearbox and all had quite advanced for the time, dual circuit brakes. Side and rear end styling was similar to the DB4 but the front styling differed substantially and was quite controversial with its four head lamps, two large 7 inch ones and two smaller 5 inch inner ones. Some with less reverence even saw a similarity to the discontinued Edsel.
Body panels were pressed aluminium over what was known as a Superleggera tubular steel frame yet the car weighed in at just under 3,700 US pounds. Production lasted for four years but surprisingly only 55 were built perhaps due to the £4,950 starting price which equates to about $140,000 in today’s dollars. All were hand built to order. Forty eight survive today making this a very rare Aston Martin product indeed. And for the really, really rare a one off shooting brake, (station wagon) version was made by the Carrosserie Company Ltd. of Barnard Castle, England on a bespoke basis for some lucky owner. Buyers of these cars wanted something more exclusive and perhaps, sporty, than the much more common contemporary Jaguar Mark II or even the more stately V8 powered Bentley S3.
Now in spite of the prototype car’s rarity, NEO a prolific maker of 1:43rd scale models of American and foreign automobiles is producing a model of this Rapide in silver metallic. NEO is based in the Netherlands but with production in the toy and model centre of China about 60 miles north of Hong Kong.
This replica measures 4.62 inches long with a wheelbase of 2.68 inches it a pretty accurate 1:43 scale. It is finished in a glossy silver colour with a bright red interior and right hand drive. Detailed observation will show a wooden steering wheel and a beautifully done burled wood fascia and instrument decals. As is typical of NEO’s resin replicas, there is no chassis detail with the exception of the twin chrome tail pipes exiting on the left hand side. There are even two Superleggera photo etched badges beside the hood opening. And there are Lagonda winged badges on the nose and rear license plate plinth.
The Author’s photographs show a Vitesse model green Aston Martin DB4 coupe to illustrate the Rapide’s heritage. So if you are into collecting miniatures of elegant and rare British cars here’s one for your display case. Grab one while you can as NEO’s production will be decidedly more than the production of the real car but still pretty limited in number.
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