Our fea­ture on Lagonda de­signer Wil­liam Towns got you writ­ing in

VANTAGE - - Contents -

The Towns con­nec­tion

I re­ally en­joyed your ar­ti­cle on As­ton Martin de­signer Wil­liam Towns (Sum­mer 2017). Dur­ing my early years as a panel-beater at As­ton Martin in Newport Pag­nell, I worked on the wedge-shaped Lagonda my­self. Th­ese days I work at As­ton restora­tion spe­cial­ists Body­lines and I’m the proud owner of an In­ter­styl Hustler, which, as some of your read­ers will know, was also de­signed by Towns.

It was while on hol­i­day on the east coast of Scot­land that I first en­coun­tered a Hustler. I was buy­ing an ice cream from a pint-sized, six-wheeled ice cream van and asked the man what kind of ve­hi­cle it was. ‘You know the Lagonda?’ he said. ‘The same chap de­signed this.’

I later found out that when Towns left As­ton Martin he set up his own de­sign stu­dio, In­ter­styl, which was where he drafted the Hustler. It was ini­tially planned as a mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle to be built by Jensen but it was sub­se­quently pro­duced by Towns as a kit car built on a Mini base when the Jensen plan fell through.

Towns achieved quite a bit of suc­cess with the Hustler, sell­ing about 500 of them in six-wheeled and four-wheeled, util­i­tar­ian and sporty vari­ants, in both glass­fi­bre and marine ply­wood, in­clud­ing the ‘Ven­da­van’ ver­sion used by the ice cream seller.

When I knew about its ori­gins and the link to my early ca­reer, I knew I had to have one and set about search­ing ebay. I even­tu­ally turned up a four-wheeled glass­fi­bre ‘project’, bor­rowed a trailer and went to pick it up. Call­ing on the help of mates in the trade, I then re­stored it, us­ing an Oselli en­gine and lots of Cooper S parts to help it han­dle and stop, although it’s pretty bru­tal to drive at speed as it’s so light and high-sided! You can read the whole story and see some more pics at mo­torism.co.

As I’m never likely to own a Lagonda, the Hustler is a way of keep­ing in touch with my for­ma­tive au­to­mo­tive years – and hav­ing a huge amount of fun in the process.

Paul Tem­ple One-off two-door

In the fea­ture on Wil­liam Towns (Sum­mer 2017) there is a ren­der­ing of a pro­posal by Towns for a two-door Lagonda. It is prob­a­bly not widely known that a two-door ver­sion of the Lagonda did ac­tu­ally ex­ist in the mid-80s. It was con­trived and con­structed by the skilled fab­ri­ca­tors and tech­ni­cians in the Tick­ford Street en­gi­neer­ing work­shops. I used to see it ev­ery day as a per­ma­nent pres­ence in the work­shops for some time.

A few years ago, at a Bon­hams Works Sale, I got into con­ver­sa­tion with some­one who was part of the team that built it. Their guess was that, like a num­ber of one-off ex­er­cises of that era, it even­tu­ally found a home in the Mid­dle East.

I would love to know more about the car and where it is now. Hope­fully one of your read­ers will know and will get in touch with the mag­a­zine.

Need­less to say, Van­tage is a great read – al­ways some­thing new to learn from its pages.

Paul Burgess Dream ma­chine

Van­tage Sum­mer 2017 was spe­cial for me, as you in­cluded an ar­ti­cle on my favourite As­ton of all. I have al­ways said that if the stars aligned I would not hes­i­tate to bid high and long for XMC 76, the DB2 lightweight that raced at Le Mans in 1951. I do envy Stephen Archer; he seems to get to drive all the re­ally great ones!

Through the years, I’ve looked for orig­i­nal vin­tage im­ages of As­tons, and on my wall I have a framed shot of XMC 76 at Shel­s­ley Walsh in Septem­ber 1951, signed on the back by Reg Par­nell. It was XMC 76 that in­spired me to paint red the grille of my own DB2/4 (LML841), nick­named ‘Rasputin’.

I raced Rasputin and can con­firm that the fi­nal para­graphs in Stephen’s ar­ti­cle are spot-on: a hand­ful to drive but very re­ward­ing and great fun.

Jim Hazen, Mas­sachusetts

P.S. I have just learned that XMC 76 is cur­rently on the mar­ket through JD Clas­sics. Now I just have to buy a win­ning lotto ticket!

Left and above Paul Tem­ple’s Hustler, and above with an­other Wil­liam Towns de­sign. Be­low left and right Towns’ pro­posal for two-door Lagonda, and prized photo of XMC 76

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