Our feature on Lagonda designer William Towns got you writing in
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!