Ken Martin - 2.6 Lagonda Saloon (Reg.EAG 523)

As a marine engineer in the Merchant Navy I spent many hours at sea and decided to acquire a classic car for renovation during shore leave. Hours of searching through various motoring magazines helped to narrow the choice to a list of possible vehicles.

In 1972 1 spotted a 1952 Lagonda DB 2.6 sports saloon advertised in Glasgow . At a price of 90 I didn't expect too much as 350 would have been the price of a top quality example.

When I saw the vehicle, my heart sank and I know that I should have walked away from the deal there and then. The bonnet was dented, the doors didn't shut and the interior with its rotten upholstery was a mess. However, my father-in-law, who accompanied me to the viewing, convinced me that restoration was not impossible, and what was more, he'd give me a helping hand, a promise that failed to materialise.

Doubts about the project were underlined when the sad-looking car arrived at my house at High Harrington in West Cumbria.

The car was dismantled and I set about sourcing the long list of items that were needed to return EAG 523 to its former glory. Sometimes, since I took the whole family with me to collect them, it cost more for accommodation and meals than it did for the parts themselves.

The Lagonda's mechanical renovation took eight years to complete and the interior was reupholstered in Connolly hide.

All in all, the car has taken thirty years to renovate and time used on this task during shore leave from my Merchant Navy duties.

When I bought the car I was told that the engine had been overhauled and a knocking was a big end which had run when the owner had tried to race someone just after reassembly. There was also one hell of a row from the exhaust pipe which ended just under the driver's seat.

I would say that the Lagonda was the worst that I have ever seen. Talk about 'Heart ruling over the Brain'.

When I stripped the engine down I found brass shims behind the main-bearing carriers and one big-end journal was 0.100 thou below size and the others were 0.300 thou down; in other words the crank was useless. I advertised in the Exchange and Mart and got one in Bristol for 25. It was standard size except for one journal which was 0.20 thou down. I had the crank reground and the low journal polished and set about scraping in the bearings which took some time.

In order to keep the cost down, which was a mistake, I used as many of the old bits as I could. Eventually, when I got the engine running, a knocking appeared and I could not find out what it was. I didn't like going too far from home in case the worst happened.

I had the piston from number 2 cylinder out and in several times; even the bearing was remetalled and scraped in again but to no avail. After the umpteenth time of searching, a helper from a local garage had a look and said that the noise was probably coming from the gudgeon pin bush which was moving in the piston. A new piston was fitted and hurray! Problem solved!!

I started getting problems with water leaking into the odd cylinder. I would change the copper sealing rings at the bottom of the liner and it would be okay for a while and then start again. This went on for years. I got in touch with Tim Stamper from Penrith who reconditions Aston Martin engines and he said that as they get older they tend to distort slightly and recommended having the block skimmed and the liner landings cleaned up so that all six cylinder landings are the same distance from the top of the block and to have new liners fitted. I had a spare block whose crankshaft was fitted with shell bearings, so this was done last year and so far so good.

Since doing this work I found out from Alan Heard (Lagonda Club Post-War Secretary) that there is a modification that can be fitted to the rear of the cylinder block in order to fit in an oil seal to the flywheel housing to stop oil leaks from the scroll on the end of the crankshaft. Tim Stamper had the housing machined and an insert fitted to take the seal and this is my next job after re-veneering the dashboard.

Ken Martin