The car was closely based on the DB4 and used a modified platform chassis lengthened by 16 inches and a de Dion rear axle, used to give improved rear accommodation. The de Dion rear axle later became a feature of the DBS and AM V8’s. The engine was a 4 litre version of the straight twin cam 6 cylinder designed by Tadek Marek with initially with twin Solex carburettors and producing a modest 236 bhp. This same capacity engine, with triple SU carburettors was later put to use in the DB5 and it is possible that later Rapides were also built with triple carburettors as production overlapped that of the DB5 by at least 6 months. Most were built with a three speed Borg-Warner automatic gearbox also though the familiar David Brown 4 speed manual gearbox was used on a small number of cars. Top speed was quoted at 130 mph.
Like the DB4, the construction of the Rapide followed Touring of Milan Superleggera principle and there styling was also by Touring. The general styling follows on from the DB4, especially to the rear, whereas the front is reminiscent of a Ford Edsel perhaps, with a horse shoe shaped grille maybe influenced by something similar on a Bugatti.
Heavy (1,715kg), expensive (£4,950) and available only to special order, a meager 55 cars were built during it’s three year life at a time when the factory was struggling to produce sufficient DB4’s to meet demand. It is reckoned that the company underpriced the car and consequently lost more than £1000 for each one sold. Despite it’s odd-ball looks, potentially 49 cars still exist in original form, an incredible rate of survival as the cars are all over 50 years old. Almost no two cars are the same and this makes each of particular interest of enthusiasts. One for instance has a DB5 like grille and another became a prototype for a still-born face-lifted Rapide.
Following the demise of the Rapide, it would be another ten years before AML offered another 4 door car with the Lagonda V8 which again was only built in tiny quantities. More successful was the wedge shaped Aston Martin Lagonda and recently, the v12 powered DB9 based Aston Martin Rapide where more than 3000 have so far been sold.
For more information on this interesting and rare car, try Lagonda-Rapide.com.