1937 Lagonda LG45 Rapide
Beautifully presented and fully prepared Lagonda; the perfect machine for the major events calendar - a serious motor car indeed; recent complete engine and gearbox overhauls; new Blockleys
One of the most revered names in automotive history, Lagonda was founded by the American Wilbur Gunn in Staines in 1906.
To begin with, production focused on the manufacture of light cars but as time went on their machines became increasingly powerful and luxurious. By 1933 the flagship of the range was the magnificent M45 powered by a 108bhp 4.5-litre Meadows engine.
By June 1935, the company was in difficulties. High levels of stock and poor sales of the smaller engined products caused the receivers to pay a visit. A new firm, LG Motors took over the business.
Ironically, the sale of the business happened in the same month that a Lagonda 4.5 won the Le Mans 24-hour race. Had this tremendous achievement taken place a few months previously, it might well have saved the original business.
Alan Good, one of the new owners, managed to secure the services of none other than WO Bentley as technical director of the firm. He was immediately set to work improving the M45 and the result was the LG45 launched at the end of 1935.
Now, with decent financial backing, it was time to capitalise on the Le Mans success, the company using Frank Feeley (later to style the DB3S for Aston-Martin) to design a flamboyant open four-seater along very rakish lines. Narrow, low and with ‘outlandish’ external exhausts, it looked like it was doing 100mph standing still, a performance it could achieve with ease – enter the LG45 Rapide.
Alongside its less overtly sporting siblings, the Rapide used an improved M45R chassis equipped with longer and more comfortable leaf springs, adjustable hydraulic shock absorbers and various other tweaks that significantly reduced levels of noise, vibration and harshness. Other LG45 refinements included Girling four-wheel drum brakes and a one-shot lubrication system.
The 4.5-litre Meadows engine was retained but with a new gearbox with synchromesh on 3rd and 4th gears. WO gradually developed the engine culminating in the Sanction III version which appeared in 1936 with improved breathing, a lightened flywheel and other modifications which raised the output to 150bhp.
We are not sure what coachwork was fitted to this car when it was supplied new in 1937, but the ‘complete Lagonda chassis and fittings’ was sold by John Buckley - Vintage Car Body Builders and Restorers - to a gentleman in Hong Kong in 1986 for £5,000. He commissioned a Rapide body from Buckley who confirmed the car as having a 10’ 3” wheelbase and a Sanction III engine.
The job of assembly was given to Barry Simpson Restorations in Totnes, Devon, with multiple bills on file totalling many tens of thousands spent building the new aluminium-over-ash body onto the chassis, overhauling every aspect of the running gear in the process. Invoices on file list the work done in detail which gives the full picture.
That business went into administration in the middle of 1991, the work being continued by John Goulstone who had been a senior body builder and engine builder with Barry Simpson. The end result is testament to the skills and the bills involved!
Jolley Engineering provided a brand-new aluminium head, LMB Racing a new block and John Goulstone was finally painting the car by 1993. It was put back on the road in 1996 and UK registered PSY 918, listed on its V5C as a Lagonda LG45 Rapide.
Our vendor acquired the car from a prominent collector in 2013, since when it has been well used and further developed into the well-proven rally entrant we see today.
Not long after acquisition, the engine ‘picked up’ number one piston. On investigation, it was found that the pistons (and rods) were rather agricultural in design. Steven James Engineering near Norwich managed the engine rebuild (2015), which included a rebore to 89.25mm and six new pistons all carefully reassembled. New Robson Engineering rods were also installed, weighing just 800gm each instead of 1200gm! The engine has performed superbly since, it’s rebuild being fully documented in a hard-bound colour photographic book.
In 2016, Steven James relined the brakes and reconditioned the kingpins to remove wear. The final and most recent major investment has been a complete rebuild of the gearbox in 2017 (£10,500). Neve Engineering undertook the job, with a full and detailed break-down of the work. This included a new mainshaft, new input shaft, new gears and bronze bearings. New ball races and modern lip-seals were also included in a once-and-for-all rebuild.
The vendor has subsequently used the car extensively for multiple International trips and rallies. It starts on the button, sounds most impressive and has been prepared with mild competition in mind – oil temp gauge in the glovebox; passenger's foot brace; dash cut-off switch etc.
Lagonda produced just 25 Rapide bodied LG45s in period and one of those with period factory supplied coachwork would be a ‘King's Ransom’ if you could find one. This fine LG45 has been beautifully restored to Rapide spec and is available for a very realistic sum, with a comprehensively rebuilt engine and transmission. It simply requires you to decide which events to enter…
For more information - contact [email protected]
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