- 1929 Lagonda 2 Litre
- Upgraded with M45R engine
- Rebuilt by noted specialist David Ayre
- Well-known car with extensive history
This unique Lagonda 2 Litre was rebuilt by one of the leading marque specialists for his own use, and has been upgraded into an exciting, practical and versatile pre-War car via the fitment of a 4453cc Rapide engine. Beautifully engineered using genuine Lagonda components, the result is a car that drives superbly, offers genuine quick performance, and has the ability to humble rivals from Crewe and Coventry alike.
Built in 1929 but not registered until 8 March 1930, GC 8638 left the factory as a 2 Litre Speed Model fitted with a fabric saloon body that was constructed by Lagonda to Weymann patents. It was added to the 2 Litre Lagonda Register in early 1947 and attended a Register Rally at Farnborough that April, at which time it was owned by a Captain H Browell of Guildford, Surrey. It was also photographed at a Register Rally at Newbury in 1948.
The Lagonda’s ownership history is documented in its file, and correspondence from a subsequent custodian – who had been an apprentice in the aircraft industry – notes that he refabricated the body and painstakingly replaced parts of the ash frame.
The Lagonda was acquired in the mid-1970s by an enthusiast based in the south-west of England. He kept it until he passed away in 2009, by which time GC 8638 had been dismantled. Fortunately, however, the body was still fitted to the chassis and all major mechanical components other than the engine were able to be salvaged.
In 2010, the 2 Litre was bought at auction by noted Lagonda specialist David Ayre. Recognising its significance as an extremely rare saloon, Ayre set about restoring the car so that it retained the look of a 2 Litre but benefitted from the considerable performance boost that came with the fitment of a 4453cc six-cylinder M45 Rapide engine.
The original coachwork and wings were retained and the chassis was modified in the engine-bay area in order to fit the Meadows unit, which drives through a Lagonda G9 gearbox. A Borg & Beck clutch was fitted within an M45 bellhousing, and an M45 differential and halfshafts were used.
With the significant power increase came mechanical upgrades including uprated springs front and rear, larger Hartford dampers, and brakes modified to include finned drums and special levers. Steering is via the standard Marles box, while the electrics – including the instruments – are all original 2 Litre. An alternator has been fitted that retains the look of the dynamo, and a 30-gallon long-range fuel tank has been installed.
The rebuild was completed in 2015, since when the Lagonda has covered approximately 7000 miles. Ayre drove the car on the 2016 Flying Scotsman rally and was finally persuaded to sell it in 2018 after persistent effort on the part of the current owner. It was used as a daily driver during that summer and also did the Classic Grande Tour to the Le Mans region, winning the trophy for Best Pre-War Car in the concours.
In 2019, it took part in the Benjafields Racing Club stubble-racing event, and completed the Tour Privé as part of the prestigious Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace.
The original leather upholstery had been retained during the original restoration, but by 2020 it had become very fragile and the decision was taken to reupholster the interior. Carefully selected aniline leather was used, with the result that the trim will be good for decades to come while still being in keeping with the look of the rest of the car.
David Ayre has continued to care for this Lagonda 2 Litre on behalf of the current owner, who has reluctantly decided to part with it only because he has a new project nearing completion. Now being offered for sale with the Classic Motor Hub at a fraction of the cost of an equivalent Bentley, it is a car that we know well and which promises to provide endless entertainment for its next custodian.
Founded by Wilbur Gunn and based in Staines, west of London, Lagonda made a name for itself before World War One by winning the 1910 Moscow-St Petersburg Reliability Trial and experimenting with innovations such as monocoque construction and anti-roll bars.
Lagonda started to focus its attention on sporting models during the 1920s, and in 1925 the 14/60 was introduced with a new overhead-valve, 1954cc, four-cylinder engine that had been designed by Arthur Davidson. It featured hemispherical combustion chambers and the twin camshafts were mounted high in the block.
For 1928, a modified version of the 14/60 was unveiled. Known as the 2 Litre Speed Model, it had revised valve timing, a higher compression ratio of 6.8:1 and twin carburettors. Three were entered for that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, the entry driven by Baron André d’Erlanger and Douglas Hawkes finishing 11th overall and second in class.
In 1929, the chassis was lowered and the following year a supercharged version was made available. The last of the four-cylinder 2-litre Lagondas was the Continental, of which a small number were made in 1932 before the model was replaced by the six-cylinder 16/80.
Lagonda moved up a class in terms of performance with the 1933 introduction of the M45, which was fitted with the 4453cc Meadows engine that had previously been used by the Invicta marque. When this powerful straight-six was further modified for use in the Rapide model, Lagonda had a genuine rival to the likes of the Derby Bentley and the Alvis Speed 25 and 4.3.
The M45 Rapide’s reputation was further enhanced by considerable competition success, including winning the Team Prize at the 1934 Tourist Trophy. Its finest hour then came the following year, when the Rapide of Johnny Hindmarsh and Luis Fontés broke Alfa Romeo’s domination of the Le Mans 24 Hours by taking overall victory.