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1937 Lagonda LG45 Rapide

  • 1937 Lagonda LG45 Rapide
  • 13th car of just 25 made
  • Fresh from a comprehensive restoration of all mechanical and body parts by specialist restorer David Ayre
  • Matching numbers, original bodywork & lovely history file
  • One of the most dramatic looking and fastest cars of its day

Model History

By the mid-1930s, Lagonda had established a good reputation as builders of fine motorcars both large and small but with competitive pricing giving small margins and poor sales of their smaller models the company got into financial difficulty.  In June 1935 the company was put into receivership and yet in the same month a 4½ Lagonda won the gruelling Le Mans 24-hour race.  Prestigious racing victories like this had a big impact on sales and given some better timing the company may have been saved.  As it was, Lagonda was recused by a young 29 year old called Alan P. Good who pipped Rolls Royce to the post and acquired the company.  A.P. Good went straight out and persuaded W.O. Bentley to leave his old company, that was now owned by Rolls Royce and join him in his new venture.  This he did and at the same time he gather up many of his old Cricklewood colleagues such as ‘gearbox king’ Rex Sewell, Stan Ivermee, Percy Kemish and chassis designer Donald Bastow. A brilliant young body designer called Frank Freely also joined at this time to take over as head of design.

Under this new management, the small capacity cars that made little money were dropped from the range so that all efforts could be concentrated on the Meadows engine cars and the new range was soon up and running.  Dick Watney however felt that the current offerings were a little sombre and lacked flare.  Yes the cars being produced had ample performance but their refinements had removed a little of the sporting edge so he tasked Frank Freely with the pleasant task of designing an eye-catching sports car using the LG45 chassis.  Watney had always admired the outrageous Mercedes 500K and it is clear that this influence can be seen in Freely’s design, in fact Watney was so impressed with the design that he did not change a single line – a rare thing for him.

Refinements were made to the engine, which was under W.O. Bentley’s control as technical director. The crankcase was strengthened, the engine was positioned on flexible mounts, 4 bolt main bearing caps replaced 2 bolt one, and centralised chassis lubrication was installed.  The compression ration was also increased to 7:1 giving an output of 150bhp.  This was driven through a G9 gearbox as it was felt that sporting owners would prefer its right hand side position although later in production a right hand change version of the G10 became available (usually a centre change box).  It was given the high first gear as used on the team cars together with the 3.31:1 rear axel ratio, giving about 27mph per 1000rpm in top gear.

The bodywork was dramatic indeed.  The car was a comfortable 4-seater tourer but given the cars sporting credentials, heat and noise could be less of a concern than weight and design.  Helmet wings were developed into even more flamboyant shapes, the rear wings were curtailed into a high finish and the tail was sumptuously pointed.  The twin exhausts exited the bonnet in highly polished chrome flexible pipes and exited through the tail rather than under it.  The whole body formed a set of graceful curves with cut away doors and a fold flat screen.  The built in jacks used on the standard LG45 were removed to save weight and improve the lines.

The look was so outrageous that some worried that the LG45 Rapide would be a boulevard car but this was soon dispelled on a road test where 100mph was easily achieved showing that the car’s performance was as outstanding as its looks.

Only 25 of these amazing cars were produced and their rarity, looks and performance have made them one of the most desirable Lagonda models produced

THIS MOTOR CAR

LG45 Rapide chassis 12203/R was built in 1937 and exported to America where ‘English Motor Cars Ltd’ of 57th Street, New York sold it to a Colonel Porter Adams in October 1937. Col Adams had served in the US Navy during WW1 before returning to his academic studies as an aeronautical engineer and later taking over as Vermont University President in 1934.  His new Lagonda was finished with a dark green exterior and a matching green leather interior offset by a fawn hood and weather equipment.  Sadly the Colonel’s health declined over the coming years and he resigned his presidency in 1939.

Little is known of the car’s whereabouts until it was repatriated by the well-known collector Hugh Taylor in 1982. Hugh was an active racer and larger than life character on the classic car scene and he used the car regularly including competing with it in the 1990 Millie Miglia.  The car remained in Hugh’s collection until 1995 when he part exchanged it against an Alfa Monza with the Canadian enthusiast David Cohen. 12203/R returned to the States in 1995 and passed through Henry Petronis and John Feiber before against returning to the UK and into the Bamford collection in 2012.  Sir (now Lord) Bamford gave the car a significant mechanical rebuild with leading Lagonda restorer David Ayre at the cost of some £65,000 before parting with it 2014.

This LG45 Rapide was sold through Peter Bradfield and the new owner used the car regularly but found the body was getting rather tired.  In light of this the car was send back to David Ayre a complete restoration of the car was undertaken. The Coachbuilding Company where enlisted to repair the very original bodywork and amazingly the panels were found to be numbered and they have been repaired and reused on a new ask frame. The detailed invoices on file show the huge amount of work that has been done to bring this car up to the highest condition possible. The engine, wiring, interior, dials, paint, suspension, etc all received the same treatment, we believe you will find it hard to fault it in any area.

We are very proud to be offering this exceptionally rare sports car for sale at The Classic Motor Hub, finished to concours condition and driving beautifully.

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