Lagonda is surely the only British car company named for a river in Ohio. It was started by Wilbur Gunn, an American who had come to Britain to represent the line of steam boiler tube cleaning equipment made by his brother-in-law's Lagonda Manufacturing Company.
Self-reliant and talented, Gunn -- who also was a talented singer -- took on engineering consulting and developed small steam engines for launches, then built motorcycles and tricars before turning to automobiles in 1908.
The company continued in good times and (more often) bad supported by loyal employees and car owners. Through the Twenties and early Thirties, a confusing array of models and bodies characterized Lagondas but in 1933 Lagonda began to modify its 'Selector' chassis to accept the 4 1/2 Liter Meadows overhead valve six cylinder engine which had become available in quantity when Invicta, its contracted user, went into receivership.
Quickly implemented, the new M45 enjoyed immediate success with 108 horsepower and attractive, low coachwork designed and built in Lagonda's own coachworks at a price some 600 pounds less than a comparable Bentley, and at that price the Bentley had yet to be bodied.
That was not, however, sufficient to ensure success in the midst of the depression and in 1936 Lagonda was bought out of receivership by Alan Good. He installed Dick Watney (from Rootes) as Managing Director and W.O. Bentley as Technical Director and set out to build 'the best car in the world', with a V-12 engine designed by Stuart Tresilian from Rolls-Royce.
In the meantime, however, a reset was necessary. That was the LG45, a thoroughly redesigned model with a new W.O. Bentley-designed X-braced frame and wishbone independent front suspension with torsion bars. New coachwork was essential to establish the revitalized Lagonda's identity and it was designed by a young Frank Feeley whose later designs for Aston Martin would establish him as one of the foremost body visionaries of the mid-century years.
His LG45 designs, tourer, saloon and new drophead coupe, were superb, with long, sensuosly swelling, sweeping fenders, a long bonnet, dual sidemount enclosures (one holding the spare wheel and tire, the other the tool set and jack) and a clean, integrated grille and front fender valences that hid the front suspension. The drophead coupe's top incorporated an efficient folding mechanism and simple profile when erected.
This 1936 Lagonda LG45 Drophead Coupe is chassis number 12056, one of just a few Sanction 2 LG45s built with a revised location for the dual ignition's pair of magnetos. It is a beautiful older restoration that earned second place in its class at Pebble Beach in 1995.
In subsequent years it has been employed in touring, including completing the Colorado Grand in 2002. The quality of its restoration is evident in its condition today, nearly two decades after it appeared, freshly restored, at Pebble Beach.
Finished in Brown with tan accent and gold pinstripe, the car has a brown cloth convertible top and a well upholstered caramel leather interior.
The 4 1/2 liter Sanction 2 engine was rated at 140hp by Lagonda and with modern assembly techniques and blueprinting probably makes significantly more that that today giving the beautiful Frank Feeley-designed drophead coupe body ample performance on today's highways and on long distance high speed tours and events.
It is an exceptional automobile from a legendary manufacturer.
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