Lagonda is oft considered to be among the most British of motorcar companies, yet this stalwart of English luxury and engineering excellence was in fact founded by the American-born Wilbur Gunn. Gunn grew up in Ohio, enjoyed a successful career as an opera singer and moved to England in 1891 to work as a freelance engineer. Gunn’s first foray into motoring came in 1900 when he modified his bicycle with a home-built engine which helped him get through the mucky English winter roads. In 1904, he registered the “Lagonda” trademark – named for a creek in Springfield, Ohio- and began building a series of motorbikes and tri-cars. Gunn and his partner Alf Cranmer manufactured virtually every component of their single and twin-powered machines in house. Gunn and Cranmer gradually refined their machines as they evolved from two, to three, to four wheels. A 30hp six-cylinder powered Lagonda helped establish their reputation with a win on the Moscow-St. Petersburg Reliability Trial in 1910 and by 1913 their light cars were selling rather well.
Wilbur Gunn died in 1920, and the board that succeeded him realized that competing with the likes of Morris in the light car market was not sustainable. With a decision to change direction, the Lagonda that most of us know began to appear in the form of sporting and luxury models, led by the twin-cam 14/60. For 1934, a new model – the M45 – appeared with a 4.5 liter six-cylinder engine and gearbox supplied by Meadows. A lightweight M45 Rapide won outright at LeMans in 1935, yet the company fell on hard times, and was purchased by Alan P. Good who, upon taking control, managed to bring W.O. Bentley on board from Rolls Royce. The LG45 succeeded the M45 with each series bringing ever more refinements such as synchromesh gears, flexible engine mountings, and centralized chassis lubrication, courtesy of the great engineer. With its impeccable pedigree and refinements by the great W.O. Bentley, the LG45 established itself as a favorite among sports motoring enthusiasts of the day.
This 1936 Lagonda LG45, chassis number 12013, is a charming specimen wearing lovely and desirable factory four-seat Tourer coachwork. Of the 278 LG45s built by Lagonda, it is believed that just 25 left the works with this sporting open body style, and of those, just a handful are known to survive today. With its older but well-preserved restoration, this is a very fine example of this elegant and exquisitely engineered motorcar. Finished in Old English White against a tan top and maroon interior, the LG45 is an understated and handsome machine that presents in very good condition. The paintwork is in good order, with a few cracks visible upon closer inspection, but remaining very attractive overall and benefitting from a recent and sympathetic detailing. The body fitment is quite good and the car is nicely adorned with a NOTEK spot lamp up front, semaphores, and dual “side mount” covers. Despite appearing otherwise, there is actually just one spare tire to be found beneath the right hand side cover, as the left side cleverly conceals the original tool kit, spares, and the Smiths Jackall on-board jacking system. Brightwork presents in very nice order, again showing some age since the restoration but remaining straight and in sound condition.
The attractive cabin is trimmed in deep burgundy leather which has taken on a truly wonderful patina in both the front and rear compartments. The leather, which appears to be original, is free from any damage, and remains supple with a lovely care-worn appeal. Wood adorns the dash and door caps and remains in sound and solid order and in good keeping with the rest of the interior. The instrumentation and switch gear all appear to be in very good and original condition. Carpets, door cards and the tan canvas top are also in fine fettle, as with the rest of the interior fittings, panels and hardware. A full set of weather equipment is stowed in the boot, all in excellent condition.
Mechanically, the 4 ½ liter six cylinder is sound and nicely presented with some peeling on the original finishes, but again, in good keeping with the patinated charm of the rest of this wonderful Lagonda. The big six runs strongly, and benefits from the updated version of the Meadows 4-speed gearbox with synchromesh on the top two cogs. The car drives and performs well, the chassis benefiting from the best the M45 and Rapide had to offer such as hydraulic shock absorbers and longer springs for superior ride comfort. This is a handsome and thoroughly usable example of this rare and desirable sports touring car. As a less common yet no less desirable alternative to a Derby Bentley, this Lagonda LG45 is a wonderful motorcar that is ready for understated, relaxed touring in the finest English tradition.
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