The Olympia Motor Exhibition Display Car
1934 Lagonda M45 Rapide CloseCoupled Pillarless Saloon Coachwork by J.Gurney Nutting Ltd.
Registration no. US 9772
Chassis no. Z11131R
Engine no. 2817
What finer combination of chassis and coachwork can the sporting motorist of 1934 have sought than one bearing the legendary names of Lagonda and J.Gurney Nutting. George A.Oliver described the 4 1/2 litre Lagondas as skilfully "making the transition from the big and robust sports car of the early years to the equally robust but suave town-carriage cum road-burner of the later period" and this was especially true of the M45 Rapide, the top of the range model. Quicker and cheaper than the contemporary Bentley, the Rapide carried significant developments to the standard M45 model. The wheelbase was shortened to just 10ft. 3in., Girling brakes were standard equipment, the crankcase was RR50 alloy, heavier connecting rods were fitted with larger diameter crankshaft bearings and a freewheel device was bolted to the T8 gearbox. A Tecalemit full flow oil filter was provided for the Rapide along with a Scintilla magneto and suspension was damped by Girling-Luvax hydraulic shock absorbers and André Telecontrols. At £825 it was significantly more expensive than the standard M45 perhaps a sales ploy to enable the M45 to be phased out and manufacture of the Rapide to continue at a more commercially viable price.
J.Gurney Nutting was a relative newcomer amongst coachbuilders, enjoying the benefit of a Chelsea address and having the services of A.F.McNeil, designer par excellence. Their coachwork was almost exclusively of a sporting nature and in 1931 the company was awarded the contract for bodying Sir Malcolm Campbells Bluebird record car. The marriage of Lagonda engineering and Gurney Nutting coachwork could only be a success.
US 9772 is absolutely unique and believed to be one of just six Lagondas ever fitted with coachwork by J.Gurney Nutting. It was specially commissioned for Lagondas Motor Exhibition Stand No.143 at Olympia in October 1934, the pillarless saloon coachwork finished in two-tone maroon livery, and was offered at £1,250, the most expensive car on the Stand by a significant margin. Lagonda retained the car as their flagship model for exhibition at The Scottish Motor Show the same year and indeed the car was registered to its first owner in Glasgow an 5th January 1935. A year or so later it passed to its second owner, a Dr. Tweedy, who kept the car until the late 1950s. In the 1960s it passed through the hands of dealer/enthusiast Leonard Potter of Newbury preceding a sojourn in the USA the Lagonda Club records owners in Illinois and California.
US 9772 returned to the UK in the mid-1980s, passing quickly, almost unrecognised, through the trade, before its significance was recognised by the previous owner who saved it from the indignity of conversion to a racing special. The Girling brakes and special radiator cap were the clues which identified this rather tired and vulnerable saloon as the rare Rapide model, and further research suggested its Motor Show history. Here was a car so worthy of careful restoration, despite its ghastly blancmange yellow/cream livery.
That restoration began in 1987, the work being entrusted to Barry Simpson of Devon and involving the removal of the coachwork with the timberwork being replaced as necessary, the brief being to retain originality wherever possible. The free-wheel mechanism and the Jackall system were carefully re-commissioned and the engine overhaul included fitting of hardened valve seats for running on unleaded fuel. More recently the bearings have been re-white metalled.
The restoration culminated in US 9772 winning several notable concours délégance awards but, more importantly, it has proved a magnificent car to drive, maintaining station in modern traffic and cruising comfortably at 60-65mph. US 9772 is recorded in the Davey/May magnum opus, in Birds The Lagonda Marque and is pictured in Seatons book on the Lagonda marque.
The elegant close-coupled coackwork is superbly presented in two-tone black/blue livery with grey leather interior, all period fittings being carefully retained, the snug interior providing all the comforts for the gentleman driver and yet the lusty 4 1/2 litre engine and Rapide specification providing the sports car performance which made these cars noted for the exuberance of their manner of going;
US 9772 is now offered ready for the continental tour, is supplied with restoration invoices totalling in excess £80,000 is Swansea registered and currently licenced and MOT tested.