1936 Lagonda LG45 4½-Litre Fox & Nicholl Le Mans Team Car Replica Registration no. NJ 9185 Chassis no. 12001 Engine no. LG45/12001
Having established its reputation by winning the Moscow - St Petersburg Reliability Trial of 1910 with a 30hp six, Lagonda concentrated mainly on the production of light cars before reverting to sporting and luxury models in the mid-1920s with the introduction of the 14/60. This four-cylinder, 2-litre model was joined in 1929 by the first of Lagonda's own sixes - the 3-Litre - but by the mid-1930s the Meadows-engined cars were seen as the way forward. Introduced at the 1933 Olympia Show and based on the preceding ZM 3-Litre model, the M45 deployed Meadows' 4½-litre, twin-plug six to good effect, saloons being capable of reaching 90mph and tourers the 'ton' under favourable conditions.
A team of three specially prepared short-chassis cars (effectively the soon-to-be-announced M45 Rapide) prepared by Lagonda main agents Fox & Nicholl performed creditably at the 1934 RAC Tourist Trophy at Ards, and the following year one of these TT cars driven by John Hindmarsh and Luis Fontes won the Le Mans 24-Hour endurance classic outright. Shortly before its 1935 Le Mans win, Lagonda had gone into liquidation and passed to new owners. In September 1935 they were able to announce the LG45. A new model, building upon the successful Le Mans win, the old M45 and M45R models and the new owners' enthusiasm, it was a much more sober vehicle offered in saloon, tourer and drophead coupé variants. Deliveries commenced in the spring of 1936.
Under W O Bentley's technical direction the big Lagonda became more refined: the LG45 gaining synchromesh gears, flexible engine mounts and centralised chassis lubrication among many other improvements. Endowed with such an impeccable pedigree, the 4½-Litre Lagonda quickly established itself as a favourite among the wealthy sporting motorists of its day.
Lagonda's new owners were keen to build on the racing successes and commissioned Fox & Nicholl to produce cars for the '36 Le Mans. Two four-seaters were built on the new LG45 10ft 9in chassis: registered as 'EPB 101' (chassis number '12108') and 'EPB 102' ('12109'). Additionally a couple of two-seater cars were built: 'HLL 534' ('12100') and 'EPE 97' ('12111'). All four cars raced during 1936 but Le Mans was cancelled due to industrial action, the only occasion the race has not run in peacetime. The new Lagonda management was understandably disappointed and both four-seater cars were broken up in late 1936, leaving the two two-seaters to continue to the present day representing this great era of Lagonda racing history.
Over a decade ago the owner of this LG45 set out to recreate a 1936 four-seater car, which was made possible with the aid of digitised contemporary photographs published in Bernd Holthusen's book, 'Lagonda'. The aim was to get as near as humanly possible to the original, with all the details correct, and yet have a useable car. The project started in earnest in July 2006 and it took almost three years to get the car on the road. Lagonda Club members, believing the project to be of some significance, provided the majority of the rare parts for this replica.
One of only 278 LG45s produced during 1936/37, chassis number '12001' is the second LG (Lagonda Motors) car made after the company was bought from the liquidators in June 1935. A saloon model, 'NJ 9185' was first registered on 4th June 1936 at Weybridge. It is assumed that '12001' was used as a factory demonstrator, hack and general run around. At some stage a 'Sanction 2' Meadows engine was installed (there is evidence of competition use in this engine and both axles had been modified for brake scoops so it is believed that these parts have a racing pedigree). It is known that both four-seater cars were broken up by the factory around October 1936 and the useable parts dispersed to production vehicles, possibly including '12001'.
Just before the war, 'NJ 9185' was bought by a Mr Llewellyn, whose son David still belongs to the VSCC and can remember driving it as a child. In January 1953 the car was acquired by Claude Hilary of Bristol, passing in August 1955 passed to a George Menze of New Barnet who owned it until April '56. The next owner was William Watson of Haverfordwest followed by Philip Parsons of Pinner from August 1959. Parsons owned the Lagonda until 2001. The car was on the road until 1968, failed the MoT due to excessive wear in the brake clevis pins, then failed again in October 1977 for the same reason!
William Tomkins of Apethorpe acquired 'NJ 9185' in 2001 with the intention of restoring it but even at that stage the ash frame was suspect and the car was then stored in an aircraft hanger until in June 2006. On inspection, the body and its ash frame were found to be terminally rotten but the car had all the correct M45R parts, including the axles, radiator and brakes, and an engine that ran. Representatives from both the Lagonda Club and the Vintage Sports Car Club needed to assure themselves that the saloon body was beyond the point of saving in order for a new body to be fitted and for the car to be acceptable to both Clubs. Subsequently the VSCC has issued a 'Buff Form' and the FIA have issued a Historic Technical Passport. The car is now eligible to trace in a variety of competitions both in the UK and abroad.
Marque specialists Brian Bishop and Charles Gray of BishopGray were entrusted with the restoration, with significant contributions by way of parts from others including the Northern Lagonda Factory and David Ayre. Amazingly, a correct and ultra rare 'Sanction 3' cylinder head was offered out of the blue. The correct Rotax headlamps came from Canada and a pair of Luvax shock absorbers from the car of another Club member, who considered the Team Car project more deserving.
Eventually the countless difficulties were overcome and the Lagonda has now completed its third racing season. Over the winter of 2009/2010 the engine was rebuilt and now produces around 180bhp at the rear wheels. Nothing was left to chance when it came to rebuilding the engine, which incorporates a dynamically balanced steel crankshaft and con-rods, with all critical components crack tested.
In June 2010 the vendor drove 'NJ 9185' to the Le Mans Classic meeting to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Lagonda's Le Mans win, and since then the car has competed in various races including the AMOC's season-long Pre-War Team Challenge. The 'Lagonda 1' team, including 'NJ 9185', recently lifted the trophy for the second successive year. Finished in 'Fox & Nicholl Red' with matching leather interior, this wonderful re-creation of a historic pre-war Lagonda Le Mans Team Car is offered with restoration invoices, old-style logbook, current road fund licence, MoT to March 2013 and Swansea V5C document.