The ex-Alan P Good, Chairman of Lagonda Motors 1936 Lagonda LG45 Rapide 'Mathilda' Registration no. DLK 505 Chassis no. 12171/R Engine no. 12171/R LG45/348R/S3
The 4½-Litre Lagonda was one of the most accomplished sports cars of the 1930s, as a succession of high-profile race wins, culminating in victory at Le Mans in 1935, amply demonstrates. Having established its reputation by winning the Moscow - St Petersburg Reliability Trial of 1910 with a 30hp six, Lagonda had 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.
Shortly after the M45's introduction, The Autocar got its hands on one. 'A short run on one of the first of the 4½-Litre Lagonda models, with an open four-seater body, left a vivid impression not only of brilliant acceleration and sheer performance, but of a car delightfully silent and easy running in a way that can be achieved to the fullest extent only by a big-engined machine working well inside its limits.'
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.
Under the technical direction of the great W O Bentley, recently departed from Rolls-Royce, the big Lagonda became more refined, the M45's successor - the LG45 - gaining synchromesh gears, flexible engine mounts and centralised chassis lubrication among many other improvements. Intended as a prestige, upmarket model, the LG45 was aimed squarely at the Bentleys built by W O's erstwhile employer. Endowed with such impeccable pedigree, the 4½-Litre Lagonda quickly established itself as a favourite among the wealthy sporting motorists of its day.
In its' road test published on 10th April 1936, The Autocar declared: 'The 4½-Litre has always given a fine performance; in its latest form it provides all the performance that anyone can reasonably require, and at the same time has been silenced, smoothed out and made a much more comfortable car, so that in comparison with the earlier versions it is hardly recognisable on first driving it. It can only be said that the appeal of the car has been considerably widened, for the people who today set great store by noise and a harsh suspension are greatly outnumbered by those to whom refinement in a fast car is far more desirable.'
For some though, this more refined 4½-Litre had moved too far away from the original conception, among them being Lagonda company director and former racing driver Dick Watney, previously with Rootes. It was the perfectionist Watney who conceived the Rapide, considering that the big Lagonda had grown too sober; the 4½-Litre's obviously fine performance notwithstanding.
One of the best stylists the motor industry has ever witnessed, Frank Feeley, whose fruitful career encompassed the V12 Lagonda and the DB2 and DB3S Aston Martins was briefed to create an eye-catching, four-seater sports car on the production LG45, and he duly worked his magic.
Announced in September 1936, less than six months after the company's takeover by Alan Good and Dick Watney, the result was the greatly lightened Rapide, powered by the more powerful 'Sanction 3' engine. The latter incorporated the previous 'Sanctions' (improvements), adding a redesigned cylinder head, revised carburettor/induction arrangements and twin Scintilla Vertex magnetos to the package. For 'Sanction 3' the compression ratio was raised from 6.68:1 to 7:1, or 7.5:1 for any owner willing to prepare his own high-octane fuel! There was also an improved exhaust system.
The Feeley penned Lagonda coachwork was among the most handsome by any manufacturer and, for the lightweight LG45, it was the only type offered by the factory, or indeed any other coachbuilder. Quite frankly, no-one could have bettered the design, and no-one tried. The most eye-catching British sports car of its day, the Lagonda LG45 Rapide went every bit as fast as its sensational looks suggested.
'The whole appearance of the car was flamboyant and extrovert, so much so there was some muttering about it being a car for a "Promenade Percy"... This was dispelled forever when the top speed reached on road test was published... 133.5bhp at 3,400 rpm... 108.2 mph... rest to 50mph in 9.4 seconds and to 60 mph in 13.2... a eulogistic test...' - Davey & May, 'Lagonda'.
One of only 25 LG45 Rapides manufactured, chassis number '12171/R' is the 8th made and was, we understand from recent correspondence on file, first owned by Alan P Good, Chairman of Lagonda Motors. The (copy) order card states that the car was ordered on 28.10.36 and delivered on 20.2.37 complete with body number '7238' and engine '12171 LG45/348R/S3'. The original finish is recorded as grey with red leather interior and polished walnut wood trim. Good kept the Rapide until 1938, its next known owner being Jesse Heitner, editor of Sphere and Britannia & Eve magazines. Heitner was followed by Dr Charles Faulkner II of New Hampshire, USA, who owned the Lagonda from 1954 to 1997; a total of 43 years or more than half its life.
While in Dr Faulkner's care the Lagonda was pictured in Automobile Quarterly (Vol XVII, No. 1, 1979) for an article on the marque. '12171' is also featured in Bernd Holthusen's book 'Lagonda' (page 199) and on page 240 of Geoffrey Seaton's 'Lagonda, an Illustrated History 1900-1950'. From 1997 the car was owned by Jack Boxstrom in Canada, passing to the current owner in 1999. '12171' has been shown on several occasions at Pebble Beach concours and also at the prestigious Hurlingham Club Concours d'Élegance in 2009. It was a class winner at the Lagonda Club's AGM and has toured extensively in New Zealand and the USA as well as Europe.
While owned by Dr Faulkner the Lagonda was the subject of a full 'frame-up' restoration by, we believe, Wilkinson & Sharp, which was completed immediately prior to its appearance in Automobile Quarterly in 1979. When sold some 20 years later, the car was still in very good order. While in the present ownership the Lagonda has been maintained by respected marque specialist David Ayre of Berkshire, who had vetted the car for the owner immediately prior to its acquisition in 1999. There are invoices on file for various works including preparation for a New Zealand tour and subsequent servicing (June 2000); service and engine converted to unleaded compatibility (March 2001); service and preparation for a USA tour (February 2005); extensive service including engine, wheels/tyres, suspension, brakes and body (March 2006); and service/preparation for another New Zealand tour (November 2007).
Between July 2008 and May 2009 a full engine rebuild was undertaken including new pistons and con-rods; crankshaft crack-tested, passed and reground; new camshaft and followers; and new timing chains, gears and other top-end components. In August 2009 the gearbox was rebuilt and the Lagonda prepared for another tour of the USA. It was serviced on its return in November of that year and again in April 2011 when new tyres were fitted. The car is described as in mechanically excellent condition.
The body is very straight with good panel fit, while the paint's older application is now showing some signs of age. Brightwork, although not fresh, is very good with no pitting evident. The interior is generally very good although the driver's seat naturally shows wear. A 'St Christopher' badge adorns the nicely finished wooden dashboard and there is a discreet little restorer's badge on the car, inscribed 'Wilkinson & Sharp, Fine Restoring, Feasterville, PA'.
Finished in British Racing Green with matching leather interior, fawn hood and side screens and black tonneau, the Lagonda is taxed until 31st December 2013 and offered with the aforementioned invoices, MoT to May 2014, Swansea V5 registration document and two expired MoT certificates recording fewer than 600 miles covered in the last 2½ years. Additional documentation consists of a copy of the original order card, Lagonda Ltd servicing records for the 1930s/1940s, and recent correspondence with Vivienne Hounsell Good (a Good family member) who recalls the car being known by the family as 'Mathilda'. A Lagonda 4½-Litre Instruction Book is included in the sale.
One of few 1930s automobiles capable of comfortably exceeding 100mph, the Lagonda LG45 Rapide was one of the most exciting and elegant British sports cars of the period and a true supercar of its day. Indeed, the current owner describes 'Mathilda' as just as exciting and elegant today as she was 77 years ago.
With only 24 still in existence, genuine Rapides rarely come to market and '12171' represents a probably once-in-a-generation opportunity to acquire an example of one these legendary cars.