Lagonda LG45 Rapide
The Lagonda motor car company was founded in 1906 in Staines, Middlesex and quickly established itself as a credible sports car competitor to Bentley. It was at the 1933 Olympia Show that the first 4½ litre, the M45, was introduced. It used a Meadows, six-cylinder, engine of 4453cc slightly modified by Lagonda but otherwise similar to that used by Invicta. This engine was already somewhat venerable having started life in 1925. The M45 was a great success and Lord de Clifford got it off to a good start with a highly publicised run to Greece in the prototype, beating the train to Brindisi by 14 hours. For the 1934 TT a trio of lightweight short chassis cars run by Arthur Fox (of Fox and Nicholls Ltd) and equipped with Girling brakes put up a splendid showing. These cars were virtually M45 Rapides, which were subsequently announced a few weeks later.
Despite the Fox & Nicholl’s win at the 1935 Le Mans 24 hr race, the Company’s finances declined and the Receiver was brought in. The firm was saved by the intervention of Alan Good who re-formed the company as LG Motors and dropped all the models replacing them quickly with the 4½ litre LG45. The new car used much the same M45 Rapide engine in a revised version of the M45 chassis but with softer springing and Girling brakes.
Alan Good had brought in W. O. Bentley previously of Rolls Royce, as chief designer and the LG45 was his brainchild. The new car’s coachwork design was penned by Frank Feeley, who had just returned to Lagonda having left to work for Eagle Coachworks on Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Rapier. The LG45 lasted from the end of 1935 to the end of 1937, appearing in two chassis lengths (10’9″ and 11’3″) and four engine forms. LG Motors developed a system of producing cars in batches called ‘Sanctions’ and any changes tended to be introduced when a new Sanction started. Hence the Sanction 1 to Sanction 3 4½ litre engines were found in LG45s. The Sanction 1 was similar to the M45R engine, the Sanction 2 changed the ignition to twin magnetos, both on the exhaust side and the Sanction 3 had a complete cylinder head redesign, the outward signs of which are carburettors which bolt directly to the cylinder head. LG45s also come with two different gearboxes, the right hand change G9 with synchromesh (Lagonda’s first) on third and top, being replaced later by the G10 which added synchro to second. Like the competition cars, the high-compression engine of the Sanction 3 cars produced 133.5 bhp which enabled the Rapide to achieve an impressive 108 mph on test in 1937.
The Lagonda LG45 Rapide offered here at Autostorico was ordered on 23rd July 1937 through Keevil and March of Berkley Square, London by Mr S Baker of Davies Street, London. Mr Baker took delivery of the car on the 22nd of October with just 120 test miles recorded. Registered as ELB 396, chassis no.12267R was the penultimate Rapide of the 25 cars built and was finished in Green with Green leather interior, a Fawn hood, tonneau and sidescreens.
Subsequent owners of ELB 396 include Norman S Kimmersley of Wick, Bristol, Chairman of the Golden Valley Ochre and Oxide Company Ltd. He was followed by J Stone of Denning Road, Hampstead and in the 1950s, Ken King. The recorded mileage was 13,419 miles in June 1938 and only 69,321 miles by 24th August 1949, reflecting limited use wartime use. By July 1951, only two years later, the mileage was recorded at 54,868 miles by the Works Service Department – one assumes the odometer had gone ‘around the clock’ and that the true figure was 154,686 miles.
In 1951 the hood, tonneau and side screens were replaced by the Lagonda Works Service Department, and work was carried out to repair cracking at the rear of the body (a design flaw of the wooden frame as it is cut too thin around the areas surrounding the fuel filler caps).
In 1956, Ken King sold the car for £300 to Dr Hurst of Cambridge, who was a research chemist and entrepreneur of some note, having invented the damp-proof course system commonly used today in house building. The Lagonda was much loved and used by the Hurst family, with Harry Hurst parting with the car after 28 years of ownership, via auction, in 1984. The purchaser, Simon Carell, then had it completely restored by Alan Brown of Northern Lagonda Factory fame. The restoration, which included a repaint in red and re-trim in cream leather, was completed in the summer of 1986. Simon Carell then swapped ‘ELB 396’ for the two LG45 Rapides owned by George Chilberg of San Diego, California, one being the ‘Clark Gable’ car. A well-known racer and Lagonda collector, George Chilberg displayed his latest acquisition at various shows, including the 1999 Pebble Beach Concours (plaque inside the glove box lid) and 2006 Newport Beach Concours. Chilberg had the engine rebuilt in 2010. ‘12267R’ remained in George Chilberg’s hands on the West Coast of the USA for 29 years, until 2013 when he parted with the car.
The new owner transported the Lagonda to the East Coast of the US, and drove the car at the 2013 Amelia Island Concours tour in Florida where it performed well, albeit a little down on power due to only one magneto working. He then repatriated the car to the UK where it regained the original registration, ‘ELB 396’, from the DVLA.
Since arriving back home in the UK, the Lagonda has been mechanically fettled by the experts at Bishops Grey, and repainted by Moto Technique in the original green (matched from a scrap of paint found behind the dashboard during the stripping process). It was also re-trimmed by O’Rourke Trimming in correct, full-thickness Connolly hide, with traditional seat-stuffing materials, while the hood, side screens, and tonneau were replaced in the original and correct fawn colour.
Purchased in 2015 by its eighth owner, a discerning collector, ‘12267R’ was expertly revitalised by Thornley Kelham Ltd of South Cerney, Gloucestershire before successfully competing in the ‘Flying Scotsman’ rally and a European tour at the end of 2018.
Supplied with an extensive history file including a current V5 registration document, copies of original factory order sheets, photographs, various invoices documenting extensive recent works and other related history.
Eligible for some of the world’s most prestigious events, including the Mille Miglia and Le Mans Classic, this is a perfect opportunity to own what must be one of the highest regarded cars of the era.
Viewing strictly by appointment only.
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