1937 Lagonda LG45 Drophead Coupe
Wilbur Gunn was born in 1859 in the Shawnee settlement “Lagonda” in modern day Springfield, Ohio, USA. Gunn was a former opera singer who became a British national in 1891. After moving to the UK, Gunn further pursued a career as an artist and singer. Fortunately, he wasn’t that successful and in 1898 he started building motorcycles. Gunn was quite successful building motorcycles, so much so that a Lagonda represented Great Britain in international cup races. In 1905 he won the London – Edinburgh trail. In 1906 Gunn founded a company and he started building cars. The name Lagonda was the Shawnee Indian name for what is now Buck Creek in Gunn’s native Springfield, Ohio and Gunn decided to use that name for his company. His first car was launched in 1907, the Lagonda 20HP, 6 cylinder Torpedo. The car was quite a success and in 1910 Gunn won the Moscow – St Peterburgs trial in the car. That win resulted in quite a few export orders from Russia.
Already in the prewar period Lagonda started producing some very advanced cars. In 1913 the company introduced 11.1, a small car with a 1,099cc four cylinder engine. By 1914 this model featured a panhard rod, a rivetted unibody body and the first ever fly off handbrake.
After World War I, production of the 11.1 continued. The car evolved into the 11.9, which had a larger 1400cc engine and standard electric lighting. The 11.9 was built until 1923 and the updated 12 until 1926.
After Gunn had passed away in 1920, three existing directors took charge of the company led by Colin Parbury. In 1925 Lagonda produced its first sports model, the 14/60 which featured a twin cam 1,954 cc four cylinder engine and hemispherical combustion chambers. It was superseded by the 2.0 litre speed model with a higher output engine in 1927. By 1930 that car could be ordered with a supercharger. A lengthened chassis version, the 16/65, with 6 cylinder, 2.4 litre engine was available from 1926 to 1930. The final car of the 1920’s was the 3.0 Litre using a 2931cc, 6 cylinder engine. This continued until 1933 when the engine grew to 3,181 cc and was also available with a complex 8 speed Maybach transmission as the Selector Special.
A new model for 1933 was the 16-80 using a 2-litre Crossley engine with pre selector gearbox from 1934. A new small car, the Rapier came along in 1934 with 1,104cc engine and pre selector gearbox. This lasted until 1935 but more were made until 1938 by a separate company. At the other extreme was the near 100mph, 4.5 litre M45 with Meadows supplied 6 cylinder 4,467cc engine. An out and out sporting version the M45R Rapide, with tuned M45 engine and a shorter chassis was also offered. Car dealer Arthur Fox entered two Lagonda M45R’s into the 1935 Le Mans 24-hour race and despite suffering from damaged steering and having hardly any oil left in the engine, the Lagonda driven by John Hindmarsh and Luís Fontes won that year’s race.
Alan P Good managed to purchase the company in 1935, outbidding Rolls-Royce. He then also managed to persuade WO Bentley to leave Rolls-Royce and join Lagonda as a Technical Director. The 4.5-litre range now became the LG45 and under Bentley’s technical direction the big Lagonda became more refined gaining synchromesh gears, flexible engine mounts and centralised chassis lubrication among many other improvements. Endowed with such an impeccable pedigree, the Lagonda LG45 quickly established itself as a favourite among the wealthy sporting motorists of its day.
Between 1935 and 1937 only 278 LG45’s were built of which only a small number were drophead coupes.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale a beautifully restored 1937 Lagonda LG45 Drophead Coupe.
This particular example was first registered in the UK on 22nd February 1937 and it carried the registration number AJB 282. According to documentation in the history file the car was originally black in colour. The Lagonda Club in the UK has an entry for this car in their Club books from 1953. Interestingly at that time the car had already had an engine change. The Club books entry from 1953 states the car has an engine which came out of a Lagonda LG45 Rapide. That particular engine is currently still in the car. The LG45 Rapide which had this engine originally fitted is also still known within the Lagonda Club. The factory performed that engine swap to the later LG6 engine on that car and it is not unlikely that the factory also performed the engine swap on the Lagonda LG45. However, there is no record confirming this.
In 1965 the car was purchased by Frederick William Gover from Feilding, a small town on New Zealand’s north island who subsequently imported the car into New Zealand. There is an import approval on file from New Zealand dated 17th November 1965. The car arrived in New Zealand in March 1966 on the “Fremantle Star”. The car was subsequently registered in New Zealand as EV 9662. A few years later Gover sold the car to AB Johnstone who lived in Auckland, New Zealand.
On the 26th of October 1979 the car was purchased by Peter Briggs, who at that time was amassing what was to become one of Australia’s leading car collections. He shipped the car to Australia on the “Liberty Union” in November 1979. The car was initially displayed at the York Motor Museum and from 2002 at the Fremantle Motor Museum. When purchased by Briggs, the car was silver grey with a black hood and dark green interior.
The current owner acquired this car from Peter Briggs in 2009 and subsequently embarked on a nut and bolt restoration. The car was stripped back to bare metal and the engine was disassembled and rebuilt with new timing chains, new crankshaft gears, new bearings, new seals, new pistons and a new camshaft. The owner chose to change the colour on the car and had it painted in the most stunning two tone blue colour scheme. The interior was retrimmed with tan leather which provides a perfect colour contrast. The colour combination really suits the car and it is even more striking in the flesh than in the photos!
Even though this car now carries an older restoration, it still presents exceptionally well today. The paintwork is vibrant and defects are hard to find. The chrome is a real feature on these early Lagondas, particularly the front grill, lights and horns. It is all in good condition as is all of the external trim. The wire wheels on this car are another feature and are in excellent condition. They are shod with Dunlop 6.00/6.50-18 tyres.
The panel fit on this car is very good, particularly the suicide doors which shut firmly and have not sagged.
Inside the cabin of this car it is all class. The leather upholstery, carpets and timber all present freshly with little or no wear evident. The Lagonda badged Smiths instruments are crisp and clean and all look to be in working order. The soft top tonneau is a very good fit and the soft top itself, which has never been used, is in excellent condition.
Under the grand bonnet the engine bay is clean and well presented.
When we inspected the car it hadn’t been started for some time. As a result, on our recent test drive the big 4½ litre engine required some coaxing to get it started. Once it fired, the car just begged to be driven. In September 1936, Lagonda announced the LG45 Rapide as the fastest production car in the world and in 1937 ‘The Motor’ achieved 108 mph proving it as a genuine 100 mph car. With an estimated 130 hp on tap this Lagonda Rapide powered LG45 has more than enough power to keep up with modern traffic. The steering is heavy, but once on the move this British classic is great fun to drive.
Note: since our first test drive the plugs have been changed, the carburettors cleaned and the car now starts easily and runs like a Swiss watch!
Since its restoration this Lagonda LG45 has been sparingly used and today it still presents as a fresh restoration.
Oldtimer Australia is privileged to offer for sale this rare and exciting world market pre war classic.
- Beautifully presented and rare Lagonda LG45 Drophead Coupe.
- Previously owned by Peter Briggs and displayed at his York and Fremantle motor museums.
- Beautifully restored to a very high standard.
- Ready to show, rally, use and enjoy.
- Lagonda LG45 Drophead Coupe
- Drophead Coupe
- 9,674 miles