Courtesy of Bonhams Cars

A 1937 model built late in 1936, this outstandingly attractive rebodied Lagonda is modeled after the definitive LG45R Rapide of the mid-1930s. It is one of a batch of six original LG45s converted to Rapide specification — in this case including the correct T9 gearbox — during the 1980s by the co-operative venture known as The Northern Lagonda Factory.

When this particular car’s comprehensive conversion into its present form had been completed, it was delivered to Mr. Malcolm Hoyle, from whom it subsequently passed to the next owner via respected London dealer Danny Margulies. The engine was stripped and rebuilt by the highly regarded marque specialists Cedar Classic Cars of Hartley Wintney. When offered at Brooks’ sale at Lord’s Cricket Ground in July 1992 (Lot 166), the car was said to be in first-rate mechanical order. It had also benefited from considerable cosmetic work by one of the country’s leading Aston Martin Lagonda specialists.

Following the aforementioned Brooks sale, the Lagonda made its way to a collection in South Africa. Our vendor purchased the car and repatriated it to the U.K. in 2017. Here it has resided within a significant British-themed collection and been used sparingly.

The bodywork generally presents well, though there are the usual marks around the front of the bonnet from opening and closing, and various minor blemishes in the paint. The interior leather has a wonderful, aged feel to it, and the car has mellowed with the passage of time.

The Lagonda was last used on the road by our vendor in 2019. We are advised that the magneto will need rebuilding before running, and it would benefit from a service and inspection before embarking on its next adventure.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1936 Lagonda LG45 4½-Litre Rapide-Style Sports Tourer
Years Produced:1935–37
Number Produced:278
Tune Up Cost:$300
Chassis Number Location:Plate on left side of engine bulkhead/scuttle
Engine Number Location:Stamped in dynamo/water pump mount, on right side
Club Info:The Lagonda Club
Website:http://www.lagondaclub.com
Alternatives:1930–33 Invicta S-type, 1936–51 Delahaye 135M, 1936–37 Cord 810/812

This car, Lot 564, sold for $218,685 (£172,500) at Bonhams Cars’ Beaulieu, U.K., sale on September 2, 2023.

Some years ago, Chris Keith-Lucas pointed out to me that the earliest Lynx D-types he helped to build were now older than real Jaguar D-types had been when he was working on them in the 1970s. In the same way, this Lagonda has had a life of its own in the more than 40 years since it was transformed into its elegant new guise.

Lagonda was founded by an American, Wilbur Gunn, a former opera singer who started the company in 1906 in Staines, not far from Heathrow and Hampton Court Palace. He became a British national in 1891 and worked as a speedboat and motorcycle engineer. He named the company after the Shawnee settlement in what’s now Buck Creek in his native Springfield, OH. Gunn started off making motorcycles and in 1907 produced his first car. The company made artillery shells in World War I and reverted to cars after the war. After Gunn’s death in 1920, the company continued on.

Lagonda’s first sporting model was the 14/60 of 1925. By the mid-1930s the company had adopted Henry Meadows’ magnificent 4,453-cc 6-cylinder for its larger models, beginning with the M45. It remained the mainstay of Lagonda production through receivership and subsequent sale in 1935, and it also powered the LG6, the last “real” Lagonda in 1937. This engine had been progressively developed since 1928, and being somewhat over-engineered, lent itself well to tuning. None other than W.O. Bentley reworked the engine for the Rapide, with four-bolt mains and better carburetion, before designing Lagonda’s 4.5-liter V12 that debuted in 1938. Lagonda production ended in 1940, and in 1947 the company was bought by David Brown, becoming little more than an imprint of Aston Martin.

Survival of the fittest

According to the Lagonda Club, of the 278 LG45s made, 93 still exist. Many of those are surely still extant and not forgotten in barns, thanks to being rebodied in sportier, more-attractive and -accessible styles. There were originally two chassis lengths (10 feet, 9 inches and 11 feet, 3 inches) and our subject car almost certainly started as the longer, probably with a saloon body. It would have been shortened during its transformation, a noble and ancient practice that includes making “Le Mans” Bentleys out of saloons and, later, “GTOs” out of lesser Ferrari 250s and “DB4GTs” out of unloved regular DB4s.

This continues with Porsche “RS 2.7s” made from ’73 2.4s and non-Nismo “Godzilla” Nissan Skyline GT-Rs. As the owner of a fake RS2000, I’m okay with the practice that must have saved many a less-desirable motorcar from obscurity — or worse, the scrapper — as long as they are not misrepresented as the real thing. They widen the magic to more enthusiasts by offering the same driving experience and enjoyment as the factory original at a fraction of the price, much as Lynx D-types did four decades ago.

The Northern Lagonda Factory, operating from Knarr Mill in Lancashire in the 1980s (about when Lynx was starting up), was a collective run by the now-departed Herb Schofield, which restored Lagondas and converted at least six into racier models. Remember, there were only 25 original Rapides built. Several of these copies have appeared on the market in recent years.

Bonhams has sold two of them before, though we should mention that SCM’s Platinum Auction Database shows this car as not selling at $110,400 at that Brooks’ Lords Cricket Ground sale in 1992. Later, our subject car went through the hands of dealer Anthony Godin, who as we spoke had for sale a 3 Litre restored by Schofield in the same period. Sadly, we can’t ask well-regarded Invicta and Meadows engine specialist Derek Green of Cedar Classic Cars, which once handled this example, what he remembers of it, as he is no longer with us.

An authentic look

Our subject car looks the part with ideal proportions and is holding up well, looking just like a nicely aging real Rapide, with a few chips to the paint and nicely relaxing leather.

Appropriately for a car from this stage of production, the engine is a Sanction 4, identified by its twin magnetos on the exhaust side and carburetors that bolt directly to the cylinder head. It’s numbered 12258, so it may not be the original, but as Sanction 4 would have appeared late in the production run, it should be of the correct type. In Rapide spec it should have a higher compression ratio than the standard cars (7:1, up from 6.68:1, though many engines have been raised further in rebuilds). It remains outwardly standard, with not even the usual modern mods of an electric fan or spin-on oil filter.

The gearbox is or should be a G9 (misquoted in the catalog as a “T9,” which is a descriptor of the coachwork on some M45 Rapides). The G10 has a center change, which Lagonda adopted so it could offer left-hand-drive cars for the U.S., though it never did, plus synchro on second gear as well as third and top.

The car still wears its “EPC” registration, which is common on large Lagondas of this period, being a Surrey marker from 1921 to 1974. The factory was at Egham Hythe, right on the border with Middlesex, so that may be the original too.

What’s it worth?

A real Rapide costs in the order of $1m, generating a factor of about 4:1 between original and facsimile. This compares with original and later specialist-constructed Bentley “Blowers” and Porsche RS 2.7s (both about 5:1) and Ferrari 250 “GTOs” created from GTE running gear (about 40:1). Ford RS2000s are running at about 3:1. As in the art world, the more rarified the original material, the higher the gains from faking it.

All-in, this Lagonda looks priced about right for a well-settled copy from an established specialist. It does “require recommissioning,” but since it had an engine rebuild not many miles ago, the greatest expense will likely be rebuilding the magnetos (two of them, remember, on all but the earliest cars). At my favorite U.K. specialist, the damage for those would be about $4,000 apiece, hardly affecting the outcome or conclusions here. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams Cars.)

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