1936 Lagonda LG45R Rapide Sports-Racing Two-Seater

Chip Riegel, courtesy of Bonhams
Chip Riegel, courtesy of Bonhams

This is the most famous Lagonda of all.

Special competition variants of the LG45 were tailor-made at Staines Bridge for the Lagonda company’s experienced and battle-hardened quasi-Works racing team: Fox & Nicholl Limited of Tolworth, Surrey. Just as Enzo Ferrari’s private Scuderia ran the quasi-Works Alfa Romeo team cars from 1932 to ’37, so Fox & Nicholl represented Lagonda’s vital interests in International motor racing.

For 1936, the production department at Staines Bridge built four competition cars specifically for Fox and Nicholl. This quartet comprised two 4-seaters, bodied to comply with Le Mans 24-Hour regulation requirements, and two 2-seaters, this superb surviving example offered here being one of the latter. It was completed in May 1936 and entered by the team for that year’s 24 Hour race at Le Mans, which was unfortunately canceled due to strikes in France. It was first U.K.-registered EPE 97 that August.

Fox & Nicholl’s as yet officially unregistered new car, chassis 12111, made its racing debut painted French Blue instead of Fox & Nicholl’s normal racing red livery, and it was raced by Algerian-born French driver Marcel Lehoux in the sports car Grand Prix de l’ACF at Montlhéry, outside Paris, FRA, on June 28, 1936.

By Chassis 12111’s next appearance, it was registered as EPE97 — and finished in Fox & Nicholl’s dark shade of red — for the RAC Tourist Trophy race over the fabulous Ards public-road circuit outside Belfast, Ulster, in August 1936. The car carried race number 1 and was running in a strong 2nd place after two hours before sliding off the road and striking a bank. Lewis rejoined and recovered to run a close 3rd behind Eddie Hall’s famous Derby Bentley before finishing 14th due to an oil leak.

Fox & Nicholl then entered the car in its third major race, the British Racing Drivers’ Club 500-Miles classic on the high-speed Outer Circuit of the legendary Brooklands Motor Course near Weybridge, Surrey. This time, BRDC President and former Le Mans winner Earl Howe partnered with Lewis for the arduous race.

Howe and Lewis achieved EPE’s greatest overall result, finishing 3rd at an average speed of 113.02 mph.

Fox & Nicholl retained EPE97 for 1937, and in June it competed in the Le Mans 24-Hour race, co-driven by Charles Brackenbury and by Fox & Nicholl’s 1935 Le Mans-winning star, Hawker Aircraft test pilot-cum-racing driver John Hindmarsh. The car retired at 10 p.m. on Saturday, due to mechanical trouble.

In 1952 it was acquired by Joe Goodhew. He lowered the body 10 inches and fitted the car with an ENV pre-selector gearbox. He and Bob Freeman-Wright, the Managing Director of Kodak, then co-drove the 16-year-old car in that year’s major international British endurance race — the inaugural Goodwood Nine Hours. It finished 14th among the 18 finishers and averaged 72 mph around the 2.4-mile Sussex circuit — in comparison with the victorious Works C-type Jaguar’s 81 mph.

Paul Hardiman

Paul Hardiman - SCM Senior Auction Analyst

Paul is descended from engineers and horse thieves, so he naturally gravitated toward the old-car marketplace and still finds fascination in the simpler things in life: looking for spot-weld dimples under an E-type tail, or counting the head-studs on a supposed Mini-Cooper engine. His motoring heroes are Roger Clark, Burt Levy, Henry Royce and Smokey Yunick — and all he wants for next Christmas is an Alvis Stalwart complete with picnic table in the back and a lake big enough to play in.

Posted in Race