1937 Lagonda LG 45Rapide
Year of manufacture1937
Car typeConvertible / Roadster
Chassis number12267 R
Engine number12267 R
Lagonda built high quality cars and when they launched a new 4½ Litre model in 1933 it was in direct competition with the Bentleys being built by Rolls-Royce. The Lagonda was priced at £795 for the complete car. The Bentley chassis alone cost £ 1,100 and a simple Vanden Plas Tourer body would add another £240 on top! This was a lot of money when the average house price was around £200. Not surprisingly the new the Lagonda was a success especially with its stylish appearance, lively performance and attractive price.
However these were difficult times and in the wake of the ‘Wall Street Crash’ and the depression that came after, Lagonda followed the likes of Bentley and Invicta into receivership in June 1935. The irony was that very same month a 4½ litre Lagonda won the Le Mans 24 hour race. In those days success in motor racing produced sales in the showrooms and with better timing this could have put the business back on its feet.
In the event, a new company was formed by a consortium led by a young lawyer, Alan Good, with Dick Watney as Managing Director and W.O. Bentley as Technical Director. “LG Motors (Staines) Ltd” was registered in August 1935 and effectively the Lagonda brand was back in the game.
Refinanced and restructured the new company wanted to capitalise on that audacious victory at Le Mans. An eye-catching sports model sharing the same name as the winning car would re-establish the marque as a name to be reckoned with. Frank Feeley (who later penned the DB3S for Aston Martin) designed a flamboyant four-seat open tourer with highly stylised coachwork that looked bang up to date but actually utilised existing chassis components. The engine was a big six cylinder, 4½ Litre Meadows unit but re-engineered by Lagonda’s Technical Director, no less a man than W.O. Bentley His redesign ensured performance and reliability improvements. Stronger ‘four bolt’ main bearings, a strengthened crankcase, a new ignition system and a fresh induction system were all part of the package.
The power was transmitted through a four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on second, third and top. The result surely exceeded all expectations and a Rapide caused a sensation wherever one appeared, drawing attention to its potency with its twin chrome exhausts sprouting from the bonnet sides. The Rapide was narrow, low and accelerated fast with a top speed that exceeded 100mph. Only 25 were built.
This car was ordered on the 23rd July 1937 and delivered on 22nd October. It was finished in an attractive colour scheme with green paint, matching leather and with fawn hood and tonneau covers. The car’s first owner, Mr. S Baker of 39 Davies Street, W1 was clearly a man of great taste. The car is offered today in the same livery.
The cars second owner was Norman Kimmersley of Bristol and the third owner was a Mr. J. Stone of Hampstead and then Ken King owned the car for a number of years until 1956.
When Harry Hurst bought the Rapide it was the beginning of a 28 year affair. He was a clever chemist and entrepreneur who made his fortune when he developed the chemical damp proof course that is still used in the building trade today. He paid £ 300 for the car and this is evidenced by a certified receipt in the history file. He clearly loved the Lagonda and the history file has a number enigmatic photos of him with the car and his family. He obviously also rated its performance as there is a picture of him taking part in a competitive event. Ultimately the car was only sold by his family in 1984 after his death. His son, Tony who supplied a number of the pictures in the file, remembers many great journeys in the car.
The car accordingly appeared in a Sotheby’s Auction in March 1984 and this too is thoroughly documented. It sold under the hammer for £ 19,000 to a George Chilberg via his agent, Mr. Simon Carell. Chilberg commissioned Herb Schofield’s eponymously Northern Lagonda factory to carry out a complete restoration.
Work was completed in 1986 and the car was shipped to San Diego, California and thus began another long term custodianship that was to last 29 years. A well-known racer and collector, Chilberg displayed the car at numerous events including the world famous Pebble Beach Concours in 1999 and Newport Beach Concours in 2006. The car benefitted from a complete engine rebuild in 2010 and a recent internal inspection evidenced a new crankshaft, Carillo rods, and a new cylinder block and pistons as well as numerous other smaller parts.
In 2013 an Englishman travelling in California negotiated the purchase of the car and then drove it across to the east Coast and entered the Amelia Island Concours. This was Mr. Tim Summers, successful historic racer and an irrepressible enthusiast. He repatriated the car and reclaimed its original registration, ELB 396. He went on to commission his own complete and meticulous restoration with a cavalier disregard to expense. These works were undertaken by some of the best in the business. Bishop Grey tended to the mechanicals and the bodywork was carefully re-painted by Moto-Technique in the original green that was matched from a scrap found behind the dashboard in the stripping process.
The complete cockpit was re-trimmed using traditional methods and materials. The job required 7 hides of Connolly Vaumol leather and these alone cost nearly £ 5,000. Matching Wilton carpets were fitted and the hood, side screens and tonneau covers were all replaced in the fawn colour material as per new. The cost of the re-trim came close to £ 40,000 but the result is fabulous. The car was also re-wired by the highly regarded technician, Winston Teague. The whole restoration is documented in the history file and makes impressive reading.
The current owner bought the car in 2015 and during his ownership has successfully completed the 2018 Flying Scotsman Rally and completed two significant European trips. During his tenure he has had the car maintained by Thronley Kelham and as well as routine maintenance they have fitted a complete set of 5 new road wheels and rebuilt the rear axle.
The car is offered in very good condition with unmarked paint and very smart interior only showing the lightest patina from recent adventures. The engine has also been serviced by a highly regarded engineer and like the rest of the mechanicals is in good order.
This is a very impressive Lagonda LG 45 Rapide offered in near superbe condition in its original colours and with its original registration. The car has matching numbers throughout and a complete set of factory build sheets to verify this and confirm its specification. The car performs very well and is a delight to drive and can hold its own as an entrant in competitive events or on the concours field. A weighty history file of photos, documents, letters and invoices accompany the car.