Historic Car Brands
Wilbur Gunn was an American of Scots descent, who moved to the UK in 1891. A one-time opera singer, Wilbur had an engineering bent and worked as a motorcycle and steam-boat engineer. “Giralda’ was reportedly the fastest steam yacht on the Thames. The name ‘Lagonda’ came from the Shawnee name for his home-town in Ohio.
Wilbur started making motorcycles, scoring a success in the London-Edinburgh Trial of 1905 and graduated to making 1.2-litre, twin-cylinder, three-wheel, then four-wheel cars. He drove a Coventry-Simplex powered Lagonda 16/18 to victory in the Moscow-St Petersburg Trial of 1910. This car had a very basic form of unit construction, featuring tinned sheet steel riveted to angle-section framework.
Lagonda’s success resulted in exports to Russia that continued until 1914. A 30hp model, powered by a Lagonda-made, six-cylinder engine, with the cylinders cast in pairs was a popular car in Russia.
1922 Lagonda 11.9hp Roadster – Sicnag
In 1913 Lagonda also made an advanced small car, the 11.1, powered by a four-cylinder one-litre engine, which featured exposed overhead inlet and in-block side exhaust valves, and the sump casting bolted to the chassis, for additional stiffness. It had a rivetted monocoque body and transverse-leaf front suspension, with more conventional quarter-elliptic rear leaves.
The 11.1 also had the first ever ‘fly-off’ handbrake that proved popular with many sports car makers, allowing rapid racing starts.
During World War I, Lagonda made artillery shells and after 1918 the 11.1 resumed production, powered by a larger 1.4-litre engine and renamed the ’11.9’ until 1923, and ’12/24’ until 1926, picking up concealed inlet valves, a taller radiator, improved valve-train lubrication and front wheel brakes.
However, Wilbur Gunn had been exhausted by his strenuous working regime during the War and died in 1920.
Lagonda 12-24 LC – Vintage Cars
The first of the company’s sports models was launched in 1925 as the 14/60 with a twin-cam two-litre, four-cylinder engine that had hemispherical combustion chambers. The cams were mounted high in the block and operated the valves via angled rockers, making inlet and exhaust plumbing tricky. The car had a conventional chassis and was designed by Arthur Davidson, who had come from Lea-Francis. Early models had a higher chassis than later ‘low-chassis’ versions.
1927 Lagonda 16/65 – Parrott
A higher-output engine came in 1927 with the 2-litre Speed Model that could be had supercharged in 1930. The vertically-mounted supercharger installation was an effort to overcome the tortuous manifolding on the high-cam engine and certainly resulted in more performance, but at the cost of cooling reliability and poor fuel economy.
A lengthened chassis version, the 16/65, with six-cylinder 2.4-litre engine, was available from 1926 to 1930. This engine had conventional pushrod-operated overhead valves.
The final car of the 1920s was the seven-main-bearing 3-litre that continued until 1933, when the engine grew to 3.2 litres and was also available with a complex, eight-speed Maybach transmission as the Selector Special. The 3-litre chassis was strengthened for 1933.
Lagonda 16/80 Weimann – Opidum Nissenae
In 1933 the 16/80 was launched, with a two-litre Crossley Motors engine and ENV pre-selector gearbox from 1934.
1934 Lagonda 4.5-litre engine – Bradfield Cars UK
At the 1933 Olympia Show Lagonda unveiled the near-100mph, 4.5-litre M45 model, powered by a Meadows six-cylinder engine. The engine was a derivative fo the 1925 Meadows engine that had powered Invicta since 1928, but with wider, offset bores. The M45 was initially sold with the 3-litre transmission that proved unequal to the task and was quickly replaced by a Meadows box.
1934 Lagonda M45 T9 Rapide Open Tourer – Detect and Preserve
The M45R Rapide – an out-and-out sporting version, with tuned M45 engine and a shorter chassis – scored a Le Mans victory in 1935.
A new small car, the Rapier, came along in 1934, with 1.1-litre, twin-overhead-camshaft engine and pre-selector gearbox. The high-revving four was originally to be cast in aluminium, but was produced in more durable chromidium iron.
1935 Lagonda Rapier – Steve Glover
This model lasted until 1935, but more were made until 1938, by a separate company formed by Lagonda engineer Tim Ashcroft, who had designed the entire car. Rapier Cars of London continued with Rapier production. A supercharged Rapier was available in 1936 and one circulated around the outer track at Brooklands, at 110mph.
Also in 1935 the 3-litre grew to a 3.5-litre, in the M35.
By 1935 Lagonda was producing six relatively low volume models and, despite its sporting successes and undoubted quality, was in deep financial crisis. A receiver was called in and the company was bought by Alan Good, who narrowly outbid Rolls-Royce. He also persuaded W O Bentley to leave Rolls-Royce and join Lagonda as designer.
1934 Lagonda M45 – Lagonda Club
Good ditched all models except the 4.5-litre range that became the LG45. It was essentially an M45 Rapide engine in an M45 frame, with softer springs and Girling brakes.
The LG45 came in three versions, known as Sanctions 1, 2 and 3. This was a reflection of the production process, where running changes were made to batches – ‘sanctions’ – of vehicles in-build.
The highest-performance variant of the LG45 was the Rapide tourer (LG45R). Where the M45R was available with open, drophead and saloon bodies, the LG45R was a basic, four-seat tourer with cycle-type mudguards and outside exhaust. The Rapide had a higher compression ratio, taller gearing and various other differences.
1940 Lagonda V12 – Mr Choppers
In 1937 the LG6 derivative was launched, with diagonally-braced chassis and independent front suspension by unequal-length wishbones and longitudinal torsion bars. The hydraulic brakes were operated by a tandem master cylinder with twin circuits, for safety in the event of a failure in one circuit.
1939 Lagonda V12 engine – Popular Resorations
This final iteration of the Meadows-powered 4.5-litre lineage was overshadowed by the simultaneous release of W O Bentley’s masterpiece, his V12 engine, slated into the LG45’s chassis.
The 4.5-litre had a single chain-driven camshaft on each cylinder bank and delivered 180bhp. It was capable of propelling a Lagonda from 7mph to 105mph in top gear and revved to 5000rpm. All V12 models could exceed 100mph, even when fitted with heavy saloon bodywork on the longest of three available wheelbases.
Sadly, Word War II ended the V12’s progress, although some American customers took delivery of new cars into 1940.
1939 Lagonda V12 Le Mans Works Team Car – Alf van Beem
During the War, Lagonda was one of the largest British gun production plants and also developed and produced the ‘Crocodile’ and ‘Wasp’ flame-throwing equipment for armoured vehicles.
In 1947, Lagonda was taken over by David Brown and the company moved in with Aston Martin, which he had also bought, in Feltham, Middlesex.
Production restarted with the model W O Bentley had conceived during the War. The 1948 2.6-Litre had a new chassis featuring fully independent suspension. Up front the wishbones were retained, but springing was by coils. At the rear were angled semi-trailing arms, with springing by torsion bars.
Lagonda 2.6-litre Tickford Sports Drophead Saloon – Homer Simpson
Its new 2.6-litre, twin overhead cam straight six became the basis for the Aston Martin engines of the 1950s. The engine grew to three litres in 1953, by virtue of staggered bores and offset connecting rods, and continued to be available until 1958. The transmission was a David Brown S430 synchromesh four-speed.
The Lagonda 3-litre continued until 1958, picking up a floor gear shift lever along the way.
1964 Lagonda Rapide – Herr Anders Svensson
After an absence of three years the marque reappeared in 1961, when the Rapide name was attached to what was really a four-door Aston Martin, with aluminium body by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan and de Dion rear suspension. Its four-litre engine was capable of taking the car to 125mph.
The Rapide lasted until 1965 and between 1974 and 1976, a total of seven Lagonda saloons were produced on the Aston Martin V8 chassis.
1989 Lagonda – Jagvar
The large and futuristic Aston Martin Lagonda of 1976 was designed by William Towns. This low, rather square, wedge shaped car was built on Aston Martin V8components and was available until 1989.
Aston Martin produced a concept car called the Lagonda Vignale at the 1993 Geneva Motor Show. In 1994, a handful of Lagonda four-door saloons and shooting brakes were built on the basis of the Aston Martin Virage.
In 2014, Aston Martin announced a large, low-bodied saloon, the Taraf, a Stg£1 million car powered by a normally aspirated V12 producing 565hp. The Taraf was limited to only 200 production units.
2015 Aston Martin Lagonda Taraf – Edvvc