1936 Lagonda LG45 Rapide
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The company was rescued by entrepreneur Alan Good, who placed the legendary W.O. Bentley as the new chief designer. Under Bentley's guidance, the Lagonda models were moved into the luxury car market for 1936, with the introduction of the new LG45 model. They were fitted with the tried-and-true Meadows six-cylinder engine and chassis from the M45 model. Longer springs and Luvax dampers were fitted to give the car a more comfortable ride. Bentley turned his attention and his expertise on improving the proprietary engine.
Special competition variants of the LG45 were created at Staines Bridge for Lagonda's quasi-works racing team, Fox & Nicholl Limited, of Tolworth, Surrey. Arthur Fox and Bob Nicholl were Lagonda specialists who had been preparing and racing Lagonda cars since the mid-1920s.
In 1929, Fox and Nicholl ran four 2-liter cars in both the Irish Grand Prix and RAC Tourist Trophy races. They soon earned a reputation for their abilities to meticulously prepare competition Lagondas.
For the 1936 season, four competition cars were created specifically for Fox and Nicholl. Two four-seater cars were built to comply with Le Mans 24 Hour regulation requirements. Two two-seaters were also created for competition. This example, chassis EPE 97, is one of the two examples created. It was completed in May of 1936 and was given UK registration 'EPE 97' that August. The two-seater sister car, 'HLL 534', is still in existence. The whereabouts of the two four-seater cars is unknown.
Instead of Fox & Nicholls' normal racing red livery, their two-seater car was painted French blue at its racing debut. It was driven by Algerian-born French driver Marcel Lehoux in the sports car Grand Prix de l'ACF at Montlhéry, outside Paris, France on June 28, 1936. 'HLL 534' won its class while 'EPE 97' was forced to retire prematurely. It is believed that this was HLL 534's only race.
EPE 97 was painted in Fox & Nicholl's dark shade of red and entered in the RAC Tourist Trophy race in August of 1936. It was driven by the Honorable Brian Lewis who later became Lord Essendon. It wore race number 1 and ran in second place before it slid of the road and struck a bank. Brian Lewis was able to re-enter the race and the car ran a close third behind Eddie Hall's Derby Bentley. The battle continued until EPE 97 began loosing oil through a hole left by a broken engine timing cover stud. The car had run for four-hours, had recovered from an accident, but was now forced to limp to the finish. It finished in 14th place with an average speed of 76.12 mph.
The third major race for EPE 97 was the British Racing Drivers' Club 500-Mile classic at the Brooklands Motor Course near Weybridge, Surrey. It finished third with an average speed of 113.02 mph.
The car was retained by Fox & Nicholl for the 1937 season. It was entered in the 24-Hours of LeMans race where it was co-driven by Charles Brackenbury and by Fox & Nicholls' 1935 Le Mans-winning star – Hawker Aircraft test pilot-cum-racing driver John Hindmarsh. Sadly, due to unspecified mechanical problems, the car retired at 10pm on Saturday evening.
EPE 97 was entered in the RAC Tourist Trophy where it was co-driven by Charlie Brackenbury/C.E.C. ‘Charlie' Martin. It was crashed at the Melbourne Hairpin due to breakage of its near-side front stub axle. This would be the cars last major race.
In 1952, the car was acquired by Joe Goodhew. While in his care, the car was lowered by 10-inches and fitted with a ENV pre-selector gearbox. It was driven in several major races, including the inaugural Goodwood Nine Hours. It finished 14th out of the field of 18 finishers.
The next owner was Colonel L.S. Michael who continued its racing pedigree with over 120 races. It raced until the very early 1960s and then was retired for several years, until 1974, when it was acquired by David Dunn. While in his care, the car was rebuilt to its original Fox & Nicholl specification. In 1987 it was offered for sale at auction and purchased by car dealer Terry Cohn.
Over the next decade, the car was used in vintage competition. It remained with Mr. Cohn until his death, at which point it was acquired from his estate by its current owner.
In 2008, the legendary Lagonda racer was offered for sale at the 'Quail Lodge, A Sale of Exceptional Motorcars and Automobilia' presented by Bonhams Auction. It was sold for $1,382,000 inclusive of buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2008
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