Total Production: 63 1938 - 1939
Wilbur Gunn was born in 1859 and grew up in Springfield, Ohio. He arrived in England in 1891, where he met Mrs. Constance Grey, his future wife. She was a widower who had lost her husband in 1896. Constance and Gunn married in 1897. In 1898 Wilbur added a single-cylinder petrol engine to his bicycle. Within time, the Lagonda factory would be built on the property of their house. The name Lagonda was named for a creek near Gunn's home. The name 'Lagonda' is Shawnee Native American for a place now called Buck Creek.
Gunn's motorcycle proved to be successful in international competition, and soon he expanded his offerings to include three-wheeled vehicles with larger capacity engines, ultimately building over seventy examples. In 1908, Gunn won the London to England reliability trial which earned him the Gold Medal for that year. In 1910, the Moscow-St Petersburg reliability trial was won by Lagonda.
When World War I broke out, the Lagonda factory was morphed to accommodate the war effort, primarily building shells. After the war, they returned to building automobiles and racers. Shortly thereafter, Gunn passed away, dying in 1920. Gunn's partner, Alf Cranmer, continued the operations. Cranmer had been with the company from 1904 until 1935.
At the 1925 London Motor Show, a two-liter hemispherical four-cylinder model was introduced. Its excellent braking and superior construction continued its reputation for power and performance. A more sporting version, the 'speed', was introduced two years later. In 1930 Lagonda adopted a supercharger for their 2-liter motor and achieved a 90-mph top speed.
In 1933 the Lagonda M45 was introduced at the London Motor Show. It came equipped with a Meadows engine of 4453 cc capacity. Lord de Clifford used a prototype to outrun a train traveling from London to Brindisi. The feat was done in 14 hours. Future versions of the M45 were later modified and entered into the 1934 Tourist Trophy, and all three entrants finished in strong fashion. Road-going versions of these vehicles were later offered to the public.
The 24 Hours of Le Man's race was, and still is, one of the most prestigious race events in the world. It was grueling for the driver, team, and automobile. During the 1920s and 1930s, Bentley and Alfa Romeo were the favored victors. In 1935 John Hindmarsh and Luis Fontes drove a Lagonda M45 Rapide 1,868.42 miles averaging 77.85 mph to an overall victory.
Sadly, this victory was not met with increased sales. Part of the decline was new speed restrictions of 30 mph across Britain. Declining sales sent the company into bankruptcy. The company was saved by Alan Good and the company was reformed as LG Motors. Their first introduction was the LG45 which was based on the M45. It was given Girling brakes and a softer suspension. In total, 278 examples were offered.
Rolls-Royce had purchased the bankrupt Bentley Motors, and W.O. Bentley stayed aboard for a few years before leaving in the summer of 1935. He joined Lagonda as Technical Director and was tasked with creating a new 4.5-liter engine for the Lagonda LG45. The result was a six-cylinder OHV unit that was powerful and refined.
In 1937 Lagonda introduced the LG6 and the Lagonda V12 at the London Motor Show. Production began the following year. W.O. Bentley had created the designs for the chassis featuring independent front suspension by long torsion bars making them much sturdier than their predecessors. The 4.5-liter Meadows engine was used but treated to improvements and modifications which increased the horsepower. The LG6 served as the replacement for the long-running 4.5-Liter Lagonda and did so in fine fashion. It had a top speed of 100 mph with a modern chassis and body that made it extremely desirable and appealing. It benefited from the skills and experience of the legendary W.O. Bentley which makes it one of the greatest automobiles ever constructed.
Records indicate that a mere sixty-three Lagonda LG6s were constructed between 1937 and 1939. Only 50 have survived. It is estimated that around half of the production were dropheads.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008Wilbur Gunn, an aspiring opera singer living in west-central Ohio, decided he might have better luck in this career in cosmopolitan Europe. He emigrated to England around 1897 and soon married. His musical aspirations were not achieved, so in 1904 he gave up on opera, and established the Lagonda Motor Cycle Co., in Staines, Middlesex.
Along with singing, Gunn also possessed mechanical talent. One of his earlier enterprises was in producing steam-powered watercraft.
Gunn's automotive company was given a name that reflected his Ohio roots. Lagonda was the name of a small stream that flows through Springfield, Ohio, which has since been renamed to Buck Creek.
The Lagonda Company produced motorized bicycles, followed by three-wheelers, and from 1908 onward, produced proper four-wheeled motor cars.
The company developed a performance image that would continue beyond World War II. By the mid-1930s, the Lagonda added another feature to their automobiles - style. By this point in history, Wilbur Gunn was long gone, having passed away in 1920. After his passing, the company would go through several directors, and it faired reasonably well. During the 1930s, the fortunes began to decline, as the Great Depression began to take its toll on the economy. This, coupled with England's new 30 mph speed limit, set the performance car maker into receivership.
Control of the Lagonda passed to entrepreneur solicitor Alan, who soon hired Walter Owen Bentley. Bentley had been frustrated at the company he'd founded following its 1931 takeover by Rolls-Royce. He left his company when his contract expired in 1935. At Lagonda, Bentley quickly revitalized the mechanical and technical operations. He made upgrades to the Meadows 4.5-liter six-cylinder engine and created a new V12 powerplant.
Another addition to the Lagonda company was 26-year-old designer Frank Feeley. Feeley would breathe new life into the Lagonda designs and use his youthful exuberance to enhance the exterior and attract new customers. Feeley would later work for Aston Martin during the David Brown post-WWII era.
The LG45 models were introduced in 1936 and would remain in production until 1937. 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.
The LG6 followed in the late 1930s. These were elegant cars, drawing some of their inspiration from the LG45 Rapide drophead. They had extended teardrop fenders and modern sweeping lines. Along with elegance, they also benefited from the work of W.O. Bentley and had impressive performance.
Bentley redesigned the 4.5-liter six, which included a new crossflow cylinder head and twin magneto ignition. The result was upwards of 150 horsepower at 3800 RPM, and a top speed in excess of 105 mph.
At the 1937 London Motor Show, the LG6 made its public debut. Production followed a year later, in 1938, just prior to the start of World War II. In September of 1939, LG6 Rapide production had reached just six units. Many other traditional drophead coupes and saloons were produced, but only six Rapide's were built prior to the start of World War II. It is believed that 85 Lagonda LG6s were built between 1937 and 1939.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2009