Wilbur Gunn constructed his first self-propelled vehicle in 1899; it was a motorized bicycle with an engine of his own design that powered the front wheel. Soon, his backyard greenhouse had been converted into a factory used for constructing belt-driven motorcycles. Gunn, an American opera singer living in England, had selected the name 'Lagonda' from an Ohio creek. The creek had been named after a Shawnee Indian phrase.
By 1907, the first Lagonda vehicle had been constructed. By the mid-1920s he had created an engine that utilized an overhead valve with a hemi-head. The engine displaced two-liters and had twin cams high in the block. The cars powered by these engines were called the 14/60. The cars quickly gained a reputation for their potent engines and their equally impressive brakes.
The first true sports car created by Lagonda appeared near the close of 1927. It was based on the 14/60 and given two-liter engine with twin carburetors and a higher compression ratio. Top speed was in the neighborhood of eighty miles per hour.
Within a year, a larger version of the engine was introduced, now displacing three-liters. The engines gained a reputation for their durability and longevity which helped in longer endurance races.
The Type M45 was shown at the 1934 London Motor Show. Under the bonnet was a Meadows six-cylinder pushrod engine. The M45R was formed by applying modifications to the engine. This version was used in the Rapide models and powered the winning car of the 1935 LeMans 24-Hour race for Lagonda. Two modified M45s were entered in the 1934 Tourist Trophy with each finishing rather well.
Britain imposed a new 30 mph speed limit which had sales plummeting for the Lagonda marque. They offered six different Lagonda models which stretched the company beyond their means and were forced to declare bankruptcy a short time later. The company was reformed as LG Motors.
With the help of W.O. Bentley, the first LG-Series car made their appearance in 1935. The engine size and performance continued to grow throughout the years. Soon, the engine was displacing 4.5-liters. In 1939 two specially bodied V12 Lagonda's finished 1st and 2nd in Class at the 24-Hours of LeMans. They had finished the race in 3rd and 4th position overall.
A Lagonda V12 was entered in a 500 mile race at Brooklands where it emerged victorious and beat the Bentley entered cars. Top speed was reported to be over 100 mph.
The LG45 was available in two chassis lengths and four engine choices. There were a total of 278 examples constructed. 25 of these were the Rapide. During World War II, there were 100 examples ordered by the British Navy. They were never used and sold as scrap once the war concluded.
In 1944, a German V-1 flying bomb hit Lagonda's production facilities and put the company out of business. By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2008