1939 Lagonda Rapide Tulipwood Boattail Racer

Lagonda was founded in England by an American, Wilbur Gunn, in the 1920's. In 1935, W.O. Bentley joined Lagonda just in time to design the LG45 LG6 motorcars. The Bentley designed Lagonda V12 power-plant is considered to be Bentley's engineering masterpiece. The Lagonda V12 had considerable success at Le Mans, including a 1st and 2nd in class. It is believed that nine boat-tail racing Rapides were built with a lightweight aluminum body. Out of the nine Rapides, one is understood to have been fitted with a wooden body similar to the car shown here. The condition of the car is superb, the woodwork is well preserved, and the brass is stunning. There are thousands of brass rivets that are laid in perfect rows which serve to fasten the tulipwood to the coachwork.

The car has a 224 horsepower V12 Rapid drive train and has a side exhaust system with 12 external pipes. There is seating for two in the front and 2 in the hideaway rumble seat.

1939 Lagonda Rapide Tulipwood Boattail Racer 1939 Lagonda Rapide Tulipwood Boattail Racer 1939 Lagonda Rapide Tulipwood Boattail Racer
Chassis #: 14095
Sold for $451,000 at 2007 Monterey Sports and Classic Car Auction.
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.

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.

This 1939 Lagonda Rapide V-12 Tulipwood Tourer was offered for sale at the 2006 Gooding & Company Auction held in Pebble Beach, Ca where it was estimated to sell between $400,000-$500,000. It is powered by a 4480-cc Double-Overhead Camshaft V12 engine that produces an impressive 225 horsepower. The car has a four-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel hydraulic Dewandre power assisted drums brakes.

This car is very unique with its boat-tail bodied and torpedo-style cycle fenders of tulipwood with brass rivets. On each side of the vehicle there are six chromed exhaust pipes that exit from under the hood and into two very large mufflers and tailpipes. The center-lock wire wheels are plated in copper and are a brilliant compliment to the vehicle and its color-tone.

Located in the front are a pair of Zeiss headlamps with exposed horns sitting just below the lamps. The upholstery of the car, including the drivers compartment and the rear passenger compartment, is tufted oxblood leather. The dashboard is wooden with white-on-black instrumentation.

This car was part of a Japanese collection before being brought to the United States in the 1990s. The very early history of the car is still in question. The car has made appearances at the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, Cranbrook Concours d'Elegance, and the Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance.

At auction, this one-off handcrafted vehicle was left unsold. A short time later it was shown at the 2006 Hilton Head Concours d'Elegance. It returned to Monterey in 2007 where it was part of the Sports & Classic Car Auction presented by RM Auctions, where it had an estimated value of $400,000-$500,000. It left the auction under new ownership, selling for $451,000 including buyer's premium.


By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007

Concepts by Lagonda



Recent Vehicle Additions

Performance and Specification Comparison

Model Year Production

#1#2#3Lagonda
1942Chevrolet (254,885)Ford (160,432)Plymouth (152,427)
1941Chevrolet (1,008,976)Ford (691,455)Plymouth (522,080)
1940Chevrolet (764,616)Ford (541,896)Plymouth (430,208)
1939Chevrolet (577,278)Ford (487,031)Plymouth (423,850)
1938Chevrolet (465,158)Ford (410,263)Plymouth (285,704)
1937Ford (942,005)Chevrolet (815,375)Plymouth (566,128)
1936Ford (930,778)Chevrolet (918,278)Plymouth (520,025)
1935Ford (820,253)Chevrolet (548,215)Plymouth (350,884)
1934Ford (563,921)Chevrolet (551,191)Plymouth (321,171)

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