Background history: In 1933 Lagonda had announced a new 4½ litre model fitted with an engine built by the Meadows company. This was a robust unit, well tried and used by Invicta in their range of cars and Vickers in tanks. The new Lagonda Tourers were high quality cars and in direct competition with the new Bentleys being built by Rolls-Royce. The Lagonda was priced at £795 for the complete car. The Bentley chassis alone cost £1,100 and even a simple Vanden Plas Tourer body would be another £240 on top! This was a lot of money when the average house price was around £200. With its stylish appearance, the Lagonda M45 Tourer was the fashionable car to own in 1934 and even Sir Malcolm Campbell had one, pale blue naturally.
However these were difficult times and in the wake of the ‘Wall Street Crash’ and the depression that came after, Lagonda followed the likes of Bentley and Invicta into receivership in June 1935. The irony was that very same month a 4½ litre Lagonda won the Le Mans 24 hour race. In those days success in motor racing produced sales in the showrooms and with better timing this could have put the business back on its feet.
In the event, the remains of company was sold to a consortium led by a young lawyer, Alan Good, with Dick Watney as Managing Director and W.O. Bentley as Technical Director. “LG Motors (Staines) Ltd” was registered in August 1935 but effectively the Lagonda brand continued.
Refinanced and restructured the new company wanted to capitalise on the significant victory at Le Mans. An eye-catching sports model sharing the same name as the winning car would re-establish the marque as a name to be reckoned with. Frank Feeley (who later penned the DB3S for Aston Martin) designed a flamboyant four-seat open tourer with highly stylised coachwork that looked bang up to date but actually utilised most of the existing chassis components. The engine was the big six cylinder, 4½ Litre Meadows unit but re-engineered by Lagonda’s Technical Director, no less a man than W.O. Bentley. His redesign ensured performance and reliability improvements. Stronger ‘four bolt’ main bearings, a strengthened crankcase, a new ignition system and a fresh induction system were all part of the package.
The power was transmitted through a four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on second, third and top. The result surely exceeded all expectations and a Rapide caused a sensation wherever one appeared, drawing attention to its potency with its twin chrome exhausts sprouting from the bonnet sides. The Rapide was narrow, low and accelerated fast with a top speed that exceeded 100mph. Only 25 were built.
Chassis 12141/R is an important car, it was built as a prototype and had the hopes of the new company riding with it. The attention of the Directors and staff were acutely focused on it. The styling was a breath-taking departure from the conservative mainstream and Lagonda’s young designer Frank Feeley created a bold and flowing body clearly influenced by the Art Deco movement. When it was unveiled at the prestigious London Motorshow at Olympia in 1936 it drew huge crowds of admirers.
The car was sold off the stand to a wealthy American who lived in New York and the car was to remain in the USA until 1988. Famously in the hands of its second owner Mike Vaughn it was raced extensively and was photographed at Watkins Glen in 1948 and appeared in the New York Times.
After a number of other owners the car was returned to Europe in 1988 in the ownership of Berndt Holthusen. An authority on Lagondas he wrote the definitive book on the pre- war cars and this Rapide features significantly with detailed pictures of its complete restoration and finished in his choice of bright scarlet.
The current owner bought the car in 2015 and while he loved the car he found it hard to live with the bright red hue and commisssioned marque expert David Ayre disassemble the entire car and then strip and repaint the chassis and body in dark green which is as per the original as verified on the cars chassis records. The interior was also re-trimmed in contrasting dark red leather.
Having seen little use since restoration the car is offered in impeccable condition and has an interesting and documented history. This Lagonda Rapide is a world class car suitable for concours or rally entry. Offered for sale with matching numbers and significant paperwork.
The ownership history of the car is known as follows:
1936-19?? Mr. J.W. Waller, New York
19??-1955 M. M. Vaughn
1955 1958 Mr. F.H. Sills, Illinois
1958 1960 Dr. D.P. Rucker, Virginia
1960-1967 Mr. C.A. Olsson, Virginia
1967-1988 Mr. R.M. Roy, New Jersey
1988-2015 Mr. Berndt Holthusen, Netherlands
2015- 2018 Current Owner, UK.