Lagonda Owners Group

Lagonda was a British car manufacturer, founded in 1906. The company was purchased and integrated into Aston Martin in 1947.

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Latest Activity: Jun 28, 2011

Lagonda - Overview & History

Lagonda was a British car manufacturer, founded as a company in 1906 in Staines, Middlesex by the American Wilbur Gunn (1859-1920). He named the company after a river near his home town of Springfield, Ohio. The company was purchased and integrated into Aston Martin in 1947.

Wilbur Gunn had originally built motorcycles on a small scale in the garden of his house in Staines with reasonable success including a win on the 1905 London—Edinburgh trial. In 1907 he launched his first car, the 20-hp, 6-cylinder Torpedo, which he used to win the Moscow—St. Petersburg trial of 1910. This success produced a healthy order for exports to Russia which continued until 1914. In the pre-war period Lagonda also made an advanced small car, the 11.1 with a four-cylinder 1000 cc engine, which featured an anti-roll bar and a rivetted monocoque body and the first ever fly-off handbrake.

After the end of the war the 11.1 continued with a larger 1400-cc engine and standard electric lighting as the 11.9 until 1923 and the updated 12 until 1926. Following Wilbur Gunn's death in 1920, three existing directors headed by Colin Parbury took charge. The first of the company's sports models was launched in 1925 as the 14/60 with a twin-cam 1954-cc 4-cylinder engine and hemispherical combustion chambers. The car was designed by Arthur Davidson who had come from Lea-Francis. A higher output engine came in 1927 with the 2-litre Speed Model which could be had supercharged in 1930. A lengthened chassis version, the 16/65, with 6-cylinder 2.4-litre engine, was available from 1926 to 1930. The final car of the 1920s was the 3-litre using a 2931-cc 6-cylinder engine. This continued until 1933 when the engine grew to 3181 cc and was also available with a complex 8-speed Maybach transmission as the Selector Special.

A new model for 1933 was the 16-80 using a 2-litre Crossley engine with pre-selector gearbox from 1934. A new small car, the Rapier came along in 1934 with 1104-cc engine and pre-selector gearbox. This lasted until 1935 but more were made until 1938 by a separate company, Rapier Cars of Hammersmith, London. At the other extreme was the near 100-mph, 4.5-litre M45 with Meadows 6-cylinder 4467-cc engine. An out and out sporting version the M45R Rapide, with tuned M45 engine and a shorter chassis led to a Le Mans victory in 1935. Also in 1935 the 3-litre grew to a 3.5-litre.

All was not well financially and the receiver was called in 1935 but the company was bought by Alan Good, who just outbid Rolls-Royce. He also persuaded W. O. Bentley to leave Rolls-Royce and join Lagonda as designer. The 4.5-litre range now became the LG45 with lower but heavier bodies and also available in LG45R Rapide form. The LG45 came in 3 versions known as Sanction 1,2 and 3 each with more Bentley touches to the engine. In 1938 the LG6 with independent front suspension by torsion bar and hydraulic brakes came in.

Bentley's masterpiece the V12 was launched in 1937. The 4480-cc engine delivered 180bhp and was said to be capable of going from 7 to 105 mph in top gear and to rev to 5000 rpm.
A History of the Lagonda Car Company
Founded in 1899 at Staines, Middlesex, by Wilbur Gunn, an expatriate American, the company diversified from its original steam engines into the new motor cycles in 1900, followed by three-wheeled tricars in 1904. These lasted until 1907 when their market suddenly collapsed. Gunn then converted his products to four wheels, which grew steadily larger, culminating in a 4.5 litre 6, and started an export business to Russia, triggered by a notable success in the 1910 St. Petersburg to Moscow rally.

The 11.1

Agreeing with Henry Ford that the future of the motor car lay in cheap cars, the 11.1 HP Lagonda of 1913 was a complete reversal of policy and was the first car to do away with the chassis frame. The original tiny coupe was followed by a four-seater and a van in 1914, just before car production was stopped by the government. After the war the 11.1 was enlarged to the 11.9 HP, still chassisless but larger. This in turn was succeeded by the 12/24 which used very similar mechanical parts but had a rudimentary chassis which made it easier to carry out bodywork changes.

The 14/60
Another change of policy in 1925 brought in the 14/60, the first car to use Lagonda’s twin high-set camshafts in a totally new engine and chassis. It also moved the company’s products into a much more expensive bracket. It was joined the following year by a six cylinder model, the 16/65, which, surprisingly, had a totally different pushrod ohv engine, with very few parts in common. The company’s fondness for motor sport led to a much faster version of the 14/60 called the Speed Model 2 Litre in 1927. This is the car most readily associated with the make at the time and was an instant success, offering Bentley performance at a much cheaper cost. The 16/65 was redesigned to have a 3 litre engine, initially as a dignified saloon, soon followed by the Special which followed the Speed Model design concept, as applied to the longer chassis.

Speed Model
A team of special Speed Models entered the major long distance races of 1928 and the lessons learnt led to the introduction of a low chassis version in 1929, the racing team that year being run by Fox & Nicholl, a formidable and very successful private entrant. The 2 litre had an intrinsic breathing problem which the factory tackled by introducing a supercharged version in 1930, capable of a genuine 90 mph in standard tune. This was seen as a courageous step at the time since early superchargers were not renowned for reliability.

3 Litre Selector
Lagonda’s buoyant market was hit particularly hard by the Depression in 1931 and in an effort to boost slow sales of the 3 Litre the company adopted the ‘Selector’ gearbox from Maybach, which permitted clutchless gearchanging. It was, however, so heavy that the chassis, unchanged since 1926, had totally to be redesigned and more power sought by boring out the engine to 75 mm from 72 mm. By 1932 the fashion for small ‘sixes’ had made it very difficult to sell the 4 cylinder 2 Litre. The company could not afford to pay for, or wait for, a new design of its own, so a decision was made to install a Crossley six of 1991 cc into the latest version of the 2 Litre, called the Continental. The new model was christened the 16/80.

The 4.5 Litre
This use of bought-in components was a new world to Lagonda and the following year saw a similar installation of a 4.5 litre Meadows six cylinder engine into a modified 3 Litre chassis to make the M45 model. A 50% increase in power with no increase in weight produced dramatic performance gains and another instant success. The factory had some difficulty keeping up with demand. At the same time, they explored the opposite end of the quality sports car market with the 1104 cc Rapier, designed by Tim Ashcroft. The anticipated demand for this would have overwhelmed the Lagonda bodyshop, so it was to be sold as a chassis only, with the customer expected to commission his own bodywork. This move proved unpopular and in practice nearly all Rapiers were bodied by Abbott of Farnham.

The Rapide and Le Mans
At the 1934 Motor Show an even faster 4.5 Litre, called the Rapide, was introduced, using a chassis 6 inches shorter, fitted with the new Girling brakes and a modernised body. The 3 Litre was dropped to be replaced with a 3.5 litre-engine version of the Rapide chassis. The Rapide had already gained much publicity in the 1934 Tourist Trophy race in Ulster, where a team of three, run by Fox & Nicholl, had fought a fierce battle with the Hall Bentley. Two of this team then contested the 1935 Le Mans race which Hindmarsh and Fontes won after a race-long battle in atrocious weather with the Alfas and Bugattis. Lagonda could take little advantage from this win as they were in receivership at the time, after the bank had shut them down in April, when the introduction of the 30 mph speed limit had temporarily destroyed their sales prospects. In fact the company was up for sale, with tenders to be returned the day after the Le Mans win.

The V12 and W.O.Bentley
The successful bidder was Alan Good, a solicitor turned tycoon with access to plentiful funds. He was able to recruit W.O. Bentley as Technical Director, who, by the end of 1935 had re-introduced the 4.5 Litre in a revised form (the LG45) and set about designing Good’s aim “The best car in the world”. This was the V12, launched very prematurely in 1936 and fully at the end of 1937. A very complex 4.5 litre engine in a wholly new chassis, independently sprung at the front, it had 100 mph performance in great comfort and a 6-cylinder version, the LG6, was available for customers put off by the fuel bills and tax liability. Two special racing V12 contested the 1939 Le Mans race, with great hopes for 1940, but three months after the race, all car production stopped at the outbreak of the second world war.

The DB cars
Once it became clear that the Allies were likely to win, W.O. set about designing a post-war car. A gloomy market prediction led him to rule out re-introducing the V12 and led him to design a smaller (2.6 litre) six cylinder car, for which a brand new twin ohc engine and an all-independently sprung chassis were proposed. By VE Day three hand-made prototypes had been built and were being tested. But the 1945 government had little sympathy for expensive cars and issued a completely useless steel allocation. So Lagonda, well financed for the first time in its life, couldn’t build any cars. Good severed his interest and the company was sold to David Brown, already the owner of Aston Martin and keen to buy W.O’s brilliant engine to put in them. Brown had his own access to steel and the 2.6 finally went into production late in 1948.

By the end of 1952 the 2.6 was beginning to look a bit outdated, so a revised body design, originally drawn up by Tickford and fitted to a few bespoke 2.6s, was made into the DB 3 litre, which used a revised version of the Bentley engine, bored out to give 3 litres by using asymmetric connecting rods. The two-door saloon was soon joined by a four-door and a drophead coupe. Production of the 3 litre finally ended at the end of 1957, by which time all Aston Martin Lagonda production had moved to the old Tickford plant at Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire.

DB Rapide
There was then a gap until 1961 when the Rapide name was revived for what was, in principle, a four-door DB4, using a new 4 litre six cylinder engine, an advanced chassis with a de Dion rear axle and Superleggera bodywork. Its hand-made production method put the price so high it became difficult to sell and only 55 were made before 1964, when it was dropped. But David Brown had a soft spot for the make and had built a one-off four-door saloon in 1969 for his personal use, based on the contemporary DBS V8. This was joined in 1974 by seven more examples, but by then David Brown had stepped down and the company went through a series of owners. In 1976 the then owners launched the extremely futuristic V8, designed by William Towns, which was the star of that year’s Motor Show. But trouble with the experimental electronics delayed full production until the spring of 1978. The Lagonda was AML’s main product for the following two years and 621 were sold, in three distinct versions, ending in 1990. Since then, only a handful of cars badged as Lagondas have emerged, usually as four-door variants of the current Aston Martin, plus the stillborn Vignale prototype, which was only conceived as a Motor Show ‘concept car’.

Aston Martin
1989 Aston Martin LagondaIn 1947 the company was taken over by David Brown and the company moved in with Aston Martin, which he had also bought, in Feltham, Middlesex. Production restarted with the last model from W. O. Bentley, the 1948 2.6-Litre with new chassis featuring fully independent supension. Its new 2580 cc twin overhead cam straight 6 became the basis for the Aston Martin engines of the 1950s. The engine grew to 3 litres in 1953 and continued to be available until 1958.

Many thought that the marque had disappeared but in 1961 the Rapide name was resurrected with aluminium body by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan and 3995 cc engine capable of taking the car to 125 mph. By this time, Aston Martin-Lagonda as it now was, had moved to Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire. The Rapide lasted until 1965.

Between 1974 and 1976, seven Lagonda saloons were produced on the basis of the Aston Martin V8.

One more car was to appear with the large and futuristic Aston Martin Lagonda of 1976 designed by William Towns. This low, rather square, wedge shaped car was built on Aston Martin V8 components and was available, at least in theory, until 1989.

Aston Martin produced a concept car called the Lagonda Vignale at the 1993 Geneva motor show.

In 1994, a handful of Lagonda 4-door saloons and shooting brakes were built on the basis of the Aston Martin Virage. Although these are the most recent cars to wear a Lagonda badge, the Rapide name is expected to be revived for 2009 as the Aston Martin Rapide saloon.

Aston Martin said on 1st September 2008, as reported by Automotive News Europe that it will relaunch its Lagonda brand to help it expand into new markets such as luxury sedans and celebrate Lagonda's centennial anniversary in 2009.

"The Lagonda brand would allow us to develop cars which can have a different character than a sports car," said CEO Ulrich Bez in a statement. "Lagonda will have its own niche with luxurious and truly versatile products suitable for both existing and emerging markets".

"Lagonda models would be vehicles that could be used all year round in markets such as Russia where specialized sports cars such as Aston Martins could only be used for three or four months each year", said Aston Martin spokeswoman Janette Green.

Year Type Engine Production
1906-1913 20 3052 cc side valve 4 cylinder
1911-1913 30 4578 cc side valve 4 cylinder
1913-1921 11 1099 cc inlet over exhaust valve 4 cylinder 6000(inc 11.9 and 12)
1920-1923 11.9 1421 cc inlet over exhaust valve 4 cylinder 6000(inc 11 and 12)
1923-1926 12 and 12/24 1421 cc inlet over exhaust valve 4 cylinder 6000 (inc 11 and 11.9)
1925-1933 14/60 and 2 litre Speed 1954 cc ohv 4 cylinder 1440
1926-1930 16/65 2389 (later 2692) cc ohv 6 cylinder 250
1928-1934 3 litre 2931 cc ohv 6 cylinder 570
1926-1930 16/80 1991 cc ohv 6 cylinder Crossley 260
1933-1938 Rapier 1087 cc twin ohc 4 cylinder 470 + app 45 by Rapier Cars
1926-1930 M45 4467 cc ohv 6 cylinder Meadows 410 + 53 M45R Rapide
1935 3.5 litre 3619 cc ohv 6 cylinder 65
1936-1937 LG45 4467 cc ohv 6 cylinder Meadows 278 + 25 Rapides
1938-1940 LG6 4467 cc ohv 6 cylinder Meadows 85
1938-1940 V12 4480 cc single overhead cam V12 189
1948-1953 2.6-Litre 2580 cc double ohc 6 cylinder 510
1953-1958 3-Litre 2922 cc double ohc 6 cylinder 270
1961-1965 Rapide 3995 cc double ohc 6 cylinder 55
1976-1989 Aston Martin Lagonda 5340 cc ohc V8 645

External links
Lagonda vehiclesLagonda Club
Based in the UK, the club's aims are to preserve and develop the interest in and traditions of all types of Lagonda vehicles. It has members from across the world.
A History of the Lagonda Car Company">Roger Ivett's site dedicated to the Aston Martin Lagonda.
Lagonda Rapier Enthusiasts web Site

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