ONE of just 53 made, this stunning 100mph Lagonda was previously the property of Lagonda Club chairman John Sword. The car will be sold at the H&H Classics auction on October 14th at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, planned to be the first sale with a live audience for the preview and the sale, following six months of Online auctions only.
“For many this is the ultimate sporting Lagonda,” says Damian Jones of H&H Classics. “As one of just 53 made it is a rare and highly collectable classic.”
At its launch Lagonda’s catalogue for the new M45 model referred to it as “swift silent, safe and with perfect comfort at high speeds, and the performance that is attained only by high class cars – that is the Lagonda!” This was the assessment of The Autocar, which road tested the new 4 1/2 litre M45 in 1933 and reported its:” brilliant acceleration and sheer performance…… a car delightfully silent and easy running in the way that can be achieved to the fullest extent only by a big-engined machine working well inside its limits.”
The M45 was indeed in a class of its own and proved to be one of the greatest British sporting cars of all time, achieving notable successes in international competition. It had a top speed approaching 100mph matched by effective vacuum servo-assisted front wheel brakes and superb handling was assisted by Hartford and Telecontrol shock absorbers.
Despatched from Lagonda’s Staines Works to Lancefield Coachworks of Beethoven St, London on October 29th 1934, chassis Z11206 began life as a Three-Position Drophead Coupe. Issued with the London registration number ‘BLC 6’ on January 1st 1935, the M45 Rapide was still resident in the Capital some twenty-one years later. Sold by B&G Motors of Camden Town, NW1 to Ernest Clark of Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire on June 11th 1956, the four-seater subsequently belonged to Donald Coates of Swine, near Hull, Mrs J. Allison of Beverley, Yorkshire, and John Broadbank of Hull.
Rebodied as a lightweight Tourer complete with cycle wings by the time that John Broadbank campaigned it on the Lagonda Club’s 1972 Border Rally, chassis Z11206 then passed to Charles Rigby of Chester before migrating to Belgium.
The M45 Rapide was wearing its current and very handsome Tourer coachwork - modelled after the factory’s T9 design - when marque specialist Julian Messent (then of LMB Racing and now of HCS) inspected it on behalf of prospective
purchaser, and present Lagonda Club chairman, John Sword during late 1999.
A copy of Mr Messent’s report remains on file and includes the following comments: ‘The gearbox is very sweet with a good change and no noises . . . The car starts well, drives well and stops well . . . New interior and hood both done well and in good quality materials . . . Buy it without a doubt . . . It is a very nice, tidy, genuinely well looked after motorcar’. Having acquired the four-seater from Michel Kruch of Brussels, Mr Sword had LMB Racing fettle its steering, brake and coolant systems, install a modern clutch and new 3.3:1 crown wheel and pinion (plus associated bearings), tune the original engine, overhaul the carburettors and convert the electrical system to 12 volts etc.
Re-registered by the DVLA as ‘OSL 332’ on September 1st 2000 despite the presence of buff and green continuation logbooks, the Lagonda has been entrusted to a veritable Who’s Who of marque specialists since being repatriated. Peter Whenman’s Vintage Coachworks were responsible for fitting a new water pump, full-flow oil filter conversion kit, double electric fuel pump, stainless steel silencer box and running board strips not to mention treating the rear springs to new shackles, bushes and pins, while Bishopgray re-set the springs, adjusted the brakes, replaced the steering box bracket and front hubs, flushed the petrol tank and renewed the brake boots etc. Bought by the vendor from Mr Sword in November 2004, the Tourer was sent to Jonathan Wood Vintage & Thoroughbred Restorations for servicing and sundry improvements during May 2005 at a cost of £2,756.88. Thereafter, much of its maintenance has been carried out by David Wall Vintage & Classic Cars of Wroxham. As well as general servicing, Mr Wall has been responsible for re-coring the radiator (2008), refurbishing the cylinder head with hardened valve seats (2009) and adjusting the valves etc (2015).
Introduced at the 1933 Olympia Motor Show, the M45 remains for many the ultimate sporting Lagonda. Derived from that of its 3-Litre ZM series predecessor, the newcomer’s chassis was very much Vintage in flavour featuring a 10ft 9in wheelbase,
all-round semi-elliptic leaf-sprung suspension and four-wheel drum brakes.
Doubtless influenced by the Monte Carlo Rally win and Brooklands triumphs that Invicta had achieved since fitting the proprietary Meadows 6ESC 4453cc OHV straight-six engine to its products, Lagonda chose to install the same powerplant and associated Meadows T8 four-speed gearbox aboard the M45. The result was among the fastest cars that money could buy with closed examples able to exceed 90mph and open ones, given the right conditions, punching past 100mph.
Contemporary reports in Autocar and Motorsport magazines praised the Lagonda’s ‘brilliant acceleration and sheer performance’ as well as its ‘high power-to-weight ratio’ and ‘easy running in a way that can be achieved to the fullest extent only by a big-engined machine working well inside its limits’.
The Staines manufacturer had amply demonstrated this latter point during pre-production testing when a prototype took fourteen hours less to cover the 1,500 miles between Dieppe to Brindisi than an express train! Arthur Fox and Bob Nicholl whose specially prepared Roesch Talbot 105 cars had done so well in international races and rallies were quick to spot the potential in the new Lagonda. A trio of shorter wheelbase, skimpily bodied and tuned M45 racers took the Team Prize at the 1934 Ards TT with one of their number claiming outright victory at the following year’s Le Mans 24 hours against Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 opposition. Inspired by the Fox & Nicholl Team Cars, the Rapide version of the M45 boasted a lighter chassis (10ft 3in wheelbase), uprated engine (RR50 alloy crankcase, Scintilla magneto, stronger connecting rods and larger crankshaft bearings) and more powerful Girling brakes plus a freewheel device for the transmission. Considerably more expensive than its standard sibling at £825, the Rapide accounted for just 53 sales making it particularly sought after today.