Lagonda: stylish classic, computer future

Lagonda made some beautiful cars before the Second World War. Photo / Wiki Commons
Lagonda made some beautiful cars before the Second World War. Photo / Wiki Commons

Lagonda was founded in 1906 in Staines, Middlesex by the American Wilbur Gunn. He named the company after a river near his home town of Springfield, Ohio. The company was bought and integrated into Aston Martin in 1947.

Gunn had built motorcycles on a small scale with success including a win in 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.

Lagonda also made an advanced small car, the 11.1 with a four-cylinder 1000cc engine, which featured an anti-roll bar and a rivetted monocoque body and the first ever fly-off handbrake.

1925 The first sports model was launched with a twin-cam 1954cc 4-cylinder engine and hemispherical combustion chambers. The car was designed by Arthur Davidson who had come from Lea-Francis.

The final car of the 1920s was the 3-litre using a 2931cc 6-cylinder engine. By 1933 the engine had grown to 3181cc and was available with a complex 8-speed Maybach transmission.

1934 A new small car, the Rapier came along with 1087cc engine and pre-selector gearbox. At the other extreme was the near-100mph, 4.5-litre M45 with a Meadows 6-cylinder 4467cc 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.

1935 The receiver was called in and the company was bought by Alan Good, who just outbid Rolls-Royce. He persuaded W. O. Bentley to leave Rolls-Royce and join Lagonda as designer. Bentley's masterpiece, the V12, was launched in 1937. The 4480cc engine delivered 180bhp and was said to be capable of going from 7mph to 105mph in top gear and rev to 5000rpm.

1947 The company was taken over by David Brown and moved in with Aston Martin, which he had also bought, in Feltham, Middlesex. Production restarted with the last model from Bentley, the 1948 2.6-litre with new chassis featuring fully independent suspension. Its new 2580cc twin overhead cam straight 6 became the basis for the Aston Martin engines of the 1950s.

1961 Many thought that the marque had disappeared, but the Rapide name was resurrected with aluminium body by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan and 3995cc engine capable of taking the car to 125mph. The Rapide lasted until 1965.


The 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda

1974-76 Seven Lagonda saloons produced on the basis of the Aston Martin V8. The large and futuristic Aston Martin Lagonda, designed by William Towns, was built on Aston Martin V8 components and was available, at least in theory, until 1989. It was the first production car to use computer management and (wildly unreliable) digital instruments. It was pure Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; from 1984 it could even talk to you.

1994 A handful of Lagonda 4-door saloons and shooting brakes were built on the basis of the Aston Martin Virage, the last cars to wear a Lagonda badge.

- NZ Herald

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