(This famous British sports car which was in production from 1933 until 1940 is reviewed in some detail by L. S. Michael, O.B.E., who drives the well-known ex-Goodhew version effectively in Club races.—Ed.)
The six-cylinder 4-1/2-litre Lagonda was introduced at the Motor Show of autumn 1933, and continued in production in various forms until 1940. It was a successful design from the outset and several of these cars, first registered in 1933, are giving excellent service today. In this outline history of the type, it is proposed to deal separately with engine,chassis, coachwork and performance.
The M.45 Engine
The 1934 models, as those shown in the 1933 Motor Show were called, are known as type M.45. They employed the Meadows 4-1/2-litre engine, which had already been used to good effect in Invicta cars, and, in a slightly different version, it was a successful marine unit. The Meadows catalogue No. 70/2 stated that it had a compression-ratio of 6 to1 and gave 103 b.h.p. at 3,000 r.p.m., with a maximum torque of 215 lb./ft. at 1,500 r.p.m. Therefore this proprietary unit was by no means an untried design in 1933; nevertheless, all engines used by Lagondas then were built in the Lagonda works, or stripped there and reassembled. They were run-in on the bench before being fitted to their chassis.
The M.45 was a push-rod o.h.v. design, the cylinder head being roughly an inverted bucket in shape, with two valves, both of 1.69 in. diameter, working side by side in it. Two S.U. carburetters bolted on to an aluminium manifold were so designed that each instrument dealt with three adjacent cylinders. The exhaust manifold was on the opposite side of the engine, and terminated in a central pipe that led to the expansion box. No attempt was made to provide separate pipes from each port, nor even to conduct the gases away at all freely. This design, which involved two right-angle bends close to the exhaust valves, remained unaltered (except on those “Rapide” models which had external exhaust pipes) until the six-cylinder 4-1/2-litre ceased production. The cylinder head and the block were cast iron, and both were detachable. The crankcase was aluminium alloy.
Dual ignition was by a B.T.H. magneto firing the plugs on the inlet side, and a coil and distributor firing the exhaust side plugs. The two plugs in each cylinder were both intended to operate on each firing stroke; separate switching being provided merely for test purposes.
Bore and stroke were 88.4 by 120.6 mm. and the pistons were usually Specialloid with three rings above the gudgeon pin and one below. The steel con-rods, machined all over, were split at the small-end, where the gudgeon pin was secured by a pinch bolt. The counter-balanced forged crankshaft ran in four plain main bearings, and was equipped with a Lanchester-type vibration damper at the front. The sump held 3-1/2 gallons of oil cleaned by a simple gauze filter; the Meadows catalogue for the engine in “Automotive” form gave this capacity. The 1934 Lagonda catalogue said three gallons; strangely enough the 1935 and 1936 LG.. Motors catalogues said 2-1/2 gallons. There was no change in the sump casting except for the provision of an external oil filter. My own LG.45 holds three gallons before the full mark on the dipstick is reached. The cooling system held five gallons of water and a thermostat operated the radiator shutters.
The Standard M.45 had a compression-ratio of 6 to 1. No power output figures are given in the instruction book, nor in the contemporary motoring journals. The 1934 Lagonda catalogue said that the engine developed 108 b.h.p. at 3,100 r.p.m.
The M.45 engine was most reliable, but inclined to be very oily. Even at the modest compression-ratio at which it operated, to keep it oil-tight it was necessary to tighten the nuts holding the block to the crankcase fairly frequently. If this was not done, the tendency for the block to lift made the engine extremely dirty.
The M.45 Rapide Engine
The M.45 continued unaltered in 1933-34-35, but in 1934 the first of the Rapides were produced. They were influenced by the successful Fox and Nichol T.T. cars, and the number of 3-1/2-litre chassis frames left over from that then superfluous model. There were several important differences between the M.45 and the M.45R engine and there is no doubt the M.45R is a better job, especially as regards durability. The compression-ratio was raised to between 6.6 and 7.0 to 1. Heavier con.-rods were used and the small-end boss was 1.31 in. o/d. against 1.28 in. of the M.45; in addition, the con.-rods were not split to allow the pinch bolt to grip the gudgeon pin. Instead the gudgeon pin was merely located by a bolt that did not exert pressure on it. The omission of this split in the con.-rod makes it much stronger at the little-end. The overall depth of the M.45R rods across the web was also greater, being 1.26 in. against 1.06 in. The crankshaft was increased in size too, the big-end journals being 2-1/8 in. diameter, 1/8 in. larger than the M.45. In addition to more robust reciprocating parts, an extra stud was fitted at the front of the crankcase to assist in holding down the cylinder block.
It should be mentioned that most of the dimension’s given above and later on were obtained by direct measurements of the parts concerned. When taking these measurements, it was found that no two components were absolutely identical, so they may differ slightly from the designed dimensions. LG. Motors’ drawings were destroyed during the war and it seems quite impossible to obtain definite and authentic figures from any known source of information; that is why it was found necessary to measure the actual components.
In the M.45R a Scintilla horizontal magneto replaced the B.T.H. and a Tecalemit full-flow oil filter replaced the wire gauze. No b.h.p. figures were published and the rev-limit remained at 3,800. Nevertheless, this engine must have been distinctly more powerful as the maximum speed of the Rapide was approximately 5 m.p.h. higher and the acceleration better than that of the M.45, with no substantial difference in weight or frontal area. The catalogue published for the 1934 Motor Show, although it gave 108 b.h.p. as the output for the standard engine, made no specific claim for the Rapide which was introduced then. Through the kindness of Mr. Arthur Fox, I have the bench test report of the Lagonda Rapide engine fitted to the 1933 Monte Carlo Rally car Registration No. BPK 743; this special engine according to the data given, had a compression-ratio of 7.1 to I. In the series of four tests made, the highest power it produced (Test No. 4) was 119 b.h.p. at 3,400 r.p.m. A note attached to the report says “Mr. Bolton (a Lagonda engineer) states that Test 2 shows better results than the standard Rapide.Test 2 gave a maximum reading of 105 b.h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m. The Lagonda catalogue claims for the ordinary engine must therefore be treated with reserve.
The LG. 45 Engine
The following year (1935) the LG.45 was introduced. The first version of the engine, the Sanction I, was virtually, identical with the M.45R except for a different and much more effective type of inlet air silencer. It is generally considered that the LG.45 Sanction I had a slightly lower compression-ratio, 6.6 to 1, than the M.45R, but it is impossible to find authoritative contemporary figures. The LG.45 Sanction II which followed in early 1936 differed from its predecessor only in that twin Scintilla Vertex magnetos replaced the coil and magneto arrangement.
At the 1936 Motor Show the LG.45 Sanction Ill, also with the twin Vertex magnetos, was produced. This engine owes something to W. O. Bentley, who joined Lagonda in 1935. He was primarily concerned in designing the V12 car from scratch, but as Chief Designer he supervised the alterations to the six-cylinders cars, whose engine he described as “a fundamentally sound if rather coarse basis on which to start, a six-cylinder o.h.v. push-rod engine: sturdy, powerful, and with a quite outrageous crankshaft roar.” The Sanction lll had a completely redesigned cylinder head. The carburetters bolted directly on to the head, which had an internally-cast induction manifold designed to give greater turbulence to the charge. The shape of the combustion chambers was altered and the exhaust valves were just over 1/10 in. smaller in diameter than the inlet valves, which were approximately 1.7 in. in diameter, thus being some ten-thou, larger than in the preceding engines.
The new head undoubtedly gave better results at the top of the speed range. Incidentally, the red line on the rev-counter was moved up to 4,000 r.p.m. The cooling of cylinders 5 and 6 was improved by the addition of an extra water transfer at the rear of the block.
All who have owned both M.45, M.45R and LG.45 Sanction Ill models will confirm that whereas the earlier two start to get short of breath at about 3,000 r.p.m., even in the gears, the Sanction III will rev freely to over 4,000 r.p.m. (except, of course, in top, where it would represent over 100 m.p.h.), in addition to which it appears smoother at all speeds, an objective W. O. Bentley desired to achieve. Once more the real power output of these engines remains a mystery, but 140 b.h.p. was claimed in the 1935 (1936 models) catalogue!
From the Fox and Nichol files I have before me the bench test report dated August 26th, 1937, on engine No. LG 45/260/S.3. These tests were carried out by Lagonda Ltd. on the car entered for the 1937 Donington T.T. by Fox and Nichol. The compression-ratio given in the report was 7.96 to 1, and larger carburetters than standard, using V.B. or V.C. needles, were fitted, with consequent modification to the inlet ports. The highest powers obtained were 143.25 b.h.p at 3,800 r.p.m. using a Brooklands-type silencer and 145 b.h.p. at the same r.p.m. with open exhausts. This engine was specially prepared for racing and the compression-ratio was much higher than the standard LG.45 production unit which was only 6.68 to 1 (vide the 1938 catalogue). It is extremely unlikely that the power developed by the standard LG.45 engine approached that of the racing one, therefore, the claim of 140 b.h.p. cannot be taken seriously.
In 1936 the LG.45 Sanction III Rapide was introduced at the Motor Show. This was based on the engines prepared for the team cars, the main difference from the normal Sanction III being the improved exhaust system. Separate pipes led from each port, the front three and the rear three merging into two pipes that came out through the side of the bonnet. These pipes, still separate, led out to a large common silencer. In addition, the compression-ratio of the Rapide was higher than on the ordinary version.
In the 1936 catalogue the LG. Rapide engines were said to develop 150 b.h.p. and subsequent literature indicated a maximum compression-ratio of 7.5 to 1. Even so, production Rapide engines had a lower compression-ratio and smaller carburetters than the Donington T.T. car. Disregarding the extra care that would be devoted to the preparation of the racing unit, it is quite unbelievable that the ordinary Rapide engine should produce even as much as the 145 b.h.p of the T.T. engine, let alone the 150 b.h.p. mentioned in the catalogue pages. Production engines generally appear to be able to produce substantially more, power on the pages of a catalogue than they do on the dynamometer, and this characteristic is not confined to any one make. The Sanction IV engine produced for the LG.6 has no important differences from the Sanction lll and no higher power was claimed for it.
The M.45 Chassis
The M.45 (1933-34) chassis was a substantial “ladder” structure of 10 ft. 9 in. wheelbase, braced by six stout cross-members. The suspension was conventional by rather stiff semi-elliptic springs each controlled by two Hartford friction dampers. One pair on each axle were Tele-controls adjustable from the drivers’s seat. Bishop steering gear was employed. The brakes involved an excellent vacuum-servo assisted system, the durability of which was such that today it is still working effliciently on almost all M.45s on the road. It has been said that the servo motor was added on as the original design required enormous pedal pressures, but this criticism can be levelled at most systems designed from the first to operate with servo assistance as anyone who has driven a Rolls-Royce with defective servo knows. The relatively light pedal pressure required by the 1933-31 cars compares favourably with the Girling brakes employed on later chassis. This is not to imply anything against the latter, which pull up a 34-cwt car in 30 feet from 30 m.p.h. Girlings were first used on the 1934 T.T. cars prepared by Fox and Nichol, and subsequently were included in the specification of the 1935 Le Mans winner. It seems likely that they were adopted because they were appreciably lighter than the servo brakes, while adjustment and balancing could be carried out very rapidly. Furthermore, sudden engine failure, which might occur in racing, would render the servo inoperative.
The clutch for the M.15 was a Roper and Wreaks 11 in. with solid centre plate and a type of clutch stop which, when properly adjusted, permitted gear changes as fast as one could move the lever. The T.8 gearbox had no synchromesh but there was dog engagement of third and top. It was a delightful unit, trouble-free, and one which allowed easy clutchless changes by any fairly skilful driver. The overall gear ratios were: First, 11.52; second, 7.36; third, 4.76; top. 3.66 to 1. Nineteen-inch wheels were fitted, and plain bearing universal joints were employed. The whole chassis was constructed in a high-class manner: such refinements as grouped Tecalemit grease nipples, concealed battery master switch, P.100 headlamps and spot lamp, etc., making it clear that nothing was sacrificed on the altar of economy.
The M.45 Rapide Chassis
The chassis introduced in 1934 for the first Rapides was called the M.45R. This employed the same frame as the short-lived 3-1/2-litre model. It was of 10 ft. 3 in, wheelbase, but at the front was of more massive proportions than the M.45; it weighed just as much as the longer wheelbase car. The centre of gravity of this model was farther forward than on the M.45. Having driven several examples of both M.45 and M.45R. I would say that no improvement in handling is achieved by the use of the shorter chassis. If anything, the M.45 handles better, but that is offset by the superior performance of the M.45R engine. It is worth noting that no team cars used the M.45R chassis frame. The 1934 cars and 1935 Le Mans team cars had the 10 ft. 9 in. chassis frames with approximately M.45R engines and brakes; the 1936 team cars had LG.45 chassis, also of 10 ft. 9 in. wheelbase.
The M.45 Rapide chassis had Girling brakes and the semi-elliptic springs were each damped by Girling-Luvax vane-type hydraulic shock-absorbers and Andre-Hartford tele controls. The Autocar, in describing the Rapide in 1934, stated that the rear springs had slight negative camber under load. The specialists in these cars today advise the same spring setting as the M.45, which is a distinct positive camber. I had the springs on my M.45R set up both ways and can say that the positive (M.45) setting gave a more comfortable ride, but made the back end more skittish when cornering fast.
The clutch on the M.45R was the same as its predecessors but the T.8 gearbox had a free-wheel built on to the rear end. This device was only current for one year, and if it was kept in use all the time it was not up to dealing with 33 cwt. of car and the high torque of the engine. Very few still work today. It is rather pleasant to drive one of these cars with the free-wheel functioning, as the brakes cope easily with the extra work required of them, and the use of the clutch pedal is rendered nearly superfluous. These early Rapides were equipped with 19 in. wheels. A built-in hydraulic jacking system, which could be operated from inside the car, added to the already extensive standard equipment.
The LG.45 Chassis
The LG.45 chassis, as far as the frame was concerned, was similar to the M.45, being of 10 ft. 9 in. wheelbase. It was the first of the firm’s chassis to be influenced by W. O. Bentley. He decided that the Lagonda could not be regarded as an out-and-out sports car, but was a high-speed luxury car. He carried out such modifications as the existing design permitted to make it smoother, more silent and more comfortable. This was accomplished with no sacrifice of performance, except for some increase in body sway on corners taken very fast. Girling brakes were employed, and the springs were much more flexible than on the earlier cars, still damped in the same as on the M.45R. A thick double bulkhead was interposed between the engine compartment and the dash. Between the two walls of this bulkhead were located the 90-a/h. 12-volt battery, a space for the radio and a space for some tools and an inspection lamp. An 11 in. Borg and Beck clutch replaced the earlier unit. This operated more smoothly and with less shock to the transmission, but it is a fact that the Lagondas so fitted were a trifle less quick off the mark than the cars equipped with the earlier clutch. The G.9 gearbox was introduced, with synchromesh on third and top. It was extremely pleasant to use, very light in operation, with well-chosen ratios; changes as fast as one could move the hand could be made with ease. Unfortunately, it was less durable than the T.8 and when used in competitions has very often proved troublesome. For example, Goodhew broke third speed three times and second speed twice, in two seasons racing.
The overall ratios on the G.9, as fitted to Sanction I and II LG.45s were: First, 11.63; second, 5.98: third, 4.48; top 3.58 to 1. These cars were fitted with 18 -in. wheels. Gear ratios for the LG.45 Rapides were: First, 8.66; second, 5.66; third, 4.30; top 3.31 to 1.
Automatic chassis lubrication from a pump operated when the clutch pedal was depressed replaced the grouped grease nipples. Oil was piped to every point in the chassis requiring lubrication, except the universal joints, which were Hardy Spicer needle-roller-bearing type, instead of the plain-bearing ones.
The LG.45 chassis made for the Sanction III cars in 1937 differed slightly from the preceding LG.45s. The G.10 gearbox replaced the G.9. It was very much stronger and easily transmitted the 220 b.h.p. of the Le Mans twelve-cylinder cars. This gearbox had synchromesh on second, third and top and was operated by a massive central gear lever instead of the right-hand lever which had graced Lagondas prior to 1937. This box demanded very considerably more muscular effort to operate than the G.9 and although the synchromesh was powerful it is quite impossible to change gear on G.10 as quickly as on its predecessors. The overall ratios were: First, 11.63; second, 5.98; third, 4.48; top, 3.58 to 1. Eighteen in. wheels were used and Luvax ride-control shock-absorbers were featured. In addition to the 10 ft. 9 in. chassis an 11 ft. 3in. chassis was produced.
The LG.6 Chassis
The last 4-1/2-litre chassis was the LG.6. This was the first Lagonda six-cylinder with i.f.s., the springing medium for which was long torsion bars. Semi-elliptics were retained at the rear, but were mounted outside the frame. This 10 ft. 7 in, chassis frame was very different from the previous models. It was a W. O. Bentley design, much more rigid than its predecessors, being a cruciform-braced structure of great strength. Luvax ride-control dampers were employed and Lockheed hydraulic brakes with twin master cylinders replaced the Girlings. An alternative long chassis 11 ft. 3 in. was available with lower final-drive ratios. The G.10 gearbox was used with overall ratios as follows: On the short chassis cars: First, 11.63; second, 5.98; third, 4.48; top 3.58 to 1. The LG.6 Rapide had the following ratios: First, 10.76; second 5.53; third, 4.14; top, 3.31 to 1. Equipment was even more lavish than before and these cars always seem quieter, more powerful and very much smoother than the LG 45s. There is little doubt that it was one of the finest 4-1/2-litre chassis produced before the war. Its considerable size and weight, while limiting the performance to a top speed of about 95 m.p.h., contributed greatly to its long life. The condition of the average LG.6 in use today, 20 years old, is as a rule, quite outstanding. Both body and chassis are free from rattles and all the small items, such as windows, door catches, etc., work as well as when they were new.
In 1938, when the LG.6 made its debut, it was an advanced chassis design. It is one of the few cars in the high performance luxury class that had a form of independent front suspension that remains effective today, even when compared with the ride given by most modern vehicles. The six-cylinder 4-1/2-litre Lagondas have not been remarkable for mechanical innovations (except possibly the LG.6 chassis). They have followed well-tried methods and have been developed steadily. The quality and quantity of materials, and workmanship, has always been of a very high standard, no cost-saving skimping being evident in any detail. The result is they all wear exceedingly well and not a single “dud” model can be found in the series. In their day they provided very nearly the best performance obtainable from a British-made production cars, not only as regards performance figures, but in their manner of going too.
The 4-1/2-litre was supplied either as a complete car or as a chassis for the attention of specialist coach-builders. It is significant that by far the majority were supplied with Lagonda’s standard coachwork. This is attributed to the excellence of the design and workmanship of the catalogued bodies, because these cars were among the most expensive British cars of the ‘thirties and were supplied to customers, many of whom could well have afforded specialist bodies, had they desired them.
Freestone and Webb produced some nice drophead coupés on the M.45 of such sound construction that, even twenty-five years old, they are still in good order, but they were not superior in either line or construction to those which Lagondas themselves offered at a slightly later date. Mulliner, Hooper, Gurney Nutting, James Young, Van den Plas, Mayfair, Lancefield and Thrupp & Maberly have all had bodies mounted on these chassis, but most enthusiasts agree that the makers’ own coachwork had an even better appearance.
The M.45 saloon was a pillarless four-seater with a rather small luggage boot, and spare wheel mounted on it. It looked very long and lean and the bonnet seemed huge in relation to the rest of the car. It was much admired in its day, and in spite of the pillarless construction, was free from rattles, draughts, and other weaknesses. These bodies have worn remarkably well, due in part. no doubt, to the small size and weight of the doors. Some saloon bodies were fitted to the M.45R chassis. They followed closely the lines of the 3-1/2-litre saloon, except for the larger radiator. They too, were mostly pillarless, but did not have quite the style of the M.45.
The LG.45 saloons were much more modern in appearance, the lines were fuller and more rounded and the spare wheel was mounted at the off-side of the scuttle in an enveloping case. The other side of the scuttle had a similar case which held tools and the controls of the jacking system. The boot was larger and a rounded box in shape. The pillarless construction was abandoned in favour of a conventional four-door design, and a sliding roof was provided for the first time. This body gave more passenger room, though it was by no means a five-seater, and greater attention was paid to sound damping. On the relatively rare long chassis some coachbuilders mounted limousine and sedanca de ville bodies.
The LG.6 short saloon on the 10 ft. 7 in. wheelbase chassis was a much more pleasing design than the LG.45, and it compared, to its advantage, with the traditional type of coachwork offered on Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis. Although it is a big car with smoothly flowing lines it looks compact and purposeful, as well as glamorous. It is still only a four-seater, giving plenty of room and comfort in the front seats and slightly restricted space in the back, considering the size of the car. A saloon of rather similar lines was offered on the 11 ft. 3 in. chassis. It gave more leg room to the rear passengers and usually had separate front seats but could be supplied with a disappearing division, when required to be chauffeur driven.
A saloon de ville was also sold. This was on the 11 ft. 3 in. chassis and was intended to be full five-seater. It was higher and wider than the other saloons and was usually supplied with a wind-down division. A Thrupp and Maberly seven-seater limousine on the 11 ft. 3 in. chassis was also catalogued.
Drophead coupés were available on all chassis, and the chief change was from the long sweeping wings on the M.45 with rear-mounted spare wheel to the more-enveloping rounded wings with side-mounted spare on the LG.45 and LG.6. The boot on the LG.6 was of a nice swept design, the whole impression being rather more luxurious than the earlier versions.
The earliest M.45 tourer had a traditional four-seater body. It was a three-door type with no driver’s door and deep cutaways for the driver’s and front passenger’s elbows. This was a rather narrow body and in many people’s view is the most graceful and pleasing of all, in spite of the externally stowed hood. The M.45 tourer was a two-door design with completely disappearing hood. It was almost identical with the 3-1/2-litre, except for larger radiator. This was a good traditional design too, which like the M45 had long sweeping wings, but I always think that it looks less graceful and more bulky than the longer wheelbased M.45. The spare wheel for the M.45R was mounted either at the side or on the boot lid.
The LG.45 tourer was a departure from tradition. The body was wider and higher, the doors had no cutaways, all the lines were more rounded out, and there was decidedly more room inside than hitherto. It had a disappearing hood and was an attempt to provide a really comfortable fully openable touring car without going as far as a drophead coupé, which at the time never looked really good when the head was folded down. Two large spare wheel covers were mounted one on each side of the scuttle, one did carry a spare wheel, the other carried tools and the control mechanism for the hydraulic jacking system. This feature was continued on all 4-1/2-litre models, except for the Rapides, until production ceased.
The LG.45 Rapide was a compact narrow two-door four-seater with twin exhaust pipe emerging through the bonnet sides. The doors were well cutaway, and the hood was fully disappearing. The spare wheel was concealed in the tail. The lines were more rounded than the M.45R with the 1937 conventional idea of “streamlining.” Nevertheless, even today these cars look functional and very attractive. Bearing in mind the limitations imposed by the radiator they have quite a reasonable frontal area.
Some LG.6 Rapides were produced in 1938. These did not have external exhausts and were really a development of the ordinary LG.45 tourer, being much roomier than the LG.45R and giving the impression of a shorter bonnet line. In 1939 the Rapide sports tourer was dropped altogether and a very handsome three-seater drophead coupé, with concealed spare wheel and fully disappearing hood, replaced it. Presumably, for sports-car racing, had the war not intervened, a suitable body would have been mounted on the twelve-cylinder 10 ft. 4 in. chassis on the lines of the car that gained third place at Le Mans, and the six-cylinder would have retired from the competition field.
In considering the performance of these cars, attention should be drawn to the figures given in the table of data. These were extracted from The Autocar road tests. Many owners may think that they are unflattering, but it should be borne in mind that not only does performance vary slightly from day to day, but different examples of the same model can vary very considerably, to say nothing of the human element in the tests concerned. Different results were recorded by each of the several journals carrying out performance tests on each model and those given here are not necessarily the most favourable.
To emphasise this point still more, an LG.6 saloon, which shows a mean maximum speed of 91.4, actually lapped Brooklands at 98 m.p.h. in October, 1938, as reported in The Autocar of that time, while an LG.45 Rapide, according to the contemporary issue of The Motor achieved 108 m.p.h. on the same track, in spite of the fact that one could only manage a mean 100.3 for The Autocar road test. Both these results were achieved with the cars said to be in standard form. Furthermore everyone knows that the LG.45 Rapide brakes are, in fact, the most effective of all the 4-1/2-litre models, yet it recorded the worst braking figures of all those in The Autocar tests of Lagonda cars! Road tests were carried out with a crew of at least two, sometimes on a distributor’s demonstrator that had been driven by all sorts of people and some inaccuracies cannot be helped. I hope this disclaimer will satisfy those owners of these cars who habitually get “the ton” past Six Mile Bottom!
The most striking thing about the performance of the 4-1/2-litre saloons is how little the actual figures improved between the introduction of the model and its cessation. The M.45 saloon managed 60 in 15.8 and 0-70 in 22.2 sec. The last of the LG.6s did 0-60 in 16 and 0-70 in 21.5 sec., the latest model being credited with a mean maximum speed of 91.4, only 1.4 m.p.h. better than its forerunner. These figures are so close that allowing for errors and so on, the performance of the two cars can be regarded as identical as far as mere stop-watch records are concerned.
Throughout the period 1933-40 these figures remained better than any current British production sports saloon . The 4-1/2-litre Bentley, although achieving a slightly higher maximum, had substantially inferior acceleration. It can be said that these two cars represented the finest British high performance luxury cars of the ‘thirties. The only other British car that comes near is the 4.3-litre Alvis, introduced in 1937. In standard of luxury and riding comfort the Alvis Saloon was not in the same class as the Lagonda or Bentley. Its performance figures were nearly identical to the Lagonda with a very slightly lower maximum speed. It is evident that the company considered that the acceleration and top speed achieved by the M.45 saloon were still sufficiently far ahead of its few rivals, for nothing better to be required for many years. More power was extracted from the engine but this was used to propel heavier, more luxurious coachwork, with greater frontal area at roughly the same level of performance.
The LG.45 saloons were much more comfortable than their predecessors. The ride was smoother and a greater degree of silence was achieved. They were a good deal less tiring to drive on a really long journey, though in town the steering seemed a trifle heavier. On the whole it was a better, though less lively, car, which did manage a slightly (in m.p.h.) higher top speed, while its comfortable cruising speed was a good 5 m.p.h. higher.
The LG.6 saloons were outstandingly good by any standard. They were lighter to steer than the LG.45, not only because the steering gear ratio was lower, but because of the design of the front end of the chassis. The whole handling of the LG.6 is certainly lighter than the model it succeeded, and they seem even better balanced; the change in steering ratio does not affect controllability. The riding comfort is outstanding and a still greater degree of silence is achieved. The comfortable cruising speed of the LG.6 was a good 5 m.p.h. higher than the LG.45, that is anything up to 75-80 m.p.h., and it can be cruised faster, with comfort in favourable road conditions. The only British pre-1940 car that merits comparison with it is the 1939 overdrive 4-1/4-litre Bentley; this vehicle is somewhat lighter to handle, both in general and as regards individual controls, and it is perhaps a shade more silent, but its performance is decidedly less sparkling, and its ride noticeably inferior to that of the LG.6.
When the performance of the open sports models is looked at, it is evident that considerable progress took place. The original M.45 in 1933 had a mean top speed two up of 93.7. By 1937 the LG.45 Rapide had increased this figure by 7 m.p.h. when tested by the same journal, and by 10 m.p.h. for another contemporary tester; at the same time 70 m.p.h. was reached in 18.4 sec., an improvement of 3-1/2 sec. It is, however, surprising to note that the M.45 Rapide of 1935 came to within 2 m.p.h. of the 1937 Rapide’s maximum speed and was actually quicker off the mark from 0-50 m.p.h. My own slightly modified M.45R was a good deal faster round Silverstone than Dr. Young’s standard LG.45R and as my brakes were then fitted with the wrong linings, Dr. Young’s driving was much more enterprising. Nevertheless, I do believe that the average LG.45R is more than a mere 2 m.p.h. better than the average M.45R. They are a full hundred-weight lighter and certainly handle much better unless the M.45R has its front wings removed. They were the sports car par excellence of the ‘thirties, combining remarkable speed and acceleration with tremendous stamina, as witness their performance in T.T.s, 500-mile races, and the 24-hour races at Le .Mans and Spa.
Some LG.6 Rapides were produced in 1938; they were not subjected to The Autocar road tests, being somewhat heavier. The 1939 LG.6 Rapides were drophead coupés, heavier still, and were not up to the 1937 cars in sheer acceleration or maximum speed, though they were considerably more comfortable and handled superbly.
It only remains to say that the pre-war Lagondas which have been considered here were among the best cars produced in their day, and bear comparison with the most modern luxury cars, bringing with them an air from an era when quality could still be sought regardless of cost.
TABULATED DATA OF SIX-CYLINDER 4-1/2-LITRE LAGONDAS
(Weights given are as tested, and include oil and water and some petrol. Braking is in feet from 30 m.p.h.; Speeds in m.p.h.)
1933 M.45 Tourer
Weight: 32-1/2 cwt.
Braking: 31 feet
Acceleration: 0-50, 10.0 sec./ 0-60, 15.4 sec.
Speeds in gears: 2nd, 50 / 3rd, 80 / Top max. 95.7
Top mean: 93.7
1934 M.45 Rapide
Weight: 33 cwt.
Braking: 28 feet
Acceleration: 0-50, 9.4 sec. / 0-60, 14.6 sec. / 0-70, 21.0 sec.
Speeds in gears: 1st, 33 / 2nd, 52 / 3rd, 78 / Top max, 100.6
Top mean: 98.4
1936 LG.45 Tourer
Weight: 35-3/4 cwt.
Braking: 29 feet
Acceleration: 0-50, 12.6 / 0-60, 17.2 / 0-70, 24.0
Speeds in gears: 1st, 28 / 2nd, 56 / 3rd, 77 / Top max. 96.8
Top mean: 93.0
Sanction l tested 10-3-1936
1937 LG.45 Rapide
Weight: 31-3/4 cwt.
Braking 35 feet
Acceleration: 0-30, 4.7 sec. / 0-50, 10.3 sec. / 0-60, 12.8 sec. / 0-70, 18.4 sec.
Speeds in gears: 1st, 41 / 2nd, 64 / 3rd, 82 / Top max. 103.6
Top mean: 100.6
Sanction lll tested 4-6-37
1934 M.45 Saloon
Weight: 35-1/4 cwt.
Braking: 32 feet
Acceleration: 0-50, 10.4 sec. / 0-60, 15.8 sec. / 0-70, 22.2 sec.
Speeds in gears: 1st, 30 / 2nd, 50 / 3rd, 80/ Top max. 92.7
Top mean: 90.0
1937 LG.45 Saloon
Weight: 39-1/4 cwt.
Braking: 35 feet
Acceleration: 0-30, 5.5 sec. / 0-50, 11.7 sec. / 0-60, 17.3 sec. / 0-70, 23.4 sec.
Speeds in gears: 1st, 29 / 2nd, 56 / 3rd, 77 / Top max. 93.8
Top mean: 91.0
Sanction lll tested 9-4-1937
1938 LG.6 Saloon
Weight: 38-1/2 cwt.
Braking: 33 feet
Acceleration: 0-30, 4.9 sec. / 0-50, 11.3 sec. / 0-60, 16.4 sec. / 0-70, 23.0 sec.
Speeds in gears: 1st, 30 / 2nd, 54 / 3rd, 73 / Top max. 95.7
Top mean: 91.4
1939 LG.6 Saloon
Weight: 39-1/2 cwt.
Braking: 32 feet
Acceleration: 0-30, 5.2 sec. / 0-50, 11.3 sec. / 0-60, 16.0 sec. / 0-70, 21.5 sec.
Speeds in gears: 1st, 30 / 2nd, 56 / 3rd, 75 / Top max. 94.7
Top mean: 91.4