THIRTY YEA 1″ S OF MOTORS
IN the last year of the nineteenth century, one Wilbur Gunn set up a small machine shop on the banks of the Thames, and proceeded to make engines, firstly for boats, and then for road transport. Now thirty-one years later travellers from London to the West, just after crossing Staines bridge, pass a busy works, covering over 5 acres, standing where Wilbur Gunn’s little shed was first built.
That in brief is the history of the Lagonda concern, well-known to all interested in sporting cars, but often thought by newcomers to motoring to be of comparatively recent origin. This is probably due to the very great expansion of this firm since it started its sports car programme five years ago. In view of the great success of this in the last few years it is interesting to go back to the beginning and note briefly the earlier history of the concern, which takes its name from the AmericanIndian designation of its founder’s birth-place.
In 1900 appeared their first road vehicle, a motorcycle. It was similar in design and appearance to the somewhat fearsome machines of its time, but was nevertheless a sound beginning. Almost at once, however, the firm decided to explore the field of transport for more than one person and, in 1904 the first Lagonda 3-wheeler appeared with a single cylinder engine, to be followed two years later with a twin cylinder edition.
Rapid changes were taking place at this time in the development of the automobile, and the Staines firm believed in moving with the times.
1908 saw their first 4-wheeler, and from then they have never looked back, but concentrated their energies on building motor cars only. At this stage the size of cars was still increasing, and they introduced a 20 h.p. 4cylinder and a 30 h.p. 6-cylinder model, the latter being certainly ahead of its time in many respects. The merits of competition work as a means of rapid development have been emphasised so often as to render further remarks on this matter unnecessary, but the fact that all models of this make were entered for all possible trials, certainly has much to do with their rapid
development. [Continued on page 44.
Having amply proved their ability to build a large car, they began to take stock once more, and foresaw the possibilities of a light car, with the result that 1913 saw their first 1500 c.c. job on. the market, at 2150. Many of these cars are still running and the peculiar roundfronted radiator and general lines will be familiar to many of our readers. The designers of this car now laugh at the thought of this “anything but sports-car,” but there is a certain satisfaction about their amusement, for the fine reputation for long wear, and good service from the works, which this model gained for them, as well as the extensive experience in getting a good power output from a small engine is something of which to be proud.
It was certainly original in design, and in some respects was distinctly ahead of its time. Small cars, at that period, owing to their inefficiency and comparative unreliability were not in public favour ; but the Lagonda was one of the few makes which helped to dispel this prejudice and so establish the light car in the motor world. Among its several advanced features were overhead
inlet valves, central change, and bodywork constructed integrally with the chassis frame.
Just when everyone had got thoroughly used to the idea of a Lagonda as a small family vehicle, they proceeded to spring one of the greatest surprises the motortrade has recently known, and five years ago the 2-litre model with twin overhead camshaft engine, a real 100% sports car appeared, and straight away stepped into a high place among the most exclusive, and also keenly criticised class in the motor world.
There is no one like your sports car enthusiast for finding things wrong with a model, but even the hardest to please were satisfied that here was one of the cars that definitely mattered. The last few seasons have amply justified this change of policy, and readers of MOTOR SPORT will all be wanting to have a good look into the latest and fastest job this factory has yet produced— the supercharged 2-litre.
A road test of this model will be found in this issue of MOTOR SPORT, and it fittingly marks the culmination of thirty years experience of the production of road vehicles.