March 23, 2012
The M45 was raced with some success, its greatest glory coming in the 1935 French Le Mans 24-hour race, which a Lagonda M45 won. It was Lagonda’s finest hour, a feat not repeated for Britain until Jaguar’s win in 1951.
Unfortunately, Lagonda’s triumph was overshadowed by financial difficulties. While the company was preparing for Le Mans it was also slipping into receivership. There were several bidders, including Rolls-Royce, but when bids were opened the day after Le Mans the new owner was millionaire financier Alan. P. Good. He soon hired W.O. Bentley, founder of Bentley Motors which was owned by Rolls-Royce, as Lagonda’s technical director.
The new ownership reverted to one model, the luxurious, M45-derived LG45, joined in 1937 by the Lagonda V12, a Rolls-Royce Phantom III challenger. It carried Lagonda through to 1939 when it began making artillery shells during the Second World War.
Following the war Lagonda was sold to tractor manufacturer David Brown, who also purchased Aston Martin and combined it with Lagonda in Feltham, Middlesex. Brown needed an engine for the Aston Martin and with Lagonda he had got the 2.6-litre, twin overhead cam, W.O. Bentley-designed Lagonda six. It appeared in the 1950 Aston Martin DB2 and powered Astons for many years.
Lagonda’s post-Second World War production was always sporadic and fraught with financial difficulties. In 1975 Canadian George Mindon and American Peter Sprague bought the remains of Aston Martin Lagonda for just over a million pounds. In 1976, a new Aston Martin Lagonda sedan was introduced with an extreme wedge-shaped, angular profile that was a sleek 1,302 mm (51.25 in.) high and stretched 5,258 mm (207 in. long). It had a 5.3-litre (325 cu in.) double overhead cam, alloy V8 and a very futuristic computerized electronic instrument panel with digital displays and virtually everything controlled by touch switches. This was always a source of trouble; the Aston Martin Lagonda was offered until 1989.
Lagonda went through several owners before Ford purchased it in 1987 and kept it for 10 years. There were continued attempts to revive the Lagonda name, and a new, concept four-wheel drive V12 powered model appeared in 2009, but no production car has yet appeared.