The Lagonda M45 - it died at birth
Although the Lagonda marque, which was first established in 1906, still exists, for many years it has been in suspended animation and it has had numerous owners throughout it's life. It was named after a Native American settlement near the founder's birthplace in Ohio.
It was first begun by an American one time opera singer, named Wilbur Gunn; he came to England, became naturalised and made a living working on speedboats and motorcycles. He set up his business building, initially, motorcycles in his garden and then he then progressed to building cars. in 1910 he entered one in the Moscow to St Petersburg Trial; a win produced a good solid order book from Russia, and sales to that region stayed healthy right until the outbreak of World War I, and the subsequent fall of the Russian aristocracy.
Gunn died in 1920, and his fellow directors decided to take the company more upmarket. As was fashionable at the time,many of the cars were created as rolling chassis, with the new owners free to instruct coachbuilders to finish the cars after their own specifications.
The last car of this particular stage in Lagonda's life was the M45, the largest vehicle that the company had produced up to that date, which first came on the scene in 1933. This was intended to rival the Bentley, but rather than create their own engine, which would have been prohibitively expensive for the company at that time, they bought them in from Meadows, who were major suppliers of engines to smaller car manufacturers. This powerplant was a straight six cylinder 4.5 litre engine, which gave a top speed of nearly 100 mph.
This was offered, initially, in both saloon and tourer versions. By 1935 the M45R (R for Racing) was introduced; this featured a more highly tuned engine and a shorter wheelbase. The racing fraternity started to take notice as the Lagonda racing team started to notch up successes in major races. One noted racer at the time, Arthur Fox, bought three rolling chassis, pared as much weight as he could safely do so from them them and fitted them out with lightweight bodies. Two of them were then entered for the le Mans 24 hour endurance race.
One of them took first place! However, celebrations were muted. The company had gone through the same financial difficulties that seem to beset the entire industry and it had already fallen into receivership two months earlier. The sales boost that would have resulted from such a prestigious victory just wasn't going to happen.
The company, and its somewhat primitive factory, was bought by a 30 years old financial wizard named Alan P Good, who managed to persuade a number of wealthy people to invest in the firm. Led by W.O. Bentley, who had an axe to grind with Rolls-Royce who had taken over his own company previously, the new owners set out to build the best cars in the world, and the M45 was quietly dropped.