1937 Lagonda LG6 Rapide Tourer
Sold For $671,000Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
- One of only two built to this early-Tourer design
- Believed to be the London and New York show car
- Formerly owned by Helen Roeser and Richard Roy
- Featured in Automobile Quarterly and The Classic Car
- An extremely significant Lagonda with wonderful provenance
140 bhp, 4,453 cc Meadows OHV inline six-cylinder engine with dual SU carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with upper/lower wishbones and torsion bar springs, solid rear axle with parallel-leaf springs, and four-wheel Lockheed hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 127.5 in.
In its final years as an independent marque, Lagonda achieved the height of its engineering and design excellence under the leadership of a new chairman, Alan Good. Twenty-six-year-old Frank Feeley lent youthful exuberance to the exteriors, making the LG6 one of the most seductive and arguably most beautiful automobiles of its era, with a restrained version of the extended teardrop fenders and sweeping lines that were fashionable at the time, particularly in France.
There was more to the LG6 than elegance; its performance more than justified the name Rapide. One of the renowned W.O. Bentley’s first projects after joining Lagonda was a redesign of the 4.5-liter six, an overhaul that included a new crossflow cylinder head and twin magneto ignition. As installed in the performance-model LG6 Rapide, the revised engine delivered about 140 horsepower (from higher compression) at 3,800 rpm, giving the 3,700-pound car a top speed in excess of 105 mph—very brisk for the day.
The LG6 made its public debut at the 1937 London Motor Show, and production began in 1938. When war broke out in September 1939, total production of the LG6 Rapide stood at just six cars, making the Rapide much rarer than the traditional drophead coupe or saloon.
THE ROESER-ROY LG6 RAPIDE
By chassis number, 12312 was the third short-wheelbase LG6 Rapide built on the 127½-inch frame and, according to Lagonda Club Registrar Arnold Davey, is one of two with this dramatic early-style Tourer body, which was substantially lighter than other coachwork and provided substantially better acceleration. Mr. Davey indicates that the car is believed to have been built for the 1938 New York Motor Show, while the current owner believes it appeared at the London Motor Show at Earls Court as well; regardless of its original destination, it had returned to the U.K. by 1940, when it was registered by the Cumberland County Council as EAO 449.
By 1957, the car had made its way stateside in the ownership of C.A. Rheault of Dover, Massachusetts. By this point, it had gained its present Marchal headlamps. Later in 1957, the LG6 Rapide was acquired through a New York Times advertisement by Helen Roeser of Lahaska, Pennsylvania, who, with her husband Gerald, maintained the car in its original condition until 1967. That year, the Rapide was sent to Wilkinson & Sharp of Feasterville, Pennsylvania, at the time one of the best-known and most highly regarded restoration facilities on the East Coast, as is denoted by a dashboard plaque.
Refinished in an eye-catching two-tone tan with red interior, the Lagonda was flaunted at the Classic Car Club of America’s Annual Meeting at Buck Hill Falls in both 1968 and 1969, achieving 97.5 points, Senior honors (badge number 385), and Best of Show Foreign at the latter meeting. It was also active in Lagonda Club activities stateside. In the Winter 1969 issue of the renowned Automobile Quarterly (Vol. 7, No. 3), the car was the subject of an extensive feature article in which it was described by the magazine’s editors as “surely the most beautiful Lagonda we have ever seen.” Automobile Quarterly artist John Hanna depicted the car in a striking painting, a poster of which was included with each copy of the Winter 1969 issue and is now quite collectable among Lagonda enthusiasts. A copy of the book and poster accompany the car today.
The Roesers maintained their beloved Lagonda until May of 1998, by which point it had remained in their ownership for over 40 years! It was then acquired by the late Richard Roy of Branchville, New Jersey, who was, for many years, the foremost American Lagonda enthusiast and collector, with an impressive stable that at one point numbered over 10 cars. In his ownership, the car was the cover feature of the Autumn 2001 issue of the CCCA magazine, The Classic Car. Sentimental about certain vehicles, Mr. Roy considered the Roeser LG6 Rapide a favorite, as is evidenced by the paintings that hung in his home featuring the car and by the fact that, at the time of its 2010 sale to the present owner, it was the final Lagonda remaining in his collection.
The owner elected to give the car a fresh restoration, which was completed by U.K. craftsmen and is documented by an accompanying file, including photographs. The body was refinished in a more appropriate dark aubergine, with a handsome red leather interior and khaki cloth top. The new colors flatter the dramatic shapes of the coachwork, including the superb compound curves of the fenders, with their dramatic trailing edges and smoothly integrated running boards. The car retains its original body wood stamping of 8501, as well as its correct, original, numbers-matching engine and frame; it is certainly among the most intact and authentic of all LG6 Rapides.
Dramatically styled, with the most spectacular lightweight coachwork on this rarest of performance chassis, and carrying a wonderful history, this is an outstanding Lagonda!