There was a Lagonda before it became a four-door Aston Martin, lest we forget. The marque was created in 1900, started making cars a decade later and was independent until David Brown bought it just after the Second World War, so there’s a lot of history there. Today, we’re having a look at the smallest model they made, the swashbuckling Rapier.
Most Lagonda chassis of the ‘20s and ‘30s were relatively large, by British standards, sporting 4- and 6-cyl. engines in the 2- to 4.5 litre range. But as hard economic times hit in the early ‘30s, the firm figured that a smaller and cheaper model might be a wise addition to the range.
Two prototype Rapier chassis were shown at the 1933 London Motor Show and went on sale by January 1934. Looking at the price list above, the move seemed rather astute – especially since the Rapier was built to the same standards as its larger stablemates.
The sturdy chassis was not anything too revolutionary for the times, with its leaf-sprung solid axles, but the engine sure was. All of 1104cc, the DOHC 4-cyl. was initially slated to be made of aluminium, but these plans ran into difficulties and they switched to iron. This made the car a little heavier than planned, but thanks to the frankly outstanding (again, for 1934) 50hp it produced, performance was still way above average.
So what this is, in effect, is an MG built like a Bentley. By late 1935, the factory had built 400 chassis and over 300 were sold, all to be bodied by external coachbuilders as saloons, coupés, four-seater tourers or, like our feature car, two-seater roadsters.
I’m not 100% sure which coachbuilder made this one. Most 1934-35 cars were bodied by Abbott, but this one looks like an Eagle Coachworks job. A very pleasant little shape.
Just like big Lagondas, the Rapier used a fashionable type of transmission, as well: a 4-speed pre-selector made by ENV, operated by the tiny switch on the right-hand side of the steering wheel.
The Rapier was a reasonable commercial success, but it could not prevent its maker from going into receivership at the end of 1935. The company was reorganized and went on to produce the glorious V12 Rapides, but shed excess baggage, including the little Rapier.
That was not the end of the story though: the remaining chassis were bought by a new concern, aptly called Rapier, that sold them on while also continuing limited production until 1938. Altogether, about 470 chassis were made, of which 300-odd wore the Lagonda badge. A weapon of choice, this lovely Rapier…