Usually associated with fast sporting cars in the 1920s and 1930s, Lagonda, like so many manufacturers, had their roots in more down-to-earth machinery before the 1920s. This is an example of a Coupé of circa 1914 vintage. These little cars were aimed at the ‘motoring on a budget’ owner, who wanted an economical car, but also desired a little finesse and build-quality.
Historically important today, this was the first car to be made of ‘unit construction’, and very much ahead of its time, being the brain child of the company’s founder, Wilbur Gunn, with detailed design and development left to Alfred Cranmer, the works manager. A simple car, almost entirely made at Lagonda’s Staines factory, the chassis/body assembly was constructed from angle longerons and frames, with sheet metal panels flush-riveted to them; in effect this used the same principle as in aircraft construction. The 11.1hp (1097cc) engine and gearbox were bolted together and formed part of the unit construction yet, should the engine need to be removed, the cylinder block and the top half of the crankcase could be separated from the aluminium sump unit, the latter remaining in situ and retaining its oil.
The 7-foot 9-inch wheelbase initially housed a two-seater Coupé body, as in the photograph, but towards the end of 1913 a four-seater tourer was introduced on a longer chassis. By 1914, vans were also produced, but used stiffer springs to enable load-carrying, and it is believed that some of these vehicles, fitted with solid tyring, made their way to the Western Front.
Priced at around £150, the motor-car came complete with oil-powered side and rear lamps, acetylene gas-powered headlamps, bulb horn, spare wheel, bottle jack and appropriate tools. Many of these cars, to include the later 11.9hp model, featured in the result sheets in a number of Light Car Trails and Hill Climbs, attesting to their reliability and practicality. Several have survived to the present day.