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Lot 28: Lagonda M45 'Howorth' Special

Cars, H&H Sales Limited (16 June 2012)

Hugh Howorth passed away in November, 2004 but both he and the extraordinary Special he created remain the stuff of legend within the Lagonda fraternity. From the third generation of a firm of Lancashire engineers, he patented a number of remarkable innovations notable among which was his Third Hand Threading System that used pneumatic power to thread spinning machines with synthetic fibres and via which he retained 90 percent of the related world market for 20 years. He also made a major contribution to the world of hip replacement, by proving that strict control of the airflow within hospital theatres when combined with antibiotics could reduce the percentage of post-operative sepsis from 14 percent to just one in 1500. The process won him a British Design Council Award. Among the other areas in which Howorth excelled was motorsport, a pastime that drew his energies following demobilisation. Spotting a Lagonda M45 Pillarless Saloon advertised for sale by a London garage, he acquired the car - then registered as 'AYW 11' - for 45 in September 1944, and he and his wife May worked on it for four days to enable the drive back to his native Lancashire - it survived the journey amid violent explosions and the use of no less than seven gallons of oil! As well as a subsequent mechanical overhaul, the M45 was reconfigured as a sleek two-seater sports tourer complete with fold-flat windscreen, side-exiting exhaust pipes and cut-away doors. Considerably lighter and faster than when it left the Staines factory, the Lagonda won the 1947 Blackpool Rally with Hugh driving and May navigating. It was around this time that its registration apparently changed to 'FTJ 588'. Other improvements followed: the inlet and exhaust systems were modified for improved airflow and the compression ratio raised so sprints could be meaningfully included in the schedule. Many wins followed, and it was during such an event along the promenade at Hartlepool that, with May at the wheel, the rapid Lagonda took charge and plunged 30 feet onto the rocky beach beyond the finishing line, landing upside down with its unfortunate driver still aboard - happily she escaped with only minor injuries. To the inventive Hugh, this was an opportunity rather than a disaster. Having always wanted a car with independent front suspension, he salvaged the damaged Lagonda and set about building a thoroughly revised Howorth Special. A much modified chassis with truncated wheelbase, drilled side rails and new wider front suspension (an independent set-up understood to emanate from a Humber staff car) gave the car a somewhat crab-tracked configuration. Braking was by large diameter finned and vented drums and the re-creation was clothed in an all-new aluminium body. It was in the autumn of 1947 that the registration was changed yet again - this time to 'CWH 222'. Two years later, still keen to improve his steed, Howorth reportedly installed a brand new Meadows engine on which he had raised the compression ratio to 9:1. The earlier gearbox also came in for replacement - this time with an ENV pre-selector unit. In this form he raced the car with success throughout the 1950 and 1951 seasons, and wrote about the history to that date in the Lagonda club magazine. At this point the trail runs cold. Having progressed to more modern machinery Howorth sold his now famous Special - seemingly with the original 4.5-litre engine reinstalled. Club records show it to have been owned by a D Roberts of Buxton between 1967 to 1970. Again, nothing is known about this fascinating motorcar until the vendor rescued it from the water logged basement of a mill, where it had lain partially dismantled. Despite this, all the major body parts with the exception of the bonnet and front wings have survived. The inlet manifold, carburettors and water pump have been removed but come with the car. The vendor had progressed as far as fitting a new set of wheels and tyres before he had to abandon the project. There is now the opportunity for somebody else to restore this unique racing Lagonda back to its former glory. Some of the Howorth Special's later competition successes include: 1949 Firle Hillclimb - 1st, 31.4 seconds, 1950 Gamston, Notingham Trophy, August - 2nd, 76.39mph and 1950 Gamston, October - 1st, 76mph.

Lot Details
Auction Cars
H&H Sales Limited, Rockingham Castle
Lot Number28
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)£29120
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine numberM45/216
Engine capacity (cc)4500
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors