Hooniverse Parting Shot: The 1976 to 1989 Aston Martin Lagonda Saloon; A Dramatic, Flawed, and Unusual Design.

An Early Aston Martin Lagonda Saloon, finished in a typical 70's Brown. Dramatically Low, don't you think?

Aston Martin is one of Britain’s most prestigious and historic car companies, forever linked to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, surviving the 70’s after a close call with receivership, and prospering under the guidance of the Ford Motor Company. It is now again a proper British Motorcar producer, the marque owned by private investment firms based in Britain and Kuwait, with a future that is challenged given today’s economic climate.

The 2009 Geneva Lagonda Concept. Blech!

At the 2009 Geneva Auto Salon, Aston Martin decided to dust off their Lagonda nameplate with a particularly garish concept that sent the Aston Martin faithful into a state of apoplexy. Is this concept really just another luxury crossover, arguably one with a historic name, or is it the taste of things to come from Dr. Bez and the team that has guided the marque through its current renaissance? With that being said I thought it was time to re-introduce you to the last vehicle that wore this prestigious badge – The 1976 to 1989 Aston Martin Lagonda Saloon.
One of the Updated Lagonda Saloons. Note the Headlamps.

Aston Martin flirted with receivership in the mid-seventies and desperate times called for desperate measures. Traditionally, Aston Martin produced 2+2 grand touring cars. However, the Lagonda was to be a four-door saloon with a brand new V8 engine. As soon as it was introduced, it drew in hundreds of deposits from potential customers, helping Aston Martin to stave off receivership.
A 1974 Aston Martin Lagonda. An Exotic 4-Door!

The car was designed by William Towns in what can be termed an extreme interpretation of the classic 1970s “folded paper” style. It was not unlike the then-current Cadillac Seville, only more dramatic. It was as unconventional a design then as it is now, and there is still debate as to its merits. Throughout its history these hand-built carriages were amongst the most expensive saloons in the world. The only other “production” four-door saloons to approach its lofty price tag at the time were the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit/Silver Spur, Bentley Mulsanne, and Maserati Quattroporte.
This is an Aston Martin Vantage in front of a Lagonda Saloon.

The Lagonda was a clear departure from the quintessentially British 2+2s that has sustained the marque from the immediate postwar David Brown (DB) era, up through its starring role in multiple James Bond adventures. It was the first production car in the world to use computer management and a digital instrument panel and both were quite failure-prone. The development cost for the electronics was four times larger than the budget for the rest of the car. The second series used cathode ray tubes for the instrumentation, which proved even less reliable than the original model’s LED display.
A Very Early Lagonda Saloon Interior. Very Space Age at the time. I would now call it "Retro-Modern"

The Lagonda’s striking design and opulent leather interior, together with its then-state-of-the-art instrumentation, went well with its old world engine; All Lagondas were powered by the famous Tadek Marek-designed 5.4-litre 4-cam V8 engine. Although the engines were cast off-site they were machined in-house in the Aston Martin engine shop and each one was hand built by a single engine builder who spent more than a week preparing each engine. Each specific engine builder’s name is recorded on a small plaque fixed on top of the engine. Engine horsepower ranged from 280 (early versions) ending up with over 300 by the time production ended. The transmissions used were the famous Chrysler TorqueFlite three-speed automatic.
The one-off Aston Martin Lagonda Shooting Brake.

Only 645 examples were produced, between 1976 and 1989 at the Aston Martin plant located in the town of Newport Pagnell, England. The average selling price of these cars was £150,000 or the then-equivalent of a quarter million dollars. There was one two-door coupe produced by the factory, and a “shooting brake” estate conversion completed in Switzerland by Roos Engineering which is currently for sale in Germany by rare car dealer E. Thiesen.
The Lagonda was indeed a truly unique car that helped Aston Martin recover from the brink of receivership and help to sustain the company until it was eventually acquired by Ford in 2004 as part of its now defunct Premiere Auto Group. The original Lagonda, properly updated, should be used as a template for future four-door models to emulate. In my opinion Aston Martin should take the current Lagonda Concept and deep-six it for a new, powerful, luxurious, and striking saloon to compete with Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes Benz, Maserati, and the just introduced Porsche Panamera. And it looks like they will with a production version of the well-received Rapide.
In the meantime, The Lagonda nameplate should be used on an over-the-top limousine that merges the sporting Aston Martin coupes and cabriolets with a formal roofline to create a one-of-a-kind ultra-luxury car that Daimler tried to create with the Maybach, but failed. This could be a vehicle that is either owner driven, or chauffeured, that is not an assault of good taste like the current Rolls Royce Phantom. In other words, a car fit for a retired Commander James Bond. Read more of my Retrospective and Recently Deceased postings at Automotive Traveler.

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  1. Conrad Bon Honk Avatar
    Conrad Bon Honk

    I'm sorry, it just looks like a squashed Volvo from the same time period.

    1. BrianTheHoon Avatar

      You say that like there is something wrong about the design approach. 🙂

      1. Balestra Avatar

        Well, it's definetly not beautiful. But it is,most definetly, interesting.

      2. Conrad Bon Honk Avatar
        Conrad Bon Honk

        Not at all… What with me being Swedish and all that. 🙂

    2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      No wonder I like them.

  2. Black Steelies Avatar

    yea, or a crew cab trans am.

  3. muthalovin Avatar

    Wow, that shooting brake is awesome. This is one of those designs that is a savior for a brand. I had no idea the Lagonda was produced for so many years. That is quite an impressive run.
    For $250,000 in current dollars, I would say nice price. CRT display? Shit bro, momma said you would go blind from sitting that close!

    1. Balestra Avatar

      I heard that blind crap for such a long time!

  4. lilwillie Avatar

    Someone got a straight edge for Christmas and never looked back. Wow, I can't get over the lines. Not my thing but it is unique.

  5. Lotte Avatar

    Are those pop-up headlight covers on the earlier models?? They're quite large…

    1. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

      They are. In the US (and possibly other places), the headlamps didn't pass regulatory muster, so the pop-ups were used, and the "regular" headlights were used as driving lights.

  6. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    The Lagonda's design was polarizing but I have always been been very fond of it. In my opinion it's a gorgeous car.

  7. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

    <img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3494/3826817317_3d58c5c948.jpg&quot; width="500" height="375" alt="DSCN26902009-06-18_18_08_34" />
    This dashboard is like nothing 1983 had ever seen before.

  8. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    I always want to love this car, but every time I see a pic, the thought process goes like this: Whoa, what's that? Tiny grill, sleek, long hood, hella-raked windshield. WHAAAA? Who tacked a K Car on the back of that thing?

  9. Balestra Avatar

    However interesting and important the Lagonda is, the only thing from the whole project I'd bring for today is the concept itself. The idea. Which the Rapide does. But maybe, a more usable rear seat. Not using the DB9 as a base, even though the DB9 is in my pantheon of great cars and designs. And by the by, that Vantage in the picture is so sexy, I nearly didn't finish the article.

  10. P161911 Avatar

    "First production car to use computer management" If you don't count the 1958 Chrylsers with ELECTRONIC fuel injection.

  11. SeanKHotay Avatar

    I still maintain that the designers of the most beautiful cars also make the ugliest. A-M, Maserati, Ferrari…
    BTW, Ford acquired Aston-Martin in the late '80s (1989?) and sold it in 2007…

    1. UDman Avatar

      Ford acquired an interest in Aston Martin in 1987 but not a controlling interest. Ford did move the Aston Martin Brand into the Premiere Group in 2004 with Jaguar, Volvo, and Lincoln (???).

      1. SeanKHotay Avatar

        Ford took control of Aston Martin somewhere around '91, certainly before '94. The DB7 and Vantage would not have happened without them.
        Ford's PAG (which included Land Rover) was formed in 1999 with Aston Martin as a founding member. Lincoln was dropped in '01 or '02 to focus the PAG on the UK-based brands , moving Lincoln back with the domestics. The first, final, and only vestige of the PAG-Lincoln pairing was the Lincoln LS/Jag S-Type platform.
        My memory might be foggy but, as I was there on the sidelines, my dates are closer than yours.

  12. nofrillls Avatar

    I wish more auto engineers would escape form the asylum to build wonderful shenanigans such as these.
    The internets don't do justice to the Lagonda's weirdness. You need to see one in person.

  13. Alfreda Avatar

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