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Aston Martin Lagonda buying guide (1976-1990)

Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin Lagonda Has there ever been another car launch quite like it? It’s almost 40 years since the extraordinary Lagonda wedge was unveiled, but you can still almost sense the shockwaves today. It was all the more extraordinary for the fact that Aston Martin had just emerged from some of its darkest hours: the factory at Newport Pagnell had actually closed in 1974 before reopening in 1975 under ambitious new owners. And in a move that still seems audacious today, the new management team quickly gave the go-ahead to a radical-looking four-door from the pen of chief stylist William Towns.

Towns’s astonishingly low, futuristic Lagonda was shown to the motoring press at the Bell Inn at Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire on October 12, 1976, and later that month it made its public debut at the London Motor Show at Earls Court. Around 200 orders were taken on the stand.

It wasn’t an easy birth – and the main culprits for the delays that ensued were the fantastically ambitious electronics, particularly the dashboard with its digital instruments and touch-sensitive switchgear.

Electrical issues would continue to dog the early cars, yet slowly but surely the systems were sorted, and by the early 1980s the Lagonda had become a strong seller for Aston Martin – particularly in the Middle East and North America. By the time it went out of production in 1990, Aston Martin managed to sold 638 cars – which doesn’t sound like a lot today, but was a significant contribution.

Performance and specs

Engine V8, 5340cc
Power 280bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque 301lb ft @ 3000rpm
Transmission Three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
0-60mph c9.0sec
Top speed c140mph

Common problems

• As with all Newport Pagnell cars of this era – and underneath that sharp suit the Lagonda is essentially just another V8 Aston (in fact based on the stretched platform that supported the early-70s DBS-based four-door) – rust is the main enemy.

• It’s aluminium bodywork on top of a steel platform chassis, and it corrodes in all the usual places, particularly the sills, which are a major job. The work and costs are much the same as any V8.

• The big clue to structural issues are the door gaps. It’s a long chassis, and if any of the doors don’t close properly, it’s a sign of problems underneath.

• Mechanically they’re pretty robust, but look for signs of overheating and listen for any unusual noises. It should be a quiet, smooth-riding car.

• Check all the electrics work, including the instrumentation. If a car has non-functioning cathode ray tubes, and you need to replace them, you’re looking at around £8000-9000 to get everything working again.

Evolution of the digital dash

No-one knows more about the headaches posed by the Lagonda’s pioneering electrical systems than Dave Dillow – or ‘Mr Lagonda’ as he’s known at Works. One of the longest-serving employees at Newport Pagnell, Dave joined AML as an auto electrician in October 1976 – just as the Lagonda was making its public debut.

Today, Dave still works as an auto electrician at Works, but in the Heritage workshop rather than on the production line. He talks us through the evolution of the Lagonda’s digital dash.

The original version, with its red LED displays, was created by the Javalina Corporation, a Texas aircraft instrument specialist. ‘It was advanced for its day,’ says Dave, ‘but by today’s technology, they’re very basic. Then there was a mk2 version of the LEDs, and then the CRT screens…’

The trio of cathode ray tubes – basically miniature versions of the old-fashioned TV sets that used to be in everyone’s sitting rooms – represented the speedo, rev-counter, and a central display for the warning lights. ‘Think about taking that TV from your home and bouncing three of them down the road, and you can sort of see how problems might occur,’ Dave laughs. ‘Actually it was a beautiful dash and easy to read – when it was working.’

There was even one further variation, with the Series 4 cars introduced in 1987, when the CRTs were replaced by VF (vacuum fluourescent) gauges, which were thankfully less problematic.

‘Over the years we’ve developed ways of making each of the systems work,’ Dave continues. ‘We found the CRTs can be replaced by three LCD screens, which are much more reliable. Other cars have had LEDs replaced by conventional-looking dials.’

Summary and prices

So an important car in the Newport Pagnell story, but a wise buy today? As an investment, they’re starting to look a decent bet. At the recent Bonhams Works sale, an excellent low-mileage car made a strong £87,000, though a very tidy, average-miler reached only half that.

According to specialist Nick Mee, prices for the best are rising steadily – the Series 4 is the rarest and best-sorted, and an example in first-class all-round condition might now command as much as £120,000 – but you can still find driveable, presentable cars for around £50k.

Still good value, then – but only if you buy a sound car, and essentially one with a solid structure that doesn’t require major restoration.

Words: Peter Tomalin/Vantage magazine
Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin Lagonda
Last updated: 9th Jul 2015
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Aston Martin Lagonda cars for sale

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Aston Martin Lagonda
74750 99950 GBP
  • Aston Martin Lagonda - Series 4

    £99,950 £99,950

    Variant name:5.3 , - 1 of 100 built - Excellent service history - Matching numbers - Last model in series - Supplied serviced with warranty Important and highly individual the Aston Martin Lagonda was first shown at the Earls Court Motor show in 1976 and made headlines in our national daily papers for its futuristic use of electronics and body shape. Launched just 9 months after the most troubled times for Aston Martin, the Lagonda put the company firmly back on the map as a producer of luxury sports cars. In production from 1980 the Lagonda became highly popular with global heads of state, captains of industry and those who wanted a more sporting offering than the cars from Crewe. In all some 900 cars were produced, with just 100 being the Series 4 as offered here, before production ceased. The most developed and satisfying to own and drive, the Series 4 model benefitted from superior rear leg room and enlarged boot, electronic fuel injection, revised instrumentation and a subtly revised body shape. The superb example were are delighted to offer, finished in Suffolk Red with Magnolia hides, was first registered in late 1988 by main dealers Stratton Motor Co for demonstration purposes before being sold. Complete with low mileage and a comprehensive service history file, containing the original stamped service booklet, owners handbook, service and restorative works invoices, MOT certificates and a contemporary road test. This fresh and impressive example is undoubtedly one of the finest available, of one of the most important cars, in the history of the Aston Martin marque.

    • Year: 1988
    • Mileage: 28500 mi
    • Engine size: 5.3
    For sale
    Nicholas Mee-Showrooms
    020 8741 8822 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER

    £74,750 £74,750

    --Storm Red with Tan leather interior and Brown carpeting, Original US delivered example, Four-enthusiast owners from new, known history, well maintained with service records. Constructed by the factory in mid 1983, this striking Lagonda was shipped to AML Inc on 21st November of that same year, originally finished in Mercedes Midnight Blue with its original colored interior as shown today. Upon its arrival to the United States, this Lagonda was purchased by Emich Oldsmobile Inc of Lakewood Colorado, also an official Aston Martin Lagonda franchise dealer. Mr. Fred Emich, CEO of Emich Oldsmobile Inc, kept this car within his personal collection from 1984 to 1989, it was thus maintained by his dealership during that period. In 1989, he is understood to have sold it to a friend of his whom he agreed a personal finance arrangement with. It would appear that in 1991, Mr Emich was forced to repossess the car after his buyer defaulted on his payments and Mr. Emich retained the car until August 1992, at which point he traded to Stevenson Lexus, who in turn sold the car to its third owner, Mr. Isao Kamitani. Mr. Kamitani kept the car from 1992 to 2013, a total of twenty one years! He clearl

    • Year: 1984
    • Mileage: 59000 mi
    For sale
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