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Aston Martin Lagonda: Buying guide and review (1976-1990)

Aston Martin Lagonda: Buying guide and review (1976-1990) Classic and Performance Car
Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin Lagonda Aston Martin Lagonda 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. 
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. 
The Shock and Awe tactic worked brilliantly for Aston Martin, a company that was then in as deep a financial hole as any it had fallen into during its history. In 1975 it had gone into voluntary liquidation and was moribund for about six months, before it was resuscitated by a small consortium as Aston Martin Lagonda (1975). And it was the last part of that name that would keep the company afloat for the crucial remaining years of the 1970s. Buyers, particularly in the Middle East, loved the Space Age looks of the new Lagonda, and during the honeymoon period following its launch it outsold the more conventional AM V8 model by a considerable margin. 
Fashion is a fickle mistress, however, and Lagonda owners soon found that she could be a particularly expensive one, too. As the 1980s passed into the ’90s and then the new Millennium, the inevitable problems suffered by ageing 1970s electronics – and, it has to be said, the Lagonda’s love-it-or-loathe-it looks – saw these cars slip quietly down the metaphorical Cool Wall and become the preserve of a handful of bloody-minded, not to say obsessive, enthusiasts. Everyone could see the appeal of a classically elegant Aston Martin V8 two-door; not many still carried a torch for the peculiarly 1970s optimism enshrined in the wedge-shaped Lagonda.

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 

Dimensions and weight

Wheelbase 2915mm
Length 4930mm
Width 1830mm
Height 1350mm
Weight 2097kg

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 // Images: Matthew Howell
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Last updated: 10th Nov 2016
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Aston Martin Lagonda cars for sale

3 Search results
Aston Martin Lagonda
72500 95000 GBP

    $95,000(£74,081) $95,000(£74,081)

    --Special ordered Mercedes Benz Cabernet Red with Magnolia leather interior piped dark Red and Red Wilton Wool carpeting, Two owners-41,000 miles from new, Factory Weber-Marelli fuel injected, Automatic transmission. Externally, the Series 3 Lagonda’s cars are virtually identical to the late Series 2 Lagonda’s. The Series 3 Lagonda had a very short production run until the launch of the face lifted Series 4 Lagonda, only 75 Series 3 fuel injected cars were manufactured. The Series 3 Lagonda is one of the most sought after of the models range still having the original design/exterior cosmetics, but with factory fuel injected engine. The later Series 4 Lagonda was a completed new shape and had updated electronics and new styled dash. The Series 4 is excellent in its own right, but lacking the original wedged shape and what originally sparked the enthusiasts interest in the Lagonda in the first place. This Lagonda was first delivered to its first owner, Mr. Peter Wall on May 15, 1987 by Aston Martin franchise dealer, Newport Imports, Newport Beach, California. The selling price at the time was a staggering $170,500.00. This Lagonda remained in Mr. Wall’s personal collection until 1999

    • Year: 1987
    • Mileage: 41000 mi
    For sale
    Autosport Designs Inc
    (631) 425-1555 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • 1985 Aston Martin Lagonda Saloon

    $72,500(£56,535.50) $72,500(£56,535.50)

    Aston Martin shocked the world in 1976 when they unveiled the sensational Lagonda Saloon at the London Motor Show. The spectacularly futuristic, Avant Garde styling was penned (with a straightedge, we imagine) by the great designer William Towns. The chassis was unique to the new car, utilizing the existing Tadek Marek-designed 5.3 liter V8 engine, which was backed by a Chrysler-sourced Torque-Flite automatic transmission. Looking back at other luxury saloons of 1976, it is particularly amazing that Aston took such a gamble with the styling, and even more so that it paid off. Not only did Aston Martin push the envelope in terms of style, they also pushed the boundaries of technology with a highly ambitious LED instrument panel with gas-plasma touch screen controls. The system seemed straight out of science fiction, and despite being beautiful to look at, proved to be horrifically unreliable. By 1980, Aston abandoned the troublesome touch screen controls, but retained the LED gauges. The price had doubled to nearly 50,000 GBP, yet it still sold well enough to keep the company afloat. Production trickled on, sometimes just few cars per year leaving the Newport Pagnell works. In 1985, a revised version was introduced, effectively known as the series 3. The incredible dash now featured Cathode Ray Tube instruments that projected information to the driver like miniaturized television screens. It was moderately more reliable than the LED system, yet still visually appealing. On the mechanical side, the proven V8 put out 305 horsepower and 288 ft. lbs of torque, enough to propel the big Aston to 150 mph, square into supercar territory. Production and refinements continued, until production ceased at the end of 1990. Aston Martin built a total of just 645 Lagondas between 1978 and 1990, and very few examples remain. This 1985 Lagonda saloon has covered just 46,599 miles from new and has been maintained to a standard far and above what is typical for these cars. This example was specially ordered in Jaguar Cranberry metallic over light gray hides and Wilton wool carpets, with a red dash, red wheel and red Mouton overmats. A copy of the original invoice shows the car cost a staggering $150,000 in 1985! It has been exceptionally well cared-for and today, the body presents in very good condition, with well-preserved original paint over straight panels that exhibit good fit and consistent gaps. A few minor stone chips can be found, though nothing beyond what should be expected from a cherished example with this mileage. Exterior trim is in excellent condition, with the black plastic bumpers and aprons in very good order as well. It rides on its correct BBS-supplied disc alloy wheels wearing correct profile Michelin MXV tires. It is a very attractive example that has clearly been cherished from new, benefiting from an astounding $70,000 in service and repairs since 2013. Inside, the Connolly hides are in excellent order, with a very good leather dash and console, free of shrinking and cracks. The headlining remains in good condition with just some minor wear visible on the A-pillar trims. Fresh mouton overmats have been recently fitted and the carpets present in good condition. Critically, the dash was recently fully disassembled and the cathode ray tube screens for the instruments were sent to a specialist in the U.K. for a comprehensive refurbishment. The wood trim is in good condition, exhibiting a few cracks in the lacquer but otherwise intact and attractive. Original books as well as the briefcase style tool kit are in place. Mechanically, the big Lagonda is in excellent condition. The engine bay is clean and orderly, showing signs of regular care and use. The meticulous servicing it has received in the hands of the last owner shines through in a car that runs strongly and performs as one would expect from a brutish 80’s Aston Martin. The undercarriage is tidy with original finishes and what appears to be factory undercoat and an excellent exhaust system. This is a very well maintained Lagonda that has benefited from specialized care, with common problem areas sorted to ensure the next keeper enjoys the car to the fullest. Wearing attractive colors, with sound cosmetics and functional signature features, this is an unmistakable 80’s supercar that is likely one of the best examples of its type available.

    For sale
  • 1985 Aston Martin Lagonda

    $84,900(£66,205.02) $84,900(£66,205.02)

    If you are viewing this ad, you clearly know what you are looking at. The Aston Martin Lagonda is one of the most iconic cars ever produced and was the car that saved Aston Martin from bankruptcy in the late 1970’s. The car is iconic in its amazing looks and in the use of innovative electronic systems. With a cost of more than $150,000 in 1985 dollars, and a total production run of only 645 car’s, exclusivity was guaranteed. That exclusivity remains to this day. These cars are becoming collectable, and well sorted examples are rare and the ones to buy. This car, having traveled only 44,332 miles, has been babied all of its life and it shows. Recently worked on by a prominent marque specialist, with receipts totaling almost $10,000, she is ready to go. The Blue paint is excellent, with deep shine and luster. I would rate the paint an 8 out of 10 (I never give a 10). The GREY leather interior is in excellent condition, with little wear, and a nice Patina. The headliner is sagging a bit and could use a refresh. The wood veneered dash is beautiful, with no cracking. The cathode ray tube dashboard works well as do the control switches. The A/C blows cool, and the climate controls works.

    • Year: 1985
    • Mileage: 44000 mi
    For sale
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