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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 RAPIDE, one of the rarest Aston Martins of all A copy of the build sheet for this Lagonda Rapide shows that it was supplied through Francis Motors to the first owner, Doctor Davies in London. The only mediation from standard by the factory was the deletion of picnic tables for the back of the front seats, presumably to increase leg room in the rear. The car then changed owners becoming the property of Dalton Peanuts in London before moving to Scotland under the ownership of the Reid family. During the first 5 years of her life, the Lagonda Rapide has driven 49.500 miles. The Rapide is sold to Mr. Griffiths in Cardiff in 1968 who owned the car until 1974. Mr. Brook in Hertfordshire enjoys the Aston Martin Lagonda Rapide from 1974 till 1986. The car was then taken off the road and was barn stored until 2011. The odometer was showing 72.065 miles by the time she went into storage. The Lagonda Rapide remained within the Brook family for 37 years, from 1974 to 2011, passing from father to son. The previous owner bought the Lagonda Rapide in 2012 and drove another 4.985 miles. Many hours have been spent on the car and considerable monies have been invested with marque specialists to ensure the smooth and reliable running of the engine and mechanicals. This included the fitment of twin SU carburetors in place of the less efficient and unreliable Solex carburetors, the result as you might expect from the 4 liter twin cam 6-cylinder engine is a purposeful power delivery propelling the car to speed and shifting accurately through the gears. To the interior you will find professionally re-trimmed seats front and rear which have been completed tastefully and to a high standard in Black leather befitting the car. The wood is in good order and the carpets have been replaced recently. To the exterior the Superleggera body still has its original color Caribbean Blue Pearl . Due to the age of the paint, a respray is advised. Supplied with original buff log book, a copy of factory build sheet, previous history and recommissioning invoices, this handsome Gentleman's Express - essentially a long wheelbase DB4 - can be enjoyed as is or improved as you own. The mechanical / chassis work done to the car makes a fantastic foundation for continued restoration of a fast appreciating classic. For more information and photos, see our website: www.noblehouseclassics.nl

    • Year: 1963
    • Mileage: 77050 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
    Noble House B.V.
    +31 36 532 5300 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
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