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Buying: Buying Guide


Aston Martin Lagonda (1978-1989)

Aston's meanest wedge of all is back in vogue...

Aston Martin Lagonda Series 4

Aston Martin Lagonda Series 4

Just about all trim is available either new or reconditioned, although many of the cabin parts have been remade rather than being new-old stock

After a long spell in the wilderness, good Aston Martin Lagondas are heading up in value – it seems that the excesses of the 1980s are back in fashion. Few cars can turn heads quite like the William Towns styled limousine – perhaps it’s the bulk, or maybe it’s the Thunderbirds styling. Either way, if you want to arrive in unforgettable style, there’s no substitute.

Although the Lagonda was designed with the chauffeur in mind, it’s an interesting driver’s car. Positioned to compete with the Rolls-Royce saloons, Newport Pagnell’s car had much firmer suspension settings and a considerably more powerful V8 under the bonnet. All this means you can enjoy really driving, as opposed to wafting in.

First unveiled in 1976, the Lagonda came as a surprise, as its four-door predecessor was rather more traditional. Not only was the razor edged styling a leap into uncharted territory for Aston Martin, but the instrumentation was a fully digital affair, featuring an array of LEDs – if nothing else; it was a taste of the future that we never really saw. Sadly, they and proved so troublesome in development that regular production came much later.

Between the delivery of the first Lagonda to the Marquis of Tavistock in April 1978 (who bought it for his wife), and its death in 1989, Aston Martin constantly developed the car, ironing out the bugs as it went along. However, one thing that remained constant was that there was nothing else like it on the road. And that’s still true to this day.

1978: Rather confusingly, the original 1976-1984 Lagonda was called the Series 2, on account of the stretched V8 Coupe (also styled by Towns) becoming retrospectively known as the Series 1. The Series 2 model received numerous running changes during its production run including BBS alloy wheels, US safety bumpers and spoilers as standard, revised seats, and opening rear windows.

1984: The car was further revised to become the Series 3 – a point, which is marked by the dashboard becoming multi-lingual. It was also uprated with cathode ray tube screens to replace the LEDs and revised badges.

1987: the dashboard was further revised to incorporate easier-on-the-eye vacuum fluorescent gauges; and the external facelift rounded off the sharpest of the curves – losing the pop-up headlights in the process. The Series 4 model, as it was known, was more powerful, now putting out a very respectable 289bhp.

Early ones are becoming increasingly rare because of the rust problem – and in the recent past, specialist breakers have bought cheap Lagondas just or their engines. However, with perseverance, it’s possible to rough ones for well under £10,000. For that kind of outlay, that’s a lot of car for your money.
In reality, you’ll need to spend more to find Lagonda nirvana.

‘Cheap ones are a can of worms, and it’s easy to rack up a £10,000 repair bill on one of these cars – and that’s just getting a running one into a useable condition,’ said Aston Martin Work Service’s General Manager, Arthur Sinclair.

More realistically, you’re looking at £20,000 and upwards, with really nice ones going for much more than that. ‘In the past three years, Lagonda values have really picked up and we’re getting an increasing number in for full-blown restoration,’ he added.

Aston Martin Lagondas are expensive cars. Even those with low sticker prices are expensive – they cost a fortune to put right, so if it’s a Towns car you want, make sure you pay top money for the best example. Your wallet will thank you.

It’s no surprise to learn that these cars suffer from electrical weaknesses. Arthur Sinclair is quick to identify the dashboard and electrical ancillaries as being the Lagonda’s Achilles Heel. ‘The dashboard in its LCD and CRT forms throw up a number of faults. These include not just the instrument pack itself, in the wiring to it, the senders, vacuum pipes; in fact anywhere in the system.’ He said.

Aston Martin Works Service offers a modern LCD solution to the CRT screen problem in the Series 3 cars, and has all the expertise to keep LED systems in working order, but it’s a time consuming process. Check also the complex pop-up headlamp mechanism is liable to fail, as are the electrically operated boot, fuel and bonnet.

Bodywork can be an issue – rot can be extensive on poorly maintained examples, and due to the complex structure, costs significant money to put right. ‘Particularly bad cars have disappeared or have been restored by loving owners,’ Sinclair added. ‘Inside, the wood and leather can age – and is expensive to put right; and a full re-trim can cost significantly more than the car’s actually worth.’
On the road, signs of a tired engine will be simple to spot. The oil pressure will be low and the tappets noisy; either of these symptoms can denote worm camshafts.

If the engine block drains have oil or water coming out of them, that means the cylinder liners have moved, and you’re looking at an engine re-build. Kingpins are known to wear and as it’s an expensive job to replace them, so some owners don’t bother. Lack of maintenance here leads to the suspension collapsing, so look carefully for the signs.

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There’s a lot to like about the Lagonda – both in the way it looks and how it drives. A well-sorted example drives like a sports car, and has one of the best soundtracks in the business.
However there are drawbacks. It’s cramped in the rear, drinks fuel at an alarming rate, and reliability isn’t exactly a strong point if you risk buying one at the cheaper end of the scale. Buying a bad one will turn you into a pauper very quickly indeed; you’ll certainly feel the after-effects of an owner who’s skimped on the upkeep of their four-door supercar.

Objectively, the best cars to go far are the later Series 4 models, as they’re the most reliable, rot the least and are the sharpest to drive. The styling of these cars has been watered down inside and out, but the prodigious performance, comfortable ride, sheer sense of occasion are all still there.
Choose one that’s been fastidiously maintained by an Aston Martin specialist, and enjoy one of the coolest 1980s wedges that money can buy.

Aston Martin Works Service, Bucks, 01908 619264, www.astonmartin.co.uk
Chiltern Aston Centre Ltd, Ley Hill Road, Hemel Hempstead, 01442 833 177
Oselli Engineering, Oxfordshire, 01993 849610, www.oselli.com
Aston Workshop, County Durham, 01207 233525, www.aston.co.uk

Aston Martin Owners Club, c/o John Burslem, Oxfordshire, 01865 400400,



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