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Aston Martin Lagonda

THE BIG TIME Published: 8th Aug 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Aston Martin Lagonda
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Gigantic Aston saloon that drives like a sports car and the cheapest way to buy into AM motoring although running costs are some of the steepest around and parts supply is nowhere near as good as a normal DB model With a DBS – and the universally shunned DBS6 one at that – making a staggering half a million quid at the recent annual Bonhams Aston auction, you may well thing that you've wel land truly missed the boat for trying to get into Aston ownership. But there is a liferaft (albeit the size of an aircraft carrier) and it's the Lagonda saloon that was unveiled almost 40 years ago and now out of production for more than two decades. Outlandish and massive when new, the Lagonda’s ability to shock hasn’t diminished over the years and while it is not anything like as exotic as a DB5 or DB66, the Lagonda certainly makes a good, sportier alternative to a Bentley, Rolls or Jag and far more exclusive yet (in Aston terms anyway) a bargain!

HISTORY

1974 Aston Martin almost went belly up in 1975, which killed off the lovely DBS-based Lagonda of 1974-1976, seven were made.

1976 The wraps were taken off a new Lagonda, which looked like nothing ever built before – or since – by Aston or anybody else for that matter. Revealed at the Earls Court show, the Lagonda Series 2, as it’s become known, shocked everyone who clapped eyes on it.

Essentially the lorry-sized Lagonda was a bigged-up DBS with styling so straight- edged and sharp you could almost cut yourself on the body.

The wheelbase stretched by a foot but the rest of the mechanicals were broadly AM V8, with Koni not Boge self-levelling rear dampers and what Aston described then as a ’variable’ power steering system. Orders came in to keep Aston buoyant… 1978 It would take nearly two years for the car to reach eager owner but the unveiling of the first car – for Lord and Lady Tavistock no less – and in front of the world’s press turned into a bit of a farce.

1979 It wasn’t until the summer that production actually got underway; the original digital instrumentation superseding the previous problematic plasma affair while the advanced variably power steering was ditched for a much simpler but no less worthy Rover SD1 system. By now the price had risen to a staggering £50,000, a massive rise since it was billed as a £20,000 machine when first unveiled.

Buyers still queued up though, mainly from the USA and Middle East, where most of the 645 cars found homes.

1983 The first revisions saw the adoption of BBS alloy wheels, larger bumpers and opening rear windows instead of fixed glass. Within a year there were further changes, with a move to cathode-ray tube instrumentation and a multi-lingual voice warning system, that was not unlike the contemporary Austin Maestro system.

1985 The Series 3 packed 300bhp thanks to the adoption of fuel injection.

1987 Series 4 announced with softer lines and trio of integrated headlamps in each side of the nose, replacing the earlier pop-up headlamp styling. The swage line running the length of the car’s flanks to break up the slab look had gone too.

Also gone by now was buyer interest and just 105 examples of these were sold by the time the plug was pulled in January 1990. Few supercars had gone from hero to zero so soon.

DRIVING AND PRESS COMMENTS

Being the size of a small lorry at more than 17 foot, and weighing two tonnes, even its Aston V8 powerplant can’t provide the neck snapping performance you’d expect of an AM but it is fair enough for such a ludicrously large limo at around nine seconds for the 0-60mph sprint.

That hefty kerb weight and a wheelbase that runs to nearly three metres ensures the ride is superb; bumps are smashed into submission by the Lagonda’s sheer bulk!

Because of the car’s Yank-sized dimensions, the Lagonda isn’t a car for cross country thrills, even if the Lagonda feels surprisingly agile to drive.

As you’d expect from any car wearing the Aston badge, the Lagonda was always considered a driver’s car in its market sector. However, the satisfaction is less so in the back where rear seat room and the door openings were too limited plus the car is by and large too noisy for a luxury limo. But if that’s what you want buy a Roller?

The press soon fell out of love with the Lagonda, perhaps because it initially promised to rewrite the rule books for limousines. Motor gushed in late 1976 “The new car should be a winner” and trying one out in 1978 Car hailed the “dashing new flagship” as a welcome addition to this traditionally staid market. “Here at last may be a car that displaces the Jaguar XJ12 as the world’s best saloon; it is certainly the car that Rolls-Royce have to watch”.

Yet two years later, when comparing the car against the all new Rolls Silver Spirit Car had watered down its enthusiasm, still raving about the car but lamenting its build quality, ‘heinous’ instrumentation and those Ford Cortina MK3 door handles!

Fast forward to 1987 and in its annual COTY awards Car gave the Lagonda an award at long last albeit as one of the worst cars around!

The once striking styling was now heavily criticised as was the temerity to ask a fat £85,000, for what the magazine now considered “an insult to the rest of the Aston range.” That’s a bit strong and we prefer to remember it as: “A luxurious saloon with real flair and ability – truly magnificent” as how one early road test summed the car up all those years ago…

PRICES

It used to be known as the ‘ten grand car’ (£10K to buy, £10K for engine repairs, £10K for bodywork, etc) and Lagondas occasionally crop up for under £10,000, but they now need huge amounts of time and cash to make them good – invariably more money than the car will ever be worth.

Anything priced at under £20,000 will need some work, even if superficially okay but probably festering corrosion and invariably needing re-trimming or repainting. Spend at least £30,000 and you’ll have a good car worth owning and we’ve seen cars now fetching well over 50 grand and it’s a trend that will continue.

The biggest problem is lack of proper care over the years reckons specialist David Marks (0115 982 2808) due to owners who never had the money to run them properly and he adds that there’s still a lot of them around. The good news is that people are now prepared to spend a serious wedge on theirs but most coming onto the market need work.

The S2 and S3 are the most sought after; many reckon the S4’s design lost some of the quirkiness that made the car so special in the first place.

IMPROVEMENTS

The Lagonda’s engine, transmission and running gear are all good enough in standard form. Converting to a four-speed ZF gearbox, replacing the self-levelling rear suspension with conventional dampers and upgrading the brakes, while not really necessary, is usually worth doing.

Don’t be tempted to replace the original digital instrumentation with analogue, as such a move is bound to impact on resale values – and the original set-up can be made to work reliably.

What To Look For

GENERAL
• While a professional inspection is always advised before buying any specialist classic car, nowhere does this apply more than with this Lagonda! It’s a complex piece of kit so if you don’t know what you are looking for then enlist a known specialist on the model such as David Marks to help you. Go to www. davidmarkgarages.co.uk.
• If you can, try a few before you pick a purchase as standards will vary and you may think you have a good example even if you haven’t…
• Don’t dismiss a tired interior lightly. With no less than 11 hides used to completely trim the inside, refurbishment costs can be eye-watering and easily up to Rolls-Royce prices.
• A site worth a visit is Roger Ivett’s, http://www.lagondanet. com as he “is the glue” that keeps Lagonda and their owners together whereas without him the car probably would have never survived…

BODY AND CHASSIS
• In time honoured Aston fashion, there’s a steel structure over which are draped aluminium panels. The structure corrodes spectacularly yet the outer panels still look reasonably serviceable! Really ropey cars are plentiful… But none are likely to be scrapped. • The A, B and C-posts all need fanatical inspection; on the rear door shut there’s a removable alloy panel that potentially hides a multitude of horrors. Make sure you remove it to see what’s going on and reject a car if your requests are rejected.
• Take a close look at the wheelarches and sills first and foremost. The latter are three-piece items, and if rotted, then the C-post is likely to have gone with it as well. Making all this good again, can easily cost £10,000 or more.

ENGINE
• The famous 5340cc V8 was used in various states of tune in numerous Astons and if looked after will happily take 200,000 miles in their stride but only as long as they’ve had proper regular maintenance and been allowed to warm up properly.
• A full rebuild typically costs £15,000. If it’s only the bottom end that needs some TLC, a partial renovation is usually £5000-£7000 and cheap insurance.
• A 50:50 mix of anti-freeze is considered vital, as the block and heads are all alloy; leaking water pumps are common so check. The V8 needs to warm up in its own good time; 2500rpm shouldn’t be exceeded until the oil is up to 50 degrees (there is an oil temperature gauge) – has this been carried out studiously by the past owners though?
• As the sump’s capacity is 12 litres, it takes a while for the lube to get up to temperature. Oil changes every 3000 miles won’t have done any harm either, using a normal mineral 15/50 oil such as Castrol GTX. • If the engine runs badly, suffers low compression and drinks oil, then it’s usually due to sticking piston rings, worn valve guides or cylinder liner wear – or a combo of them all.
• Ensure the oil pressure is at least 60psi at 3000rpm when hot (and at least 10psi at tickover), and see that the coolant temperature doesn’t exceed 90 degrees at all. If you can check cylinder compressions, you’re looking for 150psi across the board.
• Listen for rattling from the front, belying a worn pair of timing chains. It’s advised that these are replaced every 75,000 miles as routine maintenance. If they break or stretch, then the pistons will hit the valves, wrecking the engine. New chains are less than £75 apiece, with replacement taking five hours for the two so it’s not an overly dear job.
• Next make sure there’s no coolant leaking from the water pump and that the engine isn’t running hot. If these are both the case, a rebuilt water pump is needed – at a cost of £350 plus a couple of hours’ labour to fit it.

TRANSMISSION
• A limited-slip diff was fitted and while strong, their clutches can wear out. To make sure everything is okay, reverse car and turn the wheel from side to side. If it feels as though the handbrake has been left on, the diff needs a £650 rebuild, plus labour. • The three-speed Chrysler Torque-Flite gives few problems so long as the fluid is changed regularly and doesn’t smell burnt. On a test drive, check its take-up smoothness and slipping/holding of ratios.

RUNNING GEAR
• The DBS platform is robust and well tried. Just the usual checks on the suspension and brakes suffice ensuring that the brakes haven’t seized up through a lack of use and that the suspension isn’t tired out due to the car’s sheer weight and age.
• There’s a self-levelling system at the rear featuring Koni dampers which you need to make sure is working – conventional Koni dampers will have been substituted but Aston don’t provide these anymore. Incidentally, the Lagonda uses different front wishbones to a V8 with altered camber settings

ELECTRICS
• The multitude of electrical and electronics systems can be a major weak point, but it’s more fixable now than ever. Many of the electronics can be upgraded to modern standards so the displays are original, but driven by components which are far more reliable than when these cars were new.
• The Marks Brothers of Nottingham, who specialise in Lagondas, are one of the few experts in this field and typically charge between £2500-£5000 to repair the dashboards depending on set up fitted.
• Duff electrics is a real bargaining point. David Marks says the factory wiring diagram is of little use as many ‘bodges’ are usually introduced into the systems over the decades by subsequent owners… “It takes more time to fix these than the actual fault”, says David.
• Also temperamental are the pop-up headlamps along with the electrically operated releases for the boot, fuel filler and bonnet.

Three Of A Kind

MASERATI QUATTROPORTE
MASERATI QUATTROPORTE
We featured the car a few issues back and the Quattroporte is worth seeking out as it offers something different and for just MGB money. Fast, refined and delightfully discreet, the Maserati also offers a genuinely sporty drive thanks to Ferrari power and general DNA on later versions.
MERCEDES W126 S-CLASS
MERCEDES W126 S-CLASS
From an era when Mercedes stood for peerless build quality, the S-Class has long been the company’s technological tour de force and it’s no different here. Superb engines, excellent safety credentials and spacious (if rather bland) cabins add up to a great package that’s very affordable too.
BENTLEY MULSANNE
BENTLEY MULSANNE
Little more than a reskinned Silver Shadow, albeit with many welcome advances, the Bentley has a different character to Rolls’ Silver Spirit and is blisteringly fast in all its turbo forms – faster than the Lagonda. Prices seem to be dropping all the time and can look dirt cheap – but watch their condition.

Verdict

The Lagonda makes a fantastically zany buy, but don’t run away with the idea that it’s a DBS on the cheap because the car has a different, although no less pleasant, character of its own. David Marks says that with many owners, it’s their only Aston and that unlike a Bentley Mulsanne or Rolls, you’re not perceived as some flash whatnot. With the Lagonda, most folks simply stare in amazement and applaud your audacity!



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