Saturday, April 14, 2007

My God, the Lagonda!

The Aston Martin Lagonda is the car that should have never been. At a time when Aston Martin was on the brink of bankruptcy, the suits decided to design and produce this over-the-top saloon. At $150,000 each, only 631 were made over its dozen year run from '77 to '89.

The Lagonda's over-the-top-ness begins with the obvious-- its styling. Its shape was unlike anything before, or after. At almost 17 1/2 feet in length, it is lower than a Porsche 911. It makes a 3rd generation Quattroporte, its contemporary, look downright tame.

The cockpit is straight out of the twilight zone. In an attempt to be ulta-modern, all of the controls are electronic. The dash looks like a cross between a Star Trek deck and Intellivision console. Looking at it today is like walking through the Smithsonian, stopping by the computer exhibit, and wondering who in their right mind would buy a $5,000 Osborne.

1970s. British. Electronics. Three words that should not go together. As soon as the Lagondas rolled off the assembly line, the electronics died. Aftermarket kits replacing the dash with analog controls came out soon after. Aston Martin, predicting catastrophic failure, omitted an electonic odometer in the dash altogether, opting for a manual odometer hooked up discretely under the bonnet. Talk about planning for disaster.

Fuel economy. For many consecutive years, the Lagonda had the worst gas mileage out of all production cars on Earth. Single-digit mpg was the norm. The 5.3 liter carburated V8, mated with an antediluvian Chrysler 3 speed, was not the apex of automotive engineering.

I've been fortunate to see with my own eyes some very rare Astons, including the DB4 Zagato. But to date, the Lagonda has proven to be quite elusive. I can't wait to see the car that should have never been.


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