Aston Martin Lagonda Buying Guide
It’s bonkers, it’s rare and it’s hugely collectable. What’s not to love about this William Towns-designed wedge? Here's how to buy a solid Aston Martin Lagonda
How much to pay
• Project £10,000-20,000 • Good £40,000-90,000 • Concours £120,000-150,000 •
Running costs ★★★★
DIY friendly ★★
Few cars have ever entered mainstream production with the shock value of the Aston Martin Lagonda. Designed by William Towns, and introduced way back in 1976, this generously proportioned, angular, four-door saloon looks futuristic even now.
Perhaps best known for its inability to start when it was first unveiled to the press, along with the shockingly poor reliability of its hi-tech electronic dashboard, the Lagonda’s reputation leaves a lot to be desired. But all of those bugs can now be sorted, and as values of these cars have shot up it’s become ever easier to justify sinking more cash into improving their condition.
Many of the 645 Lagondas built have been scrapped, which is why very few come onto the market. As a result you’ll have to bide your time to find the right car to buy – but once you’ve secured something suitable, you’ll soon see that the Lagonda is so much more than just a pretty face.
Your AutoClassics Aston Martin Lagonda inspection checklist
All Lagondas are fitted with Aston’s 5340cc V8, but the method of fuel delivery and the state of tune varied throughout production. Any engine that’s been looked after will notch up 200,000 miles without murmur; the key is to let the V8 warm up fully before applying the revs. Also important is to maintain the anti-freeze level to stave off corrosion in the alloy block and heads, while an oil change every 3000 miles is a good idea.
If the engine is revved before it’s warmed up, it’ll suffer from poor running through low compression because of sticking piston rings. It’ll also use oil and it’s likely that the valve guides and cylinder liners will be worn – all of which adds up to a bottom-end rebuild.
A healthy engine will have oil pressure of at least 60psi at 3000rpm once up to temperature. You should expect at least 10psi at tickover, and the coolant shouldn’t go above 90 degrees at all. Also aim to check the cylinder compression; a decent engine will have 150psi on each combustion chamber.
The timing chains should be replaced every 75,000 miles, although they can last for twice as long. If they’re worn there will be rattling from the front of the engine. They’re often not tensioned properly, and overtightening leads to wear so they either stretch or break, wrecking the engine. Replacing the chains isn’t that big or costly a job.
Finish by checking for coolant leaking from the water pump. If it is, the engine will probably be running hot, signifying that a rebuilt pump is needed. The cost isn’t too extortionate.
All Lagondas came with a three-speed Chrysler Torque-Flite automatic gearbox. It’s a very tough unit that gives few problems, and the same goes for the rest of the transmission.
However, there is one potential weak spot – the limited-slip diff that was fitted to all cars. Although these are tough, their clutches can wear out. To see whether a rebuild is due, just reverse the car and turn the steering wheel between locks. If there’s resistance as though the handbrake has been left on, the diff needs a rebuild.
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1980 SILVER WRAITH II #LRL41535C – CALIFORNIA...
Finished in the most elegant Triple Black color layout, this pampered, never damaged specimen has been enjoyed by only 2 familes since its first Southern California delivery in December, 1981. It is among the last build, having been produced in December 1980. The ownership pedigree is complete, as are the tools & books. The automobile has been extremely well prepared by ourselves. Copies of the inFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | 1898 NORTHEAST 151 STREET, NORTH MIAMI, FLORIDA 33162£ POA
Mercedes 280 SE Coupé (1970).
This is probably one of the most stylish four-seats coupés ever made. Designed by Paul Bracq, head of design for Mercedes-Benz during the sixties and early seventies, the pillarless Coupé is now a true design icon. It is a very useable car, which offers a comfortable ride in silence and grace. This matching nrs example is a later version with the squared off and lowered Mercedes grille, and fittFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 95,000
Merlyn Mk6 (1964).
Colchester Racing Developments in Essex was a small-scale racing car manufacturer, which started in 1960 by building formula junior racecars. In 1961, they created the mid-engined Mk3 to compete with the Lotus 18. Based on this basic formula junior single-seater, they developed a sports/racing car called the Merlyn Mk4. The car had a multi-tubular spaceframe, Girling disc brakes and a fibreglass bFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 115,000
Mercedes 190 SL (1962)
The Mercedes 190 SL (R121) was introduced at the 1954 New York Auto Show, as an attractive and more affordable alternative to the exclusive 300 SL Roadster. It was based on the small saloon W121, and shared the basic styling, engineering and fully independent suspension with its exclusive 300 SL brother. The engine was a 1,9 litre 4-cilinder unit, based on the 300 SL`s straigt six, and fitted withFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 149,500
Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 (1969).
The Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 was the ultimate saloon built by Mercedes Benz from 1968 to 1972. It featured the company`s powerful 6.3-litre M100 V8 from the luxurious 600 limousine installed in the normally six-cylinder powered Mercedes Benz 300 SEL. The result was a nearly 2-tonne saloon with performance similar to most dedicated sports cars and American muscle cars of the era. At the time of its relFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Temse, Belgium€ 99,500
Older well maintained restoration with flat head 6 and a 12 volt electrical system. The car has a factory Borg Wanrer overdrive that does not require a 6-volt solenoid to operate. This car is a great cruiser that will drive easliy at highway speeds. This amazing car runs and drives perfect!For Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | 1335 W. Hwy 76 Branson, Missouri 65616$ 19,000
MERCEDES 190SL 1961
Mercedes 190SL 1961,Papyrus white with sable black leather interior, 67,000 miles. Having spent most of it’s life in Greece this older restoration car remains in fantastic condition throughout. It has just come out of a private collection and benefits from a recent five thousand pound mechanical overhaul. Highly desirable, especially now that the 190SL is eligible for the Mille Miglia. StunningFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | Pound Lane, Burley, Ringwood BH24 4EB, UK£ 109,995
ALFA ROMEO 1900 CSS `SUPER SPRINT MILLE MIGLIA...
Fantastic looking 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS ‘Super Sprint’. It was supplied to the Swedish Alfa Romeo importer Bonnier in Stockholm on the 21st December 1954. Mr Jo Bonnier was a Swedish F1 driver as well as being the Swedish Alfa importer. Only 854 Super Sprints ever went into production. In the past this car has benefitted from a thorough restoration with a keen eye to authenticity. After a fFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | ARNHEMSESTRAAT 47, 6971 AP BRUMMEN, THE NETHERLANDS€ 339
ALFA ROMEO 6C 1750 GT COMPRESSORE (1931)
We are proud to present one of Alfa`s most prized pre-war racing legends, the unique Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GT Compressore. Supplied from new to a Swedish Baron on the 10th September 1931. This car is the only 6C 1750 ever exported to Sweden and only one of a handful left today. This car comes with a fully and correctly documented history, including very old photographs. We can trace the car over theFor Sale | 24 Apr 2018 | ARNHEMSESTRAAT 47, 6971 AP BRUMMEN, THE NETHERLANDS€ 795
Suspension and brakes
Despite the Lagonda’s weight and hi-tech looks, the brakes and suspension are pretty straightforward. The problem that you’re most likely to encounter is seized brakes through lack of use.
Also check that the suspension isn’t tired. At the rear there’s a self-levelling set-up that can fail. If it’s not working properly (or at all), this will soon be obvious on the test drive, and while overhauling the system is not a big job, it is expensive.
The Lagonda bodyshell consists of a steel structure over which aluminium panels are fitted. It’s not unusual for the outer panels to look fine while underneath there’s serious corrosion, but most of the really bad cars have long since bitten the dust.
Start by looking at the A, B and C-posts, and remove the panel on each rear door shut so you can see what’s going on beneath. There’s a good chance that you’ll see some corrosion, whether it’s light or extensive.
The sills and rear wheelarches are also prone to corrosion, with the former being three-piece items. Once these rot the C-post tends to dissolve, too, and putting this right is a huge job, so don’t under-estimate the cost of doing so.
The boot, fuel-filler flap, bonnet and pop-up headlights are all operated electrically, and any of them can be unreliable. Finding effective fixes for these things can be time consuming, so be prepared to dig deep.
Checking for cabin damage is essential, because substantial remedial work can be a very costly exercise; 11 hides were used to trim the Lagonda’s cabin. Sorting out damaged wood trim or carpets is also expensive, so analyse these parts closely.
What puts off many potential buyers is the multitude of electronics and particularly the instrumentation, but modern components can be used to make it all work reliably, so it looks original but doesn’t pack in every five minutes.
As we said, check that everything works, as the Lagonda features a lot of motors and electrics, all of which can play up. Tracing the source of problems can take ages, resulting in big bills.
- 1976: Wraps are taken off the Lagonda at the Earls Court Motor Show. The car is a non-runner at this stage.
- 1978: Production Lagonda is unveiled, supposedly as a running car. Unfortunately Aston struggles to get it running at the press launch. These first cars are retrospectively known as the Series 2; the Series 1 is the DBS-based saloon of which just seven were built.
- 1979: At last there’s a running car, with digital instrumentation instead of the previous gas-plasma set-up. The cost is now almost £50,000; when unveiled three years earlier it was supposed to be priced at £20,000.
- 1983: First set of revisions is introduced, with BBS alloy wheels now fitted, larger bumpers and opening rear windows; earlier cars had featured fixed glass.
- 1984: Cathode-ray instrumentation is adopted, along with a multi-lingual voice warning system, just like that of the contemporary Austin Maestro.
- 1985: Series 3 arrives, with a 300bhp fuel-injected engine.
- 1987: Series 4 is introduced, with softer lines and three integrated headlamps on each side in place of the previous pop-up units. The boot lid and rear lights are altered, too, and there’s no longer a swage line running the length of the car’s flanks.
- 1990: Final Lagonda is built, after 105 Series 4s have been constructed and 645 Lagondas overall.
There are specialist cars and then there’s the Aston Martin Lagonda – a model that blurs the boundaries between full and limited production. You need to do your homework before taking on one of these magnificent beasts, and you also need to be committed to ownership as they’re not the easiest cars to live with. As a result you’ll need to have a decent specialist on hand, able to fix things as they go wrong.
Until fairly recently the Lagonda was unloved, and values reflected this, but suddenly these straight-edged saloons have become very collectable. Most of the examples that crop up for sale are in need of some TLC, because once a Lagonda is in really good shape the owner tends to hang onto it.
Most buyers want the S2 or S3, as the S4 isn’t quite as outrageous, and they tend to favour standard cars. Some Lagondas have had the self-levelling facility removed from the suspension, while a four-speed ZF gearbox may have been fitted and brake upgrades aren’t unusual.
The air-con is very inefficient, so finding a car that’s had this sorted is a good idea – although it’s a big job as it has to be done on a bespoke basis and every aspect needs to be rethought. Also avoid cars that have had analogue instruments fitted in place of the original digital set-up; this is one of the things owners love about their cars, and it can be made to work reliably if you know where to go.
|Lagonda Series 2|
|Lagonda Series 3|
|Lagonda Series 4|
Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics
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