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 •

Practicality ★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★★
DIY friendly ★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★

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

Engine

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.

Gearbox

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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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.

Bodywork

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.

Interior

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.

History

  • 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.

AutoClassics says…

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.

Specifications

Lagonda Series 2
  Power 280bhp
  Top speed 143mph
  0-60mph 8.8sec
  Economy 14mpg

Lagonda Series 3
  Power 300bhp
  Top speed 145mph
  0-60mph 8.4sec
  Economy 14mpg

Lagonda Series 4
  Power 305bhp
  Top speed 143mph
  0-60mph 8.8sec
  Economy 14mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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