The Rare Rides series has covered every generation of Aston Martin’s Lagonda four-door except one. In the Sixties, the Lagonda Rapide helped to define the super sedan class: A grand tourer that could sweep four passengers and their luggage across Continental Europe with ease.
Then there was the late Seventies Lagonda, which had a long production run through 1990. Advanced electronically, that Lagonda was too ambitious and generally earned its reputation as a good-looking, expensive disaster. Finally, there was the Lagonda Taraf, a large sedan designed specifically and cynically for the UAE market. It was built to extract maximum dollars from oil barons and the like. Great success!
But between Lagonda Rapide and Lagonda was a missing link. It was called the Lagonda Series I and is the rarest Aston Martin Lagonda ever made. And one is for sale.
Note: We can’t use Bonham’s pictures, so the car shown here is the prototype 1969 Series I, the one used as David Brown’s personal vehicle.
The original Lagonda Rapide was made for a short while, between 1961 and 1964. Its name arrived courtesy of Aston Martin’s purchase of defunct luxury car maker Lagonda in 1947. Not a hot seller at the time, the high-performance four-door was based on a DB4 and designed by Italian firm Carrozzeria Touring. After 55 examples the Rapide went out of production, and Aston Martin went without a Lagonda offering for a decade.
As the Seventies dawned, the premise of another super sedan was appealing to the lightly funded folks at Aston Martin. Ownership of the company passed in 1972 from long-time holder David Brown to William Wilson, a wealthy accountant. At the end of the Sixties, Aston’s Lineup was a bit skimpy. They offered two different cars that were essentially the same, powered by different engines. Introductory level cars were the inline-six Vantage of 1967, which was renamed DBS in 1972. The flagship was the DBS V8 of 1969, which was renamed to Aston Martin (or AM) V8 in 1972.
William Wilson wanted some additional product at dealers and sought to resurrect a Lagonda. The basis of the new car was the DBS V8 and was actually based upon a prototype developed by David Brown. Brown wanted to be driven around in one of his own company’s cars and made a working prototype version of a V8 Lagonda circa 1969 (shown).
Wilson developed the idea and did some minor alterations to finish up the design, courtesy of Aston Martin designer William Towns. Towns was familiar with Aston’s wares as he’d designed the DBS a few years before. Towns drew up the muscular sedan in 1969, and it shared almost everything visually with the DBS.
The same blocky front end met with sweeping fenders up to the windshield, where the Lagonda followed the same character line as the DBS. It even ended in a truncated rear that was grafted right from the DBS. Its larger body required a longer wheelbase than the DBS (102.8 inches) could provide, so the platform was stretched an additional foot. Overall width was considerable for a European car, at 72 inches (almost the same as a 7 Series from 1994). The Series I’s overall length of 194 inches was tidy.
There was as much parts sharing as possible between the two cars, given the new Lagonda would certainly be low-volume in its production. The sedan used shorter front doors than the DBS, and to your author’s eye might have borrowed all its doors from the contemporary Jaguar XJ12. See what you think. The overall look was muscular and purposeful though, and the rear end from the DBS meant it had a fastback profile instead of the super formal upright greenhouse of the prior Lagonda.
Inside, the Lagonda borrowed most parts from the DBS, with additional wood trim for warmth and luxury. Overall the interior was a cross between traditional Aston Martin and what Jaguar was building at the time. The door panels generally lend to the idea of an extra padded and slightly more wooded XJ12 door, by the way.
Power arrived from the DBS V8’s mill, as one would expect. It was a 5.3-liter engine, designed by Tadek Marek. With dual overhead cams, it was a sufficiently modern engine and produced 320 horsepower and 301 lb-ft of torque. The Lagonda sedan rocketed to 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds (shocking at the time) and on to a top speed of 149 miles per hour. Transmissions matched the DBS as well and were a five-speed ZF manual or three-speed TorqueFlite automatic from Chrysler.
Design and parts borrowing complete, the new Lagonda was first shown to an excited audience at the October 1974 edition of the London Motor Show. Even if onlookers were impressed, they’d be in for a shock when they saw the price: £14,040, or about 25 percent more expensive than the DBS upon which it was based. Adjusted, that’s £155,695 today ($203,629 USD).
Unfortunately the Series I was introduced as the world was embroiled in an oil crisis – not the best time. The thirst, expense, and its generally dated nature meant the Lagonda experienced very slow sales. Marketed between 1974 and 1975, just seven were produced. Aston built the seventh and final Series I in the ’76 calendar year. During that time, Aston debuted a new 1976 Lagonda that featured crazy technology like touch panel controls and LCD instruments. Its character and look were vastly different from the Series I, a car that everyone quickly forgot.
Today’s Rare Ride will go on auction at Goodwood on April 10th. It’s the sixth of the seven cars and starred as a show car at the 1975 edition of the Earls Court Motor Show. It’s been fully restored from the ground up, and has a rocket underhood: The 5.3 was bored out to 7.0-liters by Aston tuner RS Williams (Mr. Williams owned this Series I until 2006.) The new displacement means 480 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque are available at the driver’s right foot.
Rare, restored, and upgraded, this Series I will be no reserve at the auction, but is expected to fetch between $260,000 and $400,000.
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