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Forgetting Its Past, Aston Plans Brash New Lagonda

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Aston Martin Project One-77

Aston Martin Project One-77

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Aston Martin teased a select audience at the recent Paris Auto Show with its latest concept, the "one 77." With a carbon-fiber chassis, a handcrafted aluminum body, and a 7.0-liter V-12, the one 77 will "deliver exhilarating performance for a strictly limited number of discerning [read: mega-rich] customers."

It's a busy time at Aston, since it was sawed off last year from the Ford empire. The exclusive British marque will also be introducing the high-end four-door Rapide sports sedan next year. But it's CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez's choice of words surrounding a third proposed vehicle, a revival of the Lagonda sedan nameplate, that has us worried.

Bez and Aston "concluded that the revival of the Lagonda brand would allow us to develop cars which can have a different character than a sportscar." Uh-oh. Further, Bez asserts Aston Martin will "take elements of DNA from the past but will be very future orientated" with the Lagonda.

Before we spend any more time thinking about the future of this Silver Spur competitor, let's take a trip through Lagonda's, um, interesting past.

In its latest corporate iteration, Aston Martin has produced nothing but stunning, sleek designs of great proportion and doubtless taste. So taken with Aston's design language, an editor at World Car Fans recently declared Aston Martin "incapable of producing anything other than beautiful." Hold on. Let's not forget the Lagonda produced from 1976 to 1989. It was a bizarre, origami-inspired collision of creases and excessive overhangs, replete with a wanna-be Citroen single-spoke steering wheel and a breadbox-square control center with disco-age digital controls seemingly lifted from an ancient Amana microwave. Even Time ranked this vehicle among "the 50 Worst Cars of All Time."

Aston Martin Lagonda

Aston Martin Lagonda

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(photo: wikimedia commons)

The Lagonda had all the grace of a stuffy '80s Lincoln Town Car, yet somehow dripped with even more baroque excess and pretense. The interior seemed to be singing right in tune with Huey Lewis and The News' hit, "Hip to Be Square."

Before Aston Martin got some serious help from global automotive partners who knew how to design electrical systems and controls that work correctly more often than not, the company's reputation for reliability was dubious. Of course, that could be said for any vehicle daring enough to use electrical systems even remotely related to the infamous LUCAS electrical systems that plagued all British cars back in the day.

Being the first production car in the world to use computer management and a digital instrument panel, explains Wikipedia, "the development cost for the electronics alone on the Lagonda came to 4 times as much as the budget for the whole car." Alas, this huge investment only resulted in failure-prone computers and display panels, an enormous MSRP (Rolls-Royce Silver Spur territory), and a mid-cycle instrument panel refresh that ditched LEDs in favor of cathode ray tubes that proved even more troublesome.

A thirsty V-8, an unseemly curb weight, and a Chrysler three-speed automatic that likely shared internals with Ricardo Montalban's Cordoba (the small Chrysler) yielded fuel economy in the single digits. Ah! Just in time for the fuel crisis of the late '70s. Austin Powers should've driven this Aston in the 007 spoof, "The Spy Who Shagged Me." Man and machine would have been nearly inseparable, what with the Lagonda's interior about as successful as Austin's oral surgeon and a style that would've perfectly matched the International Man of Mystery's harlequin suede, cravat, and taffeta. "Smashing, baby!"

Take note, Aston Martin, and please don't repeat the sins of the 70s.--Colin Mathews


(Motor Trend Classics)


Ian Merrit, via Jalopnik, via Cars.com

Ian Merrit, via Jalopnik, via Cars.com

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(Ian Merrit, via Jalopnik, via Cars.com)

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Comment (1)
  1. The hsitory of Lagonda is a lot older an dmore prestigeous than the offering from the 70's and 80's.
    Reality check for Aston and its new owners, stock market crash (especially that in Russia, China and other new economies) as wella s death of many of the bonus kings on wall street mean the market for their cars is likely to shrink and do so fast. Time to shelve the exotic dreams and keep you balance sheets healthy to survive the rocky market in this segment. May also want to shelve the 4 door Rapide for same reason.
     
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