Perfectly Ridiculous: The Lagonda

Retrofuturism is defined as ‘the use of a style or aesthetic considered futuristic in an earlier era’. The wedge-shaped Lagonda, festooned with touch-sensitive buttons and CRT screens instead of speedometers, perfectly fits this description. The two tonne, 5.2-metre long behemoth was, in many ways, ridiculous when it was released in 1976, but in others, it was a startlingly accurate depiction of what was to come much further down the line in the evolution of the automobile.

The 1970s was not a good time for the British Automotive industry: strikes flared across the country every week, and when the disillusioned workers actually pitched up to the factories they didn’t exactly pour their hearts and souls into their work, and it showed. Aston Martin was no exception, to date they have been bankrupt 7 times, and in 1974 they went into receivership. Clearly, it was in Aston Martin’s best interest to produce a sensible car that would earn them some much needed British Pounds.

Apparently, however, no one actually told the hardworking men at Aston Martin this information, because when they pitched up to the 1976 London Motor Show, they had brought what appeared to be a giant doorstop on wheels. Curiously, the giant doorstop didn’t actually feature any Aston Martin badges to speak of, with Aston instead attempting to revive the Lagonda brand as an ultra-luxurious symbol of automotive excess. Yet that wasn’t the only baffling thing about Aston’s financial lifeline; it didn’t have any buttons on the interior, instead favouring touch-sensitive control panels, which worked about as well as you would expect in the 1970s. As I mentioned earlier, the car also had CRT television screens instead of dials and gauges where the speedometer should be, which were similarly temperamental and could show any colour you liked as long as those were black and green. These technological marvels didn’t come cheap, in fact, the development costs for the electronics alone were four times as much as the budget for the entire car, and even then Aston clearly didn’t have much faith in them as the fuse box was accessible right from the centre console. These costs added up, resulting in an astronomically expensive price tag of £50,000 (for reference that’s an astonishing £750,000 in today’s money).

Despite being charmingly anachronistic today, there’s no denying the incredible foresight of Aston Martin’s designers in the creation of both the interior and exterior. After all, the latest Porsche Panamera – another four-door saloon created by a marque that traditionally focused on sports cars – also features touch panels instead of buttons and screens instead of an instrument cluster. The concept of a four-door supercar is also becoming ever-more prevalent, with both Mercedes and Porsche set to unveil their latest interpretations of the idea in the coming months in the form of the AMG GT 4-Door and stupidly-named Taycan. And yes, the Lagonda was unquestionably a four-door supercar, at least in terms of its looks. Penned by William Towns in just one month, the Lagonda fits the “folded-paper” aesthetic as well as any of its contemporaries from Lamborghini or Ferrari, and at 1.8 metres wide and just 1.3 metres high it gives the Countach a run for its money in the low-and-wide department.

Speed, however, wasn’t really the Lagonda’s thing. It’s 5.3L DOHC V8 engine produced a healthy 280 horsepower, but realistically it was never going give the Lagonda any sense of urgency when you pressed the gas pedal. If you decided to do so, the 0-60 mph amble came in a stately 8.8 seconds, and the car would eventually reach a top speed of 143 mph. That’s pretty quick when you consider that the Lagonda is 40 years old and possessed a small rainforest’s worth of wood and an amount of leather that probably endangered the world’s cow population each time a car rolled off the production line.

When the car appeared on Top Gear in 2003 it could’ve been bought for just £15,000, but these days they cost a little more than that. Depending on the condition and specification, prices range from £70,000-£140,000, but if you’re looking to buy one I’d recommend having a great deal more than that reserved for maintenance if anything were to go wrong with either the mechanicals or the electronics. Still, at that price I’d say it’s worth it, especially when you consider that just 645 were ever produced, making it one of the rarest and most striking cars ever.

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