Thin end of the wedge

This month, Andrew examines the travails experienced by Aston Martin with the roll-out of its V8 Lagonda

Published:  24 August, 2022

By Andrew Marsh, Engineering Director, Auto Industry Consulting Ltd

Truly, it was turmoil in motion, but it did not start out that way. The first V8 Lagonda was a stretched DBS, with just seven examples including the prototype, built. These are utterly conventional, and with care, very reliable.

Then came the 1976 V8 Lagonda, designed by William Towns, which went into production during 1978. The capacitive switches were cutting edge, and dropped for production. The electronic system was made in the USA, but corners were cut with the central computer which meant it could suffer failures regularly. Often this involved stripping the computer out, removing boards, putting the same boards back in and off it went for another six months. We sent people all over the world to do this. The issue? The boards were not properly supported and the contacts were not gold plated. Long-term storage, humidity and vibration took care of the failure.
The model went through three iterations of instruments, with the last one the best. Only one car was ever built on the assembly line with conventional instruments - for the Duke of Westminster.

The 1976 car had all four seats fully electrically adjustable, yet not one production car had this feature. There were many small changes between the first car and all subsequent versions, which lost some of the design impact along the way.
At the time of the mid-engine Bulldog project, a bi-turbo Lagonda was built with engineering prototype No2. As was often the case, there was simply not enough money to bring that car to production. Just imagine though; 2.2 tonnes of car as fast as the late 1980s V8 Vantage coupe, but weighing 400 kg less.

The re-style of the 1976 V8 Lagonda - the last production car design by William Towns - sought to reduce costs and refresh the design. In the process much of the original design drama went. The outside may be dull, but the electronics were the best - of course, still no electrically adjustable rear seats…

The vast majority of the V8 Lagonda is robust and reliable with the correct service intervals, which by North American standards is a bit intensive. The computer was its biggest weakness, but more often than not could be brought back to life with simple ‘remove and refit’ operation.

Could the car have sold without the electronics? Yes. However, it’s hard to imagine now, but those electronics were a major differentiator in the market. Perhaps a handmade exotic skin with a hand-built engine just was not enough.

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