36k Mile Exotic: 1981 Aston Martin Lagonda

All of us have vehicles we lust after with little or no basis in logic, but there are some vehicles that require an even stronger stomach than normal. I don’t have any issue with the looks of the striking Aston Martin Lagonda; on the contrary, I love design from the late 70s into the middle 80s, when wedges were all the rage. No, it’s more the upkeep that’s required to keep any Aston Martin happily on the road that gets magnified significantly by the iconic Lagonda. The dashboard instrumentation alone will give even the most committed owner fits, but if you want to own one of the purest forms of disco era excess, check out this Lagonda here on Facebook Marketplace for $57,000 in Nampa, Idaho.

The Lagonda was a major departure for Aston Martin, which for years had stuck to a familiar recipe of sports cars and convertibles to keep the lights on. But when there was a serious risk of the lights being turned off, the idea of a luxurious four-door sports sedan was hatched, with the Lagonda taking it one step further and becoming a rolling test bed for all sorts of advanced technologies and design concepts. The Lagonda was certainly created with far-flung aspirations, but its mechanical faults were numerous and any achievements made with the advanced features was quickly outshone by numerous quality control issues.

The Lagonda was a pioneer, in some ways, featuring the world’s first digital dash and gauge cluster. Unfortunately, it rarely worked, and if you ask a restoration shop to return it back to factory functionality, you will have paid for a modest restoration of a car that will be quite boring in comparison but also far more likely to run correctly more than two days in a row. The Lagonda is powered by a 5.3L DOHC V8, good for 280 b.h.p. and a top speed of 143 miles per hour. The seller doesn’t provide much detail about its mechanical history, a must-have when buying a car like this, and only notes the installation of new tires as evidence of recent repairs.

Now, part of the problem is the ad is poorly written. It sounds like the seller is indicating a specialist repair shop by the name of Steel Wings, an Aston Martin specialist in Pennsylvania, has performed $25,000 in engine work/repair, but doesn’t specify what, exactly, this entailed. The listing does note that the troublesome LCD instrument cluster gauges are working, so that’s a major battle won the next owner won’t have to deal with. The bodywork looks clean and straight, with the seller noting it still wears original Cannock Black paint. There are some minor cosmetic flaws listed, but nothing major. Overall, an iconic car that requires an owner who is committed to its long-term survival – and one that is flush with cash.

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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    I know nothing about these cars, and I don’t think I have ever seen one in the flesh. But I’ve always thought the ultra-wedge front end made it unique, very wide and ‘thin’-looking when viewed head-on. And that huge LCD instrument panel has proved to be ahead of its time, what with the large electronic instrument clusters and control panels and information/ entertainment systems in modern cars.

    Like 10
    • PG

      I can tell you the electronic dashboard will cost u $12K if it needs to be replaced, if u can find the right person to work on it.

      Like 1
    • Ralph

      Though this car introduced a digital dash, it was so delay and troublesome that the Cadillac Seville actually offered a digital dash to the public before the first Lagonda was ever delivered to a customer.

    • CCFisher

      If by “ahead of its time” you mean, “not ready for automotive use,” you are absolutely correct!

  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    These were well $150,000 when new.There’s something
    enticing (to me) about that,but then reality sinks in as I realize
    that this would probably be a big money pit.
    If you bought this,you’d have the only one on your block.

    Like 9
  3. alphasud Member

    The Lagonda was a bold move for Aston. I remember reading the electronics alone nearly bankrupted the company. You drive this and you will definitely be noticed. What I find amazing is being able to get the V8 to fit under the (hood) in our country. Also what is cool is the amount of headlights this car has. Did you notice the pods that pop up for the main beams? These were affordable at one but like so many unloved cars they have become desirable. I like working on electronics and I find myself saying “how hard can it be” taking the famous quote from Jeremy Clarkson.

    Like 5
  4. Ike Onick

    “an Aston Martin specialist in Pennsylvania, has performed $25,000 in engine work/repair, but doesn’t specify what, exactly, this entailed.”

    Oil change and chassis lube.

    Like 24
  5. Daniel Wright

    This has a digital dash, some of these came with CRT screens that were a serious pain in the rear end.

    Found a rather long video on you tube


    Like 2
  6. Doyler

    There is a shooting break out there that is rather nice.

    Like 1
    • Frank Sumatra

      Are they “Brakes” or “Breaks”? I think they maybe the former.

      Like 1
      • dr fine

        It was originally “break”, as it was a horse drawn wagon with the bed removed and a row of seats installed down both sides. Hunters were taken out to shoot game. I have never heard of any harm coming to those who spell it “brake.”

      • SubGothius

        Shooting “Brake” is the English spelling; “Break” is the French term for any station wagon/estate car.

        Both terms derive from the sort of hunting wagon Dr. Fine mentioned here, which in turn derives from a heavy, sturdy wagon frame used to “break” horses and oxen for drafting duty — itself related to the term “brake” as a device for impeding the speed of a vehicle, just as a “break” wagon impeded the animal drafting it.

        Back to that longroof Lagonda, that would properly be termed an estate car (i.e., station wagon in the US or break in France), being derived from a saloon/sedan model.

        Shooting brakes are derived from sport coupes and called that because they were originally built to carry dogs, long guns, and other equipment/supplies on hunting expeditions, as with the horse-drawn brake-derived hunting wagons of old.

        Like 6
  7. Jack M.

    Nampo, Idaho isn’t that the home of Barn Finds?

    Like 2
  8. DeeBee

    As soon as I hit the lottery and go looking for a lawn ornament, I’m there!

    Like 3
  9. Solosolo Member

    Once I accepted a 1981 Aston Martin Lagonda like this one but blue in colour on consignment sale back in 2002. It was a fantastic car to drive, absolutely silent inside and beautiful white leather seats. A gentleman brought his wife and daughter for a test drive so I suggested that I sit in the back with the little girl while he and the wife at up front, after all he was going to be putting up a large chunk of change were he to buy it. What a dissapointment as although I am only fairly tall at 6ft 1in I had very little leg room and the front seat was well forward as he was a lot shorter than me. Needless to say, he didn’t buy it as he was too scared of the costs involved should it break down or need servicing. The best part of the whole car in my mind was the little engraved tag affixed to the engine valve cover giving the name of the mechanic that had built the engine! I eventually sold it to a friend of mine who removed some rust behind the headlights and sold it on to a friend of his, who eventually sent it to the UK where I think it might be part of a collection of film hire cars that has twelve of these Astons.

    Like 5
  10. Jasper

    Infinitely cooler than a contemporary Rolls. Like a real life Syd Mead luxury car. Really like the disc wheels with the exposed lugs on these earlier Lagondas! Car designers should take note of them. Give us a break from all of the five spokes or double five spokes.

    Like 7
  11. Malcolm Boyes

    I’ve always loved these.I remember seeing Elizabeth Taylor being chauffeured around Beverly Hills in a white one. I also remember watching a TV show about these lovely (IMHO) Lagondas that featured an owner who seriously played down the unreliability stories. He said he had gone through the car once and now used it regularly without problems. If I had the $$ one of these would definitely be in my garage..

    Like 4
  12. PaulG

    Looks like something I sketched in 4th grade math class….

    Like 12
  13. Joe

    I was on a late night paving project in downtown Spokane when one of these pulled up to where we had the street blocked. The gentleman got out and explained he was there to check on his bar that he had won in a poker game. The man was non other than Evil Knievel.

    Like 10
  14. Rockwreck

    If this ‘is’ the Peter Sprague Lagonda, I know it well.
    We received it at our shop [heritage Aston shop] several years ago in a non running, parked for years condition.
    It was further hampered by the fact that Peter Sprague had someone fit CIS fuel injection to it. [the probable Steele Wings rework]
    Wasn’t pretty 8 years ago.

    Like 1
    • alphasud Member

      I would think with as few as are in the country or even made you are probably correct. What was the original fuel distribution? CIS is a good system.

      Like 1
  15. John

    If my memory is functioning properly, I recall one of the automobile magazines of the day trying to test one of these. They had trouble finding one which had all of its systems working as designed. Useful digital displays were a thing of the future — remember this was designed in the days when we went to the moon with a spacecraft that had largely analog displays. I always wondered if the electronic displays were manufactured by Lucas.

    There was a gentleman who frequented the Playboy Club across from my office who drove one of these. We were usually watching the girls who got out of the car, but on occasion (usually when he arrived alone) we got a chance to look the car over. We called it the Origami car. Very strange proportions in its day; it always looked like it had been squashed. To my mind, its still strange today. We also watched on more than one occasion when the car left the parking area on the back of a tow truck. The car was eventually replaced by a 246 Dino. I do not remember the girls who arrived in the Dino. But I remember every curve of the Dino.

    Like 6
  16. Leo C

    Way too much $$$ for a top speed of only 143 mph, my 2004 C5 will push 175 for at least half that price, more bang for your buck when you stick to Corvette!

    Like 2
    • Solosolo Member

      Aston Martin, 143 mph, steel/aluminium body, four seater limo. Chev C5, 175 mph, fibreglass body, two seater hot rod. Not much of a comparison is there?

      Like 5
  17. Al

    For that car to be here next door in Nampa, it’s has to be one of the Southern Cali San Diego transplants cars he now regretfully, brought with him. Now wishing he sold it down there as pickups & SUV’s outnumber cars 4 out of 5 here. He’d be better off taking it to Lyle Pearson’s & trading it in as a partial down on a Land Rover to be one up from the Smiths as from Lyle’s, it’ll make it’s way back home where it belongs.

    Like 1
  18. Howie Mueler

    Gauges are working, how long is that going to last?

    Like 3
  19. T. Mann

    How does owner get it fixed in Idaho?

    Fly it to Cali.

    Like 3
    • Frank Sumatra

      With the amount of natural resource money in Idaho, I’ll bet there is an Aston dealer.

  20. Maestro1 Member

    I always thought the car was extraordinary. You need to be someplace close to someone who knows these cars if you want to take the dive for it. One hint: When it’s fixed, don’t let it sit. Drive the car. That’s what it was built for. My experience in general is that if you drive your cars they give you less trouble.

    Like 2
  21. Matt G

    Do these have cooling problems? That tiny grill seems pretty marginal for cooling down 280hp!

    • SubGothius

      Reckon it’s primarily a “bottom-breather” through larger openings hidden under the bumper, like an Avanti or Citroen DS (or many other more modern cars).

      Like 2
  22. dr fine

    I saw one in 1985, junked at the mechanic’s lot where my Corvair was having it’s differential repaired. The swoopy body was alluring, and my first thought was to simply put a small block in. But the driver’s door card was off, and dozens of plastic tubes were jammed in like a bird’s nest. Too much for me to tackle. I have since had to completely dismantle and fix the window mechanism in a Camaro, and I think, with hindsight, I could have utilized a common window unit. But I doubt that was why it was junked, and didn’t ask.

    Like 1
  23. 370zpp

    From the front, these look like a pissed off Volvo 740.
    But that interior, well to me it looks like an 80s office board room.

  24. Richard

    These generally come with their own tow truck

    Like 6
    • Howie

      Lets hope it is not a Aston Martin tow truck.

      Like 4
  25. Slantasaurus

    Lagonda might just be an automotive paradox. You can find low milage examples all the time, mostly because these were troublesome cars when new and most owners gave up before many miles were accumulated. You would be better off finding an high mileage example of a Lagonda, at least it has run long enough to get things sorted out.

    Like 1
  26. nlpnt

    The styling on these always makes me think of an early concept for what would become the ’77-79 Caprice before all the design compromises needed to make it function at the level expected of a Big Chevrolet were made.

    Like 1
  27. Kralik

    With the Mini parked behind it, the seller clearly has a fondness for cars with questionable electronics.

    • angliagt angliagt Member

      The New Minis seem to have more (& more expensive)
      problems,& you don’t need to be an electronics expert to
      work on a REAL one.

  28. Reg Bruce

    From the car trivia department:
    Back in the day when it became obvious that nobody at the factory could get the digital dash to work properly, Aston contracted with Javelina Corp. (of the Tucson, Az) area to try and sort out the dash issues. Eventually, these fixes sorta, kinda worked — but then there was all that other stuff that never worked correctly or for very long. Must have been all those British Leyland “engineers” that they hired.
    Got to hand it to Aston for trying something different though.

    Like 1
  29. Bill McCoskey

    My longtime girlfriend and I made our annual visit to the International Auto show In Washington, DC. While we weren’t slumming, we were comfortably dressed. As we walked up to the Aston-Martin and Lagonda stall, my girlfriend asked one of the salesmen if she could sit in a beautiful gold Lagonda. The salesman replied that if we were serious buyers he could arrange a private tour of the car at their dealership. I said no thank you, and we wandered over to the next booth where Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars were on display.

    What the Lagonda salesman didn’t know was I ran a Rolls-Royce repair shop and personally owned about a half dozen or so Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. On our walking into the R-R stall, I was greeted by a friend of mine from the Local R-R dealer in Bethesda, MD. My girlfriend mentioned to him about how “snooty” the Lagonda staff was, and we began talking about hw they had been acting that way all day.

    So my friend and I concocted a little joke. We 3 disappeared into the private sales booth area for a quick chat and about 15 minutes later we re-appeared. I was now carrying a bag with some Rolls-Royce and Bentley brochures, and my sweet girlfriend pretended to be very excited. We all went over to a beautiful white Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible, and she excitedly sat behind the wheel, as my friend slid a fairly easy-to-see tag under the wiper blade. It said SOLD.

    Of course the Lagonda salesman noticed what we were doing. My girlfriend and I said our goodbyes to my friend and we continued our tour of the show. My friend told me later he went over to the Lagonda guy and said something like “Well that was another great sale, did you know they’ve got quite a collection of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, and she’s got a new convertible now!”

    He kept up the charade for a couple of hours before he finally told the poor guy the truth, but he did manage to convey the idea of never, ever, base your first impressions on what a customer is wearing!.

    Like 8
    • Richard

      Great story. I’ve heard variations on this over the years, like the time Paul Simon walked into the Porsche dealer in Southern Cal and was ignored. Or the old farmer dressed for milking but carrying a lunchbox full of cash. Love it when the high end salespeople get their just rewards.

      Like 4
  30. Malcolm Boyes

    When I first came to LA I was a dating a very wealthy young lady with a big trust fund living in her parents sprawling Beverly Hills mansion. They had a Rolls Corniche and a Silver Shadow ..her brother had a Porsche Speedster and 930 Turbo and she got a new Mercedes SL every two years. She was in her early twenties but looked a lot younger. She dropped by the Beverly Hills dealership that sold Rolls, Bentley and Mercs . Dressed in jeans and T shirt with no make up she asked the salesman what would be the colors of the new SLs. Looking down his nose he said:” Fu$k off little girl and dont waste my time.”
    She went home and told her mother. An hour later she drove up to the dealership with Mum in the Roller and Mum informed the manager they would no longer buy any cars from them unless the salesman was fired..on the spot. He was marched out of the door….

    Like 4
  31. CCFisher

    So….. is 36K supposed to be an enticement or a warning?

    Like 1
    • Phil

      The fact that it’s for sale is a warning.

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