‘It’s like nothing else on Earth!’
Andy Morton had two dream cars when he was young. He’s owned one – A Porsche 928 – and was disappointed. Will the other, Aston Martin’s high-tech Lagonda, live up to 40 years of expectation?
When I first encounter
Classic Cars reader Andy Morton, he’s strolling across the gravel driveway behind Aston Martin specialist Stratton Motor Company’s Norfolk premises clutching a small white hardback book. It’s his cherished 1976/1977 copy of The Observer’s Book of Cars.
‘It all started here!’ he exclaims, gesturing with it. ‘This was the first car book I ever owned, and I used to use it to decide which cars I wanted to own in the future. My favourites were the Porsche 928, which I’ve owned; the Panther Six, which never made it into production; and the Aston Martin Lagonda, which I’ve never been able to afford. Now you’ve arranged for me to drive one, which is a chance I know I’m never going to get again. I’ll definitely be making the most of it.’
We round a corner bisected by a high brick wall, and Morton looks up from his childhood memories. There, its metallic blue paintwork shimmering in the sunlight, is the Lagonda he’s finally going to get to drive. His jaw drops.
‘In the book it was described as “the space-age super-saloon”,’ Morton recalls as he walks around it, slowly and reverentially, unable to take his eyes off its severe lines. ‘It’s like nothing else on Earth. It’s also really long – funnily enough the last time I saw one – a long time ago now – its driver was trying to turn it around in a cul-de-sac. It took him ages.’
Morton decides to try the Lagonda out for size, and opens the drivers’ door, noticing a humble detail in a sea of bespoke exoticism. ‘It’s got the same door handles as my Dad’s old Cortina MKIV,’ he notes. ‘Had I known that at the time I would’ve thought that old Ford was much cooler than I did, to know that the means of entry was the same as an Aston.’ Funnily enough, the door handles cost Aston more expense than expected because, for diplomatic reasons, the Middle Eastern market that formed the bulk of its early sales didn’t want to feel it was buying an American product. Anticipating this, someone at the Newport Pagnell factory was given the laborious task of filing the Ford badges off the underside of all the handles.
Morton settles into the deep-pile padding of the drivers’ seat, closes his eyes and inhales the leather odour. When he opens them again he finds himself staring at a bewildering dashboard, all black digital panels and touch-sensitive plastic membrane switches, and it takes us a full five minutes and a fruitless recourse to the owners’ manual to work out how to activate the famous pop-up headlights. ‘If the dashboard goes wrong, does a Rediffusion man in a Bedford Beagle van come out to fix it? The wheel’s so tiny
‘The last time I saw one its driver was trying to turn it around in a culde-sac. It took him ages’
Raw data harder to assimilate without the context of a guage