‘The dra­mat­i­cally low and lean Lagonda cre­ated some pack­ag­ing headaches for Mike and his team’

VANTAGE - - Looking Back Lagonda Wedge -

used to fid­dle with things, as stylists do! He was a very good de­tail de­signer, and he and I had some very good and pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions. Our minds worked the same way, and we built on each other’s ideas, par­tic­u­larly when it came to the Lagonda.

‘From where Wil­liam started with it, it was al­most un­changed. I did in­flu­ence one part of it: he loved spat­u­late forms, and I man­aged to per­suade him to pull the front in a little bit, and the back, too. He would have had it al­most going out at the cor­ners!’

The dra­mat­i­cally low and lean Lagonda must have cre­ated some pack­ag­ing headaches for Mike and his team. ‘It did in some ways,’ he con­firms. ‘We had to lower the en­gine by a lot, which meant redesign­ing the air­box, the in­let man­i­folds, the sump and some other things to get it down to a rea­son­able height.

‘One of the things that frus­trated me was that the car was quite spa­cious orig­i­nally, but then the trim­mers got into it and filled it up with seats! It could and should have been more spa­cious. It was quite waste­ful.’

Of course, the Lagonda will also be re­mem­bered for its fu­tur­is­tic, in­cred­i­bly am­bi­tious – and of­ten prob­lem­atic – elec­tronic in­stru­ments and touch-sen­si­tive switchgear, some­thing that Loasby him­self had pushed hard for. ‘I said at the time that for As­ton Martin it was a great leap into the present!’ he laughs.

‘Elec­tronic in­stru­men­ta­tion was com­pletely new and very ex­cit­ing. I re­mem­ber going with Peter [Sprague, the Amer­i­can who led the con­sor­tium to res­cue As­ton in 1975] to Na­tional Semi­con­duc­tor in Cal­i­for­nia, which is where the touch switches came from. We flew in a Lear­jet – the first time I’d been in one. It was also the first time I used a ra­dio telephone, and I phoned Anne while in mid-air at 41,000ft!

‘I knew elec­tron­ics were the com­ing thing. I thought that if As­ton went in with it, be­fore long the in­dus­try would have to catch up. Un­for­tu­nately I wasn’t there long enough to see it through [Loasby left As­ton at the end of 1978 to work on the Delorean project]. The elec­tron­ics were given to Cran­field and they made a mighty pig’s ear of it. Ba­si­cally we had a boot­ful of elec­tron­ics that didn’t work.

‘As­ton should have taken the elec­tron­ics from a mass man­u­fac­turer [the com­pany even­tu­ally turned to the Javelina Cor­po­ra­tion, a Tex­as­based air­craft in­stru­ment spe­cial­ist]. But they were right to pur­sue it. They led the way and re­ally brought elec­tron­ics to pub­lic at­ten­tion.’

As the Lagonda be­gan to catch the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion, the team some­times strug­gled to meet the de­mands of the me­dia. ‘It was all done at a bit of a gal­lop!’ says Loasby, ‘When we took the first car to Gay­hurst Manor for the BBC TV cam­eras, we only had two wheel trims, so we had to swap them from one side to the other. The car had an en­gine in it, but it was a bal­lasted en­gine, an empty shell. So for the mov­ing shots it was rolled down a slope.’

The pres­sure was also on when it came to crash-test­ing. ‘It re­ally had to pass first time – and it did. And as the pic­tures showed, the body did ev­ery­thing it was sup­posed to do. The very first run was a bit of a dis­as­ter, though. The car had to be at­tached to a lin­ear mo­tor in the floor, and then ac­cel­er­ated into the block. The first test, they at­tached the link to the brake re­ac­tion struts un­der the car, pressed the but­ton and they both broke! They’d been wrongly heat-treated and they were like car­rots, just snapped.’

It was, though, a real achieve­ment to get the car to the 1976 Bri­tish Mo­tor Show, and an im­mensely proud mo­ment for Mike and the team when it caused such a sen­sa­tion.

‘The 1976 Mo­tor Show was in­cred­i­ble. It was ab­so­lutely stag­ger­ing how much in­ter­est the car at­tracted,’ he says. ‘I re­mem­ber Rolls-royce got ter­ri­bly peeved, be­cause they had the next stand, and people were stand­ing on their rail­ing to look at our car!’

Back home, I dig out the Van­tage buy­ing guide to the Lagonda (is­sue 10), and dis­cover a line I wrote about the Lagonda be­ing es­sen­tially an­other As­ton V8 un­der its sharp lines. Oh cripes. Was he hav­ing a dig at me?

If he was, it was de­liv­ered in the nicest way pos­si­ble. And Mike, I’m more than happy to set the record straight.

V

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