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