The Wild History Of The Aston Martin Lagonda Series 2


Picture the global scene when William Towns, designer of the Aston Martin Lagonda Series 2, was putting pencil to paper sometime in the early 1970s. A spike in oil prices and an echo crisis in the steel industry had jackhammered the economies of Aston Martin’s largest market, the U.S., and its home country, the U.K. With the double punch of high unemployment and high inflation, the bad times crept on through the decade’s midpoint. By early 1976 when his sketches were giving way to clay models, the economic skies were brightening, but only just. Aston’s prospects were on the edge. The company had changed hands twice in four years, and while its new management team was enthusiastic, they needed a win.

Towns had been hired as a seat designer during Aston’s mid-1960s heyday. Two years later, he’d graduated to styling the epochal DBS coupe. Now he faced a critical moment. The Series 2 didn’t just have to make an impact—it had to send a shockwave through the industry. If the word “disrupt” had the same connotation back then it has now, someone probably said it in a flowery speech. Either way, the point was made.

In his sketchbooks, Towns had been toying with the idea of a sedan influenced heavily by angular sports cars of the time, particularly those penned by Bertone’s Marcello Gandini (the Lamborghini Countach) and Giorgietto Giguiaro (the Lotus Esprit) as well as his own creation, the Rover-BRM prototype from a previous employer. 

When his new bosses started talking Lagonda—a historic nameplate Aston Martin acquired after World War II—he knew exactly what to do.

Build or Bust

It was like something out of one of those “Deadline Garage” TV shows, but with higher stakes; the fate of a legendary British car brand hung in the balance. There were just eight months until the British Motor Show at Earls Court in London, where company managers hoped to land enough orders to keep Aston Martin afloat through the next development cycle. 

The team, lead by chief engineer Mike Loasby, had a small window of opportunity to build a show-ready prototype, and pressure from above was intensifying. Aston’s new owners were desperate to emerge from London with a fistful of cash and renewed vigor in the luxury car market. Lagonda was the ticket, a sort of Hail Mary pass whose success meant, ironically, avoiding the receiver (the office in the U.K. that handles bankruptcies, that is). Most believed it was Aston’s last chance.

Starting From a Blank Sheet

Back in 1972, industrialist David Brown, the “DB” in DB5, had settled the company’s debts and sold Aston Martin to a Birmingham-based investment consortium for a handshake and the price of a three-martini lunch. The economic shocks hit in 1973 and in late 1974, hemmed in by debt, Aston went bust. The end came without warning; employees returning from Christmas break found the doors locked. U.S. news anchor Walter Cronkite, a car enthusiast who raced a Lancia at 12 Hours of Sebring in 1959, delivered a eulogy for Aston Martin on CBS Evening News. 

Then a savior appeared by the name of Peter Sprague. A tall, quiet American who’d made a fortune in the growing high-tech industry. The U.K. media eyed him, and his British co-directors, cautiously. Touring the company’s desolate Newport Pagnell workshop, and wondering how they could lure back production staff poached by Rolls Royce, Aston’s new, new owners set a blueprint for the future. It hinged on a high-profile return of the Lagonda brand. 

Rumors flew that the company was pivoting away from sports cars, which had been Aston’s stock in trade during the post-WWII era, but which some board members felt would soon be legislated out of existence.

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