Odds are, even if you’ve seen a Lagonda sedan at a concours event, you probably haven’t seen the Lagonda that immediately preceded it. But there is a reason the famously sharp-edged Lagonda styled by William Towns, produced from the late 1970s through 1990, was called a Series II saloon: There was a Series I as well, and they’re much, much rarer.
But in a few days one such Series I 1975 Lagonda will roll across the auction block in the UK, when Bonhams offers a 7.0-liter example that was the Earls Court Motor Show car at its Goodwood Members’ Meeting auction.
The Lagonda marque itself certainly precedes Aston Martin’s usage of the name for its sedans, as it was a standalone marque roughly on par with Bentley through the 1930s, before diverting a bit from that trajectory.
Acquired by David Brown in 1947, who had a soft spot for the bespoke automaker, Lagonda became a sub-brand of sorts applied to sedan efforts by Aston Martin about once a decade—efforts that made Aston Martin’s main coupe and convertible output look mass produced by comparison.
Following the 55-unit production run of the controversially styled Lagonda Rapide of the 1960s, David Brown set out to create the next generation of the sedan with V8 styling in mind. And not just styling, but the chassis of the new V8 model as well, which received a 12-inch stretch to accommodate an extra pair of doors.
The 5.3-liter V8 was also carried over, tuned to produce 320 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. We should note that a DBS-styled four-door was also produced, as a prototype, but the main production run of the Series II featured styling largely similar to the popular V8 model.
Even though the project began under David Brown, the first production prototype was displayed after his departure, in 1974. Styled by William Towns and revealed at the London Motor Show in October of that year, the Lagonda Series I carried a £14,040 price tag, which at the time made it 24% more expensive than the V8 coupe, as Bonhams notes. Coupled with the 1973 oil crisis, the powerful sedan landed a bit flat even among its target audience in Europe: A total of seven examples were produced early on, chassis 12001 to 12007, with an additional 12008 being built at a later date.
The car that Bonhams will offer later this week is chassis 12006 and was displayed at the 1975 Earls Court Motor Show. Originally optioned in Cosmic Fire Royal Claret metallic over a black interior, the early history of the car’s ownership isn’t recounted by the auction house, which only notes it was bought by the late Richard Williams, a well-known Aston Martin specialist, in October 2005 with intent to restore it for an unnamed client and prominent Aston Martin collector.
During the restoration, the car received a number of practical upgrades while also receiving a 7.0-liter conversion from RS Williams—a popular upgrade among the V8 coupes—rated at a very modern 480 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque. The sedan also received upgraded brakes and steering, in additional to several other details, keeping its Torqueflite automatic transmission albeit with a reengineered torque converter.
“Other components/systems redesigned or upgraded include the fuel delivery, exhaust, battery, charging and engine cooling, the latter incorporating a high-specification alloy water radiator complete with twin fans,” the auction house notes.
The sedan received other upgrades as well, including more modern climate controls, new air conditioning, and hands-free phone system integrated with the radio and CD player. Central armrests were added as part of the interior retrim, in addition to the front seats becoming power operated. The rear seats, meanwhile, were lowered a bit for extra headroom.
“Outwardly, ‘12006’ looks much the same as it did at Earls Court in 1975 with the exception of the slightly deeper front spoiler from the V8 ‘PoW’ model,” the auction house adds. “The Anthracite gray paintwork is perfectly complemented by the subtle gray hide upholstery and carpets.”
Bonhams expects this Series I Lagonda, which has covered about 3200 miles since its restoration, to bring between £200,000 and £300,000 on auction day, which translates to a range between $261,000 and $392,000. Given the extensive restoration, which we expect to have easily cracked the $100,000 barrier, the liberal estimate range here perhaps reflects the uncertain amount of interest from marque collectors and the historically depressed values of this model.
As one of just seven sedans built, one could assume the car would command at least half a million dollars, given where some of the rarer V8 models are trading at the moment. But the more mundane reality is that the Rapide and the Series I cars had only seen lukewarm interest from collectors over the decades—interest that has not skyrocketed even as some V8 coupes and convertibles have brought ever more impressive sums at auction.
The Series I is still valued over the ill-fated Rapide that preceded it, and over the Series II William Towns cars. But for some reason these seven examples, which we’ve seen come to auction a few times in the past two decades, have run into a price ceiling even when given an extensive and pricey restoration.
Part of the reason, as we’ve noted in the past, is that the Rapides and the Series I Lagondas aren’t particularly fought over by Lagonda collectors or Aston Martin collectors, landing somewhere in between. By this we mean Lagonda collectors tend to focus on pre-war models, while Aston Martin collectors mostly prefer coupes and cabriolets from the 1960s “James Bond era.”
The four-doors, on the other hand, tend to reside in very deep collections, and aren’t usually the highlights of those collections, even though they’re often rarer than other standalone models. And this dynamic has, for better or worse, tended to prove the adage that rarity does not equal collectability.
This particular Series I is a car with some stories and certainly some upgrades that should make it more usable than the 55 Rapids that preceded it, if its new owner chooses to give it more exercise than it has seen in the past 15 years.
Visit the auction website to view the full list of lots from the upcoming sale.
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