The Aston Martin Lagonda is a four-door luxury car that was made in Britain from 1976 to 1990. This car epitomizes a quintessentially idealized 1970s vision of glam at its most futuristic and daring. Long, low, fast and comfortable. But, at the price of a Rolls Royce, it was decidedly designed for a niche market. The 1976 Lagonda featured several industry firsts including the first all-computerized driver dashboard, first touch switches, and the first car styling seemingly based on origami.
Running from 1976 to 1990 with subtly modified features and body style, the 1976 model, pictured here is most attendant to the subtleties, and to my mind, most futuristic. It really doesn’t have anywhere better to go from here. After all, a Lagonda could be twice the price of a Rolls Royce of the time. Perhaps this is why fewer than 1,000 Lagondas during this entire period were ever built. Collector alert! This vehicle is bound to appreciate.
The interior cockpit resembles something Barbarella might have piloted, and got away with. Except that it is every bit as sharply styled and rectilinear in every possible way imaginable, as is the exterior. Love it. (U choose.) Digital screens form the dashboard display, which is highly graphical and bright. Interestingly the steering wheel is of the one-spoke variety, which led one friend to look quizzically at a photo of it and say ‘how do you drive it?’. The real mystery is how it is driven pretty much like any of the cars in this article; or any car at all.
As futuristic of the interior of the Lagonda was, every surface was also swathed in genuine softly padded leather or genuine wood trim; so it exudes a most comfortable and elegant harmony for its occupants and driver. Tragically, later models had progressively less and less futuristic dashboards and display arrangements, although they continued to be all digital. Reasons were probably costs. The development of the initial all-digital dashboard was purported to be 400% of the development costs of the entire vehicle!
Significant changes over the years to the Aston Martin Lagonda’s digital dashboard.
The Aston Martin Laguna is reputed to have been beneficial to Aston Martin, despite selling in small numbers. The interest in the car drove customers to showrooms at a critical time, placing cash deposits to secure one of the cars off the production line; this in turn provided needed liquidity for Aston Martin at a difficult time.
Noted for its aerodynamic, futuristic body design and innovative technology, the Citroën DS set new standards for ride, handling and braking. After 18 years of secret development the DS (or Goddess, in French) was introduced on October 5, 1955 at the Paris Motor Show. In the first 15 minutes of the show, 743 orders were taken, and orders for the first day totaled 12,000. The car was so ahead of its time and well-conceived that over one million DSs were made between 1955 and, amazingly, 1974; this volume (and longevity) despite a price that was similar to a mid-sized Mercedes.
Like the Aston Martin Lagonda, one main body style held sway through a variety of dashboard iterations, all featuring a single spoke steering wheel. The original dashboard features a horizontal bar sort of speedometer, that reads your speed like a horizontal graph. Interestingly, this is also how the Lagonda displayed speed; one mechanical, one digital. Three distinct DS dashboard variations are shown here.
On August 22, 1962, President Charles De Gaulle of France survived one of several assassination attempts against him thanks to the superior performance of the presidential automobile: Citroën’s front wheel drive combined with DS-exclusive hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension meant that the car kept driving true even with a shot out tire. The DS is the only car that can drive totally level with one of the rear wheels off the ground. It can literally drive on three wheels, if required. Among other tricks, the DS can be raised or lowered by the driver, to navigate obstacles, or ford streams, for instance. The DS also features power steering and a semi automatic transmission setup, also hydropneumatically powered.
Named the most beautiful car of all time by Classic & Sports Car magazine and widely considered by many to be the most significant automobile of the 20th century, the Citroën DS is not, however, universally appreciated. Many in Britain, for instance, were more inclined to the sports-car like performance combined with comfortable cabin and more traditional styling of the Jaguar Mark 2. Known as a getaway car, the Mark 2 was favored by bank robbers and others interested in good performance combined with a roomy cabin.
The Jaguar Mark 2 is a medium-sized saloon car built from late 1959 to 1967 by Jaguar in Coventry, England. The classical looks of the Jaguar tend to give it a timeless appearance, especially as it has inspired many imitators, notably the much later Jaguar Model S; while its interior is significantly more conservative with heaps of beautifully polished genuine wood, and symmetrical, tightly grouped, flat instrument clusters. Interestingly, the original Mark 2 dashboard concept held through from 1959 to 1967, with only detail changes.
The title for longest running production of any platform of car, of course, belongs to the Volkswagen Beetle; produced from 1938 to 2003. The extraordinary longevity of this model perhaps has as much to do with its original tight mandate from the German government: ‘to build a car that can carry 2 adults and three children at 100 km/hr while using no more than 7 liters of fuel per 100 km’; as its iconoclastic style, or high quality manufacturing.
The Beetle, more than any car, retained its shape, including the simple, symmetrically organized dash layout. At first, this did not even contain a fuel gauge. But the low price, combined with the high quality of the beetle made it irresistible anyway, in combination with cheekiest advertising campaign ever devised, by DDB.
Here is one of hundreds, that takes its usual meandering, ‘tongue in cheek’ approach to copy-writing with a standardized graphic/text split that makes hay from small improvements, with a jocular sense of wit:
Part 2. We will round out our tour of Fun Dashboards & The Car Of The Future in our next issue with with three more genuine cars of the future, one a current prototype making the rounds, one in production that you have no doubt already seen; and one a real car from 1960 in our next issue of Architectonics, Architecture for Kinetic Applications.