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Last Call- Almost Martin Edition

Robert Emslie November 29, 2012 Last Call 22 Comments

There’s really no arguing the fact that the Aston Martin Rapide is a stunningly beautiful car, and that its Aston VH (Vertical/Horizontal) platform which debuted under the DB9, is extremely competent at getting the job done. But it is still interesting to look back and consider what might have been. Back when Ford owned Aston – literally rescuing the dying brand – they sought ways to leverage existing resources in order to cost effectively bring new models to the table. This 1993 Lagonda Vignale concept came within a hair’s breadth of production, perhaps changing history and eliminating the Rapide’s existence.

Designed by Moray Calum – brother of current Jag penman Ian Calum – while he was at Ghia, the Lagonda Vignale represented no connection with Lagondas past, and even more alarmingly was built on the ancient Panther platform of a 1990 Lincoln Town Car.  That meant a 190-bhp 4.6 V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission, as well as a live axle in back – a feature Lagonda had abandoned all the way back in 1938.

History is filled with near misses, and the Lagonda Vignale is an art deco bullet that thankfully we all dodged, and for which we today have the Rapide as reward.

Image: [conceptcarz]

  • pizzahoon

    Its like a Lancia Thesis on steroids..and uglier

  • stickmanonymous

    I had a copy of Wheels Magazine (Australia) with this car in it when I was young. I thought it was stunning then, and for reasons I don't understand, still do. I think it has to do with the surfaces, wheel positioning, and proportions. Something in my head tells me that I should think it's hideous, but the Small Boy that lives in my heart won't allow it.

    Plus, Panther platform! They should have made _these_ into taxis, police cars, hearses, and limos. And by extension, my daily driver.

  • Maymar

    If anything, it sort of predates the '98 Town Car.

    Not sad we missed out on this one though – if Roger Moore was still Bond in the '90s, I'd expect him to drive this.

  • Dean Bigglesworth

    I think it's ghastly… but the shape where the roof meets the bootlid reminded me of a more recent concept which i like very much.

    <img src="http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2271/2305102740_57ae2f8435_z.jpg&quot; width="600" img>

    • Sjalabais

      What's that? Not easy to park, but apart from that: LIKE!

      • apfeifer3

        Looks like the Holden Efijy to me, very cool concept/design project.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Recycle the Panther platform? Had they lost all of the Pinto dies? The guy who came up with this project is probably the same guy who destroyed Ghia.

  • The Town Car still had the push rod Windsor 5.0L engine in 1990.

  • JayP2112
    • CherokeeOwner

      Oof, that Mustang is hideous.

    • Devin

      I actually liked the Mustang Mach III, which may be partially because I got a model kit of it for a Christmas present.

      And I drove a ZX2 for a time and the looks were the only good thing about it.

    • AlexiusG55

      That top one looks like a Ford KA that's angry someone sat on it…

  • Danno1985

    <img src="http://www.shorey.net/auto/miscellaneous%20pictures/Ghia/Ghia%201996%20A-M%20Lagonda%20Vignale%20Sedan%20f3q.jpg"&gt;

    Hmm… I guess there's no accounting for taste. I for one think the Vignale concept is stunning and infinitely more interesting than the Rapide. In my opinion, Aston's new interpretation of the David Brown-era design language peaked with the DB7, which is without a doubt one of the prettiest cars ever built. Since then, however, they've become the new Porsche in terms of utter lack of originality. The Vignale has some really interesting lines, and is a proper sedan. The Ford 4.6 was simply a placeholder, and the only one ever sold (to the Prince of Dubai; I'm sure it's rotting away somewhere on his property) was powered by the V12 that, in revised form, is still produced today.

    • Felis_Concolor

      I share your appreciation of its form, and for those who decry the use of an existing platform for a show car, think about how much more money was saved to be poured into an exploration of exterior and interior design concepts. There's no law which says a concept car's underpinnings must be used in the final production model, and a fully sorted chassis allows for rapid execution and evaluation of possible future directions to be taken.

      Its lines were clearly inspired by Jaguar's Mark 2 and exude that air of old money which eludes today's luxury automakers. Just like the recent 1st-Gen Pontiac GTOs, whose invisible styling most autojournos complained about, made me appreciate its form that much more since I knew what to look for when that glorious LSx V8 announced its muted presence. The Vignale draws attention to itself through its attempt to not draw attention to itself.

  • Sjalabais

    <a>…a feature Lagonda had abandoned all the way back in 1938.

    That's why people in Europe got so scared when GM took over SAAB, and Ford took over AM, Jaguar and Volvo. In Europe, people still think American cars are "low road" ancient technology dressed in cheap plastic panels; just watch what Top Gear has to say about the Corvette. That said, it is of course an unbalanced truth, not all European cars being the "high road" engineering-driven alternative with super expensive maintenance… It is interesting how slow perceptions like this develop.

    About the AM concept: It is not only ugly, though I think someone messed up AM with Rolls-Royce. The current line up of Aston Martin has exploited their design enough, and imho they actually are in need of a proper rethink.

    • JayP2112

      Top Gear likes to bash American cars. It's their schtick.
      I hope the next season they review the Boss, GT500 and the Viper. All are worlds better than the cars they reviewed already.

      • Kris

        When I was a younger hoon, I used to get tired of the constant bashing of American cars. I mean, most "crap car" books are published in Britain and show a clear bias in terms of "most US cars are utter piles of feces" or the like. Then, as I aged, I realized that the constant running joke if you will was the British auto industry – the worst US car was still miles better than the worst British car.

        And I'm a guy who has a fascination with the Austin Marina.

        • Sjalabais

          I think carbashing in itself should only be a fun sport. What is the point of finding the "worst" or "crap cars" if everything is build for a purpose? A Crown Vic may not be fit for most European roads, but in the US there was a market for it. Vice versa with say a Fiat 500.

  • njhoon

    I'm squarely in the camp of "I know I'm not supposed to like it but I do." For what ever reason i find it very fluid and pleasing to my eye. The proportions are correct and has a muscular refinement especially in the picture below. I see a lot of the 3rd gen Town Car (98-2011) in it, and maybe it should have been that instead of an Aston.

    <img src="http://carcatalog2.free.fr/simi82g8.jpg&quot; width="600">

  • david42

    Eeek. What a dowdy car. Reminds me of a bloated Rover 75. It might work better if it had a longer hood to balance the trunk.

  • Van_Sarockin

    I admire them for expending the design energy to see what they could make of the concept. And I applaud them for having the good sense not to bring it into production.

  • Mad_Hungarian

    I see what they were trying to accomplish with this, but they didn't quite get it right. Has the same overly-droopy look as the Infiniti J30, only much worse. I'd rather have a 1990's Town Car Cartier.