WILLIAM Towns, the designer responsible for the dramatically shaped Aston Martin Lagonda of 1976, died of cancer last month at the age of 56. Mr Towns was also responsible for the style of the more traditional DBS/V8 series Aston cars, but it was for the fantastic razor-edge Lagonda for which he will be best remembered. Aston Martin needed a special new car to help the firm emerge from receivership, a design that would bring the company back into the limelight. The Lagonda gathered so many orders it saved Aston Martin from bankruptcy. The outlandish Lagonda, with its slab sides, outrageously long bonnet and sharp nose, was basically a re-styled V8 and was finished in an unprecedented seven months from sketch to show car. The car was a huge success, attracting 250 deposits at GBP2,000 (about $23,000) each and colossal press coverage. The dream-car styling was its strongest feature, but the advanced electronic instruments, with digital displays, got much attention. Mr Towns had originally intended the car to feature a solid state gas-plasma instrument display for speed, revs, oil pressure and water temperature, with touch-sensitive controls for lights, power-windows and the automatic gearbox. But the electronics proved a problem and the Lagonda was produced with a less ambitious system. The hard-edged 1970s style of the Lagonda makes the car unfashionable today, but interest is growing as it is a relatively inexpensive means of entering the exclusive Aston Martin owners' club. Aston re-styles are few and far between and Mr Towns left the company to work as a freelance designer. His work extended from motor cars to lawnmowers and a machine to help deaf children.