When your standard Lagonda is too ordinary: a mini-interview with Harry Kielstra

From the 22nd till the 25th of August the 15th annual Lagonda Festival was organised in Dutch Achterhoek (neighbourhoods of Zutphen). Fourteen Lagondas arrived this time – owners came from the Netherlands, France, Germany, Luxemburg, England, Switzerland and from the US (the last ones without cars).

Although I wouldn’t call any Aston Martin Lagonda a usual car, there were two that stand out from the group: one of a kind convertible and an estate. And I had an opportunity to talk with the slightly enigmatic creator of these cars, Harry Kielstra.

Przy krawężniku: Why Aston Martin? How did it start?

Harry Kielstra: I just like Aston Martins being different. I do not like BMWs, do not like VWs…

And you first bought a standard Lagonda, thought it is still too usual and decided to modify it?

Something like that… Sometimes an idea springs to mind at night, and I think: “Oh, that’s nice. Can we do that? Yes, we can (I think). Let’s buy another Lagonda and chop it up!”. No need to take a long time to decide to do something. When you like something and you can do it, just do it. And when you do the first cut, you have to finish it…

[Photo provided by Harry Kielstra]

How many Lagondas have you owned already?

This is the third one… the fourth one. Wagon is my wife’s car and we also have a normal one and two spare ones…

Is your profession connected to car modification or is it just a hobby?

Well, this is a hobby, because this one is private, but I am working with cars. I’m restoring, custom building, stuff like that. But no plain maintenance, prefer not to.

And people from other countries come to your garage with their Lagondas?

Some do. We just rebuilt engine in the blue Tickford, the one with a bodykit.

Are there many Lagonda specialists in Europe?

There are in England. For example Dave, he owns the dark red one [also present at the meeting].

Can we take a look at the convertible? This is the one that you finished most recently, right?

Yes, just finished… last year. It’s a 1980 car, an early one.

Is it also your own design? Did anyone help you with the conversion?

No, it’s all one-man’s work. I designed it, developed it, built it. The only thing that was not done by me is the upholstery, this was done by my friend, a really good upholster. And the paintwork was done by a shop, but I am not very satisfied with that…

And it has a retractable soft-top?

Yes, an electric one.

I have a question about one detail. What car are the mirrors from?

[smiles] VW…

Ah, my father has an Octavia and they looked very familiar. Did you also modify mechanical parts?

Yes: air suspension, big brakes, ABS, electronic ignition, electronic injection…

Could take a look at the estate (shooting-brake)?

Yes, of course. I built it for my wife. It was a little in-between project. It was finished in 2012. And the base car is also from 1980.

Which one was more time-consuming?

The convertible. The estate was easy, it took only six months to build it.

And the convertible?

10 years.

Oh! That’s a fair difference. But with the estate you had some work as well.

Yeah, all you see here is different. Larger glass-roof, new fenders, rebuilt C-pillars. Everything from here [from B-pillar backwards] is different. And it’s a true estate car, isn’t it? Two meters of cargo space behind the front seats.

What was the biggest challenge while building the cars?

I don’t know… No real challenge for me. I just start to do something and see what happens.

So, you are not planning too much and don’t prepare documentation?

No, everything is in my head. And I just do things.

What will be your next car? Are you working on something new already?

We have another special car… that nobody knows about. It’s a Lagonda, but not like this one. And we will build this one next. But, as I said, nobody knows what it is or where it is. And there are more new things to come, but I won’t tell anybody.

Would you build a similar convertible for me if I ordered one from you? I am not talking prices, just hypothetically.

Probably yes, why not. The development is here. If I wouldn’t agree to build it, probably other would copy. This would be easy, copying is much easier than development.

Thank you very much that you agreed to talk, it was a pleasure. And good luck with your future projects!

Thank you!

And last but not least, some extra photos.

Just an ordinary day at the Albert Heijn car park.
“Pepper pots”.
More of Lagonda than Aston Martin.
Pepper pots are nice but these wheel trims…
Vinyl roof? And how about the bumpers…
Have I told you already, that I love these wheels?
Tickford bodykit. Simply mind-blowing.
Series 4 – rounded and without pop-ups.
This corner tells you that it’s a US-spec car, but sold to Sweden.
You can illuminate a stadium with this set.