The Aston Martin-Zagato heritage
While coachbuilders such as Touring, Ghia, Bertone, Allemano and Pininfarina have all made Aston Martins, none has the resonance, or is as closely linked as Aston Martin as Zagato. Put the two together, and any aficionado knows you have something special—a machine that is sportier, more exclusive and faster than its production counterparts. Adding to the allure of the Aston Zagatos is each has been a landmark. An enduring tradition for more than 40 years.
1960: DB4 Zagato
The DB4 GTZ is called “one of the most beautiful Aston Martins ever created” by company CEO Dr. Ulrich Bez, “It is widely recognized as the greatest street Aston and certainly is the most desired from the car’s collectors and gentlemen drivers”. Koelliker, who was Aston’s dealer in Milan, commissioned the DB4 Zagato. “The idea was a nice street car that could go racing, though that was not its original purpose”. It developed into that. When David Brown saw the car, he liked it and decided to make it a factory model.” Thus began one of the most memorable chapters in Aston history. The DB4 Zagato appeared in 1960, its beautiful but aggressive aerodynamic body setting it apart from standard Astons, clearly showing its performance pretenses. The interior was comfortable yet stark, a reflection of the weight saving measures done throughout the car. The DB4 Zagato was produced for two years, with 19 made. The car’s 314 horsepower engine was more powerful than the standard DB4. Coupled with its lighter weight and more aerodynamic body, it easily cleared 150 mph. A number were campaigned frequently, though they could never consistently unseat their made-for-racing Ferrari 250 GTO competition.
1986: Vantage Zagato
After a decade of Lamborghini’s Countach and Ferrari’s Boxer being the ultimate performance cars, a new top speed war erupted in 1983/4. Ferrari’s salvos were the Testarossa and 288 GTO, Porsche’s the 959, and Lamborghini’s response was the Countach Quattrovalvole. Aston’s dynamic CEO Victor Gauntlett was not content to sit on the sidelines. At 1984’s Geneva Show where Ferrari introduced the new GTO, Gauntlett and fellow Aston shareholder Peter Livanos met with Zagato, and a new chapter in Aston-Zagato history was born. At Geneva in 1985, Aston Martin showed a series of sketches and quoted incredible performance figures for the time: 0-60 in under 5 seconds, and a top speed of 186 mph. Production would be limited to 50 cars. Though the new car’s avant garde shape wasn’t as stunning as the original DB4Z, the project followed the same successful formula: use a more powerful engine (listed at 432 hp), and remove as much weight as possible (almost 400 lbs.). The car debuted at 1986’s Geneva Show, where three red examples were displayed—one on Aston’s stand, an other as the centerpiece at Zagato’s exhibit, and the third one on the roof of the Beau-Rivage Hotel. Once in production, the car did indeed touch the magical 186 mark, making it at the time the world’s fastest production car.
1987: Volante Zagato
Due to the great response to the Vantage Zagato, a second, open-air version was immediately commissioned. It debuted at the 1987 Geneva show, where it was one of the star attractions. The clean, aerodynamic form derived from the enclosed counterpart, yet the Volante Zagato was more oriented towards luxury than out-and-out speed. The engine was the standard 5.4 liter V8 that produced 300+ horsepower, rather than the 400+ horsepower found in the lightweight Vantage Zagato coupe. But like its higher performing sibling, the Volante Zagato was an immediate sell out. It was also the more exclusive of the two cars, with just 33 made.
2002: DB7 Zagato
Aston Martin DB7 Zagato was born during a meeting between Andrea Zagato and Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., in Pebble Beach in 2001. The sleek and muscular DB7 Zagato is a return to the styling that made the DB4 Zagato a classic. From a grill that references the original, to the truncated tail, and curvaceous top crowned by the immortal Zagato “double bubble” roof, the DB7Z can only be an Aston-Zagato. And it will definitely be a higher performing vehicle. Strictly a two-seater, its V12’s output will be superior to the production Vantage. It will have a shorter wheelbase and less weight, and the suspension will be more firm. All the ingredients are in place for a new chapter in the glorious Aston-Zagato saga. Announced in Geneva 2002, the car was officially presented to the press during the Paris Motor Show of the same year. The DB7Z was produced in a limited numbered edition of 99 pieces, that immediately sold out and were delivered to customers in the year 2003.
2003: DB American Roadster 1
At Le Mans race in year 2002, Dr. Ulrich Bez had something like “a feeling…”, while he was driving a DBR1. Talking about it with Andrea Zagato at Pebble Beach Concours D”Elegance the next August, this feeling turned into an idea and this idea gave life to the beatiful American Roadster. The car debuted at the 2003”s Los Angeles Show as a concept car. The DB AR1 is not a convertible Zagato version of the coupe – launched in the summer of 2002 – but an addition to Aston Martin’s exclusive product range. “Aston Martin is unique in its ability to react quickly to its customers requirements and produce limited edition sports cars”, explained Dr Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin. “Aston Martin is unique in its ability to react quickly to its customers requirements and produce limited edition sports cars,” explained Dr Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin. “The DB7 Zagato was a huge success for Aston Martin with all 99 cars sold very quickly. It’s very clear; our customers want choice and individuality”. The DB AR1 has been designed with the Californian weather in mind and is a Roadster in the proper tradition. Its production has been completed within January 2004.
2004: Vanquish Roadster
Zagato and Aston Martin: a strong alliance that goes back to the 60s with the legendary DB4 GTZ, continued in the 80s with the Vantage and Volante, and is now firmer than ever in the new millennium with the DB7 Zagato and American Roadster 1. These are the cult cars of collectors and enthusiasts, always prime examples of the “instant classic”. At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Zagato is presenting the Roadster version of the Aston Martin Vanquish, partly leaving unchanged the original project. For the first time, this Milan workshop is not giving an entirely new look to the production model, but is offering an interesting variation of the Vanquish, introducing innovative, futuristic touches of style. While the Aston Martin DB7 Zagato and AR1 were initially presented to customers in the form of a limited edition, immediately sold out, the Vanquish Roadster is a “provocation” proposed by Zagato with the backing of Aston Martin itself. Close cooperation between Nori Harada, Zagato’s Automotive Chief Designer, and Peter Hutchinson, Design Manager at Aston Martin, has resulted in this new car introducing elements that are a sharp break with the Roadster segment. A decidedly original interpretation that combines the totally unique design of the rear with the introduction of a functional modular cover system. A hard top for winter, developed to not appear as an add-on but as an integral part that also takes in the rear. On warmer days of the year, its place is taken by a transparent hardened glass and an easily used soft cover. Developed by Zagato’s engineers, this soft top is easily and simply mounted and, when not in use, is held in the luggage compartment without taking up much space. The car has a round rear light cluster, a tapered tail to best feature the wheelbox and a completely new rear bumper. The hardened glass, with its curvy ‘double bubble’ form, emphasises how unique and valued is this proposal, balancing in a different, almost extravagant way, the relationship between the solid and void. Special care has been applied to the interior trim, made exclusive by the design and type of seaming introduced. A luggage compartment immediately behind the seats can also be seen through the glass cover. At the front, the Vanquish Roadster proposal retains the design of the coupe version famous for being James Bond’s most recent car.