Think the gorgeous, new Aston Martin V12 Zagato is just a souped-up Vantage?
Zagato’s history as an Atelier—French for workshop (of an artist), goes back to 1919, when Ugo Zagato left Officine Aeronautiche Pomilio and used his knowledge of aeronautical technologies, materials, and solutions to produce lightweight GT racecars, including limited versions of Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo during the 1920s and 30s.
“Functionalism and rationalism” defined Ugo’s philosophy for complete body transformation, and his distinct creations achieved looks that were noticeably different than the factory counterparts. Ugo removed bumpers and fabricated hand-bent aluminum panels to shave weight from the hoods, doors, and fenders and boosted power with subtle engine modifications. He was the first to cross-drill slots into disc brakes and even streamlined vehicle wheel wells, headlights, and windshields for greater speed—methods that became standard across the racing world in years to come.
Today’s V12 Zagato follows a similar progression, but takes its roots from the acclaimed “gentleman racecar,” the pre-Bond 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato that debuted at the London Auto Show.
With weight savings of more than 100 pounds, increased engine compression and three Weber carburetors, the 314-horsepower 3.7-liter straight-six cylinder produced 278 lb-ft and lashed to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds—77-hp and 3.2 seconds quicker to 60 than the standard DB4, according to AstonMartins.com. Piloted by the legendary Stirling Ross, DB4GT Zagato took third place in its first GT series race in 1961 and with only 20 models ever produced, it remains today a highly sought-after collectible.
Pret a conduire—French for “ready to drive/lead/act,” defined Zagato’s strategy for the 70’s on. By 1968, after Ugo’s death, the company stopped creating extensive rebuilds and focused on making exclusive editions (9-99 units) for manufacturers, using prestigious sport coupe’s and gran tourer’s from Ferrari and Lamborghini, as well as continuing models with Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo, among others.
It wasn’t until 1986 that Aston Martin again teamed with Zagato for the V8 Vantage Zagato and V8 Volante Zagato. For that year’s Geneva Motor Show, Zagato built a modern interpretation of the DB4GT based on the V8 Vantage platform—but with a dual-Weber carb’d 5.3-liter V-8 that made 430 horsepower. Aesthetically, the small, angular body is one of the cleanest designs of the notoriously ugly decade—the last full-coach Zagato build for Aston—and all 52 coupes and 37 convertibles were quickly sold.
The next Aston Martin/Zagato build came in 2002. The DB7 Zagato was introduced at the Paris Motor Show, armed with a 6.0-liter V-12. Ninety-nine of the hefty Vantage-based cars were quickly sold, then replaced the following year with the DB AR1. Introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the car was released exclusively in the U.S. as a convertible only and based on the Vantage Volante. Again, all 99 sold quickly to collectors.
Zagato’s design philosophy, that “beauty and design are always the main reason” to buy a car, worked for the post-Ugo period into the beginning of the 21st century. But to get back to its racing heritage, a third generation of Zagato’s—headed by grandson Andrea, set to work on the new V12 Zagato.
The Aston Martin V12 Zagato was introduced in May 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the DB4GT Zagato and raced in the 39th ADAC Nurburgring 24 Hour Race a month later. After successful testing, Aston Martin has confirmed the V12 Zagato will be produced and available, first come first serve, to 150 collectors.
Not that the Vantage was ever a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but the V12 Zagato is clearly more than just another Aston Martin V12 Vantage.
Sources: Zagato, AstonMartins.com, Aston Martin