Let's Go All 'Who Do You Think You Are?' On The Vanquish Zagato


Why not, when you have a family tree as exciting as this.

As we briefly touched upon in our original article on the car, the Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato is the latest in a long line of collaboration projects between the fabled British sports car maker and the Italian coachbuilder. As the timeline of this partnership does stretch back quite a way (and because we felt the stunning new Vanquish deserved the spotlight in its own article), we've decided to trace the Villa d'Este-bound concept car's family tree, all the way back to the very first Zagato-styled Aston Martin that came to fruition all the way back in 1961.

Aston Martin back then was quite similar to the firm we know today - its cars were revered the world over, its finances were back under control and it had a highly successful racing team (Aston Martin won the 1959 24 Le Mans race, for instance). That motorsport success arguably paved the way for the DB4 GT Zagato - the elegant bodywork not only made the car more aerodynamically efficient than a regular DB4 GT, but Zagato also managed to shed another 45kg off the curb weight via an extensive use of aluminium and Perspec. As it was road legal as well, you could argue the DB4 Zagato was one of the first lightweight supercar specials - decades before Ferrari, Lamborghini and the like used the term as as a mere marketing ploy.

Sadly, the DB4 GT Zagato never really caught on. The car was outclassed by the Jaguar E-Type and Ferrari 250, and the lack of demand meant just 19 examples were ever made. And yet it managed to wriggle into the hearts of gearheads the world over, not only establishing the DB4 as a highly sought-after classic (one example went for $14.3m in 2015!) but also forging the working partnership between Aston Martin and Zagato that, ironically, wouldn't be kickstarted again for another 26 years, until the wedgy V8 Zagato arrived in 1986. As a testament to just how much hype there was for the car, Aston Martin managed to sell all 52 coupe versions (a further 37 convertibles were built later) using just one design sketch from Zagato as a point-of-sale tool.

There's no denying it was one an extreme grand tourer for its era (a 430bhp 5.2-liter V8 and a 186mph top speed were nothing to be sniffed at in those days), but it certainly wasn't the prettiest car to wear the Aston Martin badge. In a bid to possibly make up for that, Aston Martin and Zagato joined forces yet again to create the limited-run DB7 Zagato. The car was mechanically identical to the DB7 GT (so a 440hp 6.0-liter V12 and a six-speed manual transmission were the dish of the day), so all that really differentiated it from the standard car was the bespoke styling. Which is no bad thing, considering we feel the DB7 Zagato has aged incredibly well, especially in comparison with the standard DB7 that looks remarkably dated now.

In fact, the only thing we find wrong with the DB7 Zagato was that it was never officially brought to the USA - due to homologation limits, the 99 DB7 Zagato units sold only went to buyers in Europe and South East Asia. As compensation for us patient Americans, we got exclusive access to the DB AR1, which was essentially a DB7 Volante with a similar shape to the DB7 Zagato. Like before, only 99 units were made for customers, all were sold out prior to its official unveiling and the 440hp V12 was carried over. A six-speed automatic transmission replaced the DB7's manual - a decision probably made to make use of the AR1's more laid back characteristics, even though the lack of any roof made it a rather rubbish long distance cruiser.

Aston Martin

Most people who plot out the Aston Martin/Zagato timeline tend to jump straight to the V12 Zagato. However, we did in fact get a stop-gap in between, in the form of the Vanquish Zagato Convertible. Given it was just a one-off based on an old Vanquish development car chassis that Aston Martin had lying around, it's perhaps easy to see why it's not as fondly remembered. But that doesn't stop it from being utterly gorgeous, melding the best of the standard first-gen Vanquish with the characteristic design traits you'd expect to find on a Zagato-styled Aston Martin. It also came with a six-speed manual, making this, technically, the only Vanquish model to ever come with a stick shift 'box as standard equipment.

That driver-focused appeal would also be one of the core USPs of the next Aston Martin/Zagato collaboration: the V12 Zagato. Possibly the most well known Aston Martin Zagato model (even though it wasn't actually designed by Zagato...), and based on the brilliant V12 Vantage, the V12 Zagato was an instant hit in its day. By blending a beautifully-judged handling balance with the alluring coachbuilt bodywork, this Aston Martin became a hit with the road testers, and lauded as a sure-fire classic in the making. Quite the parallel to the DB4 GT Zagato, then - which is fitting, as the V12 Zagato was commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that very car. Expect the V12 to also sell for ridiculous amounts at future auctions, then...

In a very unusual turn of events, considering the huge timescale between the DB4 and the V8 models, Zagato's been on a roll as of late with regards to its Aston Martin-based models. On top of the Vanquish Concept that inspired this article, the Italian design studio also fabricated one-off DBS and DB9 Volante models to celebrate Aston Martin's centenary in 2013, and a Virage-based Shooting Brake a year later for, we presume, for no better reason other than 'why not?'. Not that we're complaining, mind - though they're perhaps not as graceful as, say, the DB4 GT or the Vantage-based V12, this angular trio does have a distinct charm that, if anything, even the most brutal-looking Zagato models can have a certain grace to them.

With the increased output pace from Zagato as of late (nearly a third of all the Aston Martins it's designed over the last five+ decades have been unveiled in just three years!), we highly anticipate more Aston Martin models emblazoned with the black-on-white 'Z' emblem on their fenders in the near future. You've as good a guess as anyone as to what they'll be - how hilarious would a Zagato-styled DBX be? - but, regardless of what car is chosen, you can be guaranteed it will look like nothing else you'll see on the road.

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