Aston Martin Zagato

British engineering and design meets Italian styling

Aston Martin DB4 Zagato Image

Sometimes cooperation between different groups of car designers, particularly if they come from different countries, can create spectacular effects as they pool their varied talents. An excellent example of this is the way in which Aston Martin's collaboration with Zagato resulted in one of the most beautiful cars ever built.

Top stylist at Milan's Zagato design studio, Ercole Spada, was sent the chassis of an Aston Martin DB4 GT with a request that he design something special to go with it. He succeeded beyond most people's wildest dreams.

The rear seats were discarded and the body was lightened considerably by replacing a lot of steel components with aluminium. Items such as the bumpers were removed to save more weight (although subsequently a number of owners fitted their own, in order to protect the bodywork). Glass was replaced with much lighter Perspex. The result was that an already fairly light car finished up 100 pounds lighter.

The body shape was more aerodynamic than previously and was formed using a technique known as 'Superleggaria'; this was developed by another company in Milan and under this system thin steel tubing formed the frame with aluminium sheeting stretched over it. The aluminium and steel didn't actually come into contact with each other because of the possibility of electrolysis since the tube was wrapped in hessian or separated from the aluminium with rubber spacers.

British flair and Italian design sense married together to create one of the most beautiful cars of the era.

The engine was certainly no slouch either. The six cylinder aluminium block with twin spark plugs in each cylinder put out 314 brake horsepower and the finished car could top 150 mph with 0 to 60 in just a shade over six seconds.

This was a racing car in all but name and actually competed in many races including the Le Mans 24-hour race.

Building a highly desirable car is one thing. Selling it is a different matter however. It was intended to produce 25 but in the end only 19 were made, four of them to full racing specification. The fact that so few were built has given them a high rarity value; many replicas have since been built to satisfy the desires of those who could never afford the £1 million plus that the real thing would now cost. Some 30 years after the car was first launched Aston Martin upgraded four more chassis to GT specification and sent them again to Zagato; all four of these were subsequently sold for sums in excess of US$1 million each.