Here, revealed last week and now photographed by Autocar in greater detail, is the production version of Aston Martin’s V12 Vantage Zagato. It celebrates the passing of half a century since Aston Martin first collaborated with the Torinese carrozzeria to create the DB4 GT Zagato. Since that delectable first effort, the collaboration has been reprised just twice: in 1986 with the brutal-looking V8 Zagato, and in 2003 with the DB7 Zagato.
So the new V12 Vantage Zagato is the fourth Aston Martin to wear the Z badge, and its design possesses the full gamut of Zagato’s visual repertoire as evolved over the years on various car makers’ underpinnings, most often Alfa Romeo’s and Lancia’s. There’s the double-bubble roof (designed to reduce frontal area), the reverse-sloped rear edge to the side-window opening, a sensation of sinews trying to burst through the skin and a sometimes unsettling use of slashes, edges and unexpected curves.
Some Zagato designs have been ruggedly beautiful; some have been aggressively odd. So where did the new V12 Zagato’s looks come from? It is part tribute and part signal to the future. But is it a Zagato design? In spirit and language, yes. In the actual drawing of lines and the creation of shapes, no.
Today’s Zagato company is headed by Andrea Zagato, grandson of company founder Ugo Zagato, and he has continued the tradition of special-bodied Alfa Romeo projects and industrial design ideas. But the firm is now part of Russian-owned CPP Global Holdings, the kernel of which is Coventry Prototype Panels. This, the original CPP, made (in hand-formed aluminium) the bodies of the two prototype V12 Zagatos that raced in last year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, and will now make the 150 production cars’ roofs, bonnets, boots and doors partly by machine, partly by hand.
Designed in Gaydon
The design comes not from Turin but from Aston Martin’s studio, next to the Gaydon factory, headed by Marek Reichmann. The project arose from a discussion between Andrea Zagato and Aston’s chief, Dr Ulrich Bez, at the 2010 Geneva show. Each company was to come up with a design to mark the half century, and the two bosses would decide which one to make. Reichmann’s proposal got the nod and the schedule dictated less than two years in which to create the finished car.
Reichmann is well aware of the weight of history and expectation, but a retro-look supercar was never on the agenda. “It had to have simplicity, a pure graphic,” he says, “something to take the product for another 50 years but still be recognisable.”
Clearly, the original DB4 Zagato could hardly be ignored. Two of its elements are reinterpreted here: “It has a full-face grille, with an overblown look as if there’s too much pressure behind it, and the waistline moves up into the rear glass. But it’s all in our contemporary language. Because we had to do it so quickly we couldn’t over-analyse. So there’s a rawness to it.”
We first saw how the new Zagato would look when the racing versions were revealed last summer. There have been detail visual changes for the production version to suit it for road use, mainly in airflow management. The vents behind the front wheels have smaller openings, the splitter and diffuser are toned down and there is a smaller rear wing. But the essence is unchanged, right down to the multiple Zs that form the grille mesh. “Originally, there was to be no wing,” says development engineer and works racing driver Chris Porritt. “But there were lift problems and we had to make it aero stable. There was quite a lot of discussion but tests showed it was absolutely essential.”
Carbonfibre and aluminium
The production cars are made in a similar way to the Aston Martin One-77 and in the same Gaydon ‘laboratory’. Unlike the prototypes, they have wings, sills and rear quarters made by Multimatic in hand-laid carbonfibre using a single-sided tool and a vacuum bag, as used in F1. The aluminium panels, joined from several hand-formed sections in the prototypes, are now pressed to their basic shape but their flanges are still shaped by hand.
Under the skin, it’s mainly regular V12 Vantage, but with packaging changes to the rear exhaust, the transmission cooler and the ducting for the carbon-ceramic brakes. Porritt estimates that the whole car weighs about 30kg less. Two production-spec cars exist so far, the red one pictured here and a metallic grey one undergoing aero and durability testing. Having paid their £405,000, the first of the 150 owners will get their cars in September.
Those 150 cars represent a similar proportion of total V12 Vantage production as the 19 original DB4 Zagatos did to the DB4 GT, Reichmann reckons. “It will be a collector’s item,” he says.