When Aston Martin needed a competitive version of their GT racer, the DB4 GT, they turned to Zagato. The Italian coach builder specialized in constructing light weight, slippery bodies, ideally suited for racing needs. Although the finished product was not the competition success hoped for, its rarity and stunning looks have made the DB4 GT Zagato one of the most sought after Aston Martin models. Some twenty years later Aston Martin and Zagato teamed up once again to relive the success had with the DB4. The plan was to build a limited edition Zagato bodied version of the V8 Vantage model.
Both companies officially announced the plans at the 1985 Geneva Motorshow, where a first sketch was shown of the new car. After the Zagato treatment the V8 Vantage was set to be smaller, lighter and capable of a top speed of over 300 km/h. Production was limited to only 50 examples, which made the competition look like common cars. Long before the actual design was completed, Aston Martin had received the down payments for the complete run. Actually the demand pushed the prices up to many times the 70,000 Pounds sticker; the market expected to see a similar surge in prices as seen on the DB4 GT Zagato.
All seemed well, until testing proved that the new fuel injection version of the V8 engine would not be powerful enough to meet the 300 km/h goal set. This was relatively easily fixed by equipping the engine with Weber carburetors again, but this made the engine substantially taller. Unfortunately there was no space under the aerodynamic Zagato body to house this engine, so the team either had to accept the lower top speed or modify the engine cover to fit the engine. The latter was opted for, resulting in an enormous bulge on the bonnet, which was not liked by all customers.
From here on the good news continues; the V8 Vantage Zagato was 10% lighter and considerably shorter, resulting in a much better handling car. Zagato were well known for their controversial styling and especially with the ’power bulge’, the Vantage’s body was no exception. It was a complete departure from the regular V8 design and was exceptionally aerodynamic with a drag figure of just 0.29 cd. The finished product is easily recognizable as a Zagato design by the trademark ’double bubble’ roof and the various badges fitted all around the car.
A year after the official announcement, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato was unveiled at the 1986 Geneva Motorshow. Production was limited to two cars per month and lasted to 1988. Sadly many were picked up by investors, who stored them waiting for the prices to go up even further, making the V8 Vantage Zagato an exceptionally rare sight. Peak prices were reached around 1989, when examples sold for 500,000 Pounds. Perhaps it’s poetic justice, but all those who bought their Zagatos as an investment were let down, with today’s prices down to the original 70,000 Pounds again.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it is safe to say that Aston Martin’s V8 Vantage Zagato has a very striking and controversial design, iconic for the 1980s. What those investors missed was the real point of the Vantage Zagato, it is a true driving machine. The heavy diet and revised suspension made it one of the fastest and best handling cars ever constructed by Aston Martin, a true successor to the legendary DB4 GT Zagato.