ENGLISH SOUL, ITALIAN SUIT
“Driving a 250 SWB is like wielding a hammer, it commands your respect through aggression and raw power. The Zagato, however, feels more like a tailored suit. It’s agile, sophisticated, and equally responsive … it’s a truly beautiful car to drive. And it fits perfectly.” – Peter Read
In the early 1960s, Aston Martin and Ferrari were in a heated battle for supremacy in the World Sports Car Championship. It seemed as if every season brought about a new, race-ready vehicle to ensure each company’s victory, and the teams were consistently fighting each other for top honors. Competition was just as fierce in the showroom. Both companies were busy producing exciting and exceptional machines to appeal to their high-end clients, mainly in an effort to continue funding their racing exploits.
Aston Martin changed the game in 1959 by winning that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with a decisive 1-2 victory, with four Ferraris left chasing in their rearview mirrors. As Ferrari updated the aging 250 GT “Tour de France” with the SWB Berlinetta, Aston Martin introduced the DB4 GT in an effort to level the playing field, but it was not enough. Looking to hold back the onslaught of competition-specification Berlinettas, Aston Martin knew it needed something that would take the DB4 GT to the next level. The solution was to approach an outside coachbuilder who could utilize their existing platform yet produce a new car that was both more attractive and competitive than its predecessor. The DB4 GT was by all accounts a tough act to follow, but Carrozzeria Zagato was not one to shy away from a task. This would be an Aston Martin unlike any other, and when the completed product was unveiled at the 1960 London Motor Show, it was clear that Zagato had fashioned exactly what Aston Martin needed.
Considered by many to be the coachbuilder’s finest design, the DB4 GT Zagato is instantly recognizable as both an Aston Martin and a Zagato, thanks to the famed carrozzeria’s deft ability to masterfully craft distinctive design elements from each company into one harmonious work of art. Boasting a slightly elongated nose with a more pronounced grille, visually the car appears much more aggressive than the outgoing DB4 GT. At the rear, the taillights were set into the fenders, and the C-pillar was reduced by featuring a larger rear windshield. While the DB4 GT was already a highly attractive automobile, the Zagato coachwork gave the Aston Martin a more voluptuous appeal, smoothing out the harder edges in favor of a more dynamic and fluid shape. Changes were more than just skin deep, as Zagato and Aston Martin also endeavored to make this car faster than its standard brethren, reducing nearly 50 kilograms of weight and adding 12 horsepower to the total output.