Aston’s pair of Zagato aces. New DBS GT set to join DB4 GT continuation. Words Richard Meaden. Images Aston Martin.
First glimpse of the new DBS Zagato, plus DB4 GT Zagato Continuation
While all eyes have been understandably turned towards Aston Martin Works’ meticulous continuation build of the DB4 GT Zagato, it has been easy to overlook the second and arguably more intriguing half of the £6m (plus taxes) DBZ Centenary Collection – the DBS GT Zagato.
After the early concept sketches, we’ve now been treated to a set of detailed renderings and even a scale model of the car, which show the latest collaboration between Aston Martin and Zagato in what is described as the ‘final production intent exterior’. As you can see, there’s certainly plenty to take in.
‘The DBS GT Zagato is very much its own car’
Given that its basis is the DBS Superleggera, you’d expect a certain degree of visual similarity, but whichever angle you view it from, the DBS GT Zagato is very much its own car. There are elements of the recent Vanquish Zagatos in the tail, most notably the fabulous splined tail lights and blade-like central panel, but the aerodynamic diffuser is much more pronounced.
The roofline – complete with double-bubble contours, naturally – echoes that of the V12 Zagato, but this one-piece carbonfibre panel takes the iconic Zagato signature to the extreme by extending back to cover what would be the rear windscreen of the DBS.
This audacious move necessitates the use of a rearward-facing camera with a rear-view display screen mounted in the conventional position for a traditional rear-view mirror. For now this is all we know about the DBS GT Zagato’s interior.
The body’s flanks are heavily sculpted, with wide rear haunches swelling from a dramatically cinched waistline. There is no traditional Aston side-blade set into the front wheelarch, nor the more contemporary ‘curlicue’ aerodynamic vent. At least not as you’ll see it on the DBS. Instead, air exits the wheelarch and is channelled along the flanks by a stylized ‘bargeboard’ that extends from the rear of the front wheelarch to form the lower section of each front wing and the leading edge of the doors.
However, it is at the front where the most dramatic feature can be found: a ‘dynamic’ grille comprised of 108 individual diamond-shaped carbonfibre pieces, which remain flush to the grille’s surface when the car is stationary with the engine switched off. Upon start-up, these petal-like pieces flutter into life in a specially choreographed sequence before settling in their open position ready to feed the DBS GT’s hungry twin-turbo V12 with air.
It is, of coruse, impossible to make a definitive judgement on a car’s looks until you’ve seen it finished and in full-scale, but there’s something very exciting about this latest Zagato. And, lest we forget, it is based upon one of the very best cars Aston Martin has ever built. Performance figures are yet to be confirmed, but with somewhere between the standard DBS’s 715bhp and 750bhp, the new Zagato promises phenomenal performance to match its extraordinary looks.
We – and the 19 enviable customers who secured their place on the elite order book – have a while to wait before we’ll see the finished car, as builds are scheduled for the second half of 2020 with deliveries commencing before the end of that year.
In the meantime, of course, there’s the small matter of Aston Martin Works completing and delivering each of the 19 DB4 GT Zagato Continuations that make up the other half of the DBZ Centenary Collection. These are currently in build – you can read the full story on the following pages – with cars reaching customers before the end of this year. Something tells us that both cars will be more than worth the wait.
While the DBS GT currently exists only as a rendering and scale models – at least as far as anyone outside Aston Martin is concerned – the second half of the Centenary Collection is already very real. Production of the DB4 GT Zagato Continuation is well under way at Aston Martin Works – in fact more than half of the 19 cars are now in various stages of construction. A completed ‘engineering car’ has clocked up many miles in dynamic testing, and Aston Martin says that deliveries of customers cars will start before the end of this year.
Exciting times, then, at the old factory site in Newport Pagnell, now once again a carmaking facility for Aston Martin. Last year it completed a run of 25 continuation DB4 GTs, and plans are already well advanced for the run of 25 Bond-spec DB5s, complete with gadgets (as featured in the last issue of Vantage). But right now the continuation build facility has its hands full with the reborn DB4 GT Zagato. And the sight of multiple examples of these brand-new 60-year-old cars taking shape is a very special one.
‘4500 hours of work go into each car, using skills preserved for decades’
Around 4500 hours of work is going into each car, using many of the skills that have been preserved at Newport Pagnell for decades, but combining them with modern engineering know-how to create a machine with all of the style and character of the original but with far more exacting build and quality standards than were possible six decades ago.
It was Paul Spires, now president of Aston Martin Works, who back in 2016 persuaded the AML board to take Aston Martin into the world of continuation cars. Following the success of the original DB4 GT continuation project, a run of GT Zagatos seemed the obvious next step.
As Spires told Vantage’s Stephen Archer: ‘At the Geneva show in 2017 we met Andrea Zagato and agreed that it made enormous sense to build a Zagato continuation car. We thought that we should make perhaps four or five cars, but Andrea said “why not 19?”. We could also see that the car would emerge in Zagato’s centenary year, which was a bonus, as has been Zagato’s involvement in the project.
‘Many lessons were learned with the DB4 GT; the chassis are the same and the running gear is also virtually identical, so we had a head start.’
The exact shape of the body required much deliberation. The original Zagatos, having been truly handmade, are notoriously inconsistent in their finished appearance. ‘Five owners of original cars were very helpful in the process,’ said Spires. ‘A number of original cars were scanned to the highest level of detail and accuracy and, after careful examination, we concluded which design was the most faithful to Spada’s original concept. It was a fascinating process and showed where individual hands and personalities had created the original cars.’
‘The materials and the design of everything have to be authentic’
So how has the original, Italian, handmade process been reproduced after 60 years – and in England? ‘The car has to be true to the original,’ Spires continued. ‘That is the definition of a continuation car.
The materials and the design of everything have to be authentic. ‘We have built the car as we would have in the 1960s, though with the knowledge we now have. Back then the chassis were oxide-primered and then painted black! The restoration industry has done well in the past 50 years to improve on the corrosion prevention that was available back then. Today’s Zagato has the most robust finishes possible on all surfaces.
‘Some of the metallurgy has been improved because better materials are available. Most of the panelwork is pre-formed but the skins are attached to the Zagato-type superstructure exactly as they were back in the day.’
That superstructure is lightweight, as per the original, by dint of widespread punched holes and the substitution of
steel with sheet aluminium in unstressed areas. The original homologation had telescopic rear dampers and so the new car does, too. The front anti-roll bar is uprated but broadly the suspension is to the original design. Brakes are the same- spec aluminium race calipers, and there are original-type Borrani alloy wheels.
Some of the biggest changes are inside, with a full roll-cage and fire extinguisher system – deemed essential for what are being sold, at least, as track-only cars – while the seats are carbonfibre buckets.
Under the bonnet, the new car has a faithful recreation of the Marek straight-six but with a 4.7-litre capacity. That’s a full litre more than the original, so we can expect prodigious power, perhaps close to 400bhp. Those 19 owners can look forward to something very special indeed.
Top and above: First completed customer DB4 GT Zagato Continuation looks fabulous in Rosso Maier. Up to ten cars are currently in build at Newport Pagnell. Right, from top: Scale model shows the radical carbonfibre roof canopy that extends right over where the rear window would normally be, and the front grille with its dozens of ‘petal-like’ openings. Below: Based on the DBS Superleggera, the DBS GT Zagato will form half of the Zagato Centenary Collection, the other half being the DB4 GT Continuation. Just 19 pairs will be made.