The combination of Aston Martin and Zagato seems so synonymous, one would think they had worked on a host of cars together. However, until 2003 when the DB7 Zagato was launched, the two companies had collaborated only twice. The first time was on the legendary DB4 GT Zagato in 1960, which today sits at the very top any collector’s shopping list – if you can find one.
Twenty-four years after the launch of the DB4 GT, a conversation between Victor Gauntlett, then Aston chairman, and the Zagato brothers at the Geneva Motor Show in 1984 would kick off the second joint venture.
Aston Martin was enjoying the boom of the 1980s, and sales of the V8 and V8 Vantage models were going well. However, the competition was stiff. Think Ferrari 288GTO and Porsche 959, not to mention the more ‘off-the-peg’ Ferrari Testarossa and Lamborghini Countach. There was plenty to satisfy the appetite of the wealthy car buyer, but the excesses of the time were so much that more and more people wanted that car no one else could have. Thus the V8 Vantage Zagato was born. After a visit to Newport Pagnell, Gianni Zagato returned to Milan to work up a concept – drawings of which were shown at Geneva in 1985. Based on simply these and a clay scale model, all 50 build slots were sold.
The car itself used an uprated version of the V8 Vantage engine, now churning out 432bhp. With aluminium and CRP panels, and 17cm-shorter chassis, the Zagato’s weight was reduced by over 10 percent. The result was a 0-60mph time of under five seconds and a 187mph top speed, thanks to the slippery new shape. The styling received mixed reviews, but with time there is no doubting it as a cutting-edge and iconic design. At the end of production, 52 examples had been built.
In 1987, the Volante convertible was launched. After the promise of owning the most exclusive supercar, Coupé owners were understandably upset at being upstaged. In order to placate them, the Volante’s styling was more subdued; gone was the power-bulge bonnet, and a different, less aggressive nose with slatted flip-up lights was installed.
The engine was the fuel-injected unit found in the standard V8s. It put out 320bhp – down by over 100bhp on the Coupé. Aston had made one group of owners happy, but Volante buyers were next to kick up a fuss about the new looks and lower power output. As a result, the factory offered a very expensive option to upgrade one’s
Volante to Vantage-spec engine and styling.
Of the 37 Volante Zagatos built, just ten were converted by the Works to Vantage spec, three of which only had the cosmetic upgrades. The conversion consisted of:
– Rebuild engine to Vantage spec including conversion from fuel injection to carbs.
– Fitting of Vantage Zagato front bumper and open headlights.
– Fitting of Vantage Zagato bonnet with bulge to clear carbs.
All the Vantage Volantes were manual, and just one was built in LHD.
This V8 Vantage Volante Zagato, chassis no. 30031, is beyond rare. An original Aston Martin Lagonda certificate on file confirms the receipt of a £25,000 deposit on July 1, 1987 with an estimated delivery of September 1988. The first owner, a Mr Saunderson, ordered the car via Stratton Motor Company in Gladiator Red, the launch colour of the V8 Vantage Zagatos, with Parchment interior piped with Burgundy and a black mohair hood. A letter dated October 4, 1989 informs Mr Saunderson that his car is in the final stages of preparation – so to say that Aston was running a bit behind schedule is an understatement.
A final bill dated a few days later totals a huge £190,549.99. Another letter dated November 14, 1989, confirms the safe arrival of his car at Stratton Motor Company – and before even taking official delivery, Mr Saunderson sent it back to the factory for a full conversion to not only Vantage spec but 6.3-litre spec as well, making his one of just two cars that had this work done by the factory when new. Original invoices from July 1990 detail all the work carried out, including an upgrade to all the suspension and a large-bore exhaust. The job totalled £50,000 – over a quarter of the price of the car itself.
Mr Saunderson did just 1100 miles until 1999, when the Aston was bought by Andre Bloom on behalf of a collector. Since then it’s been in a private collection and stored professionally. Maintenance logs show that it was regularly checked over, run up to temperature and the original Goodyear tyres over inflated for storage. This is not only one of the rarest Aston models, but a totally unique example built to the highest spec possible by the factory itself.
Thanks to The Classic Motor Hub