The centre pieces of this issue for many people were the drives of the F40 and the 959, but for me the most memorable story was the comparison test between the 288 GTO and the Aston V8 Zagato. Here was a test format readers associated with small hatchbacks, only this time we had two pieces of fabulous specialness. I didn’t speak to anyone for weeks. I just sat and re-read the words and gawped at the pictures. Naturally, it didn’t matter that CAR thought the 288 the better machine; on looks alone, it immediately became my ultimate car, an opinion which hasn’t changed in 25 years.
So where did this leave the strange looking Aston? Locked between the brutish V8 Vantages of the time and the largely pathetic Virage which followed, and carrying a list price which made seasoned Aston buyers cry. But there was always something beguiling about this particular Zagato, and I now find myself looking at them and wondering if they might be one of the coolest cars of the 1980s.
If the proportions look a little wrong in photographs, then the car is surprising in the flesh because it’s smaller and more delicate than you expect an Aston of this era to be. The thin pillars, exaggerated glass volumes and stumpy overhangs lend it a tension missing in the standard Vantages of the time. Dare I say it looks lightweight – but then it was comparatively so: over 200kg lighter than the car on which it was based thanks to all that Italian aluminium.
I’ve never driven a Zagato so cannot comment on how the shorter wheelbase and lower kerb weight affects the way it drives, but knowing how quick a portly standard Vantage can be, these must have felt pretty loopy in 1987. And sounded rather special too.
There is, however, also a strong possibility that I’ve lost my mind. That the V8 Zagato is a lump of over-styled nonsense and a disgrace to the brand.
Someone had better tell me I’m wrong – or perhaps right?
ASTON MARTIN V8 ZAGATO
Engine: 5,340cc V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): c. 430@6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 392@5,100rpm
Top speed: 186mph
Weight: c. 1,650kg
Price: £135,000 (as featured)
With thanks to Alan at Aston Sales Kensington for use of the photos