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Thursday 31st May 2012

PH Blog: has Zagato finally lost it?

Harris muses on Zagato's greatest hits and recent misses



Villa D'Este is about as far from the corner of the Carniverse that I occupy as the Allegro owners club. Actually, that's not strictly true because an obtuse nook within my sense of humour finds celebrating BL's spudder much easier to comprehend than preening myself in the land of the beautiful with a load of static show cars. And a lake.

Not one of Zagato's finest, says Harris
Not one of Zagato's finest, says Harris
One of the major players at this event is the Centro Stile Zagato, the famous Milanese styling house that made a DB4 so beautiful some people would climb over a 250 GTO just to get a photograph of it. But its recent efforts have been hit-and-miss to say the least, capped by a new BMW design study for the 2012 event simply called the Zagato Coupe.

This car unintentionally reminds us just how good the original Z3 M Coupe still looks. Yes, design and styling are the preserve of individual opinion, so I am speaking for the majority of just one male Englishman when I say that I think it looks like a Marcos TSO dry-humping a wincing BMW Z4. For the avoidance of doubt that's not a good thing.

The clever people in the marketing department will have to explain why BMW needed to build this car, or what it achieves for the brand in the post-Bangle recovery era. I have no idea.

Aston V12 gets by the numbers Zagato look
Aston V12 gets by the numbers Zagato look
Zagato is a complete enigma to me; the ultimate purveyor of styling snake oil. It would be gratifying to list the hits and misses in equal quantities, but I think its recent work has been mostly dreadful. It has taken singularly handsome, well-proportioned cars and, to these eyes, left them less attractive than before. Step forward Aston DB7, V12 Vantage and now BMW Coupe. All subjected to the standard Zag-mod procedure. Double-bubble, extra glass, massive gob then, WHACK!, a good slap with the gurning bat.

The trouble with attempting to deconstruct the hits and misses is the exposure to one's own weird tastes and predilections - and the further you investigate your own responses to Zagato styling, the more you begin to see method in the madness.

Last week I saw an 80s Aston V8 Zagato at Hexagon Classics - I have always loved that car. I have no idea why, I cannot explain why its awkwardness appeals to me - perhaps as a child of the 80s it's the concentration of that decade's design language that does it. Alfa SZ? I love them. I'm not interested that it splits opinion or that its finished form appears to have been defined by a desire to scare infant pedestrians - I just love the thing. Why do I crave and SZ and think the DB7 Zagato is the Leslie Ash of auto facial alteration? If I could answer that, I'd be running my own Le Mans team with my small change.

Old school Zagato tie-ups much more like it
Old school Zagato tie-ups much more like it
Equally, a helpful Twitter user has just reminded me of the Lancia Hyena, a truly stunning use of Integrale mechanicals.

But when in-house design studios are making more beautiful cars than the supposed specialists, you have to worry for the future of places like Zagato and Pininfarina. There are direct parallels with the tuning industry: Brabus had a place in the world when the most powerful AMG offered 370hp. Now Mercedes' own creations are so potent people needn't seek outside assistance. The in-house skills appear to be rendering those of the specialist contractor unnecessary. I suppose one way of looking at the issue would be compiling a list of brands PHers think would benefit from an injection of Italian sophistication.

It's just on recent form, there doesn't seem to be much to gain beyond a space on a patio by a lake in Italy.

 

Chris Harris
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loudlashadjuster

Original Poster:

1,250 posts

72 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
With you on the Hyena and SZ, but that 80s Aston was a bit of a pig's ear, let down by poor detailing (window, bonnet bulge).

Most of all though, I'll never forgive Zagato for what they managed to do with the beautiful Lancia Fulvia, turning it into the complete bomb scare that was the Lancia Fulvia Sport. Talk about being a mile oot...

Truckosaurus

4,140 posts

172 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
Some of the Zagato Bristols were also not especially picturesque.



But, that said, when I win the EuroMillions Lotto draw I think I would start a Zagato themed collection, they've got such a varied Back-Catalogue available to buy at a variety of price points, and when they are on form they produce some very pretty cars.

Devil2575

8,426 posts

76 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
Alfa SZ is bloody hideous. One of the ugliest cars ever made. The V8 Aston is also pretty bad.

Never seen a good looking car made by Zagato.

Edit: Just googled the Hyena.

Jesus wept, I think i've found a car uglier than the SZ.



Edited by Devil2575 on Thursday 31st May 08:25

LaurasOtherHalf

8,640 posts

84 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
I actually love the v12 vantage zagato, but then wasn't that just designed by Aston & had nowt to do with zagato except in the use of their name?

All their 80's stuff was horrendous anyway (IMHO), interesting & arresting in certain ways but certainly not pretty.

It's a shame seeing as the Z3 & Z4 coupes that BMW released have been their best looking cars for a generation (I would say that I'm an owner rolleyes ) & it would have been a nice tradition to have carried on.

smartypants

22,236 posts

57 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
Whenever the word Zagato is mentioned I know exactly what is coming and I can prepare myself for yet another attempt to ruin what was a perfectly good car before.

Don't get it, and never will.
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LuS1fer

31,793 posts

133 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
I'll be entirely honest, I've never liked Zagato designs. Even as a kid I thought the Fulvia Coupe Zagato was damned ugly until I realised I was supposed to like it and now do....

The Aston Zagatos have all beeen utterly bewildering to me - take a nice car and ruin it.

thewheelman

2,194 posts

61 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
I really like the styling of the Zagato BMW, far more curb appeal than the fat arsed Z4 coupe IMO.

Also like the Zagato take on the Alfa 8c, would upload a pic, but the iPad isn't wanting to play along.

Edited by thewheelman on Thursday 31st May 09:33

E38Ross

15,472 posts

100 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
i don't like any of those zagato cars posted. what they did to the aston was hideous, the bmw zagato thing is way too fussy and just looks nasty, especially from the front

Podie

41,744 posts

163 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all


lick

Crusoe

3,216 posts

119 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
Zagato Lancia Flamina Sport




Edit a whole lot more here http://www.coachbuild.com/gallery/main.php?g2_item... plenty there I had never seen before and yes lots of misses.

Toyota MR2 Zegato anyone?



Edited by Crusoe on Thursday 31st May 09:42

DanDC5

9,136 posts

55 months

[news] 
Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
smartypants said:
Whenever the word Zagato is mentioned I know exactly what is coming and I can prepare myself for yet another attempt to ruin what was a perfectly good car before.

Don't get it, and never will.
My thoughts entirely. Just googled the Lancia Hyena, I could thing of a better use of Intergrale mechanicals, such as on an Intergrale.

tim-b

1,238 posts

98 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
While I agree that Zagato's efforts are hit and miss, they've not done that badly with all of their recent projects - the Alfa TZ3 and Perana Z-one for example are both utterly gorgeous. The recent Aston and now this BMW aren't that bad either - not as clean as the originals but interesting none-the-less.

PhilipAlfa

353 posts

62 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
I'm not sure Zagato can be entirely blamed for the monstrosity that is the SZ. I could be wrong but I don't think the SZ was actually styled by Zagato - I think they just built it.

benim83n

64 posts

47 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
is it just me or does the lancia hyena look very similer to a rover 45?
i kept thinking google got lancia and rover confused when i did a search :P

BorkFactor

6,084 posts

46 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
I have said it before, but I really don't like any of the cars that Zagato have worked on. As far as I can work out, they just seen to ruin perfectly nice cars and call it "an improvement".

However lots of people do like them, so I think I am in the minority on this one.

Itsallicanafford

914 posts

47 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
...mmmh, beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder but that V12 Aston looks great, Hyena is a Dogs breakfast, that 80's Aston just needs square wheels to finish off its clown car looks and the SV is my all time favourite car, so make what you will of that...

trashbat

4,371 posts

41 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
I don't get how you can cite a collection of fairly hideous 1980s carbuncles, and then complain that a moderately conservative Z4 means they've 'lost it'.

Anyway:





Bit marmite, I know.

Numeric

363 posts

39 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
I'm afraid that the work of Zagato has never floated my boat, nor that of a few others of the Great Design houses post 1970. I think often the cor car was better looking than the rebody.

Oddly my appreciation for design houses lies more in the clever use of ideas in standard cars. The Fiat Uno with its tardis like space usage was a real delight (was that Guiggaro?) and far more exciting than an Aston with a bumpy roof!

Truth is there are some great designers in the car companies doing lovely things these days and the corsserie (badly spelled) are likely to follow the great British coachbuilders!

Frimley111R

5,891 posts

122 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
Its an interesting point that manufacturers are doing everything so well these days (generally) that the role of the specialist looks increasingly dubious.

fourwheelsteer

838 posts

140 months

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Thursday 31st May 2012 quote quote all
Zagato's efforts, at least since 1945, have generally been visually challenging (to put it politely). Pre war the Alfa Romeo 1750 (I think) looked particularly ravishing with Zagato coachwork. Post War the company's best work was probably the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato and the Lancia Flaminia Zagato; although I also love the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato and Alfa Romeo SZ.

In its heyday Zagato did at least have a guiding philosophy of cutting weight and improving the aerodynamics of the cars it clothed. Easy to do in the 1950s and '60s when people don't expect crash protection and will tolerate thin aluminium panels that dent if you look at them funny. Not to mention a general proliferation of car bodywork that paid no heed to aerodynamic principles in standard form. The resulting cars may have looked odd (Lancia Flavia Zagato, I'm looking at you) but you could at least understand what Zagato was trying to achieve. In some cases the car may have looked odd but drove beautifully (Bristol 406 Zagato, so I hear).

These days, as Harris has observed, it is harder to improve on the products the industry makes. Yes there is still lots of room to take weight out of today's cars but you can't go throwing away crash protection - even if the customers would accept it you can bet the legislators or the personal injury lawyers wouldn't. And if you remove equipment for a concept car you'll probably have to put it back in (as expensive options?) before anyone will actually buy the production car. Which leaves Zagato with one option, to dig out the company's styling cues and apply them to anything accepting that the result will look odd because Zagato bodies nearly always do.

As it happens, I quite like what they've done with the BMW Z4 but it looks more like a natural progression from the old Z4 coupé than a particularly Zagato take on BMW styling.
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