PH Blog: has Zagato finally lost it?
Harris muses on Zagato's greatest hits and recent misses
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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 ) & it would have been a nice tradition to have carried on.
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?
Don't get it, and never will.
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!
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.