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Showpiece of the Week: Zagato Shooting Brake

One of only 99 Shooting Brakes, but this Aston Martin Vanquish is even more special than most...

By Sam Sheehan / Monday, May 13, 2019

It’s been 58 years since Aston Martin partnered with Zagato to produce the DB4 GT. Although the relationship between the British manufacturer and Italian design house opened with a gorgeous racing car driven by legends like Jim Clark, in the decades that have followed motorsport has inspired only three of their co-made models. More often it’s simply been a case of dramatic design enhancement, often through the introduction of a double-bubble roof and circular taillights, and better on-road performance via aerodynamic improvement and weight saving.

Of the cars produced by the pairing, Aston Martin Vantages have arguably hogged the spotlight thanks to cars like the 1986 V8 Zagato. The partnership also created the one-off works racing version of that car in the same year, which Rowan Atkinson eventually bought in 1998 and raced on a national level for three seasons, drawing a link to that original DB4 model’s lifestyle. Then there was a Zagato competition version of the V12 Vantage produced in 2011, two examples of which raced at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and finished in fifth and sixth positions overall.

But the Vanquishes to receive attention from Zagato have never been focussed on racing. The first one to be altered by the Italians came out as a one-off concept in 2004; a roadster that received only light changes, including the adoption of Zagato’s famous circular rear light design and accompanying raised rear deck. From the front the Vanquish look largely remained untouched – and it was more about the design details than anything else to set it apart from the regular Aston Martin model.

Under the bonnet, the powertrain remained a naturally aspirated V12 of 5.9 litres that produced 466hp as it did in the regular Vanquish, meaning the car was a far cry from the lightweighted and aerodynamically-retuned cars to come from other projects of the two brands. But its rareness – and subtle beauty – meant it commanded no less respect from collectors the world over. It resurfaced for sale only four years ago and was valued at £650,000 by Bonhams.

That set an agenda for the later Vanquish Zagato models, the first of which came in concept form back in 2016 at the Villa d’Este concours d’elegance in Italy. The evolved design for Aston’s grand tourer – then its halo model – was developed at its headquarters in Gaydon, but design boss Marek Reichman had significant input from Zagato CEO Andrea Zagato and his Milan-based team. They inspired the introduction of the new circular taillights that for the first time incorporated a 3D structure and LED tech, with a pinched line of bodywork bursting from their sides.

Familiar alterations included the double-bubble lid, the thicker rear hips and, of course, the Z badges on the front wings. It wasn’t until later that year that Aston confirmed production of 99 cars for sale, which retained the concept’s Vulcan, One-77 and CC-100-inspired design elements and made extensive use of carbon fibre body panels, with fewer split lines to reduce drag and also to clean up breaks in the car’s shape. This was, after all, a design-focussed model.

But there were mechanical enhancements as well. It used a 600hp version of the Vanquish’s naturally aspirated V12 that could sprint the Zagato Coupe from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds, making it 30hp more potent and three tenths of a second quicker than the regular car. Add those improvements to the model’s rarity and – most significantly – the fact it joined such an illustrious line-up of co-developed cars and that around half a million pounds was required to bag one is of little surprise. The following Volante version was made in as many examples and cost even more.

Then the Shooting Brake came. In 2017, Aston Martin pulled the covers off it alongside a Speedster version of the Volante, but with only 28 examples of the latter made, the 99 Shooting Brakes represented the better opportunity for collectors after one of these dramatic Anglo-Italians. Plus, it was a 600hp Zagato estate, which is as about as cool as cars can possibly get.

While the V12 powertrain remained the same – disappointing absolutely nobody – the body received extensive modification to incorporate the Zagato’s visor-like glasshouse with a roofline that stretches much closer to the car’s rearmost point. Zagato’s designers placed the rear window at a steeper rake so it could feed smoothly into the bodywork and help retain the pinched section between the taillights. It was a dramatic look – but one that also created a single-piece tailgate to provide wide access to the boot. Open it, and you’re greeted by a large expanse of space with a slatted floor for the weekly shop – or, more likely, a set of skis.

Today’s Showpiece is a 20-mile-old example of just this. And if being one of only 99 Shooting Brakes weren’t special enough, it’s also only the third to receive an optional bronze front grille – although apparently, it’s not yet finished so hasn’t been fitted to the car. As that suggests, this is a brand-new car with miles that have presumably been accumulated only by the dealership it currently lives at. It’s said to be one of the best-specced Zagato’s of this sort, with the optional Villa D’Este Pack meaning it mimics the original reveal car as closely as possible. Which might help to explain why it’s up for £825,000; in our book, it’s worth every penny.

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