The lightning of inspiration can indeed strike twice. Twenty years after collaborating on one of motoring history’s most desirable cars, the DB4 GT Zagato, Aston Martin and Zagato hatched a new plot to raise the bar on their competitors’ supercars. The new car would obviously be about stunning looks and rarity — but in fact it’s a story about naked, street-legal horsepower.
Between them, they would create the fastest car in the world without surrendering any of the luxury people expected from an Aston Martin. With astonishing chutzpah, they even dared to announce their objective before the design was complete, and promptly sold all 50 planned cars from the drawings. The V8 Zagato was a coupe based on Aston Martin’s already slightly passe Vantage chassis. Zagato shortened the wheelbase, discarded the rear seat and designed a lighter, composite body with a frontal area 7% less than the standard Vantage.
It was the crucial element in reducing the overall drag. With 165 kg (364 lb) pared away, 58% of the car’s still heavy weight was put over the front wheels, encouraging the notion that the V8 Zagato was a super-quick GT and not a sports car. But achieving the 186 mph (300 km/h) promised at the outset was impossible with fuel injection, and Zagato included a pronounced bulge on the hood to accommodate the old-fashioned, twin-choke Weber carburettors (enlarged for the purpose!), which did the job instead.
Larger valves, faster cams and Cosworth pistons combined to raise the output from the 370 bhp of the Vantage to 432 bhp, more than the Ferrari GTO. Zagato’s angular planes and geometric lines (he took real liberties with Aston Martin’s traditional grille) exactly matched the ‘power-dressing’ big-shouldered clothes of the 1980s, but nobody could mistake his trademark ‘double-bubble roof’. This Aston Martin kept all its promises.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1986 (Until 1988)
ENGINE: 5,341 cc V8
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: The years 1985-1990 saw the peak of ‘silly money’ supercars. Most of the 50 Aston Martin V8 Zagatos produced were bought by investors who merely stored them in the expectation of huge profits (prices reached £500,000). Consequently, the car is a very rare sight indeed. Those buyers missed the point completely—the V8 Zagato is enormous fun, a true driving machine.