Happy 2nd Birthday to my Blog. Now let’s talk ZAGATO, the Pretties and the Uglies

Today, my blog is two-years old. It currently has 76 stories on it and they get read by thousands of people on a monthly basis. I’m very proud of the traffic it has generated and while I don’t update it often, I do love to see people coming back to check it out, looking for new stories. So without any further adieu, I give you a story on the designs of Zagato:


If there is a continent that has excelled in style, it is Europe. All the best automotive designs are pretty much always from Europe, and most of the design houses are hence also based there. In fact, Europe might be too broad a term. You can narrow design talent down to one country, Italy.

The Italians know design, and they have proven themselves worthy of their praise over and over again, not only in the world of fashion, but also car design. Italy is home to Pininfarina, Bertone, Ital Design, and my favorite, Zagato Milano.

Today I want to talk about Zagato, because time and time again, Zagato comes up with designs that might not be conventionally pretty, but they always catch my eye. There is something about their design language that always works for me; well almost always.

So today, I want to point out some of my favorite Zagato designs, and some of their worst.

Well start with The Good, and with perhaps what I think is their best design to date, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato coupe from 1986. This very limited edition car was based on a regular AM Vantage, but thanks to Zagato, got a body that was completely different from anything AM was making at the time. Some think it looks awkward and weird. I think it looks wonderful from just about any angle. Only 50 coupes were built (plus 2 prototypes), along with 37 convertibles. While most of the convertibles had the regular tune, 5.3-liter, V8 motor, which produced 320-hp; all the coupes had the stronger Vantage spec motor, which was the same size, but produced 432-hp. This motor, combined with the Zagato’s pretty and slippery body, made for a very fast car. This was a genuine 300 km/h machine, which also dealt with a 0-100 km/h run in just 4.8 seconds, not bad for 1986 or today for that matter. These cars nowadays are appreciating in value, which means they are highly desirable collector pieces. I want one.

I also want the Alfa Romeo SZ, which first showed its aggressive face at the 1989 Geneva Auto Show. This car is a perfect example of Zagato’s design talents, where they take a slab-sided, upright design, and make it appealing. Some people think the side profile of this car makes it look like a training shoe, but that is just part of its appeal. I love the SZ, and its drop-top sibling the RZ, because they look like nothing else on the road. These were not really fast cars, the 3.0-liter Alfa V6 produced just 210-hp. However, thanks to its Alfa 75 underpinnings, it was lauded for its handling. So it is perfect for carving up mountain roads, and doing that in a car that looks this good would be a treat.

It would also be a treat to carve up mountain roads in the Lancia Hyena. Unlike the other two cars mentioned above, this was not the work between the car company and Zagato, it was a project dreamt up by a Dutch car collector named Paul Koot. He wanted a coupe version of the Lancia Delta Integrale, and since Lancia wasn’t going to be making such a thing, he decided to do his own car. This didn’t sit well with Lancia and they have never backed the project. There was even a legal case against using the Lancia badges, but the story with the Hyena didn’t go too far anyway. Koot wanted to build 500 of these Hyena’s but in the end shifted just 24 examples. That means this is a highly desirable collector piece nowadays. It’s a quick piece too, thanks to its 2.0-liter, turbo-charged four-cylinder motor that produced 250-hp (300-hp in some examples), this car can sprint from 0-100 km/h in about 5.4 seconds and top out at around 270 km/h. The controversial hunchbacked styling might not be to everyone’s taste, but I love this design from all angles. It might even be my second favorite Zagato design of all time (favorite was mentioned above).

Now onto The Uglies, and I won’t take up much time on these because they don’t need much explaining. There is the little known Autech Stelvio, a car that has its wing mirrors moulded into the front fenders. I know some might even love this car, but it gives me the heebie jeebies. Apparently 80 examples escaped the factory, probably terrorizing school children wherever they roam.

Then there is the Spyker C12 Zagato, which looks fine from most angles, but it all goes horribly wrong when you see its derriere. If ever there was a car with a back-end inspired by a baboons butt, this is it. I have no idea what Zagato was thinking when they penned that rear end. It ruins what is otherwise a decent design. Thankfully this never made it to production.

What did make it to production is something far worse, the Bristol 412 Convertible by Zagato. I’m not sure if Zagato is fully to blame for this one, since Bristol was on an ugly design theme at the time this was being produced (between 1975 to 1993, yikes!). Still, Zagato could have opted to not have done this car, but then money is money. This is in my view the ugliest car to ever wear a Zagato badge and I hope they never do one uglier than this.

Thank you for all the pretty ones Zagato, I can forgive you of the uglies, but let’s keep a focus on a beautiful future OK!

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