Zagato: rationality and lightness

Photo credit: Zagato

At the start of the last century, Ugo Zagato was an airplane designer and builder, and this experience shaped the whole story of Zagato, where functionality and lightness have always been paramount. The cars bodied by Zagato over the generations — Ugo was followed by Elio, a great driver among other things, then Gianni, and finally Andrea today — are a perfect interpretation of Milanese Rationalism. This approach allowed “Zagato” cars, starting with the Alfa Romeos built for Scuderia Ferrari in the 1930s, to record successes in the most diverse types of competition. Such was Zagato’s reputation that this Milanese coachbuilder worked for practically every manufacturer with an interest in racing. The company’s presentation literature features cars bodied for as many as 42 different brands. In this regard, it is truly unique.

Zagato, after celebrating its centenary in 2019, now offers both original models and “continuation series”, which are interpretations of cars of the past produced starting from the original mechanics. In the coming weeks, Zagato will be presenting its own version of the original design of the Iso Rivolta, which will therefore be back on the market, with the hallmark of the Milanese coachbuilder.

TCCT has picked out 8 of Zagato’s masterpieces for you. Here they are!

1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider Corto Zagato

This “short wheelbase” version of the 8C 2300 Spider was developed for road racing. It won the 1931 Targa Florio with Tazio Nuvolari at the wheel. Competing under the banner of the Prancing Horse, it also won on the Circuito delle Tre Province, driven by Enzo Ferrari himself.

1949 Ferrari 166 Panoramica Zagato Mille Miglia 

This was the first Ferrari bodied by Zagato following its prewar collaboration with Scuderia. It was also the first Ferrari built in coupé configuration. The car is named “Panoramica” in reference to the large glass surfaces used for the rear and side windows, which curve with the lines of the bodywork.

1959 Porsche 356B Carrera Zagato

In 2015, a reorganization and digitization of the Zagato archives brought to light a detailed study for the production of a coupé based on the 356 Carrera, designed for French driver Claude Storez to a specific order submitted by Porsche in 1957. The resulting car was lost in an accident, and Zagato, with the agreement of Porsche, has recently decided to bring this beautiful coupé back to life, creating a small series of nine units.

1960 Aston Martin DB4 GTZ Stradale

Unveiled at the 1960 London Motor Show, the DB4 GTZ was designed by Ercole Spada to improve the aerodynamics of the DB4 GT and make it lighter. Nineteen specimens were initially built, and these were followed by a further 6 under the Sanction II and Sanction III programs of 1991 and 2000 respectively.

1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ Coda Tronca

Elio Zagato, working together with the Politecnico di Milano and Alfa Romeo, embarked on a technical analysis aimed at bringing about an evolution of the SZ. The main idea was to find ways of improving the aerodynamics, in accordance with the notion that achieving an ideal (cropped rear or “Kamm tail”) shape increases a car’s aerodynamic efficiency, and therefore its top speed. In a modified SZ featuring an elongated nose and Kamm tail, Elio Zagato, who was an excellent driver, achieved a 20 km/h increase in the vehicle’s top speed on the Milan to Bergamo highway. It marked the first step in a revolution.

1965 Alfa Romeo TZ2 Prototipo

Built in just 9 units, this was the first car campaigned by Autodelta in its role as the official Alfa Romeo competition department. Its fiberglass body was developed by Zagato. Success was quick to come: in the course of the 1965 and 1966 seasons, it won its class at Le Mans and in the 12 Hours of Sebring, Targa Florio, 1000 km Nürburgring, Tour de France and Coupe des Alpes.

2007 Maserati Gran Sport Zagato

The Maserati GS Zagato, commissioned by a customer, was presented at Villa d’Este in 2007.

Zagato gave it lines evoking those of the historic 1954 Maserati A6 G Zagato. Like its famous forebear, it had an all-aluminum body and bore the trident symbol on the hood and the Z logo on the wing. Its masterfully updated design needs no comment. 

2011 Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale

Built, in just 9 units, to celebrate Zagato’s 90th anniversary and Alfa Romeo’s centenary, the TZ3 Stradale first appeared on the market in 2011. It represents a contemporary interpretation of the Kamm tail concept. The model has an entirely handbeaten lightweight aluminum body built on a carbon fiber chassis and tubular steel frame.