The DB4 was introduced at the London Motor Show 1958. The styling and body construction of the entirely newly-developed DB4 was done by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan. The DB4 was followed by the DB4 GT in 1959 in a mission to create a competitive more aerodynamic version – the DB4 GT was lighter and shorter than the DB4.
At the 1960 London Motor Show Aston Martin finally introduced the DB4 GT Zagato with lighter Zagato bodywork. The initial spark to create the DB4 GT Zagato was given by David Brown and John Wyer (a major force in the success of the Ford GT40 in the second half of the 60s) who were looking to form a car to beat the Ferraris at Le Mans in 1961.
Right after Zagato was handed over the job, Ercole Spada – then aged only 23 – was assigned with this mission in May 1960 and set out to improve the aerodynamics of the existing DB4GT. He went on to create a sports car icon which became one of the most intensely admired cars ever attaining almost mythical status over the years. The DB4 GT Zagato’s sumptuous shape, harmonious proportions and flowing lines were widely acclaimed as stunningly beautiful bringing together performance and elegance.
The DB4 GT Zagato featured a sleeker body and close-to perfect proportions combined with an increase in power and a decrease in weight due to the use of numerous aluminium components as well as Perspex windows.
From the DB4 to the DB4 GT to the DB4 GT Zagato the weight decreased from originally 1354kg to 1171kg and the power output of the Tadek Marek- designed 3.7-litre six-cylinder engine increased from originally 240bhp to a claimed 314bhp.
The DB4 GT Zagato interior was clean, but still featured traditional Aston elements such as the wooden Nardi steering wheel with its satin-black spokes, Smiths instruments in the crackle-black dashboard and Connolly leather.
Only 19 DB4GTZ were produced between 1960 and 1962 – most at Newport Pagnell with the bodies being hand-made at Zagato’s workshop in Milan, so that – due to Italian artisan creativity – no two DB4GTZ look exactly the same. Of the only 19 DB4GTZ built, seven were left and 12 were right-hand drive. The first DB4 GT Zagato was delivered in spring 1961 and the last middle of 1963. Elio Zagato liked the car so much he even bought one for his personal use.
The DB4GTZ made its racing debut with Stirling Moss at the wheel in Goodwood during Easter 1961 (the car finished 3rd, behind an Aston Martin DB4 GT and the winning Ferrari 250 GT). Four of the original Zagato’s chassis’, 0191, 0193, 0182(1 VEV) and 0183(2 VEV) were built to a lightened DP207/209 specification, especially for racing. The DP209 cars have a lower roofline, larger rear wings, a reshaped tail and flatter, longer front end.
But, although being driven by some of the most prominent race drivers of its time incl. Jim Clark, Innes Ireland, Stirling Moss and Roy Salvadori, the DB4GTZ never fully satisfied the company’s hopes for a race-winning, Ferrari-beating GT. The DB4 GT Z’s two main challenges compared to the Ferrari 250 GT SWB and later the 250 GTO, remained weight and power-output. The DB4GTZ only had a short career in top level racing notably with John Ogier’s Essex Racing stable (1 VEV and 2 VEV). Both the Zagatos raced in the 1961 24 Hours of Le Mans.
However a repeat of the 1959 Le Mans victory was not to be, with both cars retiring. In July 1961 at a British Grand Prix Support race the Zagato had its first victory. With ‘2 VEV’ taking the last lap lead from a Jaguar E Type. ‘2 VEV’ crashed heavily at Spa in 1962 and was rebuilt to the lightweight DP209 specification. After a road accident in 1993 the car was returned to the 1962 specification. Chassis 0200 raced in the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans; however, a blown piston after 9 1⁄2 hours forced the car to retire. But, over the years the DB4GTZ’s beauty, rarity and provenance more than made up for the success it lacked on the racetracks.