I believe there are certain things you can never have too many of. Good pairs of jeans and shoes. Pocket knives. Friends with pickup trucks. Real Mexican joints. Books. And of course, sports cars from the early 60s that competed at LeMans in your Fantasy Garage. We've already got the two best (the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and the Ferrari 250 GTO, respectively) so let us now induct the most beautiful; the British/Italian hybrid Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato.
It might surprise some of you that a company with as storied a racing pedigree as Aston Martin would turn to Italy for help with its then-ultimate road car. After all, the "Aston" in Aston Martin comes from the Aston Clinton hillclimb where founder Lionel Martin had so much success. But remember, the decidedly non-Anglo Augustus Cesare Bertelli (aka "Bert") rescued Aston Martin from the Charnwood family's death grip in 1927. Lucky for us, too, as Bertelli was one hell of an engineer. In the mid-20s he built three cars for none other than Wolfe Barnato. Bert actually won the Rudge Whitworth Biennial Cup at LeMans behind the wheel of a "Bertelli Aston."
After the unpleasantness with the Germans, Sir David Brown continued the continental collaboration when he took over Aston. By the mid-50s, Brown had turned to Carrozzeria Touring to coachbuild the DB4. And why not? Carrozzeria had no only pioneered the Superleggera system (lightweight alloy panels stretched over tubular frame) but had build such humdingers as the 8C for Alfa and the 328 Touring Coupe for BMW. While pretty, the DB4 was just not enough.
So, Aston Martin pumped out the DB4 GT. Power from the Tadek Marek designed 3.7-liter DOHC straight-6 was bumped from 240 to 302 hp. The wheelbase was shortened, which meant that the useless to begin with backseat was gone in the GT. The aluminum was thinner (i.e. lighter) and the headlights were cowled, taking a blind-stab at aerodynamics. And while the DB4 GT was a nice improvement over the "standard" car and did reasonably well on the track, it still wasn't enough. Translation: the DB4 GT couldn't compete with Ferrari 250 GTs. So Brown (presumably) picked up the phone and called Zagato.
With a track record studded with such winners as the Fiat 8V, OSCA 4500 Biondetti, Alfa 8C 2900 and Jaguar XK 140 Z, Brown would have been nuts to call anyone else. Zagato was more than happy to rip the DB4 GT apart and rebuild it. Steel pieces were replaced with aluminum ones and the car was made even smaller still than the GT. Perspex was used in place of heavier glass. The bumpers were ripped off, along with everything that wasn't needed in a racing car. The engine even got re-jiggered to the tune of 314 hp, which in 1960 was pretty boss. Especially in a 2,701 pound whip. But the real legacy of the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato involves the young designer named Ercole Spada.
Spada, who would go on to design both the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Giulia TZ, crafted what to my eyes is one of the very most beautiful cars ever. We're talking top 10 here, if not top 5. The DB4 GT Zagato was his first gig. Do I need to mention beginner's luck? Gone was the inherent British slab-sidedness and upright grill. In were sumptuous Italian curves and unrealistically killer detailing. While simple at first, repeated gawking reveals Spada's knockout to be quite complex, especially if you change angles. I notice something new and enticing almost every time. Checkout the fishy-faced hood metal bending over the grill in profile. Pretty friggin' nifty, you ask me.
How'd the Aston Zagatos fare on the track? Not so hot. They could compete, even at LeMans, but the DB4 GT Zagatos were never as stiff nor as lean as the winning Ferraris of the time. The handling needed to tackle the most challenging tracks in the world was just never there. And so what? Because you know that little could matter less on an actual road. Still, if you don't win on Sunday... 25 cars were planned, but due to soft demand only 19 were ever built (though during the dark times known as the 80s Aston Martin completed 4 leftover chassis and three "new" replicas from scratch). For 1960 the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato was impressive machine only trumped by the very best sports car in the world. For 2008, the Zagato-bodied Aston is without question one of the world's most desirable. I mean. James Bond is cool, but Josepi Bondolini is righteous. Happy Voting.
The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage, So Far:
RUF RT12 | 1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage | Honda 1300 Coupe 9 | 1931 Daimler Double Six 50 Corsica Drophead Coupe | Ferrari 288 GTO | Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 | 1970 Buick GSX 455 | First Generation BMW M Coupe | Bugatti Veyron 16.4 | Ford GT | Citroen SM | Porsche 928 | Jensen FF | DeTomaso Vallelunga | Audi Quattro S1 | Buick GNX | Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R | Honorary Fantasy Garager: The LS1 Powered Rotus | Lamborghini LM002 | Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe | Ferrari 250 GTO | Bentley Speed Six | Talbot-Lago T150C SS Figoni et Falaschi Raindrop/Teardrop Coupe | Porsche 917 | Audi RS4 Avant | Lamborghini Miura | Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 | BMW E39 M5 | Jaguar E-type | Mercedes-Benz 300 SL | Dodge Charger/Challenger R/T | Toyota 2000GT | Facel Vega HK500 | Voisin C28 Aerosport | Bugatti Type 41 Royale | McLaren F1 | Maserati Bora | Continental MK II | Tucker 48 | Rolls-Royce Phantom
[The Jalopnik Fantasy Garage appears every Wednesday*. Readers vote the cars in or out. The idea is that we'll have 50 cars in our Fantasy Garage, the world's greatest mechanic and endless wads of cash. Would you like to nominate a car for the Fantasy Garage? Write email@example.com with the subject line "Fantasy."
*Sorry about last week. New Years and all that.]