Ugo Zagato is known for designing some of the most famous cars ever produced. The cars made from his designs and manufactured in his shop were lightweight, aerodynamic, and sporty. The Zagato name has appeared on vehicles from Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Bianchi, Diatto, Ferrari, Lancia, Rolls-Royce, and more.
Zagato was born on June 25, 1890, in Gavello, Italy. After his father passed away, he emigrated to Cologne, Germany, to work in a foundry at the age of 15. In 1909, he moved back to Italy to serve in the military. He then began working at Carrozzeria Varesina. In 1915, he started working at the Pomilio factory in Turin building biplanes. It was there that he learned the secrets of metal fabrication, lightweight bodywork, and aerodynamics.
In 1919, he left to start his own coachbuilding business, Carrozzeria Zagato, in Milan and incorporated what he knew about aeronautical design into innovative custom car bodies. He constructed lightweight frames out of sheet aluminum, similar to an airplane’s fuselage. The first Zagato-bodied car arrived in 1922: the Fiat 501, which featured an aluminum body stretched over a wooden frame. Later in the 1920s, the coachbuilder worked with Alfa Romeo, designing the body for the 6C 1500. His more aerodynamic designs arrived in the 1930s, with inclined windshields, headlights integrated into the bodywork, convex trunklids, and perforated disc wheels (for improved brake cooling). The “Panoramica” body arrived in the late 1940s, which had airy greenhouses that utilized Plexiglas.
Zagato passed away on October 31, 1968. His sons, Elio and Gianni, continued operating the business after their father’s death, and Elio’s son, Andrea, and his wife, Marella Rivolta-Zagato, now run the company.
Here are five cars that have sported the Zagato name:
Alfa Romeo 6C 1500
Following the success of the Fiat 501, Alfa Romeo contacted the coachbuilder to help create a successor to the heavy RL. The 6C 1500 had sleek, featherweight, and aerodynamic bodywork. Under the hood was a 1.5-liter straight-six engine made by Vittorio Jano. A 6C 1500 Sport Spider Zagato won the 1928 Mille Miglia with drivers Giuseppe Campari and Giulio Ramponi behind the wheel.
Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato
Revealed at the 1960 London Motor Show, the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato was designed by Ercole Spada at the design firm. The car was a smaller, more aerodynamic, and lighter version of the DB4 GT. Many of the GT’s steel parts were replaced with aluminum ones, helping reduce the weight by more than 100 pounds. The DB4 GT Zagato was first raced at Goodwood in 1961. Its driver, Sir Stirling Moss, finished third behind the winning Ferrari 250 GT and an Aston Martin DB4 GT.
AC Ace-Bristol Zagato
This two-door coupe had a 2-liter naturally aspirated six-cylinder engine by Bristol that put out 130 horsepower. The AC Ace-Bristol Zagato weighed a mere 1,975 pounds, with a thin aluminum body and the trademark “double bubble” roof, which helped ensure plenty of headroom for both the driver and the passenger.
Cadillac NART Zagato
The product of a joint venture among General Motors, Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team (NART), and Carrozzeria Zagato, the Cadillac NART Zagato started out as an Eldorado. The 500-cubic-inch V-8 and transaxle were relocated to the rear, and each corner had disc brakes. Chinetti credited the body’s design to his son, Luigi Chinetti Jr., and while GM contributed parts from its various brands, the design house built the car. The car’s weight was kept down due to its extensive use of aluminum.
Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake
Aston Martin will produce only 99 copies of the 2019 Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The two-door two-seater is powered by a 580-hp naturally aspirated V-12 and comes equipped with an active suspension damping system. Staying true to Zagato design, the car has an elongated version of the double bubble roof.