Wednesday, 5 February 2014


Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Zagato's sylph-like remodelling of the Aston Martin DB4GT brought forth arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever created. From its Frenched-in tail-lights to the subtly stretched mouth, every inch of it exudes class and delicacy, while somehow pulling off the neat trick of being muscular and aggressive at the same time.
Debuting at the 1960 London Motor Show, the Zagato DB4 was basically a DB4GT underneath (that is, a sporty reworking of the DB4, with a 3.7-litre straight-six with twin spark plugs, two distributors, and three twin-choke Weber carbs), but lightened, honed and optimised for competition. The fact that its aluminium curves were jaw-droppingly gorgeous was seemingly a secondary issue. Just nineteen DB4GT Zagatos were built - as well as seventy-five standard DB4GTs, and one Bertone special called the 'Jet' - and their value today is, well, stratospheric.

Two of the nineteen Zagatos were built even lighter than the others, intended to race with John Ogier's Essex Racing outfit - these were registered 1 VEV and 2 VEV. These DB4s first saw action at the 1961 Le Mans 24hr, although neither car finished due to mechanical issues. (The heads hadn't been tightened, leading to head gasket failure - bit embarrassing.) But from then on, they dove into competition success with alacrity - 2 VEV entered the British Grand Prix support race at Aintree in July '61 and won it with ease, and the following year the car was lent to Equipe National Belge to race at Spa; unfortunately, Lucien Bianchi - having taken an early lead in the race - span out and totally destroyed the car.
The remains of 2 VEV were returned to Feltham for a full rebuild - it retained the original chassis number, 0183R, although some uncharitable sorts have suggested that it's something of a Trigger's Broom. Still, there were many original parts in there, and the rebuild saw the car come back with a lower, flatter roofline, broader rear wings, a longer tail and greater overhangs at either end - an altogether more aerodynamic package. It was then campaigned by Jim Clark, among others... who managed to crash it at Goodwood in August 1963, colliding with John Surtees' Ferrari 250 GTO. It was repaired again, campaigned again, and so the cycle continued.
After decades of racing across the globe, 2 VEV suffered another swathe of horrendous damage in 1993, crashing at an event on the Isle of Man. At this point, it spent two whole years at Newport Pagnell being fully and sympathetically rebuilt to 1963 specs, and has spent its time since then winning awards at concours events. (It did run up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the mid-nineties, but the proximity of the famous flint wall made its owner decide that once was enough!)

So there we have it. A beautiful and extremely valuable car, rare as hen's teeth, pedigree in spades, and a long history of being bashed about. But now it's enjoying its retirement in luxurious style. That's probably for the best, isn't it?

Spotted at Salon Privé 2013 - click here for more photos.

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