Of the many models in Aston Martin's 90-year history, and of the DB series of six-cylinder cars in particular, the DB4GT Zagato is arguably the best loved and most respected. The original collaboration between Aston Martin and Zagato of Milan resulted in a production run of only 19 constructed between 1961 and 1963, although the factory did set aside 23 chassis numbers. It is an indication of the affection felt for these beautiful cars is that all 19 are still in existence, many in the UK.
The DB4GT Zagato made its racing debut at the Goodwood Easter meeting in 1961 in the hands of Stirling Moss, who brought the car home in third place. Two months later two DB4GT Zagatos, registered '1 VEV' and '2 VEV' and destined to become the most famous of them all, were entered at Le Mans by John Ogier's Essex Racing Stable. Regrettably this attempt at a second Le Mans victory for Aston Martin ended in less than three hours, both cars retiring with gasket trouble. The Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in September of that year proved far more successful when the two cars, driven by Roy Salvadori, one Aston Martin's Le Mans-winning drivers of 1959, and the legendary Jim Clark came home third and fourth, scooping the Team Prize.
Almost 30 years later a factory-approved project was launched to revive this iconic model in collaboration with the original coachbuilders, Carrozzeria Zagato of Milan. The project was instigated in 1987 by the company's then joint chairmen, Victor Gauntlett and Peter Livanos, who commissioned the renowned Aston Martin specialist Richard Williams to up-rate four DB4 rolling chassis to DB4GT specification. Once that was completed, the cars were then shipped to Italy to be fitted with Zagato's stunningly beautiful, hand crafted body. They were then returned to Williamswho fitted the interiors and completed the cars at his new premises in Surrey, UK.
Said by Williams, at that time the owner of one of the original 19, these cars were so authentic that 'very, very few people' would be able to see the difference. The four Sanction II cars were given chassis numbers 'DB4GT/0192', 'DB4GT/0196', 'DB4GT/0197' and 'DB4GT/0198', which had been allocated to the original project by the factory in 1960 but never used. The factory decreed that these works-approved replicas were to be known as the 'Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato Sanction II'. Sanction being a term from early motoring history, which fell out of fashion to be replaced by 'Mark'.
All four Sanction II cars were launched on 22nd July 1991. Ex-BRM and McLaren Formula 1 driver Peter Gethin took one of them around Goodwood, where his driving school was based. 'It drove beautifully,' he said. 'The engine was wonderful and pulled from way down. The track was wet but the car was very controllable. It went as well as it looked - a pleasure to drive.' Gethin remarked that the Sanction II 'looked absolutely right' at Goodwood. 'I remember contemporary photographs of the original cars at the circuit and everything seemed in place, even in 1991.'
Specification highlights of the Sanction II cars include an engine built to 4.2-litre specification (the originals used 3.7-litre units); four-speed David Brown gearbox; limited-slip differential with 3.07:1 final drive ratio; all-disc, dual circuit braking; wishbone independent front suspension with co-axial spring/damper units and anti-roll bar; live rear axle with coil springs and double-acting telescopic dampers, located by parallel trailing links and a Watts linkage; rack-and-pinion steering; and a 35-gallon (159-litre) fuel tank. With 352bhp on tap (some 50 horsepower more than the 3.7-litre DB4GT) the Sanction II raced to 60mph in 5.5 seconds and reached the 'ton' in 12.2 on its way to a top speed of 153mph.
Suggested Reading: Rare Aston Martin DB4 Zagato Sells for $1.9 Million