Patrick Ernzen ©2015, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
“Driving a 250 SWB is like wielding a hammer; it commands your respect through aggression and raw power. The Zagato, however, feels more like a tailored suit. It’s agile, sophisticated, and equally responsive… it’s a truly beautiful car to drive. And it fits perfectly.” — Peter Read After restoration, chassis 0186R hit the concours circuit, where it immediately accrued an enviable record of accolades. On its very first outing at the Louis Vuitton Concours at the Hurlingham Club in June 2002, the DB4GT Zagato not only won its class but was also named Best of Show. That win ensured an invitation to the Bagatelle Concours d’Elegance later that month, where the Aston also won its class. Further Best in Class honors were also earned at Villa d’Este, Pebble Beach and the Niello Concours in 2007, as well as at the Presidio of San Francisco Concours and the Carmel-By-The-Sea Concours in 2009. At virtually every event the car attended, it found itself driving across the stage in honor. Shown most recently at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering in August of 2013, the car remains breathtakingly beautiful. Not just a concours queen, 0186R has also been driven respectfully on several tours, where it performed marvelously and without issue. As one of the finest DB4GT Zagatos in existence, it will surely continue to excel at future events.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1962 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato
Years Produced:1960–63
Number Produced:19
Original List Price:£3,750 ($10,351) / £5,470 ($13,100) including purchase tax
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $8.5m; high sale, $14.3m (this car)
Tune Up Cost:$2,000–$3,500
Distributor Caps:Two needed at $187.88 apiece
Chassis Number Location:Plate located in engine compartment, right-hand side near firewall
Engine Number Location:On the chassis plate and on top of the block, left-hand side front, usually marked with red paint
Club Info:Aston Martin Owners Club
Alternatives:1960–62 Ferrari 250 GT SWB, 1962–64 Ferrari 250 GTO, 1956–57 Jaguar XK-SS

This car, Lot 215, sold for $14,300,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s auction in New York City on December 10, 2015.

I will attempt, without sounding glib or superfluous, to portray an insider’s view of the aforementioned auction transaction. I should also share that this insight comes from being involved with this car before it arrived on the auction block.

First, a quick overview of the Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato market:

Nineteen examples were manufactured, 19 still exist, and 19 cars are well accounted for. This is the Holy Grail of the Aston road-car world. Very few can exclaim, as that pointy-headed French guard said of his master in that Python epic, “Go away, he’s already got one!”

Each Zagato is unique in detail, shape, color, dash, seating and color combination. This is the true example of how no two are alike. Each Aston Zagato has its own DNA.

Giotto Bizzarrini may have given the grand kudos of kudos to this Aston masterpiece when he answered a question I posed to him in 1989 about building the perfect road car: “The perfect road car would have an English chassis, a 12-cylinder Ferrari motor and a body by an Italian coachbuilder.”

Well, our subject Aston is missing 6 cylinders (although it does possess 12 spark plugs), but it is as close to Giotto’s idea of perfection as I’ve ever witnessed.

I last wrote about the sale of an Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato in the May 2005 edition of SCM (English Profile, p. 40).

The lazy and unimaginative approach to this piece would be to simply refresh that story, as nothing has changed except the price. The car is still iconic, the sale was again record-breaking, and even the catalog was a piece of art within itself.

A lot has changed — except for the car

Well, I can’t take the slacker’s well-traveled road here. Although much is the same as in 2005, much is also different. Technology has truly shaped a new generation; cars are now a perceived asset class and information is shared so quickly that today’s news is over before noon.

So let me share my information and the back story to this sale as one person knows it. This is a peek into the mercurial psyches of buyer, seller, broker, dealer and auction house that one may find as amusing as the new “Star Wars” movie — or not.

“I want one…”

A client contacted me just after Amelia Island last year. He was smitten with a DB4GT Zagato that was on display.

“I want one,” he said.

Fair enough. He had previously shared the desire to own a DB4GT and was now expanding his mind, reach and wallet. With just a scant 19 of these cars on the planet — and almost 30 years of contacts — it’s not a Herculean task to legitimately gather info on who might want to sell one, especially as my pal wanted a left-hand-drive car. That’s a narrow field of fewer than 10 cars.

A week’s worth of digging concluded with my sad response to him: “No can do.” No one was selling. The best answer I got was, “I want to use mine on the Colorado Grand, but maybe after that I would consider it.” Then I found out there was already a $12m standing offer on that car, so I wasn’t early to any party in that frat house.

I didn’t want to be defeated easily, so I asked the owners of the right-hand-drive cars if anyone was a seller. Much to my delight, I was informed that chassis 0186 — the very car that is the subject of this profile — might be on the market soon. The owner was considering parting with his car for a philanthropic reason, but I had to wait until his altruistic house was in order and his plan could be properly accomplished.

Just prior to the Villa d’Este Concours, I was alerted that 0186 was coming to market very quietly. Could I provide a list of potential buyers who might want to add this jewel to their garage? Woohoo — you bet.

My original “I want one” client was busy running his 1,000-employee business (his words, not mine), wasn’t keen about right-hand-drive cars and was less keen about the $15m asking price.


Fine. I think you’re making a mistake by vacillating and not focusing but….

Thirty tough days

Being a firm believer in this particular car being one of the best on the planet, I worked with three peers, and we tried to contact everyone under the sun who might have that kind of powder coupled with desire. Timing being what it was, we failed for the better part of 30 days to get an offer above $13m. Double harrumph!

As the first week of June approached, I was contacted by a dealer in the U.K. who had a client who was willing to go to $13.75m if the car was still available — and if that number would be acceptable to the seller.

That offer happened, literally, a day late and roughly $250,000 short. The car was tied up 24 hours previous to my offer, and I’d be contacted should something fall through.

Triple harrumph!

I chatted with my colleagues, we all scratched our heads and we all wondered who ended up with the car. We thought we had asked everyone. We all obviously agreed that sooner rather than later, it would surface and the mystery buyer would be known — and surface it did.

RM Sotheby’s had the car for their “Driven By Disruption” sale in New York City. “Driven by Disruption” now had an anchor star lot, and what a star it was, or was it?

Hold on, Bunky, this ride isn’t over.

To say the collective automotive press talked about this car is like saying Donald Trump is occasionally mentioned as a presidential candidate. The collector car press was alight with headlines such as “THE MOST EXPENSIVE BRITISH CAR EVER OFFERED.” Well, sort of, as we all know that the Aston Martin DBR1, which sold in 2014, trumps this by roughly $10m, but who’s counting?

The catalog comes out and there is a $15m–$17m estimate written alongside the exquisite photography and thorough, accurate description.

What? Now, I don’t know a lot about a lot, but I know a little something about a little something, and no one was biting at above $14m six months earlier, and this was a massive hedge at that estimate. Cue heaps of muttering amongst the broker/dealer/owners of the world — who all agreed that the estimate was high — not by much — but by 10% to 15%.

NOW he wants the car

Fast-forward to November, and my original “I want one” buyer contacts me. He wanted to know whether I knew anything about the car being auctioned by RM Sotheby’s — and would I be there in New York City on the night?

“You’re pranking me, right?” After explaining that it was the same car that I tried to sell him privately months earlier — the one that was still right-hand-drive — I asked him why the car was more attractive now.

“I don’t know, maybe the presentation in the catalog got me,” he said.

Can one do a quadruple harrumph?

What happened?

In conclusion, this is my takeaway:

I confirmed on the night of the auction that another DB4GT, a left-hand-drive example, the one from the SCM article in 2005, had just traded hands for less, still probably four times the decade-old, record-setting 2005 price of $2,695,000 — but not reaching $14.3m.

Given the broker’s slightly vague answer, I’d guess the left-hand-drive example sold for about $2m less. This is pure speculation, but the owner of 0190L probably thought now might be a good time to sell — especially if our subject car, 0186R, didn’t hit its reserve in New York City. Smart.

The new owner of 0186R risked having to pay more at auction, but he ended up in more or less the same place as he would have with a private sale. But there was an underbidder or two who were right behind him.

The winner in all of this is the previous gentleman owner, I’d say. Well sold.

Being the underbidder on an Aston Zagato is only going to make you try harder for the next one, and the train keeps a rolling all night long. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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