Of the many models in Aston Martin’s 90-year history, and of the DB series of 6-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 set aside 23 chassis numbers. It is an indication of the affection felt for these beautiful cars that all 19 are still in existence, many in the U.K.
Almost 30 years later, a factory-approved project was launched to revive this iconic model in collaboration with the original coachbuilder, 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 uprate four DB4 rolling chassis to DB4GT specification.
Williams was involved with the running of Aston Martin’s World Sportscar Team at the time, and so the project was delayed for a year. When the Milton Keynes factory closed, it was possible to devote the required attention to the four cars, which after completion were shipped to Italy to be fitted with Zagato’s stunningly beautiful, hand-crafted body.
They were then returned to Williams, at that time the owner of one of the original 19 (chassis number 0181), who fitted the interiors and completed the cars at his new premises in Cobham, Surrey.
Said by Williams to be so authentic that “very, very few people” would be able to see the difference, the four Sanction II cars were given chassis numbers DB4GT0192, DB4GT0196, DB4GT0197 and DB4GT0198, 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 and was replaced by “mark.”
Victor Gauntlett said at the time, “The quality and authenticity are outstanding, and each of these four cars will bear the most detailed comparison with the first 19 built. It is also important that Zagato have wholeheartedly approved the project. It was inevitable that all of us involved would, and indeed should, agonize over the decision to launch this project, since the very word ‘replica’ has been degraded in recent years.
“Finally, it was a question in our minds both of the unqualified support of our friends at Zagato and of the uncompromising level of quality that would go into the chassis and bodywork. Satisfied on these points, there was nothing to stop these four stunning motor cars being produced.”
All four Sanction II cars were launched at Protech House, Cobham, on July 22, 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-liter specification; 4-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 Watt linkage; rack-and-pinion steering; and a 35-gallon fuel tank. With 352 horsepower on tap (some 50 horsepower more than the 3.7-liter DB4GT), the Sanction II raced to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and reached the “ton” in 12.2 on its way to a top speed of 153 mph.
With only four Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato Sanction IIs made, 0198R represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of these fabulous cars, which will become increasingly collectible.