If I asked you to name an Aston Martin model that wasn’t built in the UK, your answer might refer to pre-2012 Rapides, or one of the shooting brakes put together by Beat Roos’ team in Frauenkappelen. But your answer probably won’t include another particular car that has never touched UK soil.
In 1998, I bought a copy of Test Drive 5. Mostly, this was a predictable disappointment, save for the inclusion of one car in the vehicle pack: the Aston Martin Project Vantage. Looking back, the graphics bore only a passing resemblance to the real car, but it didn’t matter – I was 12, I was ‘driving’ a V12-engined concept car three years before the production model would get its first outing on the road, and it felt awesome.
My reception to the car on screen was as good as the reception received by Project Vantage in the metal at Detroit that same year. Prospective customers hounded the company to turn the one-off concept into a small series flagship supercar. After building nearly as many prototypes as the entire One-77 production run, the V12 Vanquish had its first public outing at the Geneva Motor Show in 2001, shepherded to launch by new CEO, Dr Ulrich Bez, who had taken the reins nearly a year earlier.
A blend of carbon fibre, bonded aluminium chassis and superform aluminium body panels, the Vanquish was in a different league to the Aston Martins that came before it, which was reflected by customer demand. An anticipated 300 units manufactured per year became 500 per year once launched.
And now I need to introduce the second player in this story.
Rewind to 2001; Dr Ulrich Bez was having a quiet word with Andrea Zagato about the possibility of their two companies working together once again on a special DB7 (if you need a history lesson: DB4GT Zagato and V8 Zagato series). Within a year, the idea had gone from concept sketches to design, to clay buck and finally pre-production prototype, which was revealed to select Aston Martin clientele at Gieves & Hawkes in London’s Savile Row.
The public finally got a chance to see the DB7 Zagato a month after this reveal, at the Paris Motor Show in 2002. Four months later, the partnership wowed crowds again, this time at the Los Angeles Auto Show with the DB AR1. Sticking with the standard DB7 chassis for type approval reasons – as opposed to the 211mm shorter chassis used for the Zagato coupe – the topless V12 was aimed squarely at buyers in the largest US markets, and like its European sister car was limited to just 99 units.
The Zagato DB7 variants – both closed and open – were conceived and presented as limited edition production models, and as such were presented at their respective motor show debuts on the Aston Martin stands. However, the creation of the car in this particular Classifind was a bit different. While the Italian design house had input from Aston Martin’s then Design Manager, the V12 Vanquish Zagato Roadster was fundamentally a Zagato concept rather than an official Aston Martin proposition.
Revealed to the world at the Geneva Motor Show in 2004, there were of course no concrete plans for production. Rumours in the media of a limited run of 99 units were unfounded, and the car shown here remains one-of-a-kind. The Vanquish Zagato was imported to the USA from Italy in 2007 for a well known Aston Martin collector, where it retained a low public profile before being seen again at Gooding & Co’s Scottsdale auction in Arizona in 2010. Despite a high bid of $420,000, the car was a no sale as the reserve price was not met.
The Vanquish Zagato Roadster currently resides with Aston Martin of New England in Waltham, Massachusetts, and I suspect you will need to part with the thick end of £300,000 to bring the car back to the UK.
NB. the car is not yet fully EPA/DOT approved for use in the USA (ie, covered only by the ‘Show and Display’ rule at the moment), but I would anticipate it having a relatively quick passage through the new IVA laws in the UK should it be imported.
Want to know more? Read about the Vanquish Zagato Roadster available at AMNE.