The Rowan Atkinson, Works Service prepared and first right-hand drive 1986 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato Coupé Registration no. C71 LOG Chassis no. V8IZXGTR 20013 Engine no. V/580/0013/X(R)
With the introduction of the Vantage Zagato, Aston Martin renewed its association with one of Italys most illustrious carrozzeria, Zagato having been responsible for that most celebrated and desirable of all post-war Astons, the DB4GT Zagato. Neighbouring stands at the 1984 Geneva Salon facilitated the initial contact and by the following year the project had progressed sufficiently for Aston to accept deposits on the 50 cars planned. Part of Zagatos brief was to shed some of the standard Vantages not inconsiderable weight, which was achieved by shortening the wheelbase and deleting the rear seats, thus creating Astons first production two-seater since the DB4GT. The 5.3-litre four-cam V8 was to Vantage specification, producing 432bhp at 6,200rpm. The first prototype was displayed at Geneva in March 1986 and in June successfully met its design target by achieving a maximum speed of 186mph while on test with the French magazine Sport Auto.
One of the 52 cars eventually constructed, this Aston Martin Vantage Zagato was delivered new to its original owner in 1986 and was the first right-hand drive chassis. Bought by Rowan Atkinson in 1998 when it had covered only 7,500 miles, the car was immediately sent to Kingsley Riding-Felce and his team here at Works Service for a ground-up rebuild as a competition car, for racing with the Aston Martin Owners Club. However, it was not the intention to produce a full-blown, lightweight racer; rather, the brief was to conform to the mildly modified C2 class, thus ensuring that the car could easily be converted back to road specification.
Work undertaken included a full strip down of the car and removal of extraneous items; the production of special window moulds (excluding the windscreen) enabling Perspex windows to be made; and fitting V8 Supercharged Vantage pedal gear incorporating a master cylinder servo allowing the use of twin 8-pot calipers front and 6-pot rear with the largest discs available. (This arrangement was later changed to single 6-pot at the front to facilitate the use of 16 wheels). In addition, the gearbox was stripped and rebuilt using steel synchros instead of the standard brass.
The suspension uses Eibac springs and Koni dampers all round, which are fully adjustable in bump and rebound. Experience from the driving dynamic programmes was used to improve the handling, with help from ex-Formula 1 driver and Lotus engineer, John Miles. The interior was left looking as standard as possible.
The heart of any car is its engine and this ones really is the Jewel in the Crown: arguably the last works unit of its type and the only one designated 580XR, it was built at Newport Pagnell and is, we understand, in essence a Nimrod engine as fitted to the works Le Mans cars of that name. Weber fuel-injected and fitted with ceramic-coated exhaust headers, it comes with the original dynamometer chart showing a peak power when new of 482bhp (probably closer to 500 horsepower now) but more importantly a solid, flat torque curve (in excess of 350lb/ft from below 4,500 to 7,000rpm). This was a personal request because, when racing, Rowan does not like a peaky engine. He tells us that this Zagatos engine is truly amazing, possessing power and torque characteristics that would make it an exciting yet highly practical road car.
No stone was left unturned in lightening the Zagato within the regulations, maximising performance yet maintaining safety, so it now weighs 1,485kgs, compared to 1,800kgs for the standard car. Total rebuild cost was around £220,000, over and above the purchase price.
The Zagato made its competition debut at Silverstone in 1999 and was subsequently campaigned with much success, although the total number of races contested numbered only 15-or-so. Notable results include class wins at Brands Hatch, Thruxton and Donington.
When the car was retired from competition in 2007, it returned to Works Service to be reconverted for fast road use. Its present specification might best be described as that of a road-legal, track-day vehicle. (When the engine was developed it was set up to meet the MoT standards of its manufacture and registration date). The Safety Devices roll cages bracing bars were removed, but are available for reinstallation should the car be raced again, thus ensuring FIA approval. A heater has been installed to improve ventilation, while ride heights were raised by 10mm to increase ground clearance for the road. The brake discs and pads have been renewed all round, with the floating rotors discarded.
Looked after by Works Service Technician, Ray Brown, the car has covered only some 300-or-so miles since its re-conversion for road use. He tells us that this Zagatos engine is truly amazing, possessing power and torque characteristics that make it a very exciting yet practical road car.
A full inventory and photographic record of the large spares package is available for inspection. The package includes Dymag wheels of 18 diameter, the cars original 16 wheels and space saver, the original cream leather interior including original seats, original bonnet and spare left and right front wings in aluminium. Moulds for the glass fibre bonnet and Perspex glazing are also included. Special instruction manuals; service voucher book; retail order form; warranty card; beautifully presented and substantial history files (invoices and photographic record of rebuild, set-up and other data) come with the car. This famous Zagato comes highly recommended and is currently taxed, MoTd and possesses a Swansea V5.