1991 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato Sanction II Coupé Registration no. not registered with DVLA Chassis no. 0198/R Engine no. 420/0198/GT
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 in fact 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 capable 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. 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, 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 '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'.
Williams, whose own Zagato at the time (chassis number '0181') was used both in England and Italy to ensure perfect authenticity, introduced various mechanical changes to improve the handling and performance even further, while modern Goodyear Eagle tyres were used instead of the original Avons, although on the same size wheel homologated by the factory for racing in the early 1960s. Victor Gauntlett said: '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, agonise 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 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.
Chassis number '0198/R' was first owned by Tony Smith, manager of singer Phil Collins and an historic racer, who over the years has owned some of the world's greatest cars. The Aston passed to the current owner in Germany via Michael Brinkert and David Clark of Taylor & Crawley some 17 years ago. Now offered from long-term ownership and with only 4,748 miles showing on the odometer at the time of cataloguing, it is described as in good overall condition. The accompanying history file contains an expired MoT (July 1993 at 656 miles); AML certificate of authenticity signed by Victor Gauntlett; copy of a letter to VG from Gianni Zagato; assorted magazine articles (some featuring this actual car); copies of factory press releases; and blank German Fahrzeugbrief.
Furthermore, '0198/R' will be offered fresh from extensive re-commissioning at Aston Martin Works to include changing the cylinder head gasket, carburettor strip and clean, engine tune, fitting the latest RSW suspension uprights, and a full service at a cost in excess of £12,000, thereby ensuring that the fortunate new owner can drive it from the sale with confidence.
With only four Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato Sanction IIs made, '0198/R' represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire on of these fabulous cars, which will become increasingly collectible.