My Car Quest

September 27, 2023

1986 Aston Martin Vantage Zagato

When two famous names worked on a car together with less than stirring results.

by Wallace Wyss –

With the Sixties Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, being one of the most beautiful cars of the Sixties, ya think that any Aston done by Zagato would be something to look forward to. Uh, no. No guarantee.

Just look at this one from 1986. It was announced a year previously at the 1985 Geneva Motor Show with actual cars available a year later and every damn one of the fifty sold in advance to customers plunking down a 115,000 Pounds Sterling deposit for the 187,000 Pounds Sterling car.

1986 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato

The idea of the car was that, though the standard Vantage was already one of the fastest four seaters in the world; shortening the wheelbase, dumping the rear seats, hyping up the engine and going for a more aerodynamic body (where even the side glass was mounted flush would make for the ultimate car. Right?

1986 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato

Wrong. It was a real world class bow-wow in looks. The front end was exceedingly bland, more like a Toyota Celica. They had to have a power bulge to clear the airbox for the side draught Weber 48 IDA carbs but that rounded bulge, taller at one end than the other, didn’t fit the flat surfaces looking like it was from other car.

The designer of record was Giuseppe Mittino, who was appointed to be chief of Zagato design in 1970. I researched the name and found out he is a minor celebrity among Italian car designers, having done some other one-offs and some limited production cars bearing the Zagato “Z” including the ’72 Fiat 132 Asta, the ’75 Zeta 80, two Ferraris, one a 330 and the other a 250GT SWB Spyder.

There was first a coupe version of the Aston presented at the Geneva motor show in 1986, and then, a few months later, a convertible. In all there were 52 coupes and 37 cabriolets, at a heady price, nearly £450,000. The car had mixed reviews as far as styling.

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The engine was a V8 displacing 5341 cc With Webers it cranked out 430 horsepower, which could get it up to 300 km/h (186 mph). Two gearboxes were available, a 6-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic (another source says it had a 3-speed Chrysler automatic), but with the automatic, your top end was a notch slower, at 295 km/h. Aston tried to experiment with electric power steering and the device was unreliable which delayed production of the car.

It was a car rarely seen in the U.S. only 15 were Left Hand drive.


FRONT: From the front view, this has to qualify as one of the worst Italian designs ever, squared off, no Italian flavor, looks like an ‘80s Toyota Celica. Hood bulge is seriously out of whack with flat surfaces throughout the car, looking like a wound that has swollen up from infection. The double bubble of the roof, meant to recall early ‘60s designs, is so small that you hardly notice it.

1986 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato

SIDE: Coupe has “airy” (i.e. lots of glass) cabin but side profile of the roofline reminds one of many economy cars of the time. The fact only part of the side door windows retracts could induce claustrophobia for some riders. Didn’t I see those same style windows in a Subaru?

1986 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato


REAR: Spoiler looks (and is) tacked on as afterthought. At least horizontal taillights match other Astons of the period.

1986 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato

IN SUM: Usually you go to Italy for a new cutting-edge design, one that your company can run with not only on one model but which could spread to the other models but this was one time Aston made a mistake dialing Italy. One wag suggested it copied the French Matra Murena, a car that was a mere fraction of the cost.

Still, despite all the brickbats I’ve thrown at it, when they come up for auction they bid over 200,000 Pounds so there must be some Brits who fancy them, remembering when they were momentarily the fastest British car and the most expensive British car on the market, but I’d say it would be a nostalgia buy; not one driven by the beauty of the car. Only its mother could love it.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car histories . He has been a Guest Lecturer on design history at the Art Center College of Design.


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1986 Aston Martin Vantage Zagato
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1986 Aston Martin Vantage Zagato
It was a real world class bow-wow in looks. The front end was exceedingly bland, more like a Toyota Celica.


  1. More curious how this one made it past the prototype stage… not one of Zagato’s shining moments.

  2. Raymond Zinn says

    Finished the article and already forgot what it looked like.
    Like so many of those ’70s boxes but somewhat more expensive.

  3. Aston Martin has a history of producing some of the most beautiful cars ever, both before and after 1986. And Zagato built their company on beautiful designs.

    I don’t know what happened here but Wallace’s comparison to the Toyota Celica seems right. Here is a sales brochure image of the Celica.

    You decide.

  4. SKIP HINOJOS says


  5. And right now anyone can pick up a decent Giugiaro designed Subaru SVX for under 5 Grand.

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