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Posts filed under ‘Aston Martin’

Aston Martin V12 Zagato:
A Vantage in a Party Dress

February 9, 2012 by Matt

Aston Martin V12 Zagato Red

Autoblog reports today on the start of V12 Zagato production at Aston Martin. Not a totally new model so much as a V12 Vantage engine, drivetrain and chassis draped in new sheet metal, the new Zagato is an admirable effort by Aston to produce a car that at least looks somewhat different than their existing offerings. The DB9, DBS and Rapide and Vantage are gorgeous, to be sure, but a little hard to distinguish from one another beyond 50 yards or so. The arrival of the Zagato provides a nice point of contrast in their lineup and suggests some possible avenues for future styling directions, like the quarter lights and arc of the roofline.

Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Green Gray Grey 1961 61

For those wondering about the odd name, the Zagato in the latest in a line of rewrapped Astons dating back to the original DB4 GT Zagato of ’60-’63 (shown above). A competition version of the DB4, Aston commissioned Italian automotive design consultancy Zagato to develop their already-competitive DB4 into a racer with an additional turn of speed. The Italian firm replaced and reshaped the steel bodywork with more aerodynamic aluminum, lighting the car considerably, and bumped up the 3.7l inline-6’s compression to increase output to a stout 315 hp, considerable for the day. Only 25 were ever made, resulting in one of the rarest and most sought-after models produced by an already “exclusive” automaker. With its bold grille and substantial haunches, the new Zagato aims to capture some of the original’s mystique.

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Movie Stars: The Aston Martin DB5

December 23, 2011 by Matt

Aston Martin DB5 DB-5 Silver James Bond Goldfinger Car

The Aston Martin DB5 would be nothing more than a footnote in its automaker’s history had it not become arguably the greatest movie car of all time. Unlike other movie cars (DeLorean, Volvo P1800, etc) which were catapulted from obscurity to screen stardom but still had something intrinsically unique and memorable about them, the DB5 was nothing more than a 3-year (’63-’65) transitional model between the more significant DB4 and DB6. The former was the first “modern” car from the British prestige automaker, featuring proportions and mature design details passed down to every subsequent Aston. The DB5 only differed substantially from the ‘4 in that it had a 5-speed transmission and a third SU carb providing fuel to its 0.3l-larger 4.0l, 282-hp inline six. And the later DB6 was an important stepping stone to the V8 Vantage that carried the company through the turbulent ’70s. The ‘6 was larger than the ‘5 in many key dimensions, had a host of styling alterations and upgraded equipment and featured more conventional body-on-frame construction in place of the DB5’s tube-frame structure.

For as few changes as it incorporated over the DB4, and for as many differences as the DB6 featured, it’s safe to say the DB5 was just a stopgap—until it rocketed to worldwide fame as the Bond car in the iconic ’64 feature Goldfinger.

Aston Martin DB5 DB-5 James Bond Goldfinger Car Interior Inside Cockpit Dashboard

Curiously, to me, the story of the DB5’s somewhat improbable celebrity has certain parallels with that of another notable Briton—and another “5”—Henry V. Reigning for 9 short years (1413-1422), sandwiched between more long-lived and significant monarchs, achiever of a handful of notable military successes (Agincourt, among others) in the same way the DB5 was inherently a good car, Henry V’s tenure on the throne would likely be much more obscure were he not immortalized in William Shakespeare’s play. As with the Aston, it’s amazing what a little publicity can do for one’s historical perception. Like king, like car.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:<

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Design Highs and Lows: William Towns

November 2, 2011 by Matt

1970 Aston Martin DBS First Generation Old Blue

Observe the car pictured above, a 1970 Aston Martin DBS. Muscular, but nicely tailored. Bulldog-ish in a sort of British muscle car fashion. Classically-proportioned and free of frivolous adornment.

Now, take a gander at the car in the image below, a 1978 Aston Martin Lagonda. I regret to inform you that yes, this car was actually built in quantity and loosed upon the civilized world. 627 of them, to be precise. Over an agonizingly long 16 year period, at the end of which they still hadn’t resolved all the car’s wildly overambitious electronic features. Incidentally, “wildly overambitious” would also be a generous description of the styling, which, well…just look at it. Words fail me. The sheer size, the shape, its utterly reckless, angular arrogance… I think I would be catatonic if I saw one in the flesh.

Aston Martin Lagonda Burgundy Auburn

Hard to believe the cars were made by the same automaker, isn’t it? And this the same manufacturer that recently graced the automotive world with some of its most stunning creations in the DB7 and DB9… But not only is the same firm responsible for both, the same man—one William Towns—penned both cars’ designs. Over his 40-odd year career, the British designer styled cars exclusively for British automakers, besides the DBS shown at top, and got lucky with a few well-received shapes—the Jensen-Healey among them. Mostly though, he stuck to drawing boxy little city cars and other transportation appliances, and precious few of them were actually produced in the automotive wasteland that was ’70s and ’80s Britain. Unfortunately for Towns, then, his most notorious design is far better known than his best, and it’s the one that defines his legacy.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series where I highlight one example of both excellent and awful design from a noted styling house or designer. Read the other installments here:

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