2017 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Speedster
Similar in concept to the earlier AR1, the 2017 Speedster was another Zagato-designed convertible, only this time based on the then current Vanquish S. Just 28 were produced, making it one of the rarest Aston Martins of the modern age and we’ve driven one.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY PAUL WALTON
VANQUISH ZAGATO SPEEDSTER
In the late 2010s, Zagato rebodied a handful of the-then current Vanquish with a handsome Speedster style of body.
Just as the Zagato coupe and AR1 saw out production of the DB7 Vantage in the early 2000s, a series of four special editions, which were again designed by the Italian house, did the same for the second generation of Vanquish 15 years later. Based on the more powerful S version, they were also the last cars to use both Aston Martin’s VH chassis plus its 5.9-litre V12.
The rarest and arguably more interesting of these Zagato-designed models was the Speedster that, similar to what AR1 had done for the DB7, transformed the Vanquish into more of a lighter, faster and driver-focused sports car.
The series started in 2016 with the carbon fibre-bodied Zagato Concept that was based on the Vanquish S complete with the production car’s 595bhp version of the 5.9-litre V12 and its eight-speed semi-automatic gearbox. Revealed at the prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, held on the shore of Lake Como, as a handsome yet muscular coupe, it was clearly influenced by the recent Vulcan and One-77 supercars yet having more of an Italian flavour.
“We pride ourselves on our strong partnership and the creation of the Vanquish Zagato Concept was a true shared experience,” said Zagato’s CEO, Andrea Zagato, at the time, “it represents the essence of an important design relationship that dates back over fifty years.”
A month later it was announced the car would be put into limited production of just 99 examples, all which would be built to order at Aston Martin’s facility in Gaydon. Despite the £500,000 price tag, they all sold almost immediately after the car’s announcement.
A Volante version soon followed that shared the same proportions as the coupe. Aston design boss,Marek Reichman, said the brand had, “endeavoured to create an elegant, flowing shape that emphasises the car’s sculptured rear haunches.” As with the hardtop, a mere 99 would be produced although this time it would cost a little over half a million.
Yet neither Aston nor its Italian partner was finished, for 12 months later, two further Vanquish-based limited editions were revealed; a Shooting Brake plus another convertible that, thanks to not having a roof, was accurately and excitingly named the Speedster.
“Why create a family of Zagatos?” said Reichman at the time. “Well, many of our customers want different things. Some prefer the purity of a coupe, but others love the idea of something more extreme, such as the Speedster. And yes, some of them have ordered one of each.
“Creating cars with Zagato is a true creative partnership,” he added. “Andrea Zagato and his team have direct input, so these cars are the result of a close collaboration between two design teams.”
There were again 99 examples of the Shooting Brake – which, as its first factory-produced estate, Aston said it had been conceived as “an individual and exceptional practical GT” – but the Speedster was much more exclusive. Just 28 would be built but despite costing a little under £1m each, they again all sold almost immediately.
Judging by this Ming Blue version (which according to the plaques under the bonnet and on both door treads is car number 20) that’s currently for sale through marque specialists Stratton Motor Company, based a few miles outside Norwich, it’s easy to understand why. Exciting to look at from all angles, the crisp, taut and confident linesgive the car an urgency even when stationary. This is heightened by the pair of streamlined cowls behind the seats that were designed to represent the signature double bubble shape on the roof of Zagato’s coupes. Due to not having a canvas or a bulky folding mechanism and therefore a B- and C-pillar, it’s also relatively low yet still beautifully proportioned.
All of this might make it a very different kind of Aston Martin, but due to the familiar shaped grille that extends from one side of the car to the other, the Speedster’s heritage is still plainly clear. It’s like matching a pair of traditional English-made brown brogues with a modern Italian suit.
What I find most interesting about the car, though, are the beautiful details that were common with all four of these Vanquish-based Zagato models. These include the finned LED rear lights that look like they belong on a spaceship from a Fifties science fiction movie plus the pure white circular driving lights set into the mesh grille that have the same intensity as a photographer’s ring flash.
Needing to slip behind the wheel in the same way as I would into a bathtub, I sit so low I feel I can reach out and touch the ground which further adds to the car’s excitement on the road.
The dashboard is largely as per the standard Vanquish which, considering the Speedster’s original high purchase price, is disappointing. But there are some nice touches such as Zagato’s Z logo that’s been delicately embroidered into the headrests and the door cards plus a chrome version of it between the two seats.
The 5.9-litre V12 roars into life the moment I press the key into its slot in the dash and after pressing the drive button next to it, I head into the lush countryside that surrounds Stratton’s Norfolk showroom. On a long empty road, I drop down a couple of gears by pulling on the left-hand steering wheel mounted paddle and with the revs built up, nail the throttle.
Although the engine is in the same 595bhp state of tune as the Vanquish S, due to the Speedster’s carbon fibre panels and lack of roof, it weighs significantly less than the almost 2,000kg of the standard coupe. The resultant white-knuckle acceleration is therefore even more instant, the big V12 demanding to be revved hard before the engine’s wail reaches its ear-splitting crescendo, so loud that the good folks of Norwich can no doubt hear me. The final iteration of Aston’s magnificent but by now ageing 5.9-litre V12, its yowling mid-range punch is so typical of an old-fashioned normally aspirated engine.
When I finally pull the right-hand paddle, the manual changes are instant, sharp yet still relatively smooth, the ‘box largely intuitive.
With its adaptive dampers, the Vanquish S was already a fine handling car but its weight and size made it perhaps more of a grand tourer. But by being considerably lighter and its nicely weighted steering more direct, the Speedster feels much more like a nimble sports car, its character now closer to that of a V8 Vantage.
With the chassis always perfectly composed, I’m able to balance the car through a long corner before burying the pedal at the exit when once again the car accelerates with a stomach-churning hardness.
Both the VH platform and 5.9-litre V12 might have been getting long in the tooth when these four special editions of the Vanquish arrived in the mid-2010s. Yet just as the AR1 did for the DB7, the Speedster more than proved that even at the end they still made a credible and exciting sports car.
|Blue Q Special Paint
|Blue Metallic Leather
|8-Speed Touchtronic III
Thanks to: Stratton Motor Company (strattonmotorcompany.com/1508 530491)