Classic Porsche gains exclusive access to the latest ʻcontinuationʼ model to come from the workshops of world famous coachbuilders, Zagato. Based on a Porsche 356B, Zagatoʼs ʻSanction IIʼ coupé brings the past to life as a limited line of just nine hand-c
Classic Porsche gets an exclusive preview of the new Zagato-bodied 356
These days, many renowned manufacturers are trying their luck at recreating important models from their past. After Jaguar ʼs announcement to build a series of nine ʻnewʼ XKSS models, Aston Martin also revealed plans to build a small series of 25 DB4 GT models. Up until now, Porsche has not any disclosed plans of this sort, but that doesnʼt mean that well-heeled car collectors couldnʼt relive a most fascinating chapter of the companyʼs illustrious history. Because itʼs not the Stuttgart brand but the Italian design house Zagato which is planning a relaunch of a very specific Porsche model to remind the world of the successful collaboration of Zagato and Porsche.
To learn more about this project, Classic Porsche travelled to Zagatoʼs headquarters in Rho near Milan to see what this is all about, the first publication in the world to do so. Anybody who knows their Porsche history is aware of a small series of 20 Porsche 356 Carrera Abarth GTL coupés built in the early 1960s which sported a Zagato body. But the basis for the car we are here to see today is even rarer than that.
We asked company heir and company CEO Dr Andrea Zagato about his plans: ʻIn almost 100 years, Zagato has designed and built roughly 400 different car models – some very well-known ones, others less so. And not all of them survived. Thatʼs why we decided a few years ago to recreate some select models that have been essential for our brandʼs development throughout its history. These cars are called “Sanction II” models.ʼ
But there are conditions attached, and Andrea Zagato explains a few of them. ʻThese cars would have had to be important for the design development of our company.ʼ Because, in contrast to Jaguar or Aston Martin, Zagato insists on only recreating those models that are definitely lost to the world, which means there are no surviving original examples. ʻA sanctioned recreation allows the world to see and experience these cars which they otherwise would not be able to enjoy,ʼ says Zagato.
In 2006, at the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Lancia brand, Zagato focused on the Lancia Aprilia Sport Zagato. This roadster, which had originally been penned by
“WE DECIDED TO RECREATE SOME SELECT MODELS…”
Andreaʼs grandfather Ugo Zagato in 1938, is of great significance for the Italian design house. The ground-breaking design featured a mostly flush exterior without protruding fenders – as was the norm in those days – and was clearly influenced by Ugoʼs background in aviation as it resembled an aircraft wing in profile.
However, when recreating the form, Ugoʼs grandson Andrea wasnʼt able to rely on original drawings or blueprints with dimensions, because Zagatoʼs archives had been destroyed almost entirely during WWII by British RAF bombs.
ʻFor our Sanction II recreations we had nothing more than some poor black and white images as reference points,ʼ says Zagato. With the use of CAD, Andrea and his team developed a computer-aided measuring system that was laid as a grid over the original photographs. ʻWe always used the same grid and applied it to every photograph we could find,ʼ Zagato explains proudly. ʻIn the end, we arrived at a collection of measuring points which allowed us, without a doubt, to determine what the car looked like in the day and what the detailed dimensions were.ʼ
On the basis of these data points, a computer created a detailed rendering – called ʻmathematical master ʼ at Zagato – which was used to form a wooden buck over which highlyskilled Italian craftsmen later formed the body panels by hand. The result was a small series of nine Lancia Aprilia Sanction II models which Andrea Zagato launched at the Bologna Motor Show in 2006.
Why nine? Zagato smiles because he had anticipated the question. ʻNine is the number for collector ʼs items. An artist usually creates one original, the so-called artistʼs proof, and he can make up to nine copies of it. More than that and itʼs called a series. So, thatʼs why we make only nine.ʼ After the success with the Lancia, in 2007 a wealthy Ferrari collector got Zagato to make one single recreation of the Ferrari 166 Zagato Panoramica, where the original car had also been lost.
Fast forward to 2012 and this is where the story gets highly interesting for Porsche aficionados. Even before the collaboration with Abarth led to the construction of 20 Porsche 356 Abarth Zagato GTL coupés in the early 1960s, the connection between Stuttgart and Milan began with a very special order by one of Porscheʼs factory drivers, the Frenchman Claude Storez.
The son of a French painter, who in 1950s France was considered one of the most talented drivers around, had ordered a new Porsche 356A Speedster with a Carrera GT engine. According to factory documents, chassis #84907 (with engine #91009) was registered as manufactured without interior or paint on 13th May 1958. The engine was installed a week later on 20th May.
Next, the unfinished vehicle was brought to Zagato in Rho for the construction of a special body. In August of the same year, #84907 returned one last time to the Stuttgart factory for final technical checks before Storez took delivery in September 1958 at Parisian Porsche dealer Sonauto, and registered it with French plates.
That same year, Storez entered the Tour de France with his new Speedster and received starting number 158. However, he wasnʼt able to complete the race. In February 1959, Storez was killed in an accident at the Route du Nord Rallye in Reims, as a consequence of which the Zagato Speedster was destroyed. It was presumed at the time that the accident was caused by bad tyres.
In 2012, Andrea Zagato considered this Porsche 356 Carrera Speedster Zagato, the beginning of the collaboration between the Stuttgart and Milanese firms, a fitting candidate for a recreation in a series of nine examples. He says: ʻHere, too, all we had was black and white pictures, but luckily these were better than those we had for previous projects.ʼ
The photos were used to create the ʻmathematical master ʼ, and Andrea Zagato says: ʻIt was immediately clear how different this Speedster was compared to the Porsche models. It was a lot lower, the front end was shallower and at the rear it had little stabilising fins.ʼ One single photo also showed the unique door hinges which Zagato was able to reproduce. Says Andrea proudly: ʻDuring our research for the Speedster project, Porsche supported us and eventually sent us a congratulatory letter.ʼ It will come as no surprise that the Speedster series is sold out.
During our visit in Rho, we found two of those Speedsters which have remained at the factory for some final touches. But the reason for our visit is the brand-new car, the prototype of a new ʻSanction IIʼ, a closed version of the Porsche 356 Carrera Zagato. Andrea explains: ʻDuring research for the Speedster in our own archives we found drawings of a closed
version which we knew next to nothing about. This coupé is very important as it is the link between Storezʼ Speedster and the later Porsche 356 Abarth GTL coupés.ʼ
The Italian specialists scanned the coupé drawings using the same grid system as with previous models. After extensive computer calculations, a master buck was cut using CNC machines. Afterwards, body specialists created the new body over this buck out of light aluminium. Apart from the very aerodynamic form, the use of the light alloy had been an important element for the success of Zagato models in their time. ʻIn the 1950s and ʼ60s, the Monday papers were full of Zagato race wins from the previous weekend. Lightweight construction and aerodynamic design made even cars with less powerful engines into race winners,ʼ says Andrea.
Before we are allowed a peek behind the doors bearing the words ʻWarning – No entryʼ, the company CEO invites us into a little presentation room to show us the mathematical master for Zagatoʼs newest Sanction II. Looking at a comparison of old Speedster photographs with and without the grid, as well as the only existing drawing of the coupé, we notice one thing right away. The softly flowing roofline at the rear and the visual centre of gravity moved further back make the design look even more settled, more conclusive. ʻItʼs immediately clear that the roof makes an enormous difference,ʼ Andrea Zagato concurs.
A few minutes later we get to see for the first time the new Porsche 356 Carrera Coupé Zagato with our own eyes. It is almost like being at a new car launch at a motor show. There are mechanics still fettling with the last details on the car, and not only are we the first magazine to see the end result, Zagato has also invited two potential customers for this afternoon to have a first look at this wonderful relic from better times. ʻWe are again creating nine examples of this model, and most are spoken for…ʼ smiles Zagato.
The silver coupé looks confident and convincing. It is significantly more slender and visually ʻlighter ʼ than its base. ʻThe front end was of particular importance for my father Elio when he designed this car,ʼ says Andrea. ʻIn order to create
this particularly low front, we had to move the spare wheel, which is placed almost vertically in the standard car, and lay it almost flat, so the body could be even shallower.ʼ
The rounded front is dominated by only slightly protruding fenders with integrated headlights and fresh air inlets set below them. The headlights behind their plastic covers are slightly set back, which makes them stylistically more interesting. With the height reduced by 137mm to only 1190mm, the short coupé looks more slender and longer than it actually is. In reality, the 356 Coupé Zagato is only 3880mm long, a full 128mm shorter than a standard 356B.
In side view both coupé and Speedster share a pronounced shoulder line which falls slightly towards the rear of the passenger doors only to rise again and almost cover the rear wheels. The window area is longer and lower while the rear windowʼs lower end echoes the rear fender line. The delicate door handles are an especially playful Zagato detail: they need to be pressed in first for the pull handle itself to pop out.
At the back, the body line almost resembles an American fastback as it slowly descends to the bumperless rear end. Two separate grilles clearly recall Porsche design cues, while the single centre exhaust reminds us of the standard 1.5-litre Carrera engine mounted in the back. Only the rather bland looking square rear lights indicate that, in creating the original, the company occasionally had to make do with available items.
The interior is spartan, 356-style, but its reduction to the essential also makes it more appealing. Behind the wooden three-spoke Nardi steering wheel there is a dashboard made entirely out of metal, showing three big dials with classic green Porsche lettering. To the left is a combination dial showing fuel level and oil temperature, the speedo is in the centre and the tachometer is all the way to the right. To start, there is a key to the right of the driver that just begs to be turned. The white piping on the black leather seats is the only frivolous styling element.
Whatʼs left for us to ask is the obvious and unpleasant question about pricing. Andrea Zagato replies with typical Italian relaxedness: ʻGetting a 356B from 1959 as a base today will put you back about €100,000 if you donʼt want to invest too much into a restoration. The cost for the conversion into a Coupé Zagato is of course entirely dependent on the customer ʼs wishes, but given the time invested you would have to expect to pay another €300,000.ʼ
Taking into account recent auction prices of some extremely rare 356 variants, it can be expected that buyers of a Porsche 356 Carrera Coupé Zagato will most likely find this to be a sound investment… CP
Below, left and right: One of just nine recreations of the Storez Speedster, the success of which inspired Zagato to continue the Sanction II programme with the Porsche 356 coupé
Above: Taking an original photograph, Zagatoʼs design team used computers to scan in various known reference points, before producing a smooth rendering, from which a buck could be made
Above: The result of Zagatoʼs hard work is quite simply stunning – clearly related to the original Carrera Abarth, the Sanction II has a fresh yet timeless look
Below right: This is the sole surviving drawing of the proposed coupé, which Andrea found in the archives
Below left: Andrea Zagato took time to explain to Classic Porsche the fascinating story behind the remarkable project
Below: Rear replicates that of the Storez Speedster and has more than a hint of the Carrera Abarth GTL coupés about it. Engine can be spied through the twin grilles
Above, left to right: Interior is simply appointed, with just three gauges, a Nardi steering wheel and 356 handles. The only frivolity is in the form of white piping on the leather-trimmed seats…
Below left: Zagato museum contains an example of all important models styled by the company
Above left and right: Andrea Zagato is justifiably proud of the end result, and took time to explain how the one remaining drawing of a coupé was used as inspiration for the project
Below: Engine in ʻour ʼ example is a regular pushrod, but a Fuhrmann fourcam would be perfect…