Spotlight on the Zagato Aston market, plus previews of forthcoming sales
A LITTLE MORE than two years ago I received a sternly worded note from a reader, prompted by a quip made at the expense of a £247,900 V8 Zagato. To have likened the strangely dressed V8 to the Nissan Bluebird was, he wrote, ‘most uncharitable – to the Bluebird’.
Said gentleman’s letter sticks out in the memory because it was the only one written following the publication of issue 8 that did not suggest I might want to visit an optician.
Whether the V8 Zagato looks good or not is a matter of taste, but my backand-forth with fans of the car cemented this view: Zagato is the Jimi Hendrix of the coachbuilding world, a gifted eccentric capable of classically beautiful work but inclined to experiment, and – this is the crucial part – not judged by the same standards as most.
Zagato’s reputation for left-field styling brilliance is such that its cars are no longer assessed in any conventional way. Just as there are no good or bad Hendrix songs, there are no good Zagatos or bad Zagatos – only great ones and interesting ones. They’re all considered important, and at auction you’ll pay a sort of ‘genius premium’ for any of them.
The carrozzeria’s Astons have always been hot property, but in recent years their separation from the cars on which they are based has become increasingly pronounced. A standard DB4 GT remains the holy grail for many Aston enthusiasts, and book price for a concours car, if you can find one for sale, is nudging $3 million. (It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, the new continuation cars have on values.) An awful lot of money, but pocket change compared with the $14.3 million paid for the 14th Zagato-bodied variant at RM Sotheby’s New York sale in 2015.
The separation is even more extreme at the less pointy end of the market. The DB7, even in Vantage spec, remains an affordable proposition: shortly after our deadline, Barons will offer a 2000 example (admittedly a high-mileage car in need of minor touch-ups) with an estimate of £19,000-22,000. Garage queens can still be had for around twice the latter figure. Want a coupé sprinkled with Zagato’s magic dust? RM sold one at its Paris sale in February for ¤ 392,000.
The Us-market, open-top DB AR1 has been a staple of posh auctions in recent months, and is similarly expensive. At RM’S Phoenix sale in January, an excellent car fetched $379,500. The 800 miles on the clock no doubt encouraged bidders to splurge – or perhaps it was the pair of original and unused umbrellas mounted inside the boot lid… Prized collector’s items, those.
One impressive result always brings other cars out of the woodwork, and following the sale of V12 Zagato number 26 in September for £655,200, number ‘Zero’ (titled as such at the request of the first owner) was the second Zagato creation to go under the hammer at RM’S Paris event.
With numerous one-off features, including a handcrafted badge decorated with real beetle wings, it went to a new home for an eye-watering ¤ 750,400 – getting on for twice the car’s price when new. Like the One-77, the V12 has defied the depreciation curve.
Values of the older Zagato models have largely tracked the (pretty loopy) general market for collector cars, so it should be expected that they will flatten somewhat as the market consolidates – but don’t expect the gap between Zagatos and standard Astons to narrow any time soon. Anybody who has purchased an insurance policy in recent years knows that premiums never seem to come down any more.