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Lot 247

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato

$2,900,000 - $3,200,000

3,679cc twin overhead camshaft alloy block, twin plug heads, three dual choke 45 DCOE Weber carburetors and twin distributors developing 305bhp at 6,000rpm, four-speed all-synchromesh aluminum-cased gearbox of David Brown manufacture, steel platform type chassis with aluminum inner and outer body panels, independent front suspension with wishbones and co-axial coil springs, Armstrong telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar, rear via live axle with coil springs and lever action dampers, located by four parallel trailing

links and a transverse Watt’s Linkage, Girling disc brakes front and rear on separate master cylinders and Borrani center-lock wire wheels with light alloy rims fitted with 6.00 x 16” tires. Wheelbase: 93"


While some 679 Aston Martins were handbuilt in the pre-World War II period spanning 1914 to 1940, the real glory years of the marque began when English industrialist David Brown bought both the Aston Martin and Lagonda companies in the late 1940s. Since the

beginning Astons were known as sporting motor cars of sound engineering and impeccable craftsmanship but relative financial stability and volume production did not ensue until his take-over in 1948.

David Brown’s first effort, the good looking Aston Martin DB2 of 1949 was 100 percent in-house designed and engineered, being fitted with a 2.5 liter W.O. Bentley designed Lagonda engine which powered the DB2, DB2-4 and MK II and DB MK III until 1959 when

this long stroke unit, essentially a prewar design, was phased out in favor of a new six-cylinder engine of 3.6 liter capacity. This power plant, an alloy block twin cam with hemispherical combustion chambers was designed by newly hired Polish-born engineer Tadek Marek and would serve the company well for the next 13 years for the DB4, DB4 GT, DB5, DB6 and DBS models.

In the same period arch-enthusiast Brown directed his small but dedicated staff, led by General Manager John Wyer, Engine Designer Marek and Race Engineer Ted Cutting to produce a small series of sports racing cars including the superb DB3 S and DBR 1. The Aston Martin DBR 1 helped David Brown achieve a long standing dream – to win the 24 Hours of LeMans outright, with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori driving, as well as the

1959 World Sportscar Manufacturer’s Championship, aided by team drivers Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Jack Fairman, Maurice Trintignant and Paul Frere.

It was a glorious era indeed and one which presaged the DB4 and DB5 road car series and the ultimate dual purpose Grand Touring Aston Martins of them all – the DB4 GT and the DB4 GT Zagato.


In the late fifties, the climate in which builders of limited edition sports cars lived and worked could be described in terms of a tropical paradise. Those were the days before blizzards of

regulations and mountains of bureaucracy made the atmosphere surrounding low-volume manufacturers seem more like that of an artic nightmare.

Out of the flourishing conditions could spring the most imaginative of designs. Often, it seems, these creations, with only a decade or two of patina descending on their sensuous

aluminum surfaces, rose to be regarded with reverence bestowed only on the classics.

In those days, all it often took to get the fancy machinery rollingwas a meeting and a handshake. Such a meeting took place at London’s Earls Court in 1959. Aston Martin’s fortune was at its peak, with the DBR dominating sports car racing, and a new grand

tourer off to an impressive start. And present right there on the Aston Martin stand, was further indication of the confident posture of the Newport Pagnell firm – the short-wheelbase DB4GT.

Thus it was an opportune time for John Wyer, the Aston Martin team manager turned general manager, and Gianni Zagato, to meet. Gianni Zagato was the youngest son of Ugo Zagato, and one of the two brothers who had taken over the carrozzeria after their

father’s death.

Ugo Zagato had founded the business back in 1919. His friendship with legendary Fiat-engineer Vittorio Jano had led to the design of special bodies for this manufacturer. When Jano moved to Alfa Romeo, Zagato created the look that made him famous – the

immortal series of Alfa Romeo sports and racing machines, beginning with the 1500. The arrival of World War II marked the end of this first period of the Zagato chronology.

The second period, spanning the era from the mid forties to the late fifties, produced a further collection of memorable sports car creations. These designs expressed the styling philosophy of Elio Zagato, Ugo’s oldest son, who had developed his own unique brand of aerodynamic language, based on experience gained as a part-time race driver.

The third period began when Gianni Zagato joined the company after Elio was injured in a road accident. Gianni Zagato modernized the operation and invited a brilliant young stylist,

Ercole Spada to come aboard. This association brought about another series of outstanding designs that continued to keep Zagato in the spotlight.

The Earls Court encounter did indeed produce a meeting of the minds – Wyer and Zagato shook hands on a limited lightweight edition of Aston’s new DB4 GT, bodied by the Milanese

coachbuilder with the first chassis arriving in Italy in early 1960.

The Aston Martin assignment was one of the first tackled by Spada. Only 23 years old at the time, his youthful creationdisplayed an obvious kinship to Pinin Farina’s short-wheelbase

Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta. Still, the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato made a bolder, more rousing statement. Spada accomplished this by forcing all his lines and surfaces to converge on the roof, which was conspicuously minimal and smoothly rounded. Particularly

illustrative of this conscious effort on the part of the designer, were the side panels, with their strong incline. The effect was further enhanced by the shape of the grille’s aggressively downturned corners. The result placed the viewer in the presence of a beautiful beast.

This Grand Tourer did not only look the part, it also performed the part. While most of the DB4 GT Zagatos had essentially the same chassis and drivetrain specifications as the DB4 GT, and as such were mainly intended for road use, a few were indeed set up for serious work on the racetrack. These machines had their weight reduced further, and while the engine in the standard Zagato already sported cams with a more radical profile, the racing versions, among other tuning measures, were given a higher 9.7:1 compression ratio, resulting in power rising to 314bhp.

When the factory decided to concentrate its racing efforts on Formula One in the early sixties, it was left to a few privateers to defend the Aston Martin tradition on the sports car circuit. While DB GTs run by private UK based teams like Equipe Endeavour and Essex Racing and the French Pozzoli/Kerguen/Franc team scored wins and podium finishes, the lightweight Ferrari 250 SWBs proved to be more than a match for the heavier DB4 GTs in international racing. This, despite a star-studded cast of Aston Martin drivers that included Stirling Moss, Innes Ireland, Roy Salvadori, Jim Clark and a young Bruce McLaren.

In city traffic, the Zagato, with its heavy controls, was quite a handful. But once out on the open road, with the machinery working vigorously, Aston Martin’s wild beast was in its natural habitat. The steering became light and responsive, and combined with the ample supply of power, invited the type of driving where the negotiations of the turns became an intriguing interplay between steering wheel and throttle.

Today, the DB4 GT Zagato is appreciated as one of the most outstanding examples of its era – a period when the battles of the racing scene were still fought with cars that could be run on the road.

RM Auctions wishes to thank author Henry Rasmussen for his kind permission to publish the above “Beauty and Beast” excerpt from his book, “Aston Martin – The Post-War Road Cars”


Completed and delivered to dealer Archie Bryde’s Autonautica on December 20, 1960, 0199/L went to an Italian enthusiast.As was usual with the early cars, it was shipped to Carrozzeria Zagato as a complete rolling chassis in order to receive the superbly attractive Grand Touring coupe body paneling. As no. 0199/L was the second Zagato built and coming very soon after the first no. 0200 chassis, one can be excused for thinking that the factory intended to issue the DB4 GT chassis numbers in reverse order! However this numbering system was put into effect to create the illusion that the required 100 cars for FIA

competition homologation had already been built – a ruse which apparently worked since the cars appeared in FIA competition long before the final of 96 DB4 GTs were built. Of these only 19 were Zagato bodied with the other 77 receiving UK-built “standard” alloy GT body paneling.

In the early 1970s Colin Crabbe purchased no. 0199/L from Italian dealer Cupellini for “about £5000” and imported it to England before selling it to Michael Fisher for £6000. Fisher raced the Zagato a few times “greatly enjoying the experience,” although he suffered the misfortune of blowing up the engine on the main straight at the Silverstone Circuit. The original block was at that time discarded since a broken connecting rod had “ventilated” its side at the number one cylinder and a correct replacement 3.7 liter block numbered no. 370/796 was fitted during the rebuild. This utilized all of the undamaged major parts of the original engine and was carried out at fellow Zagato fanatic Roger St. John-Hart’s workshop.

In early 1974 Brian Classic purchased the Zagato and commissioned dealer Robin Hamilton to convert it to right hand drive. The next owner, Philip Ludlam had been a fan of the Zagato ever since he had seen Jimmy Clark racing 2VEV 12 years earlier. Ludlam paid £8000 for it and used it occasionally for road journeys and drives to Aston meetings. In the autumn of 1975 he advertised the car in AMOC (Aston Martin Owner’s Club) Newsletter before selling it to the present owner, an American Aston enthusiast and a past Chairman of the AMOC/USA. Incredibly he was, according to Ludlam, the only person responding to the advertisement!

After a few American club events and rallies, the current owner realized that he was not fond of the RHD steering. Upon learning the original dashboard was still with Robin Hamilton, the two were reunited and US specialist Don Lefferts converted the car back to the original left hand drive configuration in 1978.

Like the “Bentley Boys” Aston Martin owners like to use their cars and use them hard, as is the case with this handsome example. Over his 30 year stewardship of no. 0199/L the current owner and his enthusiastic wife, herself a very competent driver, participated in over 50 races, road rallies and Concours d’Elegance events. A multiple year entrant in the Colorado Grand, the California Mille, the New England 1000, the Rally of Montana and the Great North West Tour, this Zagato has also garnered concours trophies in the New York Louis Vuitton Concours, Lime Rock Classic, Meadow Brook Hall, Radnor Hunt Club and

Monterey AMOC events.

Never really totally restored, the car has nevertheless always received mechanical or aesthetic upgrades “as required”. In the mid 1980s it was treated to a bare metal re-spray in the Aston Martin color of Fiesta red as well as a total interior re-trim utilizing Connolly hides in the original black color. In the early 1990s it was mechanically rebuilt including a new engine by the legendary, but now retired Aston Martin technician Victor Trochymenko who

noted at the time that the car had “high lift cams and increased compression”. Consequently, even though it retains its original 3.7 liter configuration, this Zagato is reported to be “extremely fast” by the long term present owner.

The Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato we have the pleasure of featuring here not a 100 point show car but instead displays the honest and light patina of enthusiastic use and regular

maintenance – the sort of wonderful mellow appearance that could never be ordered from a restorer.


We conclude this description with an excerpt from the April, 1993 Road & Track magazine’s article on the Colorado Grand in which Bob Lutz, then President of the Chrysler Corporation,

drove this Zagato:

“My friend has a 1960 Zagato-bodied Aston Martin DB4 GT, and he let me drive it,” Lutz says with a wide grin. “It’s a wonderfully restored car, but it’s not just restored, it’s race-prepared. Everything about the car is great. The red body is close to perfect. The gearbox is fabulous. The engine pulls strongly and has a great sound. The brakes are fine. You can get in that car and drive it at racing speeds with confidence. I drove it on the beautiful stage

from Eureka to Red Bluff, and we were motoring very energetically [a bit too much so for one highway patrolman, who ticketed Lutz for speeding – “I don’t want to talk about it, just give me your licence.” and felt completely comfortable. That shows how great a topflight competition-type sports car was in the sixties. Amazing fun to drive. What something like this brings home to you is how important character is in an automobile. Regardless of

age there are great cars and bad cars, and this distinction of great and bad seems to transcend the age of the car.”

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more