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19/04/2019 382

Official start of the Zagato Centenary

Opening of the celebrations for Zagato’s

100th anniversary (1919-2019)

Today, April 19, 2019, the centenary of the Milanese Atelier opens officially

Whilst the Museo dell’Auto in Turin opened the exhibition “Auto che passione” – Interaction between graphics and design – where the IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo Zagato will be on show until June 30, with the participation in the Kyoto Concours d’Elegance (April 13-14), Zagato has inaugurated the celebrations of its 100th anniversary.

The Japanese event, with 33 Zagato-bodied cars on display, has seen the Lamborghini 3500 GTZ (1965) of American collector Bill Pope named Best of Show. The award won by the Lambo Zagato anticipated one of the themes of the anniversary: the uninterrupted relationship of the Milanese design studio with all the most prestigious automotive brands.

In its century-long history, Zagato established relationships with 44 different automotive brands, creating more than 440 fuoriserie models that today have all become collectors’ items and often milestones for their manufacturers.

Of all the partners, the major contributor in the first half of the century of Zagato’s history was certainly Alfa Romeo, whilst in the second half the most significant association has been that with Aston Martin. In fact, as announced on September 19, 2018, Aston Martin will celebrate Zagato’s anniversary with the Centenary Collection (“The Pair”). Recently, some teasers of the cars have been released.

Today, April 19, 2019, the first images of Aston Martin’s second project, called ‘The Twin’ and developed with R-Reforged, are being revealed. You can find them here enclosed.

The second half of the 100th year of the Atelier will be dedicated to Alfa Romeo. The relative ongoing projects will be announced starting from October 19.

In Kyoto, not only automobiles, though: Chopard, historic partner of Zagato’s, presented the Mille Miglia Classic Chronograph Zagato Cento Anniversary Edition, a 100 piece limited edition watch that will mark the time of the most memorable year of the Milanese Signature.

The Zagato centennial, started on April 19, 2019, will end in April 2020, when it will overlap with Alfa Romeo’s 110th anniversary.

Here below, please find a summary of the century long history of the Zagato Signature, with all its corporate transformations and the design evolution of the models through the decades. According to Ugo Zagato, the Company should reinvent itself every ten years, keeping always coherent and true to its functionalist and rationalist credo and to the concept of ‘essential beauty’.


Ugo Zagato was born in Gavello, in the Rovigo province, on June 25, 1890. In 1905, he emigrated to Cologne, in Germany, where he was employed for four years in a mechanical company. In 1909, he went back to Italy to absolve his military service then found a job in the Carrozzeria Belli, a coach builder active since 1845, well known also in France and Switzerland. Here, thanks to his previous experience on metal and to the evening design course he was attending, he was soon promoted to head of the workshop and also contributed to various projects.

In 1915, with the outbreak of WWI, he was called to work for Ansaldo Pomilio SA, where the fighter planes SVA A3 and Savoia Pomilio C2 were assembled. He headed a team of technicians in charge of the aircraft for military campaigns. According to his contract, he had to produce three planes per months, but thanks to young Ugo’s rigorous planning, production rose to 60 planes/month.

The 10s: aeronautics

Ugo Zagato began his coachbuilding career in 1919 when he left Ansaldo Pomilio, after an all-important four-year spell in the aeronautic field, to set up his own business in Milan. This was: “The construction and repair of bodies for automobiles and airplanes”. He did so with the bold intent of transferring sophisticated constructional techniques that combined lightness with strength from the aeronautical to the automotive sector. The cars of the time were still bulky and heavy: conceiving them as lightweight structures, with a shell in sheet aluminium similar to an aircraft fuselage, was the true revolution started by Zagato. A revolution involving not only technology but also styling, one that marked the end of art applied to industry, a farewell to the affectations of the past, to art nouveau frivolity, to deep-buttoned upholstery, bulb horns and Louis XV and XVI style interiors.

This change of direction came to represent a fundamental chapter in the history of taste and saw, in Europe, the adoption of the concept of function applied to automotive design. This was a functionalism differing from the one in vogue in America and associated with the utilitarianism of the motor car in that it was closely bound up with a sporting vocation and an aesthetic principle, succinctly stated by Enzo Ferrari: “The most beautiful car is the one that wins”.

The 20s: racing cars

Following the great sporting and commercial success enjoyed by the Alfa Romeo 1500 6C during the three-year period 1927-1929, Vittorio Jano, Alfa Romeo’s Chief Engineer, and Ugo Zagato teamed up to produce a car that was to achieve legendary status in the history of the Milanese manufacturer, the 1750 6C. Between 1927 and 1932, Zagato built Turismo, Sport or Gran Turismo, Super Sport or Gran Sport versions of this model at the rate of two cars a day. The Zagato-bodied Spider 1750 achieved crowning glory in the Mille Miglia, the 1,600 kilometres road race from Brescia to Rome and back that has played such an important role in the fame and success of the Milanese coachbuilder. Giuseppe Campari and Giulio Ramponi crewed the car to victory in 1928 and 1929, while a memorable edition in 1930 saw Alfa Romeo 1750 Zagatos driven by Tazio Nuvolari, Achille Varzi, Giuseppe Campari and Pietro Ghersi taking the first four places. These were years of glory: Ugo Zagato was now universally acclaimed as the greatest coachbuilder for racing cars

The 30s: aerodynamic cars

The constant preoccupation to get cars to cut through the air with sleek, tapering lines led Ugo Zagato to refine and develop the earliest concepts of aerodynamics applied to the motor car. That is to say, he defined the area of competence and research characteristic of the coachbuilder, the figure responsible for solving the problems caused by drag on moving cars.

He was the first to adopt inclined windscreens, more aerodynamic headlights, first enclosing them in aluminium hemispheres and then incorporating them within the bodywork, convex boot lids and perforated disc wheels that favoured brake cooling. This was a golden age: Zagato was already attracting many admirers and received numerous requests to prepare cars featuring his advanced technical and stylistic features. Enzo Ferrari had already set up his own racing team when he commissioned Zagato to construct a number of cars, both directly and through the Carrozzeria Brianza, where he worked as a consultant for a brief period.

The 40s: panoramic cars

At the outbreak of WWII, Ugo Zagato abandoned his Milanese home and sought refuge on the shores of Lake Maggiore. It was here that he received news of the terrible bombing suffered by Milan the night of the 13th of August 1943. A devastating RAF attack completely destroyed his coachworks at Corso Sempione 27 and obliged him to start over from scratch. He found new premises in Saronno, alongside the Isotta Fraschini works, on behalf of which he constructed trucks and military vehicles. Zagato returned to Milan at the end of the war and re-established his company, close to the historic Portello, home of Alfa Romeo. Having rediscovered a measure of tranquillity, his ever present desire to experiment with new forms of motor cars led Zagato to create an original automotive concept, the so-called ‘Panoramica’, destined to mark the rebirth of his coachworks in the post-war period. Zagato’s experiments were oriented towards a search for more spacious and more comfortable interiors. They eventually crystallised in a new type-form characterised by airiness and great visibility thanks to large glazed areas - windscreen and side windows - that curved upwards to merge into the roofline, giving rise to cars with compact forms, with a sculpted appearance. The use of a new material, Plexiglass, in place of heavy traditional glass, permitted both the novel curvatures and considerable weight savings. Once again, Zagato was pre-empting modem trends, observing the principles of lightness and aerodynamic efficiency derived from aeronautical experience, paying particular attention to interior space and consigning to automotive history a car with clean lines, free of bulges and sharp angles, in short a functional form.

The 1947 Geneva motor show saw the presentation of the production model of the Maserati A6G bodied by Pininfarina, the first of many GT cars that were to carry the trident badge. The prototype chassis, instead, passed to Zagato, who between 1948 and 1949 clothed it with a ‘panoramic’ body representing an excellent compromise between the lightness required of a sports car and the elegance of a grand tourer. This new approach led to a Ferrari Panoramica too. It was a 166 Mille Miglia, built in 1949 for Antonio Stagnoli. He attended the 1950 Mille Miglia and scored an optimal 36th place overall and 4th in his class (the car was re-bodied as a spider-sport from Zagato himself in the same year).

The 50s: Gran Turismo cars

In 1947, as a gift for having graduated with a doctorate in Economics and Commerce from the Bocconi University of Milan, Elio Zagato, Ugo’s eldest son, received from his father an open-top sports car based on a Fiat 500 B chassis. This car represented the beginning of a remarkable career as a gentleman driver punctuated by numerous victories (over a total of 160 races, Elio earned a place on the podium no less than 83 times). The birth of the Gran Turismo category, conceived in 1949 by Count Giovannino Lurani and the journalist Giovanni Canestrini, revolutionised the world of automotive competitions: the category, to the success of which Elio Zagato contributed from 1950, comprised cars with sports coachwork and a production chassis or body shell of which at least 30 examples had been built. They were, therefore, cars capable of being used on an everyday basis, comfortable and well finished, yet sufficiently sleek and aerodynamic to race at weekends on the leading circuits. In 1955, Elio Zagato scored a memorable victory at the Avus circuit where, at the wheel of the Fiat 8V Zagato, he got the better of two Alfa Romeo 1900 SS Zagatos and a swarm of twelve Porsche 356s. Elio’s triumphs were accompanied by the re-launch of Zagato as a successful coachbuilder on the international post-war motor sport scene.

The 60s: fuoriserie cars

This was a legendary decade, crowned by a prestigious award, the Compasso d’Oro design prize, conferred upon Ugo Zagato in 1960 for his Fiat Abarth 1000 Zagato, awarded for its functionalism.

At the1960 London Motor Show, two new Zagato sporting prototypes appeared: the Bristol 407 Z and the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato. The latter, built at the behest of the Newport Pagnell firm in order to be more competitive against the Ferrari GTO, proved to be a fabulous car, elegant and beautifully styled. Commissioned by Bepi Koelliker, Aston Martin official dealer in Milan, the DB4 GT Z was put up for sale immediately after its presentation, with 19 units produced over two years. The 314 hp engine was more powerful than that of the standard DB4 and, combined with a reduced overall weight and aerodynamic coachwork, permitted the car to reach a top speed of 150 mph. This car marked the beginning of an association between the two brands that still lasts today.

The appreciation shown by the public and critics alike for the Zagato versions of the Lancia Appia Sport and the Flaminia Sport, designed at the end of the 50s, and the 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ, convinced Elio Zagato to build a new and more modern factory that would guarantee the future of his company. This was, in fact, a period of transition and the ever-greater demand for special bodies required a passage from custom manufacturer to a semi-industrial business. New premises were found at Terrazzano di Rho, near Arese, alongside what was to become the new Alfa Romeo factory.

Designing special bodies to be assembled in series, applied to rolling chassis and fitted with interiors supplied by major constructors was the mission to which the Zagato coachbuilding firm dedicated itself in that period. Thanks to Elio Zagato’s friendship with Alberto Ascari who introduced him to Lancia, Zagato was commissioned to exclusively produce all the Sport versions listed in the Lancia catalogue. Zagato could now count on an elite clientele of connoisseurs, true enthusiasts who bought a car with the lightning Z badge because of its coachwork and its extreme functionality, irrespective of the engine and other mechanical parts.

The 70s: geometric cars

During the 1970s, modern society was influenced by China’s so-called ‘cultural revolution’, with consequences of great significance in terms of the customs, mentalities, organization and economic lives of every state. As a symbol of individual liberty, the motor car was ideologically unpopular in the most influential cultural circles. Within this politically turbulent framework, Italian designers eventually proposed less dramatic, subdued cars that avoided emphasising the artistic and emotional side of the product. In this period Zagato began production of the Alfa Romeo Junior Z, the Milanese coachbuilder’s Sprint version of the Giulia GT, exhibited for the first time at the Turin Motor Show in 1969 and destined to establish the ground rules for the sector with its wedge shaped profile. Zagato would never be converted to the box-like forms and the sharp angles of cars conceived exclusively as means of transport, as a product responding solely to the demand for mobility. Initially produced with a 1300 cc engine and immediately featuring in the Alfa Romeo catalogue, from 1972 the Junior Z was also produced in 1600 cc form. Only 402 were made. In response to the oil crisis and in opposition to the irrational and anti-functionalist trends of the era, Zagato also proposed pioneering electric production cars.

The 80s: CAD – Computer Aided Design

The energy crisis that had struck the automotive sector in the previous decade, where the oil wars disrupted manufacturing activities of the major industrialised nations in 1973 and then again in 1979, appeared finally to have been overcome. The general climate of recession had passed and a new wind of optimism was blowing. This favourable economic situation encouraged the production of status symbol cars, luxury objects that underlined the position of those who bought them and satisfied an increasingly segmented demand. The demand for exclusive spiders and coupes led to the creation of limited, numbered editions. The Aston Martin Vantage and Volante Zagato - 50 numbered examples, all sold before the car had even been officially presented, and 33 numbered examples produced respectively - were the highest expression of this economic and commercial climate. The Zagato badge, long associated with quality coupe and spider versions that held their value over the years, thus revived collaborations with Aston Martin, Maserati and Alfa Romeo. The Milanese coachbuilder, in fact, designed the Karif and open-top versions of respectively the Maserati Biturbo (1984) and the S.Z. coupe (1989), plus the R.Z. roadster version (1992) for Alfa, all of them born by the first application of CAD process to automobile. The functionalist credo that informed the design of cars bearing the lightning Z badge gave rise to ‘extended life-cycle’ products that neither depreciated nor went out of fashion: the Zagato brand is confirmed to be synonymous with added value. All eyes at the 1989 Geneva motor show were turned to the Alfa Romeo S.Z., an experimental coupe that revisited the legendary sporting image of the Milanese manufacturer. The S.Z., produced in 1,000 units, was to be, for many years, the last true rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo coupe, a symbol of sporting pedigree hostile to any compromise.

The 90s: CAM – Computer Aided Manufacturing

This decade marked an important turning point for Zagato dictated by the need to keep up with the new demands of an evolving market. In the meantime, it organised (from 1993) a one-brand race series for Alfa Romeo S.Z. and R.Z. with a final held in Monte Carlo. The company was no longer solely a coachbuilding Atelier, tied to the production of sports cars, but rather a service centre working in the extended area of transportation design. Zagato, in fact, styles and builds prototypes and show vehicles for all areas of the transportation sector. Integrated styling, engineering and prototype construction services have acquired an increasingly important role within the Milanese firm. In 1991 and 1993, the Zagato Design division presented two Ferrari show cars based on the 348 and the Testarossa that introduced styling motifs subsequently adopted by Maranello, first on the F355 and then on the 360 Modena and the Enzo. In 1996, Zagato built the Raptor, powered by a Lamborghini V12 at the request of Mike Kimberley who at that time was heading the Sant’Agata Bolognese company. This is not a mere dream car, but, rather, a feasible proposal for a small-scale production that is capable of obtaining type approval. Elected ‘Best Concept’ at the 1996 Geneva Motor Show, the Lamborghini Raptor was produced remarkably quickly (less than four months) thanks to the use of new integrated technology applied to the CAD/CAM system that allowed the intermediate styling buck phase to be eliminated. In 1998, Fiat commissioned Zagato to design and produce three running prototypes with the important objective of reducing fuel consumption (3 litres/100 kilometres). The Turin-based corporation presented the Ecobasic at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show where it was judged to be the best research concept. This vehicle represents a modern interpretation of the traditional Zagato philosophy of lightweight cars utilising innovative materials.

Y2K: neoclassical cars

Motion and Emotion, this is Zagato’s philosophy for the neoclassical decade in which the car, by now a mass consumption product, has lost its original recreational and emotional personality. Undoubtedly, technological standardisation has produced perfect cars, but also undifferentiated in terms of style and contents. The practice of programmed aging in the automotive industry for the design of each model leaves very little space for individual requests. Hence, the market assumes the shape of an hourglass: on the bottom, the big industry players, based on mass production and low costs. At the top, the true luxury constructors, where personalisation and uniqueness offered by details such as the ‘made in Italy’ label are key success factors. As a leader of this specific sector of the market, Zagato Atelier shapes made-to-measure bodies for distinguished clients and gentlemen drivers, deriving its philosophy from the era of the berlinettas of the early 1950s. Special projects created for Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati, Spyker, and Diatto consolidate the brand’s value in making custom-built models, almost exclusively 2-door and 2-seat coupés. Like in the 1990s, Zagato’s design philosophy is more concerned with the volume of the shape rather than with the details. The final product has highly emotional contents. A keen attention to volume, a shape mysterious and enticing make these limited series not only timeless beauties, pleasing to the eye, but also sound investments. At the 2002 Geneva motor show, Aston Martin announced that Zagato was working on a new DB7 coupé, with all the classic Zagato features: the radiator grille, the bluff tail and the ‘double bubble’ roof. The 99 unit limited series was completed within the second half of 2003. The idea for another Aston Martin, a roadster Zagato called AR1, came about in 2002 during the Le Mans race. After the approval of the design in September, the first concept was produced in only three months, in time for the Los Angeles Motor Show in January 2003. Zagato was at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show with the Roadster version of the Aston Martin Vanquish. Born of the close co-operation between Norihiko Harada, Vice-president Design at Zagato, and Peter Hutchinson, Design Manager at Aston Martin, the car introduced features representing a clear break from the roadster segment. An interpretation that combines the revolutionary design of the rear section with a modular cover system.

The 2010s: iconic cars

This decade sees a new type of atelier cars become protagonist: models that have turned iconic, i.e. more important than their own brand. Aluminium has been abandoned, to be replaced by carbon fibre, a material with particular properties, which have permitted to reach a higher level of efficiency and precision in the coach building process. Carbon fibre, in fact, is more rigid, lighter and more effective in the production of spare parts. In 2011, to celebrate Alfa Romeo’s centenary, Zagato produced the TZ3 Corsa, a one-off, followed by the TZ3 Stradale, of which nine were built. In the same year, Aston Martin unveiled at Villa d’Este the V12 Zagato concept, derived from the V12 Vantage. In 2012, a road-going version – of which 101 units were produced in Gaydon - was presented at Geneva. During the following summer, two more concepts made their debut: the BMW Zagato Coupe (on Z4 mechanics) and Roadster. To mark the 100 years of Aston Martin’s activity, Zagato came up with the Centennial project: three one-offs based on different AML models, with three different body types, allocated to customers of three different Continents. These are the Aston Martin DBS Coupé Centennial, the DB9 Spider Centennial and the Virage Shooting Brake. For Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary – and Zagato’s 95th – the Lamborghini 5-95 was created, a supercar based on the Gallardo LP, of which five units were made. 2015 saw the debut of the Mostro powered by Maserati at Villa d’Este. Inspired by the 1957 Maserati 450S coupe Costin-Zagato built for Stirling Moss and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mostro is a street legal track car, produced in a limited series of five units. In 2016, the partnership with Aston Martin continued with the debut of the Vanquish Coupe (99 units produced at Gaydon). At the Chantilly Arts & Elegance contest the MV Agusta F4Z was presented, first example of an atelier motorbike by Zagato. It is a one-off, a unique work of art, commissioned by a Japanese collector and Zagato enthusiast. At the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Aston Martin presented the Vanquish Volante Zagato and announced the release of two more versions, the Speedster and the Shooting Brake, for a total of 325 cars built belonging to the Vanquish Zagato family. At the end of August, at the Grand Basel preview, the Zagato IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo was partially unveiled, as a tribute to the renowned automaker from Milan. The Vision features in the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo Sport video game as one of the drivable cars. It was fully revealed in October at the Tokyo Motor Show on the Sony Poliphony stand. A limited production run of five units is foreseen.

Total Design Studio

Marella and Andrea Zagato took the helm of the company in the early ‘90s and transformed it into a Total Design Studio. Its activities go well beyond the atelier production of bespoke bodies for luxury sports cars. As a Total Design Studio, in fact, Zagato is now able to develop turn-key projects – in the Automotive, New Mobility, Transportation and Industrial sectors – which include corporate image, structure, communication and the production of mood boards and graphic tables in support to start-ups, helping them decide their ‘tone of voice’ in developing their product design. Zagato is also product marketing and product placement consultant. Many are the recognitions in the design sector earned by the Company, thanks also to its application to the various projects of materials, processes and solutions experimented with the luxury sports cars in the Atelier. Zagato has also been active in the electric vehicle field since 1970 with various projects and in the autonomous driving sector since 2008, with the development of automated people movers.

In the lifestyle sector, two important co-branding operations must be mentioned, one with Chopard, the Swiss watchmaker, sponsor and official time keeper of the Mille Miglia, and one with Leica, the renowned German premium segment cameras and sport optics manufacturer. From these two long-lasting partnerships stemmed the exclusive Zagato edition “Cento” Chopard GMT Chrono introduced at the 2019 Kyoto Concours d’Elegance and the Zagato Edition Leica Twin Set to be launched for the centennial.


1919 – April 19

CARROZZERIA ARTIGIANA UGO ZAGATO – via Francesco Ferrer – Greco Milanese

Construction and repair of cars, aircraft and similar vehicles (10 employees)

1923 – January – viale Brianza, 10 - Milan

1923 – November 22


1932 – January 18

CARROZZERIA BRIANZA – viale Brianza, 10, Milan

SOCIETA’ ANONIMA UGO ZAGATO – via Marco Ulpio Traiano, 38, Milan

1935 –March 27

CARROZZERIA BRIANZA – viale Brianza, 10, Milan


1937 – August 28

CARROZZERIA BRIANZA – viale Brianza, 10, Milan


1942 – October 26


1943 - Via Giovanni Battista Giorgini, 16 - Milan

1962 – June 16

CARROZZERIA ZAGATO SPA - Via Arese, 30 – Rho (Milan)

1993 Carrozzeria Zagato Spa becomes a HOLDING

CARROZZERIA ZAGATO SPA – HOLDING - Via Arese, 30 – Rho (Milan)

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