Classifieds Hero: 1986 Aston Martin V8 Zagato

Race-prepared by Aston Martin Works and campaigned by Rowan Atkinson with Works support, this former racer has been revised for use on public roads. We find out more…

Of all the models to leave the Aston Martin stable, the controversial V8 Zagato has the capacity to divide enthusiasts of the beloved British marque like no other. Launched in the mid-1980s with a very niche look, the grand tourer was based on the mechanics of the already successful Aston V8, with more than just a smattering of added crazy courtesy of Italian coachbuilder Zagato.

Unlike the majority of Aston Martin models, the hand-formed bodywork was not graciously curved; instead, it was bold and angular with a squared-off grille and raised bonnet power bulge. Zagato had opted to construct the bodywork from aluminium to keep the weight down, but this is probably where most of the common sense ended.

The re-styling of the V8 served to bring together Aston Martin and Zagato for the first time in 25 years, and there were some similarities between the current effort and the DB4 GT that Zagato had re-worked the previous time around.

Just as with the DB4 GT, the V8 model’s dimensions were reduced by shortening the chassis, and the rear seats were removed. This gave both models more of an edge when it came to overall handling and agility.

When revised, the DB4 GT Zagato had also been blessed with aluminium bodywork. However, few other comparisons can be drawn between the two, as the radical styling cues of the V8 Zagato make it stand out from all Astons preceding it.

One aspect all V8 Zagatos share with the rest of the Aston family is generous performance and a simply intoxicating soundtrack. This could not be truer for this particular unique 1986 example, which was bought by actor, comedian and long-term Aston enthusiast Rowan Atkinson. It was entrusted to Aston Martin Works for a comprehensive rebuild to take it to road-racing specification.

A standard V8 Zagato delivers a generous 430bhp and a 0-60mph time of 4.8 seconds. Twin-choke 50mm Weber carburettors aid performance; they account for that much-debated bonnet bulge. With such performance, a standard V8 Zagato is clearly far more capable than a mere ‘looker’.

Given that Aston Martin Works redeveloped this particular Zagato’s engine to 482bhp, as well as modifying the chassis, brakes and suspension, and further reducing the overall weight, this race-prepared V8’s speed is simply blistering.

It was contested for three years with varying success, before being retired from motorsport in 2004. It has since been refitted with refrigerated air-conditioning, storage compartments, carpeting and re-trimmed, original Zagato seats.

It’s a dynamic package that certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. Zagato’s controversial interpretation of the Aston Martin V8, painted in gloriously bright Gladiator Red with a prior celebrity owner and a racing background of several years, it’s a vehicle that’ll either float your boat or send you straight to the bottom like a ton of bricks.

This 1986 Aston Martin V8 Zagato is bold and completely unashamed, with a wealth of racing pedigree. This is exactly why we adore it – full-on craziness and all.

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