Christmas Fantasies, Shattered Dreams

I should be so lucky

Aston Martin Vantage Zagato. Image: Auto Express

From an early age my Christmas wish list contained an Aston Martin. Scale models, obviously – my family were not financial wizards. As time moved on and lascivious tastes deepened, the marque remained a written talisman alongside a diminutive Australian singer from a soap opera – neither sadly entering my world – I cannot have been good that year.

Other childhood plans also became dashed on the floor of reality. I would never become the train driving/ racing driving/ spaceman/ soldier of youthful imagining – think of the tax implications alone. Thus, when a bout of insomnia gripped tightly, my eyes drifted toward that long harboured love affair with the brand that has required many a fiscal rescue package, modern day Aston Martin. Spoiler alert: I think the affair is over.

Still drawn toward perhaps an affordable Gaydon wing, the Pre-Owned section lured me in. For around £35,000 one could entertain a Cygnet or two, or a teenage Vantage or Volante: tempting. Chase cutting, boy – to the top end! What other worldly delicacies await in the upper echelons of the second hand market?

Excluding the wonderfully restored 1964 DB5 at £1.2M, the next half dozen entrants contained the Zagato moniker alongside barely lesser telephone number price tags – and rather dubious looks. Having no clue to their existence, my eyes widened as the wee small hours slipped by in a blaze of somewhat childish big boys toys.

Aston Martin Zagato
Zagato Coupé. Image: Motoring Research

Mid-2018 saw Aston Martin launch a Zagato family consisting of 99 examples each, costing around half a million – Coupé, Volante and Shooting Brake. Just 28 Speedsters emanated from Warwickshire at around a million pounds Sterling. Of course, by the time of their Frankfurt show reveal, all had sold. 

The Shooting Brake slotted in at just £650,000. The childhood spaceman inside your author almost leapt to the moon. This rocket ship for the road is a strict two seater, 2 + 0 in Aston terminology. Conceived as a “practical and entirely individual GT,” the traditional Zagato double-bubble roof with glass inserts allows light inside. Thank goodness, otherwise this could just end up as Major Tom’s tin can.

Initial looks are striking, there’s a semblance of Ferrari FF once past the enigmatic but these days, more piscine grille. Should those front fog lights be yellow, Aston would be facing questions from Worthing based speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins. Damn, they look good.[1] This particular example, number 31 out of those 99 is Lava Red with a Copper Tan interior. The previous owner must have been distracted though for just 101 miles have rolled under the tyres since the car’s first registration in March 2019. Did they actually look at the thing? Or care that they’d just lost over a hundred grand since purchasing?

Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. RM Southeby’s

Of course the car is replete with the six litre V12, just shy of 600bhp and can crack 201mph. The Hand of Drive being rearward. My childhood soldier would have screamed, yes! Today, the General within now snorts, big deal! Previous incarnations blending English with Ugo Zagato’s Italian style have left me somewhat puzzled.

Most, if not all Aston’s look good for a long time; why spoil the effect? Asking such a question no doubt betrays my financial status, only a General could afford this overtly extravagant theatre of war. Because of the Z-word, a few more horses are corralled beneath that aggressively curved bonnet, a silver streak on both sides and some fancy wood to the rear. Along with the Q bespoke atelier found deep within Gaydon – another source of extracting larger amounts of money from seemingly ever-eager customers.

Such a rarefied world was never for the train driver within me. Blissfully happy watching double 0 gauge model trains circulating the living room, my thoughts were toward the heroes of the footplate; the poor soul feeding the ravenous fire with coal, the driver watching the gauges, keeping the momentum and watching the time. Which brings me on to the wheels – there is more than a resemblance of an alloyed hour glass on each of the five spokes – and we all know that the sands of time run out, eventually. A portent for such expensive whims? Should my hard earned be splashed towards such frippery, I’d want wheels spitting fire or at least hissing steam on using their enormous effort. 

As for the inner racing driver, surely Aston have me now? The vagaries of such largesse equate to a car happier hauling on open, freer tarmac. One feels it will handle the twisting sections of tarmac with disdainful presence if not quite fully eliciting Cheshire Cat grins. Plus, the dog or shopping in the back would be spilling everywhere; hardly conducive. Remaining inside, again, faith has it the fit and finish will blow one’s mind with the excellent craftspeople Gaydon employ. But the Z stitching that dominates the cocoon like cabin appears drawn by a child on E numbers. The carbon fibre trim somewhat degrading the tone. A racing driver wants little but a seat and wheel with as few distractions as possible.

The Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is nothing but a distraction.

And this continues exterior aft. The finned brake lights hark from a time when Robbie the Robot was popular. Certain that research makes these brighter therefore safer, one thinks they would be better suited on a vehicle several thousand feet in the sky. The boot opening could make a physiotherapist think twice, his chiropractor on speed dial. Once closed, those sharp creases could be in military twill. Fine for the General on parade, what use other than a dirt trap and vision detractor when the weather’s foul at night? 

Image: dsf.my

The monetarily successful can indulge such dreams but to what end? Part of the fun must be the specifying, the meetings to discuss options, shown the tactility of surfaces, being fussed over with drinks – made to feel special, childlike, even. Can the wealthy (or anyone else for that matter) return to such innocent times? 

Probably not. The cold light of day revealing this is strictly business. And now that Kylie has had similar amounts of plastic surgery to this mountebank, the idea of my Christmas list is torn to shreds. 

The hour is late – sleep and dreams are for wimps. But who are these Zagatos for? You might as well ask Santa.

[1] The fitted sound system from Danish  brand, Bang & Olufsen

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

17 thoughts on “Christmas Fantasies, Shattered Dreams”

  1. Good morning, Andrew. I’ve seen all four of these at the Remise in Düsseldorf. What are these cars for? I know the owner of a Zagato coupé. His car is kept in storage all the time, both as an investment and something to look at. He has a DBS for the driving bit.

    One word of criticism: it’s Bang & Olufsen. They’re Danish, not Swedish.

    1. …and the automotive part of Bang and Olufsen is part of Harman International, itself wholly owned by Samsung Electronics.

      I’m trying to work out where Bowers and Wilkins come in. I was surprised to see the branding in the latest Maserati Quattroporte. They make some very high-end stuff, but the generality of their products are ‘affordable’.

      The most egregious high-end audio co-branding is Burmester Audiosysteme with Mercedes Benz. I was shocked to see their ‘veneer’ on the built-in speakers in a 2 litre E class. Most of the real Burmester home audio components individually cost as much as a mid-range C-Class.

    2. Harman International basically own almost everything in the automotive sector. I do still think the system Aston Martin uses is still the same as before the Harman takeover, so there still is plenty B&O content.

      Not sure if this was a wise business move. You never know what Harman is going to do with the B&O brand and how this may effect operations at Struer. On the other hand B&O desperately needed the cash at the time.

  2. Freerk, you found my myopic armour chink, duly altered. My weakest of excuses being it was very late…

    I suppose these cars are not for the road. Investments or seen as artwork which dredges up the inevitable question of what is a car for? An Opel Corsa or Toyota AE86 have their legions of fans who adore and lavish attention alongside fettling and tuning to the nth degree. Same goes for the classics; garage queens or regular users makes for interesting stories. I know of several people who wouldn’t dream of garaging their car and use them almost daily whereas others glean that satisfaction of having such a machine polished to within an inch of its life to sit beside with a beverage, sighing deeply as their eyes lovingly caress the lines. I see merits toward both sides. My own preference is a car for using. Had I the finances, I don’t think that would change. I could always commission a painting if I felt that strongly.

    But this particular Aston no longer borders aspirational status; its vulgar to the point of being defiantly ignored due to the ludicrous over the top fripperies. “How much can we fit in here?” Too much appears not to be enough.

    Since searching and writing, some person of means appears to have purchased said vehicle. I wish them all the best with it. Just tuck it away in a garage, away from my eyes

  3. Good morning Andrew. I always feel somewhat conflicted about cars like these. My visceral reaction is a degree of distaste for the absurd pricing, which bears absolutely no relationship to the cost of production, nor their ‘rarity’, which is entirely contrived. (In this regard they are totally different to a unique work of art from a deceased artist or an original Bentley ‘Blower’, which have genuine rarity value.)

    Subjectively, they are not obviously more attractive than the production Aston Martin on which they are based. I’m not aware of any mechanical changes that would make them better to drive either, so the only justification for the pricing is that it allows owners to exercise and demonstrate their extreme wealth. So far, so vulgar and distasteful.

    But, hang on a minute, before I get carried away with pompous self-righteous indignation. The people who build these cars are not multi-millionaires. They are engineers, technicians and skilled craftsmen. Selling the cars recycles money into the real economy, maintaining employment and supporting livelihoods.

    Moreover, what right have I to tell anyone else how they spend their money? How would I feel if someone told me that I don’t ‘need’ my Porsche Boxster because it clearly serves no practical purpose? The reductio ad absurdum of this utilitarianism argument is that we should all be driving around in the modern day equivalent of the Trabant or Ladas.

    1. Interesting discussion that. I think the key to threading this particular needle is to separate appreciation of craft from appreciation of design: It´s perfectly possible to ascribe value to the skilled craftsmanship that goes into superbly made products, the aesthetic of which is vulgar and horrible.

      Your last paragraph is true in any case: Many of us here own cars that, in purely practical terms, cannot be justified. That is the nature of enthusiasm and the world would be a poorer place without it.

    2. A close look at the sheet says: Hand of drive – RHD. It doesn´t say RWD. “Hand of drive” is a very clumsy way to name the category. I would suggest “Steering wheel position – right side/left side”.

  4. I apologise in advance, having consumed far too much wine last night, and therefore having slept fitfully.
    However, “The Hand of Drive being rearward.” What?

    1. Right hand drive and left hand drive and rearwheel drive may have been conflated. Author, sir, could you be so kind as to elucidate Mr. Taylor, please!

  5. The front fog lights resemble the B&W speakers to these eyes.

    And as for the “Hand of Drive,” that’s the description Aston Martin uses in their “used” section, as per below. Indeed, I had to check what the mince pies were seeing…

    1. There you go. It’s the drivers of the speakers, not so much the speaker itself. I don’t think this look is unique to B&W, though.

  6. Meant to say earlier, Andrew, chapeau for sneaking in the titles (almost) of three pop songs into the title and tag-line for the piece. They’re far too middle/lowbrow for our esteemed editor’s musical tastes, but fine by me!

  7. Good evening Andrew
    How did you end up with a Volvo instead of a used Aston? Must have been the £££££ and better reliability I am thinking. Notwithstanding that 30 OM looks absolutely gorgeous to these eyes. What a beautiful colour and those lights look good too!

  8. If I had the money to buy such a car, I would use it everywhere and everytime. I would enjoy every piece of it, looks, HP, suspension, trips and even get my dog in the back ∅ seat.
    Then, when I would get tired of it, or had found a new “toy” to excite myself, I would sell it to a “poorer” or “wealthier”, poor man to restore it…sorry have it restored, and then… just store it.
    He would look at it and imagine in his dreams what nice it would have been if he had taken it for a ride -or something similar. Maybe he wouldn’t see it at all, just show it occasionally to his guests. He might even, or most probably, excibit it to a VIP car show and get the best possible praise or price.
    Mr Miles’s writing is so nice, I have to read his words more than twice to get into the feeling and it’s always a mix of effort and pleasure. It also reminds me of Bill Mallcolm, whom I miss, when he commented once how this kind of articles puzzled his straight forward Canadian way of saying about things. Well, the shortest route might be quicker but not always the most satisfying! And maybe that has something to do with our friends in Milan .
    Thanks Andrew for your nice words!

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