The Bentley Continental GT Zagato (GTZ) is the product of Dr Andrea Zagato and Bentley boss Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen. They met for the first time at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2006. In tribute to its own rich, iconoclastic design history, Zagato was showing a selection of 1950s’ and 1960s’ models alongside its most recent collaborations with Aston Martin, Maserati and Ferrari. Dr Paefgen was so struck by the cars on display, exemplifying the art of the carrozziere (or coachbuilder), he asked Dr Zagato if there had been any Zagato-bodied Bentleys. A Rolls-Royce, yes, in 1926, came the reply, but no Bentleys— to which Dr Paefgen reportedly said: ‘Let’s do one then’.
Two years later, the car was unveiled on an unsuspecting world at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. And in common with every Zagato before it, undoubtedly its ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. With its own unique and often controversy-courting interpretations, Zagato is of course not afraid to ‘bin’ the work of other Italian design houses: some of the finest creations of Pininfarina and Bertone have ended up on the cutting-room floor. It’s goes with the territory of inhabiting that ‘zone beyond exclusive’ that Zagato is increasingly making its own.
Their method hasn’t changed much over the century that the Zagato family has been in business. The company was started by Andrea’s grandfather, Ugo, in 1919, the same year indeed that Bentley was founded. So the car on display here is celebrating two centenaries!
All of Zagato’s creations are exclusive, and the GTZ particularly so with only nine cars ever produced. And just two of those exist in right-hand-drive. For anyone lucky enough to be included on the orders list for the GTZ, the starting point had to be Bentley’s 600bhp, W12-engined Continental GT Speed. After buying one of these — not supplied by Zagato — the owner then had to transport it to the Zagato factory, just outside Milan. Zagato removed the original body and painstakingly applied their new one, which was partly made from aluminium; it shared not the tiniest detail with the original, however, except for the headlights which were carried over. This transformation took four months and cost a minimum of £500,000.
The GTZ is still obviously a Bentley, but it’s one where British reserve has been artfully spliced with uninhibited Italian flamboyance. That symbiotic relationship is most notably manifested in the accentuated haunches and the longer, flowing tail. Zagato’s trademark double-bubble roof and sculpted rear window just add to the sense of ‘parallel-universe unreality’.
Engine: W12, twin-turbo; Displacement: 5998cc Max power: 600bhp @ 6000rpm;
Transmission: Six-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive, traction control, ESP
Weight: 2250kg; Power to weight: 271bhp/ton; 0-62mph: 4.5 seconds; Max speed 200+mph
Displayed courtesy of Club Motoring Committee Chairman, Mr Peter Read, from Monday 24th June to Sunday 30th June 2019.