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A coachbuilding firm based outside of Milan, Zagato remain the last independent Italian design house, still owned by founding family 104 years later. Carrozzeria Zagato first opened its doors in 1919 with the intention of translating aeronautical learnings from the first World War to the automotive world. Known for their advanced design, innovative use of lightweight materials, the Zagato name has found itself on a wealth of ultra-high end marques including the likes of Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Porsche’s relationship with Zagato first started with the commissioning of a 356 Zagato Speedster by Porsche driver Claude Storez. His successes throughout the mid-fifties in a 550 RS Spyder, 356A Carrera and 356 Speedster meant Zagato eagerly received the 29 year old’s 356 Carrera Speedster in 1957. The duration of the works extended into 1958 and after successful re-clothed in a streamlined body in white with red fins on the rear wings, the car was dispatched to Stuttgart where Porsche would fettle the engine.
Its first outing on the Reims stage of the Tour de France saw it place second place behind eventual overall winner, Olivier Gendebien.
Fast forward to 2004 and the first of three years of production for Porsche’s Carrera GT would begin. Once more the child of racing ambition, the Carrera GT’s routes can be firmly traced back to its predecessors; the 911 GT1 and the LMP-98 racing cars.
In 1998 Porsche planned on a new Le Mans prototype for 1999. The car was initially intended to use a turbocharged flat-6, but was later redesigned to use a new V10 engine, pushing the project back to planned completion in 2000. The V10 was a unit secretly built by Porsche for the Footwork Formula One team in 1992 but had been shelved. The engine was resurrected for the Le Mans prototype and increased in size to 5.7 litres. Unfortunately, the project was cancelled after two days of testing for the first car, in mid-1999, mostly due to Porsche’s wish to build the Cayenne SUV with involvement from Volkswagen and Audi, thus requiring engineering expertise to be pulled from the motorsports division. It was also speculated that VW-Audi chairman Ferdinand Piëch wanted Audi’s new Le Mans Prototype, the Audi R8 not to face competition from Porsche in 2004.
Porsche did keep part of the project alive showing a concept car at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show, mainly in an attempt to draw attention to their display. Surprising interest in the vehicle and an influx of revenue provided from the Cayenne aided Porsche’s decision to produce the car, and development started on a road-legal version, to be produced in small numbers at Porsche’s new manufacturing facility in Leipzig. Porsche started a production run of Carrera GTs in 2004, the first Carrera GT went on sale in the US on January 31, 2004.
The Carrera GT is powered by a 5.7 litre V10 engine producing 612 horsepower, good for a 0-60 sprint of around 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 205mph.
In 2013, a Porsche collector living in Switzerland took his Carrera GT to the Milanese coachbuilders. Having never been a fan of the plateau behind the roll-over hoops and seeking a more Gran Turismo style, he tasked Zagato with redesigning the car in profile. Their efforts would subtly change the majority of parts to enhance both the aerodynamics of the design as well as to improve the elegance of the overall form.
The front bumper is slightly longer with the centre section slightly lower, the vanes angled more aggressively, picking up the inside curves of the headlights when viewed head on. Unusually the changes to the front bumper do increase ground clearance somewhat with a sharper approach angle born from the new shape. The front wings, doors and sills remain the same, bar the addition of the trademark ‘Z’ to the rear sill section.
Towards the rear ¾ the changes are more dramatic. Through the introduction of a ‘c-pillar’, Zagato have visually increased the length of the cabin, and works well to mirror the curves of the large side air intakes. The rear decklid is all new, integrating an additional piece of glass into the profile of the car which works to channel air directly into the engine. Prior to work by Zagato, the V10 sourced its air from two NACA ducts either side of the engine covers on the rear decklid. The new engine cover introduces the Porsche script between the two lengthened headrests that are now incorporated into the overall form and accentuating Zagato’s trademark ‘double-bubble’ roof.
The removable roof panels remain the same as the original elements meaning they can still be stored below the bonnet. The wing remains the same and rises to full height, below the wing Zagato have added a small lip to improve airflow. The rear bumper of the car sees several other subtle changes. The exhaust system has been revised and includes new tips; slightly louder than standard, Zagato worked hard to retain the instantly recognisable pitch of the V10.