The Thrill of the New

It’s a trifle sudden, sir.

I had a sod of a day yesterday. It took two and a half hours to travel from Cambridge to that roundabout whose name I can never remember just west of Huntingdon. The roadworks around the new A14 usually slow things down, those billboards saying things like “improving your journey” and “ready by 2020” mocking drivers each time they pass slowly by. I was heading up to Derby and had just reached that sodding roundabout at about the same time I was due at my destination, having left home at 7:30am.

So, a sod of a day but it got a bit better. Just as I got onto the M1 I spotted an unfamiliar shape in my mirrors. It was low and wide and details were a difficult to pick out. I gave the tailgate window a bit of a skoosh and a wipe but it didn’t really help. The car pulled out into the second lane to pass and I spotted the camouflage wrap round the nose and then round the tail. In spite of that, the profile of the new Aston Martin Vantage was instantly recognisable to anyone who had seen the launch pictures.

It looks a lot bigger on the road than the current version. I think it’s wider and longer and possibly a bit taller, all to allow more room for the driver, passenger and their luggage and stuff. I didn’t wind the window down to hear the engine as the prototype went past. At a smidge over 70mph, tyre noise from everything around us would have drowned out the V8 unless the driver had the his foot on the floor in a stupidly low gear for a motorway cruise. Besides, it was cold and ‘orrible and a bit wet yesterday.

I watched its oddly checkered rear and disappear up the road for a few seconds before it was swallowed by the other traffic and continued on my own journey. The wrap made it difficult to pick out any details. I wasn’t going to run the risk or taking a photo with my phone when Aston has published better photos itself. I still got quite a buzz out of seeing it for the first time.

My journey home in the evening was equally miserable to my morning one. Oddly however, I spotted the Aston heading back southwards again. I didn’t know it was the Aston at first. I didn’t recognise the rear light graphic, thinking at first it was a Renault something, maybe one of the ones they don’t import into the UK but the now familiar wrap became apparent under my dipped beam as I got closer. The red strip of light picked out the shape of the flicked up tail. It looked a lot more exaggerated even than the V12 Vantage S. It was still something you might want to stop and lick occasionally. Maybe that’s just me.

I looked across as I overtook this time. The cabin was lit up by the central screen and looked techno but warm and friendly.  The traffic was very heavy heading south from Nottingham and we quickly became separated again. This time, I trickled away ahead slightly more quickly than the Vantage and its lights were soon lost in the constellation of others in my mirrors and I had to concentrate on the road ahead.

Sometimes, we as enthusiasts for cars see things which others miss which lift our journeys a bit, making them slightly less miserable. The first time you see a new car on the road is usually quite special. My first sighting of the current Range Rover was completely ruined because it was being driven by a complete twat who stormed up the outside of a queue of traffic heading into some roadworks and barged his way back in right in front of me to avoid a head on collision with the dumper truck coming the other way. I still haven’t quite come to terms with the square tail light graphics and its possible first seeing them illuminated an inch and a half from my front bumper is part of the reason for that.

The first front-drive Ford Escort is an altogether happier memory. My uncle took me into a dealer when he was having his Mk2 serviced and we were shown like honoured guests into the back of the workshop where there were two of the new ones lurking, one with three doors and one with five. It wasn’t on the road yet and I thought it looked the absolute business. I still do.

The Aston Martin Vantage also looks great. I’ve been looking at pictures of it since yesterday and the loud paint is beginning to grow on me. You could have yours shortly for a little over £120,000 plus options. For that you get the Aston version of Mercedes-AMG’s 4.0-litre V8 with 503bhp and an automatic gearbox. There is no manual gearbox yet.

Until yesterday, I wasn’t bothered about it at all. I really love the current car and will spend a few minutes most Saturdays wandering around Cambridge Aston Martin gazing longingly at the V12 Vantage S they have there. Now I’m excited by the new one all because I saw one half-wrapped in the rain on the M1.

Zed’s Dead, Baby. Zed’s Dead.

Moodier than a teenager on a day out with his parents at the seaside.

My thing for old cars has been well-documented here. C-types and Bentleys and Bristols and all sorts of shapely but ancient cars have been namedropped here and the blog isn’t even six months old yet. I’m going to do it again now. Aston Martin’s announcement last week that they’re working on a new project with Zagato is enough to give me slightly oddly-shaped, double-bubble goosebumps.

The original DB4 GT Zagato is a sexy, sexy car. Its shape owes a lot to its contemporary Ferrari 250GT SWB, the Competizione Berlinetta but I think the Aston is just slightly prettier. It’s the bonnet and grille. They just give it the front of the car a touch more interest than the Ferrari which has all the brutal efficiency of one of those surprisingly carniverous fish.

They built 19 original DB4 GT Zagatos. There have been some conversions and replicas as well, including 4 Sanction II cars by Aston Martin themselves. These were built in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Zagato using DB4 chassis with GT specification modifications. They were given unused DB4 GT chassis numbers as well. Zagato did the bodywork which was slightly different from the original 1960s cars. Given that each of the 19 originals was slightly different one from another, it’s no big deal.

Around the same time as they were planning the Sanction II cars, Aston and Zagato were hard at work building the 50 Vantage Zagatos. It was built on a shortened Vantage chassis and given a more powerful version of the classic Tadek Marek V8 engine. I’ve always considered it to be slightly awkward in appearance. One detail I remember was that the seats were the same as those fitted to the road-going version of the Lancia Delta S4 Group B car. Funny the things which stick in your head sometimes. I remember that but not whether I had breakfast this morning.

There were a couple of DB7 Zagato projects, a coupe and the AR1 roadster for the American market. Neither of them were exactly gorgeous. You wouldn’t kick them out of the garage on a cold morning, but neither would you undress them with your eyes. There was a one-off Vanquish Zagato roadster which I think is now in the States as well. It was certainly on sale at an American dealer a couple of years ago. That was a much happier piece of work even if it was as practical as a wicker shark cage.

Now there is going to be a new Aston Martin Zagato. Like recent special Morgans, it will be launched at the Villa d’Este concours which opens this weekend. I hope it’s a return to form for Zagato. If it’s not ball-achingly beautiful like a DB4 GT or as muscular as the Vanquish, it will have failed before it’s even turned a wheel. When the factory cars combine muscle and grace as well as the V12 Vantage, you have to wonder whether Zagato are just setting themselves up to fail.

It will probably still sell, even in these less flashy times. Aston needs sales success. I think they still have build slots available for the One-77. If I’d won that big lottery jackpot at the weekend, one of them would be mine. Maybe. Or maybe I would have begun looking for one of the original 19 DB4 GT Zagatos so I could have something to drool over properly.