Porsche 356 Zagato - A design from 1959, brought to life in the 21st Century
A series of Porsches designed by Zagato in 1959, never built, and finally completed in the 21st Century
Zagato is a name that many car enthusiasts may be familiar with. Perhaps you've drooled over some of their most recent work. Yet, many don't know that their CV stretches much further back.
Zagato is a coachbuilder, one of very few left in the world.
And, much as in its heyday, Zagato makes its business out of re-bodying sports cars. Their efforts in the 1950s and 60s gave the world masterpieces such as the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato and Alfa Romeo TZ2.
And while their triumphs are universally known, not all of their designs saw the light of day.
A few years back, in 2014, Zagato was doing a spring cleaning of sorts. Someone came across a set of drawings showing a Porsche concept that appeared to have never made it past the planning stage.
More than half a century since they were first penned, here were these drawings, in the depths of an Italian filing cabinet, dated September 11th, 1959. And above the words 'Porsche-Carrera-GT.,' was a car. Upon its UFO-like front-end, in distinct lettering 'Porsche.'
But first, a little history lesson:
In the late 1950s and early 60s, 1300cc and 1600cc racing was dominated by aluminum-body cars. And Zagato was at the forefront; they were renowned for their minimal aluminum body style, and their cars were winning race after race.
Having caught onto this, Zagato's customers came to the coachbuilder, asking for aluminum cars of their own.
Amongst these customers was a man named Claud Storez, he came to Zagato with a damaged Porsche '356 A' Speedster. Asking if they wouldn't mind replacing the original steel body with a brand-new aluminum shell. So they did, and as expected, Storez had incredible success with his aluminum speedster, even though he'd end up dying in that car some years later.
But unbeknownst to us all, at least up until 2014, was that Zagato had indeed designed another car. One that was meant to be built upon a Porsche '356 B.' This was a true Zagato-bodied aluminum car. And although they had come up with a design, the car was never made, and the drawings stuck into a filing cabinet. The drawings in question are dated September 11, 1959, expected for a model year 1960 car, but as we know, it was never made.
Fast forward to 2014, and Zagato, having received Porsche's blessing, decided to release a limited run of nine cars. Based exclusively on original Porsche '356 Bs,' these cars would be built as if it were still the 1960s. The old, steel bodies were ripped off, and, in a factory fit for the occasion, they set to making each one of these by hand.
'Handmade' is a term that's often whored out by the automotive industry, but in this case, they mean it. When Zagato says their cars are handmade, they don't mean some leather embroidery on the seat, no. These cars are quite literally hand-hammered. Each inch of the body is carefully sculpted by hand into its beautiful shape. Bringing out the adage that no two cars can ever be truly alike.
Yet it's important to note that this is not a "modified" Porsche 356; it is a missing link of the company's history, brought to life.
Whereas companies like Singer will take old Porsche 911s and bring them up to date, Zagato is unapologetically stuck in its ways. Ben Clymer, the founder of HODINKEE, and Spike Feresten, a former writer on Seinfeld and an avid Porsche collector, both emphasized that this is not merely a "modified 356."
Emphasizing that Porsche's "approval" of this project is paramount to its legitimacy. "Nothing about this car has been changed," Ben told me. "Singer is very different in that they're modifying the motor. It's a different transmission. It's a different everything. This is, in fact, exactly as Porsche designed it, just with a different skin on it. So, much so that Porsche today has fully sanctioned this car," "and there's even one in the Porsche museum."