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Legendary Designer Frank Stephenson Ranks The Greatest Aston Martin Designs @ Top Speed

Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato (1960-1963)



Just because you are a designer, doesn’t mean you can’t praise other people’s creations. This is especially true if sad creation comes from a studio like Zagato.

The DB4 GT Zagato is a Sports Gran Tourer, designed by Zagato, for Aston Martin, and was produced between 1960 and 1963. Production of this particular version ended with only 20 examples made.

To be more precise, credit for the unique styling goes to Ercole Spada, who worked for Zagato. Frank Stephenson praises his colleague’s work, because “it really shows the origins of that Aston Martin grille that we all love today”. It is here that the grille is starting to show “the idea of capturing air a little bit further along the sides, for the brakes”, he continues explaining.

Legendary Designer Frank Stephenson Ranks The Greatest Aston Martin Designs
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The power bulge

The elegant element on the front hood creates more space for the engine and adds character

The headlights are “round, voluptuous, just like gorgeous eyes looking at you” – something we see even today, in Aston Martin’s headlight design. It’s hard not to quote Frank Stephenson as he says that the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato “perfectly captures that two-seater sports GT look, with beautiful proportions”. He also notes the side air vents on the front fenders, which have become a signature Aston Martin design element, still featured today.

Legendary Designer Frank Stephenson Ranks The Greatest Aston Martin Designs
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According to Frank Stephenson, these are the most definitive Aston Martin designs

Do you agree?

The rear quarter-panels of a car are the equivalent of hips.

The Zagato-styled DB4 has “gorgeous, sensual hips, flowing up and over”.

Then we have the simplest of taillights finishing the nicely rounded rear end. Really, it looks like a beautiful woman, with just the right amount of body curves, “no fat on this vehicle at all”.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage (1977-1989)

Legendary Designer Frank Stephenson Ranks The Greatest Aston Martin Designs
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Do you agree with his picks?

“The British answer to the Ferrari Boxer, to the Lamborghini Countach, and to the Porsche 911 Turbo”. The designer rightfully compares the car to “Detroit iron”, but that’s more of a compliment as this is where Aston Martin became bolder in terms of styling and dared to move away from the soft, rounded forms, in favor of an edgier more brutalist design. It’s also worth noting, the V8 Vantage was quicker to 60 mph (97 km/h) than a Ferrari Daytona, managing a 5.3-second time.

Some versions of the V8 Vantage of this era had a closed-off hood bulge and front grille – something he calls an “oxymoron type of design” since the engine needs to breathe as much air as possible, in order to make power.

Legendary Designer Frank Stephenson Ranks The Greatest Aston Martin Designs
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One of the fastest cars in its era

With a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds, it was faster than a Ferrari Daytona

The designer’s argument for choosing this is that the V8 Vantage design is much more aggressive than ever before and yet it has retained the Aston Martin presence, as well as many of its distinctive design features, such as the grille shape and the fender vents. Moreover, this design has inspired future Aston Martin models, such as the V12 Vanquish, which also features “that modern edge of aggression”.

Legendary Designer Frank Stephenson Ranks The Greatest Aston Martin Designs
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Frank Stephenson’s first choice is the highly exclusive Aston Martin One-77, of which only 77 were made. His argument is simple: “it takes the DB4 GT Zagato and then it takes the brutality of the V8 Vantage, and melds them together, in an absolutely stunning way”.

The signature Aston Martin and even the smaller air inlet featured on classic Aston Martin models has been featured. “This car wreaks of power, beautiful proportions, dynamism in design, clean surfaces, exciting surfaces…”

If you’re still here, Frank also mentions he doesn’t particularly like parallel lines and we can see that clearly from the way he fails to pronounce the word. The beltline is actually very similar to the DB4 GT Zagato, in the way it “kicks back and then it kicks up and over”.

Legendary Designer Frank Stephenson Ranks The Greatest Aston Martin Designs
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2009-2012 Aston Martin One-77

The ultimate blend of voluptous forms and brutalist design

Meanwhile, the clean rear end is “absolutely identifiable for Aston Martin”. Frank gives kudos to the Aston Martin design team and calls it “one of the most stunning Aston Martins ever made”. From what the designer said so far, we can conclude that he likes the two opposite ends when it comes to exterior design – on one end, we have the DB4 Zagato’s round, voluptuous forms, and on the other, we have the brutalist design of the V8 Vantage that gives it a Gentleman’s Muscle car look. If those two are the polar opposites then I think we can agree the One-77 is a spectacular culmination of both.

Read our full review on the Aston Martin One-77


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