95 years of Zagato’s automotive artistry

95 years of Zagato’s automotive artistry

A special exhibition celebrating the 95th anniversary of Italian coachbuilder and design house Zagato runs through March 2015 at the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile.

The Classic Car Bookshelf

Zagato Milano (1919-2014)

Published 2014
Publisher Giorgio Nada Editore
Format Hardcover
Pages 208
ISBN 978-88-7911-611-4
Purchase Motorbooks

A special exhibition celebrating the 95th anniversary of Italian coachbuilder and design house Zagato runs through March 2015 at the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Torino, Italy, but a book published in conjunction with the showcase will let you continue to see Zagato’s work and read its history for as long as you want.

The book, coffee-table size and richly illustrated, Zagato Milano (1919-2014), is published in an oversized, square 11 3/4-inch format.

While focused on the cars created by Ugo Zagato and his descendants, the book also celebrates the city of Milano and its history in music, fashion, sports, furniture and more, including the creation there of the radial aircraft engine.

It was in the construction of airplanes that Ugo Zagato first was schooled and developed the techniques for creating light but strong aluminum structures, which he brought to the automobile industry to produce what the book notes was “a revolution involving not only technology but also styling.”

Zagato, his children and his company would work with the likes of Vittorio Jano, Milano-native Ettore Bugatti, Vincenzo Lancia, Enzo Ferrari, the Ascari brothers, the Maseratis, Adolfo Orsi , Ferruccio Lamborghini, Juan Manuel Fangio, Victor Gauntlett, Alejandro De Tomaso and so many others to create cars that were as fast as they were beautiful.

“The most beautiful car,” the book quotes Enzo Ferrari, “is the one that wins.”

In addition to period photos, many from the Zagato archives, the book features colorful illustrations of many of the outstanding cars to come off Zagato drawing boards and the company’s workshops.

“A constant endeavor during the 1930s to get cars to cut through the air with sleek, tapering lines led Ugo Zagato to refine and develop the earliest concepts of aerodynamics applied to the motor car…” the text reports.

“He defined the area of competence and research appropriate to the coachbuilder, the figure responsible for solving the problems caused by drag on moving cars. He was the first to adopt inclined windscreens, more-aerodynamic headlights – firstly enclosing them in aluminum hemispheres and then incorporating them within the bodywork – convex bootlids (decklids) and perforated disc wheels that favored brake cooling.”

Zagato’s early work with airplanes also enabled him to build cockpit-style fixed-head bodywork that provided drivers with a more open view of the road ahead and around the car.

Zagato introduced Plexiglas to replace automotive glass, both saving weight and allowing curved windows that enhanced interior space and reduced exterior angular surfaces. “In short,” the text notes, he maintained and enhanced “a functional form” that automakers still emulate.

After World War II, Ugo’s oldest son, Elio, helped to bring the grand touring car to prominence on the road and the race track and Gianni, the younger son, helped modernize the company’s manufacturing facilities.

Today, the third generation of the family has revived the business and expanded Zagato design to lifestyle products as well as automobiles.

But it is sports cars for which the company is famous, and for which this book is a showcase.

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