Over 70 years, Zagato has coach-built nearly a dozen Ferraris. The results have sometimes been controversial, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the most interesting – and enduring – creative partnerships in automotive history.
Ugo Zagato opened his independent coachbuilding firm in 1919 and set out to make both cars and airplanes lighter and sleeker. In the 1920s, he focused on designing race cars for his friend Enzo Ferrari, a young driver for Alfa Romeo. By the ’30s, Zagato was designing cars with inclined windscreens, aerodynamic headlights, convex boot lids and perforated disc wheels to cool the brakes. In fact, 36 Zagato-bodied cars entered the 1938 Mille Miglia.
Italian style for the world to see
Ugo Zagato and the Ferrari 166 MM Zagato Panoramica
After WWII, Zagato returned to Milan and designed the innovative “Panoramica” coupe, which offered more visibility through large areas of curving Plexiglas. After collaborating with just about every major Italian automaker, including Maserati, Lancia and Fiat, Ugo teamed up with his old friend Enzo, whose young car company was gaining steam. The 1949 Ferrari 166 MM marked the start of a creative partnership that endures to this day, outlasting Ferrari’s relationships with Scaglietti, Vignale, Bertone and even Pininfarina.
Ferraris by Zagato
A comprehensive list of Ferrari cars by Zagato.
1948 Ferrari 166 MM Zagato Panoramica
In 1949, Zagato redesigned Antonio Stagnoli’s Ferrari 166 S, giving it the “Panoramica” treatment and transforming it into the 166 MM (Mille Miglia). It was the first-ever Ferrari coupe. Stagnoli debuted the car at the Senigalla Circuit in 1949 and later won the Coppa Intereuropa in 1950, but he retired it at the Mille Miglia that same year.
1950 Ferrari 166 MM Spyder Zagato
The 1950 Ferrari 166 MM Spyder Zagato was actually Stagnoli’s same car – s/n 0018M – rebodied as a barchetta. The reversal meant that Zagato and Ferrari’s landmark first collaboration was lost to history, but in 2007, Ferrari Classiche helped restore the vanished coupé in celebration of the automaker’s 60th birthday.
1952 Ferrari 166 MM Coupe Zagato
This car’s history involves some of the most privileged sons of postwar Italy. Giovanni Bertone’s son, Nuccio, drove his Ferrari 166 MM (s/n 0046 M) in the 1951 Mille Miglia. The following year, he sold the car to Emilio Giletti. Along with his co-driver, Walter Loro-Piana – of the famed textile family – Giletti successfully raced the 166 MM in the 1952 season before selling it to Luigi Bosisio, whose friend Elio Zagato offered to have his father transform the car into a berlinetta. Zagato simplified and modernized the car’s nose and added a lightweight aluminum roof and “Panoramica” windows. The result was the 1952 Ferrari 166 MM Coupe Zagato.
1956 Ferrari 250 GT Zagato
For this project, Zagato went back to its aeronautic roots and applied a sleek, lightweight and curvaceous body to the chassis of a Ferrari 250 Tour de France. Made with competition in mind, it excelled in both looks and performance and helped Camillo Luglio become the Italian sports car champion twice over. Just five examples were built.
1967 Ferrari 330 GTC Zagato
In the 1960s and ’70s, the U.S. Ferrari importer Luigi Chinetti became a driving force of the Ferrari/Zagato relationship. The 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC Zagato started life as a standard 330 GTC. When its second owner, Robert Kennedy, brought it in for collision repairs, Chinetti sent the car to Zagato to get all-new, more angular bodywork and a targa-style roof. It then made its public debut at the 1974 Geneva International Motor Show.
1971 Ferrari 3Z Spyder by Zagato
Innovating on an iconic Scaglietti design is a bold move, but that’s Zagato’s style. In 1969, Luigi Chinetti asked them to transform his California Spyder in time for the 1970 Turin Motor Show. Chinetti was deeply involved in the process and reportedly held long meetings with Elio and Gianni Zagato to discuss every detail. After numerous delays, the car debuted at 1971 Turin Motor Show with a more angular body, stylish headlight screens and other unique touches.
1991 Ferrari 348 Zagato Elaborazione
Ferrari and Zagato’s relationship went dormant for the next decade-and-a-half but revived itself in the early ’90s when a number of 348 TB owners let the coachbuilder transform them into 348 Zagato Elaboraziones. The car was almost entirely rebodied with handmade aluminum panels, a new bumper, enlarged ducts, custom wheels, triple taillights, matching side skirts and a new glass engine cover – an idea Ferrari itself used a decade later on the 360 Modena Spider. Zagato also gave it a signature “double bubble” roof. While 22 were planned, just 10 examples were built.
1993 Ferrari Testarossa Formula Zagato 93 (FZ93)
Two years after the Elaborazione, Zagato used a Testarossa chassis to create its Formula Zagato 93 (FZ93) for the 1993 Geneva Auto Show. Led by Ercole Spada, this radical redesign established its own aggressive, F1-inspired language – taut lines, massive air intakes, pointed nose, and a rear end that seems to have later influenced Ken Okuyama’s design for the Ferrari Enzo.
2006 Ferrari 575 GTZ by Zagato
After another long break, Zagato returned in 2006 with the Ferrari 575 GTZ – a design inspired by the classic 250 GT Zagato from 1956. Japanese collector Yushiyuki Hayashi commissioned the project, based on the 575 Maranello, and six examples were produced – two for Hayashi and the other four offered for sale. Notable features include Zagato’s trademark “double bubble” roof, rounded body panels and a lavishly updated interior. The result is a powerful, thoroughly modern car that evokes the past without falling into nostalgia.
2007 Ferrari 599 GTZ Nibbio Zagato
A year after the 575 GTZ, Zagato created nine Ferrari 599 GTZ Nibbio Zagatos (one of which is a six-speed manual). The standard 599 GTB got a rounded front grille, new air intakes, remodeled headlights, a whole new rear window and roof, plus a signature two-tone paint job. It is unique, to say the least, and a clear reminder that Zagato has done a lot of work for Aston Martin.
2009 Ferrari 550 GTZ Barachetta by Zagato
The 2000s were a busy decade for Ferrari and Zagato, with three collaborations in six years. In 2009, Zagato created a sequel to its 2006 575 GTZ by reinterpreting the rare 550 Barchetta Pininfarina. Zagato sourced five donor cars and gave them new bodywork and trim, with elements reminiscent of the 612 Scaglietti and even the BMW Z8. All five $1 million-plus examples were reserved before production began.
What does the future hold for Zagato and Ferrari?
With Ferrari’s own Special Projects division taking on one-off commissions from top clients, it’s unclear where carrozzerias like Zagato fit into the equation. We’re now more than a decade away from the last Zagato/Ferrari collaboration, but history has shown that long breaks for these two don’t mean divorce. Perhaps, for now, they’re just seeing other people.
Written by Christian Cipriani. Join our email list if you’re interested in receiving the latest on our online magazine and store.