In the early 1960s, Aston Martin and Ferrari were in a heated battle for supremacy in the World Sports Car Championship. It seemed as if every season brought about a new, race-ready vehicle to ensure each company’s victory, and the teams were consistently fighting each other for top honors. Competition was just as fierce in the showroom. Both companies were busy producing exciting and exceptional machines to appeal to their high-end clients, mainly in an effort to continue funding their racing exploits.
Aston Martin changed the game in 1959 by winning that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with a decisive 1-2 victory, with four Ferraris left chasing in their rearview mirrors. As Ferrari updated the aging 250 GT “Tour de France” with the SWB Berlinetta, Aston Martin introduced the DB4GT in an effort to level the playing field, but it was not enough. Looking to hold back the onslaught of competition-specification Berlinettas, Aston Martin knew it needed something that would take the DB4GT to the next level. The solution was to approach an outside coachbuilder who could utilize their existing platform yet produce a new car that was both more attractive and competitive than its predecessor. The DB4GT was by all accounts a tough act to follow, but Carrozzeria Zagato was not one to shy away from a task. This would be an Aston Martin unlike any other, and when the completed product was unveiled at the 1960 London Motor Show, it was clear that Zagato had fashioned exactly what Aston Martin needed.
Considered by many to be the coachbuilder’s finest design, the DB4GT Zagato is instantly recognizable as both an Aston Martin and a Zagato, thanks to the famed carrozzeria’s deft ability to masterfully craft distinctive design elements from each company into one harmonious work of art. Boasting a slightly elongated nose with a more pronounced grille, visually the car appears much more aggressive than the outgoing DB4GT. At the rear, the taillights were set into the fenders, and the C-pillar was reduced by featuring a larger rear windshield. While the DB4GT was already a highly attractive automobile, the Zagato coachwork gave the Aston Martin a more voluptuous appeal, smoothing out the harder edges in favor of a more dynamic and fluid shape. Changes were more than just skin deep, as Zagato and Aston Martin also endeavored to make this car faster than its standard brethren, reducing nearly 50 kilograms of weight and adding 12 horsepower to the total output.
Chassis Number DB4GT/0186/R
The 14th DB4GT to be tailored by Zagato, chassis DB4GT/0186/R was completed on December 19, 1961, and then shipped to Australia shortly thereafter. Laurie O’Neill of Strathfield, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, would be the first lucky owner. A successful businessman, O’Neill made much of his fortune from quarrying but also held the franchise to Peterbilt trucks in Australia. In his spare time, his preferred hobby was racing, and he owned a great variety of sports cars, ranging from Aston Martins and Ferraris to a Porsche 935 along with a handful of grand prix cars.
The DB4GT Zagato would be O’Neill’s weapon of choice for the 1962 season, and the Aston would bring him great success. With Doug Whiteford behind the wheel, the car was undefeated in its first two outings at Calder and Longford on February 25 and March 3, respectively. On March 5 in Longford, Whiteford drove 0186/R to another 1st overall in the South Pacific GT Championship and a 4th-place finish in the Sports Car Championship on the same day. Whiteford and 0186/R notched one more 4th overall in the GT Scratch Race but failed to finish at the Sports Car Trophy race the following weekend due to tire issues. This would prove to be the car’s worst finish for the 1962 season. The Zagato would finish in no less than 3rd place over the next five events while driven by Laurie O’Neill himself and Ian Georghegan. They ended the season on a high note, finishing 1st in class in the GT Scratch Race at Katoomba on October 28, 1962.
That year would mark the end of the DB4GT Zagato’s racing career, as O’Neill sold the car prior to the 1963 season. For the next 30 years, the DB4GT Zagato would remain in Australia with only two subsequent owners. Colin Hyams acquired the car immediately following O’Neill’s ownership in 1963, and it is believed that it was shown at the 1967 Melbourne Motor Show during his ownership. Hyams then sold the car to Alex Copland in 1968, and it would remain with Copland in static storage for over 20 years.