You’ve said that although Zagato is an Italian company, it’s driven more by German design principles. How come?
I’ll try to keep this simple! Italy isn’t a nation but a number of cities brought together 150 years ago. It wasn’t that long ago that if you travelled through Italy, every 150km or so it seemed that everything changed – culture, architecture, dialects, food, and design. One of the great things about Italy is the variety of things you can find. The north of Italy was originally under the Austrian Empire and so was always a little more Germanic in its orientation, [and] the west was more under the influence of the French. And that had an impact on design. You can talk about ‘Italian design’, but the truth is that the design you find in Milan is opposite to that of what you’d find in, say, Turin, which is more baroque, art deco, art nouveau. It’s more about the French way of design, the application of decoration to an industrial product. Think about a Parisian bridge and it’s all flowers and sculptural elements, added to a functional bridge. In Milan it’s all clean, clean, clean – Bauhaus, Ulm School, Rationalism, less is more. You don’t add anything that isn’t necessary and that’s what makes the product beautiful. You see these very different approaches play out in the coachbuilders in each area.
What do you think makes Zagato stand apart from Italy’s other historic coachbuilders?
I actually started really loving Zagato when I realised how unique it is. All the other coachbuilder-designers are influenced by each other and have typically been involved with large production runs of their designs. But Zagato has never done series models in its more than 100 years. It’s always made in very limited numbers, and that’s peculiar. But what matters is that it means you’re never influenced by the trends of the period as you tend to be with a mass-production car. Pininfarina did the Lancia Florida in the 1960s, to give an historical example, and that followed the American trend for application [of styling details] like ornamentation, chrome elements [and] wings, so it resembles an aeroplane but is actually so heavy it can’t fly. It’s still beautiful. But then look at the Lancia Flaminia Zagato and it’s all about simplicity, about super lightness. The other thing is that a production coach-built car has a higher value [than a standard production car,] of course. But a Zagato is maybe 10 times higher because it was never a trendy product and never a production car.