Eric Gallina

Zagato Design Chief’s “Exercises in Minimalism” for Aston Martin

Norihiko Harada stands like a proud father in London’s Kensington Gardens with champagne in hand. But the family members beside him aren’t people. They are the 2013 Aston Martin DBS Zagato Coupe and DB9 Spyder Zagato Centennial.

As Zagato design chief, Harada oversaw the creation of these two one-offs. They look so unique, it’s hard to even tell that Aston Martin underpinnings lurk beneath their aluminum and carbon-fiber bodies.

A Japanese fashion designer who works at Costume National in Milan commissioned the deep blue Aston Martin DBS Zagato Coupe. It’s based on a 2013 DBS. Peter Read, an Aston Martin enthusiast and collector in California, commissioned the DB9 Spyder Zagato Centennial, which started life as a 2013 DB9 Volante.

Each car took six months to design and build, at a cost of more than €1m. They were revealed to the public during Aston Martin’s centennial celebration held in Kensington Gardens in July, where more than 100 classic and contemporary Aston Martins were on display throughout the park.

Norihiko Harada on the Aston Martin DBS Zagato Coupe and DB9 Spyder Zagato Centennial

Despite his funky zippered black coat that seemed straight from a fashion runway, Harada is unassuming with a calm demeanor. He speaks quietly, carefully measuring his words.

Harada was clearly appreciative of the moment in the Gardens, with excited onlookers snapping photos of the cars and stopping to gush over their shapely bodies. “If I see people happy with the cars, it makes me happy,” he says to a small group that formed a semi-circle around him. “I just keep chasing my dream, my best idea.”

After they disperse, I ask Harada a few questions. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation next to the DBS Zagato Coupe and DB9 Spyder Zagato Centennial that day.

Did the client choose the 2013 Aston Martin DBS as the starting point for the car?
“Yes. We tried to conserve all of the mechanical advantages of the sophisticated DBS, so it has the same chassis, same engine, same drivetrain, etc. We just changed the body styling. The front windshield is even the same identical piece. So the owner can drive this car on the street expecting exactly the same performance as the original DBS.”

How did you come up with the look?
“Because this is a one-of-a-kind car, I thought it would be nice if the shape of the car reflects the lifestyle of the client. So I started talking with the client and tried to understand his lifestyle or his favorite type of design.

“The client who comes to Zagato knows Zagato very well. They know very well Italian design and they know cars very well — sometimes better than us. They are really high-end enthusiasts. They have good taste. They don’t want something too complicated. These people usually already have some very nice cars in their garage, so they know what long-lasting design is, what good taste is — real design. So for a designer to design a car for these people is already something really challenging, because their expectation is very high. But it’s a very good challenge.”


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