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There aren't many cars that can win a design award one month and then go racing on one of the world's most daunting tracks the next. But the Aston Martin V12 Zagato has done exactly that.

In the summer of 2011, it picked up a trophy at the Villa D'Este Concours on Italy's Lake Como (to give an idea of how swanky Lake Como is, George Clooney has a house there) and then did the 24-hour race on the notorious Nürburgring Nordschleife in northern Germany, whose lap length is over than 14 miles and contains at least 120 corners. Two V12 Zagato prototypes clocked up 230 laps and 3,700 race miles combined.

It seems almost rash to risk the chance of such an exquisite hand-built aluminum-and-carbon-fiber body being run into by other racing cars, but there is a precedent. This British automaker and celebrated Italian design house/coachbuilder have co-produced a few stand-out cars over the years. Five decades ago, they made the original DB4GT V12 Zagato models that also went racing.

In the halls of Frankfurt, both current examples (one nicknamed "Zig" the other nicknamed "Zag") are in a safer environment, surrounded by the largest display of contemporary Aston Martin cars ever seen at an auto show. Based on the Vantage model, the V12 Zagato has a distinctive "double-bubble" roof (a signature element of Zagato design) with a larger grille.

Under that long hood is a 12-cylinder engine, in a 'V' format, displacing six liters and producing 509 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Incidentally, the spine-tingling metallic growl made by an Aston Martin V12 is one of the best sounds ever.

A limited number - just 150 - of these cars will be produced, starting next summer, and each commanding a price of $520,000 or so, plus taxes. It could be a smart investment - if a 1960s DB4GT Zagato ever came up for auction, it would easily fetch more than a million dollars.

Also on the Frankfurt stand sits another similarly stunning and award-winning limited edition, the One-77 (only 77 being made; cost around $1.7 million each; sold out), along with relatively affordable Carbon Edition versions of the DBS. The difference between these and the usual DBS cars is cosmetic, but the sumptuous paintwork - featuring new colors Flame Orange and Ceramic Grey - handsomely finished alloy wheels, and fastidiously stitched leather bring the prices up to $287,576 for the coupe or $302,576 for the convertible Volante model. These will be available early next year.


See more coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.


COLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.
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