Shortly after post–World War II reconstruction began, Italians returned their attention to one of the country’s favorite pastimes: motorsports. As Italy’s economy strengthened in the late 1940s and early ’50s, a number of cities and regions started hosting auto races. The manufacturers and coachbuilders were quick to respond with what became known as dual-purpose cars: vehicles that could be driven to the track, raced, and then driven home. These cars came in all sizes and shapes (coupe, spider, barchetta, and berlinetta) and with various types of engines. Many of today’s most coveted collector cars are dual-purpose models.
Two Italian names closely associated with dual-purpose models in the 1950s were Ferrari and the coachbuilder Zagato, which has been in business since 1919. After World War II, Zagato really blossomed, designing race winners for several marques. As Road & Track noted of Zagato in 1957, “One can’t help but admire greatly the men who, with small means, have proved capable year after year of making a faster car out of anything brought to them.”
But Zagato’s cars weren’t just fast. The Ferrari 250 GTZ from 1956 demonstrates the company’s ability to incorporate beauty in a design—the exquisite rear fender shoulder and the lovely Z-shaped rear roof pillar—without compromising the vehicle’s speed. Looking at this car it’s easy to see why, in addition to Italian automakers, manufacturers ranging from Aston Martin to Austin, General Motors to Gordon-Keeble, enlisted Zagato and northern Italy’s other coachbuilders to design their newest models.