2003 Aston Martin DB AR1 Photos/Words: Patrick Ernzen
2003 Aston Martin DB AR1
Of all things in the automotive world, coachbuilders hold a special place in my heart.  Unlike major automobile manufacturers who have to focus on an entire vehicle from the first technical drawing to the last bolt, a coachbuilder is focused solely on the physical appearance of the vehicle.  They take one of the most elementary requirements of an automobile and elevate it to an art form.

2003 Aston Martin DB AR1

Dating back several centuries, the art of coachbuilding has sadly changed and faded greatly from its heyday in the early 20th century.  With the advent of unibody construction, mass production and everything-under-one-roof business models, coachbuilding in the traditional sense has become increasingly less financially viable.  Where it once applied to a wide range of automobile types and price points, it has now been relinquished to only the most exotic and luxurious of automobiles.  However, many coachbuilders have survived and reshaped themselves with the times.
In the case of Zagato, one of the world’s most prominent coachbuilders, it’s much more than simply making something that’s pretty.  Founded at the end of World War I by Ugo Zagato, they were one of the first builders to apply aircraft industry technology and construction techniques to passenger vehicles.  Not surprisingly, Zagato not only became synonymous with lightweight and aerodynamic design, but also with beauty and grace.

Zagato has had a long history with Aston Martin beginning in 1960 with the prominent and now highly sought after DB4 GT Zagato.  More recently, they teamed up on the DB7 Zagato in 2002 and a year later, on this, the DB AR1.  Restyling an existing car is one thing, but restyling Aston Martin’s most successful car of all time anda car that is widely considered one of the best looking modern designs is another.  It’s like saying, “okay, what you did is great, but here’s how it should’ve been” and I love that kind of arrogance.  Or rather, I love it when it turns out like the DB AR1.

2003 Aston Martin DB AR1
Making its official debut at the 2003 Los Angeles Motorshow and designed specifically for California, the American Roadster is the first and only car Aston Martin has developed for a specific market.  Offering absolutely no weather protection, unlike the Vantage Volante it is based on, it is really only suitable for temperate, dry climates making it an outcast in its native Britain.  Aston Martin only built 99 AR1s and orders came in very quickly with virtually all of them making their way to North America.  Mechanically there aren’t many changes from the Volante.  The 6.0-liter V12 received a slight increase to 435hp and the wheels and brakes were swapped for more aggressive units.

2003 Aston Martin DB AR1

The DB AR1 was the very last variant of Aston Martin’s iconic DB7 and, with the help of Zagato, certainly one of their very best.
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