22 September 2022
Zagato, founded in 1919 by Ugo Zagato, is a historical signature of the Italian car world, having designed many of the most beautiful cars in the world. Zagato is an independent coachbuilding company based near Lombardy in Italy.
By 1972 Zagato was in financial trouble, with bankruptcy looming due to a complete lack of design work. Elio and Gianni Zagato needed to try something revolutionary if the company wasn’t to become a footnote in motoring history.
And revolutionary is what happened; at the 1972 Geneva Salon, Zagato unveiled the Zele, a tiny two-seat plastic-bodied electric, yes, electric motor car. And tiny it was, slightly under 2 metres long, to contextualise, it is three feet shorter than a Mini.
Talk about history repeating itself, this dwarf of a car made perfect sense, global fuel prices were increasing, and an energy crisis was imminent; replacing an internal combustion engine with an electric powerplant made good sense. This micro motor saved Zagato.
With a maximum top speed of a shattering 25mph and 43 miles range, the market was obviously limited, with around 500 being produced.
Yet again, Zagato tipped their toe into the electrification of the motor car. In 2012, they debuted the Zagato Volpe (means Fox in Italian).
Zagato’s experience in the field of sports cars made it an expert in aerodynamics, so the Volpe’s body was specially designed to slip easily through the air.
As well as the fully electric version, the Volpe was available as a petrol or LPG hybrid. The electric Volpe had a top speed of 30mph and a maximum range of 37 miles – the hybrid variants could travel up to 223 miles on a single tank of fuel.