Zagato (SZ DESIGN s.r.l.) is a design consultancy and engineering services company situated just outside Milan, Italy. The company was established in 1919 by Ugo Zagato, putting aircraft industry construction techniques to use in the expanding market for passenger vehicles.
Ugo Zagato was born in June of 1890. When he was old enough, he began working for Varesina which was located in Germany at the time. His career later led him into the evolving aircraft industry for a period of time. He later opened his own coachbuilding company in 1919. The company was located in Milan and specialized in light-weight metal construction; much of the techniques had been learned while working in the aircraft industry. The company quickly grew a reputation for creating aerodynamic, lightweight, competitive sporty automobiles. Alfa Romeo realized their potential and tasked Zagato to outfit their automobiles, such as the Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 and 6C 1750 race cars. The first Alfa Romeo bodied by Zagato was the Alfa Romeo G1 in 1921.
The relationship between Alfa Romeo and Zagato continued through the mid 1930's with most of Zagato's work being provided by Alfa Romeo. Other work was done for Italian marquees such as Lancia and Fiat and later, by Ferrari.
During World War II, Zagato's facilities were destroyed. After the war, the facilities were reconstructed, this time located north of Milan. The relationship with Alfa Romeo continued. In 1951 a Zagato bodied Alfa Romeo 159 captured the Grand Prix World Championship.
Ugo Zagato's two sons, Gianni and Elio, began working for the company during the 1950's. When Ugo died in 1968, they took over the business and a new factory was constructed.
During the close of the 1960's and into the 1970's, the Zagato factory began focusing on two areas of business, Zagato Car srl and Zagato Design srl. Zagato Car srl concentrated on the production of automobiles while the Zagato Design srl focused on product and industry design including electric and armoured vehicles.
During the 1980's, Zagato was tasked with producing concept cars and limited volume production vehicles. Two memorable Alfa Romeo concepts were the SZ and RZ, both bodied by Zagato, but designed by Robert Opron. The last production Zagato was the Lancia Hyena built during the early part of the 1990s.
The 1990's brought economic turmoil for the Zagato Company. The name was changed to SZ Design and later changed again to Zagato Centrostile. The focus of the company switched from production of automobiles to design and model building.
Zagato is currently headed by Andrea Zagato, the third generation Zagato, and his wife Marella Rivolta-Zagato.
September 15th, 2009, Dr. Elio Zagato, son of Ugo, father of Andrea, passed away at the age of 88.