Sunday, September 28, 2014

An MG Y-Type in a Nice Italian Suit

Zagato (L) and MG Y-Type (R)
The Italian automobile design firm Zagato is known for producing some achingly-beautiful specials. Their elegant, flowing bodies can be found on a number of high end cars that they've restyled including Aston-Martin and Jaguar from the 1950s through today.

Prior to the outbreak of the second World War, Ugo Zagato achieved fame by creating a number of highly streamlined bodies for competition cars. His experience gained through working an early Italian aircraft builder served him well; over thirty competitors in the 1936
 Bristol 403-like Rear Quarter
Mille Miglia were bodied with Zagato designs.

Zagato lost his factory to allied bombing during the war and set up shop in northern Italy where his firm produced produced military vehicles in cooperation with Isotta-Fraschini. When hostilities ceased, Zagato returned to building custom bodies on other manufacturer's chassis. One of those post-war exercises was on an MG Y-Type.

The late 1940s and early 1950s saw
MG's John Thornley (L) in Lugano
Zagato design aerodynamically slippery bodies that included the use of a transparent plastic known as Plexiglas. This easily shaped plastic found extensive wartime use in aircraft canopies and windows due to its light weight and shatter resistance. The Zagato-MG show car was a product of the "panoramica" design language that was adopted by Ugo Zagato.

Note the Zagato Emblem on the Bonnet
The Zagato Y-Type made its public debut at the 1949 Lugano (Switzerland) Salon. The four-seat coupe body style was quite airy with the side windows and windshield curving up into the roof line. There was no exterior opening to the trunk space making what little space there was exceedingly difficult to access. Ask any Mk I Austin-Healey Sprite owner about this fun feature.

The severely curved side windows meant that they could not be lowered into the doors - they remained fixed in place. The quarter vent windows were likely the only way to admit fresh air to the interior. Impractical, yes, but when did a show car need practicality?

MG's management viewed the car at the Salon with some interest, but unlike the Arnolt-MG of Italy's Carrozzeria Bertone, it did not go into production. The single Zagato Y-Type built is not known to exist today.    

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