Alfa Romeo SZ

The car that put Alfa Romeo back on the sports car map

Alfa Romeo SZ Image

Duringthe late 1980s the Fiat group, owners of Alfa Romeo, were getting a little worried that the image of their subsidiary was starting to slip. They wanted to recapture the atmosphere of the heady days of racing success.

The decision was made to create a remarkable car - one that doubled as a concept car, created more to showcase the design and performance abilities of Alfa Romeo, and a production car. 1000 only were to be built, each one numbered with a plate displaying the number on the dashboard - rather in the way of a limited edition artistic print.

French designer Roert Opron was commissioned by Fiat to do the initial design work, and the engine and most of the mechanics came from the competition version of an Alfa Romeo compact executive car, the 75. The car, a two seater rear wheel drive coupe, was named the Sprint Zagato, or SZ for short.

It was to be built mainly by Zagato and was shown to the public on Zagato's stand at the Geneva motor show in 1989. it had a plastic injection moulded body and thanks to a modified version of the 75's suspension system, which was already excellent, it's cornering ability was exceptional.

Customers could order any colour they wished, as long as it was red! with a three litre specially tuned alloy V6 engine this car could really shift; a maximum speed of 155 mph could be achieved with acceleration from 0 to 60 within 6.9 seconds. It was fast and handled beautifully so many motorists considered it their ultimate dream machine.

The car was no beauty however; many considered it a little brutal and it was actually nicknamed 'The Monster'.

Even more monstrous was the convertible version, the Roadster Zagato, or RZ for short. At least this one offered extra colour options however, of black and yellow as well as red!

It was intended to produce 350 of these convertibles but sadly only 252 were built before the Zagato factory went into receivership. The receivers finished off another 32 which were already in various stages of manufacture. Alfa Romeo then went back to building mass-market cars again. The SZ and RZ will not have made them a great deal of money, if any at all, but at least they put the company back on the map with an enhanced reputation amongst performance car enthusiasts.