Beauty is only skin-deep, but the Alfa Romeo SZ is also beautiful underneath its composite skin.
The love-it-or-hate-it design – nicknamed Il Mostro by the Italian press – was chosen because it was so attention-grabbing. But as Jason Camissa sets out in this video, the 1989 SZ’s mechanical configuration traces back to Alfa Romeo’s 1938 race car, the 158 “Alfetta.” More than a decade later, a small upgrade turned it into the 159 Alfetta, which competed in Formula 1 — and together, the Alfetta was one of the most successful race cars in history.
Giuseppe Busso, former technical director to Ferrari who went on to lead engine development for Alfa Romeo, from 1948 to 1977, did more than design the lusty ‘Busso’ V6 in the SZ. it was his dream to put the Alfetta’s rear-transaxle and de Dion-suspension layout in a road car. He realised this dream with the original Alfetta (Type 116) in the early 1970s, and that basic layout carried over directly into the SZ, giving this two-door coupé (and the RZ, its roadster twin) predictable, easy handling.
The SZ’s styling is polarising but its driving experience is not — it’s universally praised as a driver’s car, with great visibility, an incredibly responsive 3-litre V6, and a forgiving, playful rear-drive chassis.
Though its name stands for Sprint Zagato, the SZ was not designed by Zagato. It was instead done in-house by early CAD at Fiat Centro Stile — after proposals from both Zagato and Alfa Romeo’s internal styling department were rejected. The SZ was, however, built by Zagato.
Today, it still looks like nothing else — a magnificent period piece of incredible design with speed and sound to match.
It’s also relatively rare. Just 1036 were made, and today the best of the best will fetch more than £80,000, according to the Hagerty Price Guide. Which, on the face of it, seems like not much at all given the drama that buys you.