Precious few examples of the rambunctious Alfa Romeo SZ trickle to U.S. shores, so whenever there’s a public sale, it draws a lot of eyeballs. The most recent of these boxy beasts to cross the auction block was last week on Bring a Trailer, where the top bidder scored a 40,193-mile 1991 example for $65,000.
When the Italian press dubbed the hunkered-down, slab-sided Alfa Romeo SZ “Il Mostro” (The Monster), it was not necessarily considered a compliment. But the late 1980s and early ’90s were a time when Alfa Romeo wanted to prove itself, and getting attention was part of the plan. The high-performance SZ was its chance to show that despite being acquired by Fiat, Alfa could do something aggressive and worthy of the historical racing heritage of the brand.
The Experimental Sports Three-Litre (ES-30), as it was known internally, was a collaborative project between Alfa, Fiat, and Zagato. Although Zagato was known for its design prowess, the famed carozzeria ended up primarily lending its expertise in injection-molded composite body work. Final design and styling honors went to Fiat Centro Stile’s Robert Opron and Antonio Castellana, and the first concept bowed at Geneva in 1988.
“It got called Il Mostro, but Alfa chose it because it was bold and different,” Opron told Octane in the UK magazine’s November 2017 issue. “Our model was chosen above rival proposals from Giugiaro and others, and I believe it changed the way of doing things at Fiat. We had a 1:1 physical model made in wood in about 15 days. I’m proud of that.”
Intended to be a fresh take on the Sprint Zagato of the early 1960s, the two-seat SZ took its basic underpinnings from the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo 75 sedan. The 75 (or Milano, in the U.S) provided the rear transaxle and de Dion rear end, along with its five-speed manual transmission and 3.0-liter V-6 engine. Alfa turned things up to 11, however, cranking the humble 170-horsepower, two-valve-per-cylinder SOHC engine up to 210 hp with a host of upgrades. According to the Lane Motor Museum, it received uprated cams, cooling, valves, and larger intake and exhaust manifolds. And as the Lane and RM Sotheby’s note, racer and factory driver Giorgio Pianta tuned the suspension with Group A racing specifications in mind. In the end, the SZ also benefitted from upgraded braking, Pirelli P Zero rubber, and a hydraulic adjustable height system.
Zagato built 1,036 examples before production ceased in 1991; the recent BaT car is #946. It was recently imported from Japan and shows service records that include a new exhaust, as well as replacement taillights. Overall the condition looks to be very good, especially the interior.
Whether or not you believe an Il Mostro is worth $65,000, Hagerty auction editor Andrew Newton thinks it was a solid buy. Recent auction results have been mixed, but most hover around $75,000–$80,000, despite an outlier that went for $108,245 in 2015 in London. “You can’t really be picky if you want one of these in the United States,” Newton says. “But it doesn’t seem like outrageous money if you consider the SZs that have recently sold in Europe. Even with 40,000 miles, it’s safe to say this was an appropriate result.”