Beauty is only skin-deep, but the Alfa Romeo SZ is also beautiful underneath its composite skin.
The love-it-or-hate-it design was chosen because it was so attention-grabbing, but the SZ’s mechanicals trace back directly 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 did more than design the lusty V-6 in the SZ; it was his dream to put the Alfetta’s rear-transaxle and de Dion-suspension layout in a street car. He realized 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 coupe (and the RZ, its roadster twin) predictable, easy handling.
The SZ’s styling is polarizing but its driving experience is not — it’s universally praised as a driver’s car, with great visibility, an incredibly responsive 3.0-liter Busso V-6, 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.
Our many thanks to Marco Marini of EuroClassixCars for allowing us to film and experience this stunning piece of history. (Marco, you’re lucky Jason returned it to you. He almost kidnapped it!)