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Alfa Romeo SZ, to the test

VIDEO / PHOTOS ALFA ROMEO SZ: KUKFILMS AND THE ESCUDERÍA

We have all felt special at one time or another. When I was 17-18 years old, I felt that way every time I looked at my blue folder. In the early 90s, the usual way to go to school was to take a simple folder, which was normally lined with transparent adhesive film. Below it, there were the clippings of what made us feel special.

I remember photos of Rick Astley or Depeche mode in those of the girls… And, of course, of some Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari Testarossa, especially in those of my friends. But I was special, or so I thought. My folder was certainly more stylishly decorated: A Alfa Romeo SZ red (it was the only color available), and a white Maserati Shamal. Very few of my colleagues knew which cars those were.

Today, almost 30 years later, I am extremely fortunate to have driven several units of my two unicorns of youth. I don't have any of them, but I do know what it feels like to wear them.

alfa romeo sports car

Alfa romeo SZ: The ABC of a sports car

In these short lines I am not going to talk too much about the design of this Alfa Romeo Zagato, since there is an abundance of information on the net. Actually, despite what many people think, they should know that the car is not the work of the Italian bodybuilder. They "just" made it. Rather, its master lines correspond to Robert Opron, who at that time worked as Head of Design at the Stylo Fiat Center. Doesn't it ring a bell? I will tell you that he was responsible for such impressive designs as the Citroën SM, or the Alpine A-310. Later, Antonio Castellana and the Zagato workshops finished off and produced the SZ.

El trastejo It is peculiar no matter where you look. Its design fits perfectly with the best suits sculpted by Zagato for Alfa in the 60s. Alfa Romeo SZ it is aggressive, shocking, simple adjectives that define its aesthetics.

Regarding the materials used for its production, the reinforced fiberglass body is glued to a central chassis. Is this recipe familiar? Lotus Elan, Alpine A108, A110, A310, were made like this already in the 60-70-80. Also, several formulas of all categories and other competition and rally cars. Perhaps that is why they came for this Alfa Romeo sports car to two specialists outside of Zagato, both for the manufacture of the fiber and the frame: the French companies Stratime and the Italian Carplast.

alfa romeo sz

With all the materials in Zagato - coming from Alfa, its workshops and the collaborating companies - the whole was already being assembled. As for the engine, the 1038 Sprint Zagato (SZ) manufactured units were equipped with a longitudinal front Busso heart, carried from the initial displacement of 2.5 to 3.0 liters. The song to medium regimes of this Giuseppe Busso masterpiece is one of the best melodies we can hear.

The rest of the mechanics of the Alfa Romeo SZ, not to bore them excessively, it comes from the Alfa 75 América, combining it with competition elements such as the Uniball ball joints or the Koni shock absorbers. I will stand out in a special way De Dion's rear axle schematic, with gearbox Transxale and “on board” disc brakes (out of the box). Thanks to both, the weight distribution is improved and the suspended masses on the wheels are minimized. Along with the aerodynamics and the engine, they make a ALFA ROMEO SPORTS with capital letters.

How does it feel at the wheel of this sporty Alfa Romeo?

I approach the Alfa Romeo SZ from the rear. I stop at the spoiler, which I thought was painted black; I see that no, it is actually carbon fiber. The same thing happens with the dashboard. The lords of Alpha undoubtedly struggled to contain the weight. They knew that when it comes to weight, less is more. They managed to contain the scale slightly below 1.300 kg which, without being an excessively bright figure, at least it was - and is - a declaration of intent.

Access to the seat is simply excellent for a sports car. And the driving position is really weird. You sit very upright, with the steering wheel very low, which allows great forward visibility. It reminds me more of a rally car than a sports car. The petal-shaped leather seats of the Alfa Romeo Zagato they provide great comfort and support in curves. Going back to the dashboard, it's certainly very racing, but I find it a bit bland. You judge in the photos. On the other hand, the absence of the trunk in practice is justified because, in this car, the suitcases go behind the driver and passenger, tied by straps.

Air conditioning, electric height adjustable suspension from inside, electric windows, ABS. Few extras were missing from the Alfa Romeo SZ, something logical if we take into account that it cost more than 60.000 euros in its time (then, a normal 911 cost less!).

alfa romeo sz

alfa romeo sz

In urban traffic and highway: A road

But let's get down to business. Once seated, I start the proverbial Busso and my first disappointment occurs -and I admit that perhaps the only one in the test-: At idle it hardly sounds. I enter the first relationship and begin to wander around the north of Madrid. The change does not pose any problem in this Alfa Romeo sports car; the gears go in smoothly. I perceive, yes, sounds and creaks coming from the damping, the self-locking device and its peculiar fiber construction. I get used to them as the kilometers go by.

With the engine already warm, I leave the NI towards “El Atazar”. For this photo and video session I mercilessly sink my right foot on the accelerator of the Alpha Zagato. Second, it pushes without hesitation, transforming the slight hum into a melody from 3000 rpm. It arrives, although quite filtered, as a true symphony up to my position, at 5500 rpm when I change gear. Delicious; fourth, fifth ... I am in the right lane at 120 km / h at the height of Jarama. The car shows great poise on the straight and very low noise at this speed. You can hardly hear the motor, it seems electric. Sincerely, I did not expect to find a great road in the SZ, and yet it is.

alfa romeo sz

Virtually, I moved to the circuit I passed, accelerating from a standstill reached 0-100 in 7 seconds. On the next lap, on the straight, I try to reach the 245 km / h peak that it has. But I fall short I lack straight ... Let's see better how it turns in real life, on the way up to the Atazar viewpoint.

Ascent to Atazar: Passing through a relentless curve

The ascent from Patones de Abajo began. It's Tuesday at 18:30 p.m. on a fairly hot day in June. Air conditioning on, which does not tarnish one of the best melodies. Singing, the first curves reveal the great motor skills of the Alfa Romeo SZ, as well as the magnificent distribution of pesos.

Driving on the attack, braking at the precise moment before the start of the turn, and accelerating forcefully at the beginning of the turn, I'm getting the best out of the SZ: His cornering. Magazines of the time praised its blazing speed on twisting terrain. They claimed that it was the best of its time, recording cornering steps with accelerations of up to 1,4 G without losing grip. I can assure you that it is so. The pace that allows you to maintain this sporty Alfa Romeo on mountain roads is devilish, and all without driving aids or stability controls, just ABS.

alfa romeo sz

At the beginning of the climb I am accompanied by a Mercedes 600 SL from 93, from which the photographer takes shots. A 400 hp car, which on any straight can catch the SZ despite its 210. But in these circumstances, it just disappears from my rear view mirror at the second corner, and we didn't see it again until the stop at the lookout. This anecdote can reveal how incredibly fast the Alfa Romeo Zagato on winding roads.

But what happens if we disturb the beast within and provoke it? Well, I do not know what would happen in curves at high speed, but below 60 km / h is a mother. Reaction neutral, sliding slightly off the rear axle if forced beyond what caution dictates, much beyond actually.

Believe me, several times I tried to cause the rear axle to sag in an area closed to traffic. Until the fourth time I did not succeed. The fault of this is the excellent centering and distribution of weights (50/50), and of course the low center of gravity.

alfa romeo zagato

Does 'Il Mostro' retain its charm?

After the session, at the top of the climb, I had to drive the Alfa Romeo SZ going down. And here he showed me one of his weaknesses: The breaks. Honestly, I think that although they are enough, they are not up to this car. They have little mordant and, if you abuse, you notice how they are ending ... Which forces me to slow down, and thus also facilitates the work of Alex, who tries to stay firm in the wobbly Mercedes.

As is usual in my articles, to finish we had dinner in a well-known restaurant in the north of Madrid, tasting some tapas and hydrating with some Mahou and some very cold Coca-Cola. Telling us adventures. Today's has been extraordinary, how could it be otherwise in the case of the Alfa Romeo SZ. Today it is a classic. It has everything you could ask for: mythical brand, exclusivity, relatively common spare parts ... So much so that it has planted the SZ fever in me again, and I have been looking for one for weeks. The monster It has once again captivated me, to make me feel special.

What do you think?

Antonio Silva

Written by Antonio Silva

My name is Antonio Silva, I was born in Madrid in 1973. Thanks to my company I have been able to know first-hand all the national vehicle factories and a few of the European ones, as well as many of the component factories, this being nothing but an incentive more for my hobby ... View all

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