Blimey, that's a striking looking thing, what is it?
What you're looking at is either one of the best or one of the worst looking cars of the last century- the Alfa Romeo SZ. Unveiled as a concept at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show, the SZ (or the ES-30 as it was known then) was based on a design initially created by the Fiat designer Robert Opron, then finished off by renowned designer Antonio Castellana. Thought you may have never seen this car before, the styling cues, such as the triple headlights and the rear end that slopes up into the rear end, actually influenced the styling of later Alfas, such as the 147 and GT. So then, this rare and little-known sports car has had more influence than you might have thought.
Wow, what could it do then?
The SZ wasn't just looks- it was also a seriously capable car. For the production of the SZ, Alfa adventurously chose to use thermoplastic injection body panels in the production with the car, which formed a razor-sharp and almost reptilian skin over the advanced and brilliantly engineered mechanics. A suspension system taken from the Alfa 75 range of cars was used, which doesn't sound that impressive until you find out that it was handed over to Giorgio Pianta, who was the chief engineer on the Fiat and Lancia rally team, who then modified the unit so that the SZ handled brilliantly, being able to sustain 1.1 whilst rounding corners, which was also in part to the special heavy-duty Pirelli tyres fitted to the axles, with a hydraulic damper system improving handling no end.
The ES-30 concept, which eventually became the SZ.
Crikey! How was performance?
Power came from a gutsy 3.0 litre naturally aspirated, fuel-injected V6 SOHC engine, which produced 207 bhp, which doesn't seem like a lot but when combined with the car's weight of just over 1,200 kg, that's not too bad at all. In terms of straight-line speed, the SZ was good for 152 mph and could accelerate from nought to 60 in about 7 seconds. It wasn't exactly a bolt of lightning but to be honest, if you saw one of these things heading straight for you, you'd turn and run. Despite this car obviously being geared towards performance, it was never officially badged as a Quadrifoglio and given the famous cloverleaf mark, though some SZ owners have affixed the seal to the wing. It's not a good look.
Not bad, was it popular?
Well, as the SZ was only planned as a limited-production sports car, they didn't make very many of them- only 1036 when new, with 100 being exported to Japan, but since then it appears that the numbers have decreased, with only 28 left on the road in this country, compared to almost 50 in 2001, with the number even smaller for the convertible equivalent, the RZ. However, the SZ has maintained a loyal and devoted fanbase since its launch, with its fans calling it "Il Mostro" (Italian for "The Monster"), which I think we can all agree is an extremely fitting name for such a car.
Right. How's that classic status coming along then?
I'm afraid the appreciation on this car is well under way- a quick search reveals that you can expect to kiss goodbye to about £70,000 in exchange for a later model. There's not many up for sale, due to their rarity, great reputation and desirability, so if you're looking to get one cheap, then I'm afraid that ship has long sailed.
But you can't argue that the SZ is a true classic- a car that set the scene for future cars while also being a brilliant car in itself, then sadly falling off the map for a while, before experiencing a resurgence in later years. Another true automotive legend.
And that's a wrap! Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it. Have a great Christmas, and I'll see you in the next article!