The Alfa Romeo Zagato SZ is one of the most divisive cars to come out of Italy – let alone Alfa Romeo. The distinctive angular styling gave the SZ a ‘concept-car for the road’ image and compared to their contemporary line up of the ancient Spider roadster and lacklustre 75 saloon, the SZ looked incredibly futuristic. Nicknamed ‘Il Mostro’ (The Monster), the SZ dropped jaws during its unveiling at the 1987 Geneva Motor Show and continues to do so today. It may not be the prettiest Alfa, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting to look at.
Red with a grey roof was the only colour option for the SZ coupe, although a black one was made for Andrea Zagato. Credit – Complexmania
With a sticker price of £35,000 upon its release in 1988 (£60,000 in today’s money), the SZ was £10k more than a BMW M3 E30. Despite the gigantic price tag, the SZ was dynamically inferior to its rival from Germany. There’s no doubt the longitudinally mounted 3.0-litre Quad-Cam V6 is the outstanding component to the SZ driving experience. Despite only producing 207bhp (10bhp less than the comparative 1988 M3 EVO2) the additional two cylinders over the BMW gave the SZ a wonderful, melodious soundtrack. However, the 0-62 mph time of seven seconds was almost a whole second slower than the M3.
A rear wheel-drive layout gave the SZ somewhat edgy handling (also thanks to the short wheelbase), they were notoriously difficult in the wet. In the dry however, the SZ had unbelievable levels of grip – which was helped by the chassis. Alfa Romeo made the most of their relatively small parts bin – based on the 75 Group A Touring Car, the SZ benefitted from a racecar-derived chassis and Koni suspension.
The three individual headlights became a design trait of Alfa Romeo’s in the 2000s. Credit – Wheelsage
The SZ was one of the first Alfas to use computer-aided design – while this would’ve been central to creating the angular looks, it gave the SZ an impressive drag coefficient of 0.30, helping it to achieve a top speed of 152 mph.
Despite the adornment of Zagato badges, the SZ was actually designed by Robert Opron of Alfa Romeo. The SZ was actually contracted to Zagato to build in its Terrazzano di Rho facility, hence the associated name. In total, 1036 SZ coupes and 276 RZ roadsters were built from 1988 to 1994.