Sometimes the design of a car can send people into a frenzy. Just think of the effect the original Porsche Cayenne had on the car world, or most Bangle-era BMWs. And that’s amplified when they dominate the news cycle and are plastered all over magazines for months on end. But once a controversial car finally hits the road, we often find ourselves coming round to the idea of, say, a massive Porsche or a lumpy BMW.
A little over 30 years on from its release, the Alfa Romeo SZ is still one of Italy’s most divisive cars. To some extent, that’s what Alfa Romeo was going for. Having been bought by Fiat in 1986, the brand wanted to remind everyone of its motorsports roots and started work on a two-seat coupe that mixed sports car performance with a suitably bold look – all in a bid to get enthusiasts talking.
It certainly did, only people were far more concerned with the way it looked than the oily bits underneath. And it’s not exactly hard to see why, with the flat front, razor-sharp lines and curvy windscreen giving the SZ, dubbed internally as ‘Il Mostro’ (the monster) a look that was completely alien at the time. The design process itself was pretty futuristic too, with the SZ being styled exclusively using Computer Aided Design, the limitations of which are often blamed for the car’s, er, blocky silhouette.
The oddities don’t stop there, either. The SZ has Zagato written all over it, both literally and figuratively. Not only do you find Zagato badges on the wings, but the company was known for bold, if controversial, designs similar to that of the SZ. But the car was actually designed in-house at Alfa Romeo. The only part Zagato played in the SZ’s development was to assemble the 1,036-strong production run, which is unorthodox to say the least.
Mechanically, the SZ included essentially all the best bits Alfa Romeo could find in its parts bin. It’s based on a steel chassis derived from the Alfa 75 Group A car, with hydraulic dampers supplied by Koni. The engine was a tuned version of the 3.0-litre 12-valve Busso V6, which was connected up to a five-speed manual gearbox. An output of 210hp wasn’t all that bad for the late 1980s and Alfa Romeo claimed that it could reach a top speed of 152mph. Sure, it wouldn’t trouble any supercars of the era, but, crucially, the SZ backed up its sporty looks with sporty numbers.
Alfa even went to the extent of using plastic composite body panels on the SZ as a lightweight alternative to metal. Presumably, it was cheaper to manufacturer and repair too. However, chunky composite panels were required for the wild design which ultimately worked out to be just as hefty - if not more so - than a traditional metal construction. It was 35kg heavier than the 75 it was based on, though a kerb weight of 1,260kg was still relatively lightweight for a performance car of this era.
Now, some three decades on from the car’s launch, the SZ is just as much of a Marmite car as it was back in 1989. The good news is that its divisive nature means values haven’t yet reached the stratospheric heights that a lot of 80s performance cars have. Just look at the example we have here. It’s a 13,000-mile 1990 car, with the immaculate original paintwork and interior showing this SZ has clearly been cared for, making the £75,000 asking price more than a little tempting. We can’t be the only ones who think the SZ is looking better than ever, and it would surely be a surprise if prices stay below the six-figure mark forever.
SPECIFICATION | ALFA ROMEO SZ
Engine: 2,959cc V6
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 210@6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 191@4,500rpm
Year registered: 1990
Recorded mileage: 13,189
Price new: £35,000
Yours for: £75,000
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