It was almost just another long weekend up in the hills, when we came across an odd shape after breakfast. Curiosity piqued, I went up for a closer look. A front view of the car made it clear it was an Alfa Romeo of some sort, but with the Zagato badges on its front flanks, I knew it was probably something special.
Turns out we stumbled upon an Alfa Romeo SZ (originally code-named ES-30; Experimental Sportscar 3.0 litre), built between 1989 and 1991, in a partnership between coach-builder Zagato, Alfa Romeo and Fiat. The SZ was also known as ‘Il Monstro’ or ‘The Monster’ in Italian, due to its rather unconventional styling. A quick search off the Internet reveals that only 1,036 SZs were produced, all of which were left-hand drive only and 100 units which were exported to Japan.
If you wanted a SZ, you could only get it in red, with grey roof and tan interior. There was also a roadster variant, the RZ (Roadster Zagato) which was offered in three colour options: red with black leather, black with red leather, or yellow with black leather. However, only 278 units of the RZ were produced, making the task of sourcing for one of these much, much harder.
The SZ was based upon the Alfa Romeo 75, with suspension taken off the Alfa 75 group A/IMSA car, and equipped with Pirelli P Zero Nero tyres (front 205/55 R16, rear 225/50 R16). Motivation came from a 3.0 litre naturally aspirated alloy V6 which produced 210 PS at 6,200 rpm and 245 Nm at 4,500 rpm, mated to a 5-speed manual and housed within a body that tipped the scales at under 1,300 kgs. These performance numbers were healthy for a car from the late 80s, allowing a century sprint of 7.0 seconds and towards a vmax of 245 km/h.
Bodywork on the SZ was from theroplastic injection-moulded composite panels, with a trio of headlights on each side; DNA styling that later trickled down to modern Alfas. The wheels are 10 hole split rims by Speedline and contrasts against the odd body shape in a rather pleasing manner. Although the ‘Z’ badge is featured on this car, the car was mostly designed by Robert Opron of Fiat design studio while the build was commissioned to Zagato.
The Alfa Romeo Sprint Zagato was eventually succeeded by the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione (SZ) and 8C Spider (RZ). It turned out to be quite the Alfisti Monday, because by stroke of sheer luck, we happened to head for Gohtong Jaya with an Alfa Romeo 4C in tow, which you’ll see in our pictures below.
Putting a price on one of these is not an easy task, although searching through used car listings in the UK and US shows that asking prices are between £50,000 and £80,000. No one knows for sure how many SZs remain in the wild today, or how many were eventually brought in to Malaysia. We can only be happy to have stumbled upon what is truly a unicorn in the wild.