Alfa Romeo SZ (ES-30) – 1989

Almost as rare as the Yeti and just as powerful, ‘II Monstro’ (`The Monster’) was a limited edition collaboration between Alfa Romeo and the design wizard Andrea Zagato. It was a high performance super coupe with the underlying menace of an aggressive bulldog. In effect, Zagato was capo dei capi of a number of high performance and racing design teams who had contributed to the SZ. Using the Alfa Romeo 75 saloon as a basis for most of the mechanics, Fiat’s own design studio came up with the controversial ‘flying wedge’ styling, rigidifying and stabilizing the chassis by bonding the GRP composite body to the steel frame.

The head of the Lancia rally works team modified the Alfa 75’s suspension, and Koni produced the SZ’s hydraulic damper system. Zagato brooded, and tweaked. The rear-mounted transmission on the shortened wheelbase created perfect weight distribution. With the dampers to adjust the drive height for every condition, and aerodynamics refined by the ground effect underbody and carbon-fibre rear spoiler, the SZ’s inherent balance provided featherweight handling but kept the car glued to the road at real speed.

Drivers literally laughed with pleasure at the experience, and the smooth, smooth engine roared back its shared delight. The sacrifice was top speed and acceleration, neither of which matched eager expectations. Being ‘as good as’ anything else wasn’t enough for stopwatch anoraks, who also criticized the short, stubby departure from Alfa design norms. They failed to realise that the SZ’s elegance lay in its integration of form and function: on real roads, in real conditions, this car could get from A to B quicker and more safely than anything comparable. The SZ was Zagato’s Alfa swansong, and a monster of a legacy.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Italy

FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1989 (until 1991)

ENGINE: 2,959 cc Alfa Romeo V6

PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 153 mph (246 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.7 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Immediately after Alfa Romeo SZ production ended, production began of a small number of convertible versions, called the RZ. It didn’t even compare to the coupe. The chassis wasn’t reinforced, and the car was heavier. The RZ’s handling was Irredeemably compromised, and it only looked the promised part.

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