From the legendary pre-war 6C 1750, the combination of Zagato’s lightweight bodywork and Alfa Romeo’s sophisticated engines and superb chassis has led not only to competition successes but to the creation of some of the most stylish sports and GT cars to come from Italy as well.

Among the rarest of this exclusive club are the 16 Sprint Veloce Zagato coupes built between 1956 and 1959. All slightly different in detail execution; they are the ancestors of the Alfa Romeo SZ and TZ that would follow. That the line began with an accident is fascinating and tells a compelling story of mid-20th century Italian racing. Massimo Girolamo Leto di Priolo was a gentleman racer who took delivery of a new Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce in May 1956.

Four days later, he drove his new car in the Mille Miglia, where he promptly crashed into a riverbed, essentially destroying the bodywork. Rather than having his car repaired to factory standards, Leto di Priolo instead had the remains taken to Zagato, where craftsmen cut the wrecked panels off the platform and built a new body in its place. With a more aerodynamic shape and an alloy body weighing more than 220 pounds (100 kg) less than the steel-paneled factory car, this “Sprint Veloce Zagato” coupe was soon racking up a string of victories through the remainder of 1956 and into 1957.

This car, chassis 06184, has a known continuous history and is documented in Gino Giugno’s book, Giulietta Sprint Veloce Zagato. Having been stored for almost 20 years in the shop of Gianni Torelli, it was sold to noted Italian collector and restorer Franco Meiners in 2007. Restored to a very high level, 06184 was shown at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and remains today in superb condition. This Giulietta is stated to be ready to run.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1958 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce Zagato
Number Produced:16
Original List Price:$5,536 (Sprint Veloce and Zagato body)
Tune Up Cost:$275
Chassis Number Location:Engine bulkhead
Engine Number Location:Intake side of engine, near front
Alternatives:1956 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce lightweight, 1958 Porsche 356 Carrera GT, 1958 Lancia Appia GTS

This car, Lot 370, sold for $536,648, including buyer’s premium, at RM Auctions’ Motorcars of Monaco sale on May 12, 2012.

You don’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool Alfista to believe that nearly all of Carrozzeria Zagato’s Alfa Romeos of the 1950s and 1960s occupy the realm of the clouds nearest the peak of Mount Olympus — traditional home of the gods. They do so for good reasons — not only were they produced in limited numbers and are among the most successful competition cars of their time, but all have the iconoclastic style for which the Milanese coachbuilder is famed.

Years before Colin Chapman famously said, or did not say, “To add speed, add lightness,” Zagato understood the relationship between a light, sturdy body that was fitted with light-but-supportive seats and success in competition.

Among these most prized Alfas, the brilliant SZ, TZ and TZ-2 are arguably the best known and among the most efficacious of the track weapons born of the collaboration.

It is unlikely that we would have had them if it were not for the SVZ, and for that reason alone, the model has great historical significance. That this all started with accident repair is remarkable.

Consider, if you can, a manufacturer such as Porsche creating a new race car inspired by a customer’s crashed Carrera GT as rebodied by say, Bruce Canepa, which outperformed the factory’s own car.

A major factor in the SVZ’s success was that the FIA considered them an all-alloy variant of the lightweight Bertone-bodied Giulietta Sprint factory cars, which were steel with alloy doors and hoods. As such, they could run as homologated GT cars, a much friendlier place than the Sports Car category. That the SVZ not only out-performed the factory lightweight Giulietta Sprint but also looked quite lovely while doing it didn’t hurt. 

Complete history boosts value

Although they are divided into two series, these cars were built to order. They are truly bespoke cars, and no two of the 16 are exactly the same. Each has a certain family resemblance to the others — as well as to other Zagato cars of the mid to late 1950s — but they are different enough that it has both helped and hindered in the identification of original cars.

All 16 cars are well documented today, with Gino Giugno’s book Giulietta Sprint Veloce Zagato being the best reference. Nevertheless, imaginative people have labored to benefit the world with additional copies.

The international cottage industry in artisanal high-end classic car reproduction has remained a bright spot of profit potential in uncertain economic times. The level of the work performed at small firms is truly remarkable, and at times seems to even surpass that of the original craftsmen who created the automotive masterpieces that occupy the summit of the collector world.

That the details of each car vary also makes it simpler for the forger, as he (or she) can take small liberties and not be immediately caught out with an incorrect line or element. The handsome price paid for this Alfa SVZ is a tribute to their talent and artistry. When an example of a car so easily faked is offered with a complete history and only one long stretch of storage — properly documented — people pay attention and cash in equal measure.

Welcome on the road and the very best fairways

As its display at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance demonstrated, the SVZ is welcome just about everywhere fine cars are seen. Restored to a fine level but not over-restored in any way, this Alfa would be ideal for any major collection or as the centerpiece of a new one.

The panel fit and gaps appear period-correct, the finishes in the engine compartment are as dull as they were the day it was delivered, all of the alloy exterior trim is complete, the Tecnomagnesio wheels show it means business on the road, and the just-broken-in Zagato racing seats in the correctly trimmed interior are testament that is has been driven.

This Alfa should be driven in events, and if necessary, onto concours lawns. The car will do brilliantly well in either setting. There’s no doubt this SVZ cost a lot of money — nearly twice the price of the nicest Lightweight Sprint Veloce or SZ — but no matter which course of action is taken by the new owner, it was worth every penny.

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