Alfa Romeo’s successful Giulietta range debuted in 1954 with the arrival of the Bertone-styled Sprint coupe, the Berlina (saloon) not appearing until the succeeding season. Veloce models with improved performance followed, and the agile Giulietta SV quickly established an enviable record in production-car racing, notable victories including a Gran Turismo class win in the 1956 Mille Miglia. Nevertheless, to fully exploit the car’s potential, lighter and more aerodynamic bodywork was deemed necessary — a requirement which resulted in the ultimate Giuliettas: Bertone’s Sprint Special and the Sprint Zagato (SZ), both built on the short-wheelbase Spider platform and powered by the 116-hp version of Alfa’s classic 1.3-liter, twin-cam, 4-cylinder engine.
Conceived as an out-and-out competition car, the Sprint Zagato coupe adopted lightweight aluminum-alloy coachwork and demonstrated its designer’s commitment to weight saving in every detail, tipping the scales at an astonishing 785 kg (1,730 pounds). With a top speed of around 125 mph, the SZ was easily the fastest of the Giuliettas, and even today there are few 1.3-liter cars capable of matching this level of performance. The SZ’s inherent stability and instantaneous response to steering input made it a driver’s car par excellence. On the racetrack it proved virtually unbeatable, and the Sprint Zagato remains a major force to be reckoned with in historic motorsport, being eligible for a wide variety of the most prestigious events, including the Le Mans Classic.