1961 Alfa Romeo SZ-1 Coupe

Simon Clay, courtesy of Bonhams
Simon Clay, courtesy of Bonhams

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.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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