The Alfa Romeo SZ Is a Brutalist Classic Car Icon

Styling is one of the biggest reasons why people buy classic cars. And some of the most stylish come from Italy, from brands like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. It’s still a key part of Alfa’s business strategy. However, not all of the Italian automaker’s cars have been so well-received. Especially the one some nicknamed ‘Il Mostro,’ Italian for ‘monster’: the Alfa Romeo SZ.

The Alfa Romeo SZ: the ‘monstrous’ classic car

By the 1980s, Alfa Romeo was in financial straits, not unlike its current predicament. The brand had a history of sporty classic cars, like the Spider, but it was about to go under. Luckily Fiat, as it did with Lancia, bought it and took over.

Initially, Alfa put out more entry-level sedans. However, by 1989, the company wanted to return to its performance roots, specifically with a rear-wheel-drive sports car. The Alfa Romeo SZ was that car.

Red 1990 Alfa Romeo SZ in front of some green trees
1990 Alfa Romeo SZ | Bring a Trailer

It certainly caused a stir when it was unveiled, Road & Track reports. The sharp-edged thermoplastic composite bodywork was the result of a collaboration between Alfa and Italian design house Zagato, Evo reports. Hence the name: ‘SZ,’ or ‘Sprint Zagato,’ Autoweek explains.

That styling makes this classic car one of the first to be designed with CAD software. And it’s made the Alfa Romeo SZ something of a classic car pariah, not unlike the modern 4C. But it did leave a lasting impact elsewhere. For instance, it was the cover car for an early racing video game called Supercars II.

And underneath that styling is a genuine sports car.

How does it drive?

The Alfa Romeo SZ’s chassis and running gear are based on Alfa’s 75 Milano sedan, the Lane Motor Museum reports. Not on the road-going version, though, but the Touring and rally race car models, RM Sotheby’s reports. True, it doesn’t have ABS, traction control, or stability control. But it does have modified racing-spec suspension, Hagerty reports, as well as upgraded brakes and adjustable Koni hydraulic dampers.

The engine bay of the 1990 Alfa Romeo SZ
1990 Alfa Romeo SZ engine bay | Bring a Trailer

Under the Alfa Romeo SZ’s hood is a 3.0-liter fuel-injected V6, Alfa’s famed ‘Busso’ V6. In the SZ, it makes 210 hp, linked to a 5-speed transmission. According to Fast-Classics, it could do 0-60 in 7.3 seconds. Which, according to Car and Driver, is about a second behind a modern Toyota 86. But then, 0-60 times aren’t what the Alfa Romeo SZ is about.

In terms of practicality, it is somewhat challenged. It only has 2 seats and not a lot of space in the cabin or trunk. But this is definitely a classic car that’s fun to drive. The SZ’s steering is very direct, and the suspension keeps it planted to the road. And the Alfa V6 sounds incredible, especially at higher RPMs. It’s not quite as fast as, say, an E30 M3 or Lotus Carlton. But on a curvy road, it’s definitely a blast.

Alfa Romeo SZ pricing and availability

Red Alfa Romeo RZ convertible with its roof up
Alfa Romeo RZ | Alfa Romeo

The unconventional styling meant Alfa Romeo didn’t make many SZs. From 1989-1991, only 1036 SZs were produced. It was replaced in 1992 with the RZ convertible, of which about 270 were made. And neither were ever sold in the US.


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However, thanks to the 25-year import rule, both the Alfa Romeo SZ and RZ can be freely imported. And although Hagerty reports prices have risen, these classic cars remain somewhat affordable. While a pristine example can fetch about $100k, quite a few have sold on Bring a Trailer for $50,000-$60,000. And in 2018, RM Sotheby’s sold one at auction for roughly $36,000.

That’s not a lot of money for a stylish monster.

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