(first posted 9/8/2014) Welcome to the second installment from Como Park. Today I have the pleasure of bringing you a selection of exquisite and rarely seen Alfa Romeos. For some reason, Australia received many significant early Alfa Romeos. The first was imported in 1918, and at one point we had as many Merosi models (designer circa 1910-1926) in Australia as there were in all the combined countries of the rest of the world.
First we have a 1900C Super Sprint of the type produced between 1953 and 1958. Introduced in 1950, the 1900 was the first Alfa to be considered a mass-produced series, with a factory-built four-door saloon making up most of the output. Carrozzeria Touring produced a number of two-door coupes of which this example can be considered the highest in specification. The standard 1884cc was bored to 1975cc and could propel the car to 118mph with its four-speed-plus-overdrive gearbox.
Minus the bumpers, and with mesh grilles as opposed to the standard, more ornate grille embellishment, this appears to be one of the few Touring coupes built for racing. It was not as light as the Zagato variant but nonetheless cuts quite a dashing figure. I’m not sure about this specific car’s racing history, but the bumperless treatment is, as with many cars from this era, my preferred look.
I get all funny in the belly looking at those frenched rear lights, sitting unobtrusively in the compound curvature of the rear corners. The coachline sweeping down from the flanks to define the rear end has me gazing slack-jawed as I write this piece. I love the racing detail as well, from the leather bonnet catches to the ventilated window sections.
This winged wonder represents the golden period of Alfa on the track. Before building cars bearing his own name, Enzo Ferrari was a famed race-team manager. Scuderia Ferrari was the quasi-works team for Alfa, and Enzo had managed to convince Vittorio Jano to leave Fiat to design a lightweight six-cylinder 1500cc engine for Alfa. The engine of this 6C 1750 was the next iteration of Jano’s work. Produced in six series from 1929 to 1933, I’m not sure where this exact example fits.
The 6C 1750 was considered an invincible beast. In 1929, it won every major race it entered including four Grands Prix, the Mille Miglia and the Ulster Tourist Trophy. When fitted with a Roots-type supercharger, these cars put out about 100bhp which was enough to propel them to 90mph. Alfa produced a lightweight running chassis which was then dressed by carrozzeria such as Zagato, Touring and James Young. The name I associate mostly with this car is the great Tazio Nuvolari who drove one to victory in the 1930 Mille Miglia in characteristically furious fashion.
Next we have a 2600 Spider. The 106-series 2600cc was an update of a two-litre six-cylinder that had itself replaced the four-cylinder 1900 used in our first car. It was not a success for Alfa, with only about 11,000 examples sold between 1961 and 1968. The reception to the factory saloon was so poor, roughly three times as many coupes were sold. This fine specimen is another Touring body, distinguished from the two-litre version by the scoop on the bonnet.
It’s actually quite a long-legged car, although I was unable to get a pure profile shot to demonstrate this. Touring, as this article shows, had quite a long history with Alfa and their bodies featured the trademark ‘Superleggera’ (super light) body work. Originating in the 1930s, this was a method of construction whereby a spaceframe chassis of small-diameter steel tubes supported an unstressed aluminium body skin. The most famous Touring bodies were those built for the Aston Martin DB4/5/6.
Around 2,200 of these were produced (again, more than the saloon), but they were really overshadowed by the more petite and prettier Giulia and Giulietta Spiders. It was really positioned against the Lancia Flaminia and Maserati 3500, but was held back mostly by its lack of a sparkling engine, which was the last of the traditional Alfa inline-sixes upon which the company had built much of its reputation.
As I mentioned, one reason the 2600 range is not so well regarded is because the range underneath it was almost perfect. The Giulietta Spider, (which eventually became the more powerful, but same-bodied Giulia Spider) was introduced in 1955 as a stylish sister to the Giulietta coupe and shared most of its sheer driveability. These were a great success for both Alfa and Pininfarina, with production for the Spider lasting until 1965.
The Giulietta models came with a 1290cc engine in various states of tune and the Giulia used the 1570cc version of this twin cam jewel. To accommodate the taller deck, the later Giulia models had a bonnet bulge and simulated scoop as per the above 2600, which means this is a Giulietta. Those quarter windows were introduced in 1959 when the model was transformed from 750 series to 101 series. I always thought the Giulia was the 101 and the Giulietta the 750, but apparently there was some overlap with late Giulietta models designated as 101 series during the changeover.
Let’s move onto a couple of Australian variants. The Ricciardi was made in very limited numbers, apparently only two still exist. Based on the Australian JWF Milano, the body was widened (I think) to accommodate mechanicals from the 105 series Alfa 1750 of the late sixties. I believe these were built sometime in the early eighties.
The Giocattolo (Italian for ‘plaything’) was another Australian creation. Starting with Giugiaro’s Alfasud Sprint body, the engine was transferred to a mid/rear position. Initially fitted with the 2.5 litre Alfa V6, the makers decided a 5 litre Holden V8 (warmed over by Holden Special Vehicles) would provide more appropriate motivation after only three examples were built. Only fifteen were ultimately produced, making this yellow coupe quite rare.
Behold ‘Il Mostro’. Dubbed The Monster by the Italian press, the Alfa SZ was late ’80s attempt to sustain the Alfa and Zagato brands. This brutal looking design was the result of a three-way tussle between the Zagato, Alfa and Fiat design studios; with the ultimate winners being young Fiat designer Antonio Castellana under the aegis of Robert Opron. That triple headlight configuration looks familiar.
The body is made of moulded composite thermoplastic injection panels formed by Carplast in Italy and Stratime Cappelo Systems in France, and was assembled by Zagato at Terrazzano di Rho near the Alfa factory in Arese. Mechanically, you’re looking at an Alfa 75 with the 12v 3.0 V6 powering the car, along with suspension from the Group A/IMSA 75. Performance figures are quoted as 210bhp at 6,200 rpm and a top speed of 245kph, although these numbers are said to err on the conservative side.
As the rear end demonstrates, it’s not the prettiest Alfa, but is probably the most desirable from a rather fallow period for the marque. 1036 examples of the red-only SZ were produced, with another 278 of the later RZ convertible. There were two examples on display the day I photographed this.
Saving the best for last, may I present the Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ. Nominally a 105 Giulia, this is the homologated version purpose-built for racing. Replacing the SZ, the TZ’s aluminium skin was wrapped around a tube frame–hence the moniker Tubolare Zagato. Ex-Ferrari engineer Carlo Chiti was engaged to build these beauties, and set up Autodelta in order to do so. Autodelta was eventually to become the racing arm of Alfa Romeo. Ercole Spada styled this for Zagato.
The ‘coda tronca’ (truncated end) Kamm profile tail was instrumental in aiding the TZ’s windcheating abilities. Paul’s three-part series on aerodynamics (one, two and three) goes into its benefits and Alfa had experimented with this on other cars like the delicious Sprint Speciale. In ultimate racing form, it was propelled by the GTA version of the twin-spark 1570cc four-cylinder which produced 160bhp. Weighing only 660kgs, the TZ could reach a maximum speed of 216kmh (134mph).
There were ultimately three iterations of the TZ, and this model became known latterly as the TZ1. Development started in 1959, and production occured between 1963 and 1967 resulting in only 112 examples. In 1963, the TZ won the FISA Cup in Monza and achieved class podiums in the Sebring 12 Hours, Targa Florio, 1000km Nurburgring, Le Mans, Tour of France, Coupe des Alpes and Tour of Corsica. Amongst this scattering of bona fide classic Alfas, it seems a fitting end to the second installment of this series. Stay tuned for more red Italians next Monday.