Alfa Romeo SZ: tradition and innovation

The epitome of sportiness

Presented in the Alfa Romeo stand at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show, the SZ was designed to amaze the public with its aggressive sporty profile, marked by low ground clearance, a high beltline and a wedge shape that conveyed grit and speed.


It was the result of the ambitious project called ES30 (for "Experimental Sportcar 3.0 litre"), an attempt by Alfa Romeo to reaffirm its tradition as a manufacturer of rear-wheel drive sports cars, but using new technology. The production of 1000 units was also commissioned to coachbuilder Zagato.

Besides its innovative composite fibre bodywork, the car was the first in the industry to be produced using computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) systems. The unprecedented use of this technology significantly reduced design lead times and, most importantly, the need for refinements and modifications during production.

The heart of the SZ was its impressive V6 “Busso” engine (named after the designer), which equipped the 75 3.0i Quadrifoglio Verde in 1987. It incorporated electronic injection and a three-way catalytic converter, delivering 185 hp and up to 204 hp in the SZ version.  The mechanics also included a 5-speed rear axle gearbox integrated with the differential, as well as suspension and brakes lifted from the 75 1.8 Turbo Evolution competition car. The chassis consisted of a steel underbody covered by a modern, composite-fibre bodyshell.

The design was a fusion between ideas from the Alfa Romeo and Fiat style centres and the projects of Zagato, which produced around 1000 units between 1989 and 1994, including a roadster version called the Alfa Romeo RZ from 1992.


The car was bulky but sleek, with low ground clearance, a very high beltline and a pronounced wedge shape. The new design and construction technology enabled the roof to seamlessly adjoin the front and rear windscreens in one smooth contour, forming a flowing greenhouse that stood out against the body due to the minimal black pillars and roof.

The model on show has always belonged to Alfa Romeo and was used on the Balocco proving ground as an experimental vehicle for many years. It is also the car used for official photos of the time, as well as for the most authoritative books on the eclectic Milanese coupé. It is practically a unique car, different in a number of details to other SZs produced after it, enough to be considered a prototype.

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