The Alfa Romeo SZ 20 years ago Geneva


The Alfa Romeo SZ in 1989 at the Geneva Salon de l'Automobile


The Alfa Romeo SZ made it's first public appearance at the March 1989 Geneva Salon de l'Automobile. It was named ES30, an abbreviation of Experimental Sportscar 30, the number 30 relating to the engine capacity of 3 liters.

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It's "raison d'etre" for Alfa Romeo being twofold. First of all it was a styling and technical exercise to show the world the revival of the sporting assets of the Alfa Romeo marquee after it was purchased by FIAT in 1986. Although the company could have gone to great lengths and make a real supercar a la Ferrari F40, it had been the objective to stay close to the then current Alfa Romeo series products.

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First goal was achieved: it became noticed.

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Pictures taken from a private collection and some received from Mr. A. KOHLER, please respect the copy rights !

At the first picture below you can see: Mr. Stefano Jacoponi chief engineer development sz.

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Second goal was for internal company reasons. The ES30 was the first car to be completely designed by CAD, a then new computer technology brought in by the parent company of FIAT. Furthermore it was an example of both internal cooperation (and competition) for the Alfa Romeo and FIAT design departments, with early competition coming from Zagato. As an important aside it was also used to gain experience with new (limited scale) production techniques and materials like for instance body parts of glassfibre reinforced injection molded thermosetting resins.

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A number of magazines had already published information about the technical specifications of the car and printed pictures of prototypes being tested on the Alfa Romeo testing grounds of Ballocco. The one thing that caught the eye of the onlookers and motoring journalists was its styling which was controversial to say the least. In these early days the car got its nickname "Il Mostro" or "The Monster".

It was decided to produce a limited series of a 1000 cars. Interested parties were screened because there were a lot more people interested than cars to be made and within a few weeks the order books were closed. Those who were lucky to be accepted were asked to sign a contract and make a down payment. After it's successful introduction in Geneva it made additional public appearances on car shows in Europe fi. in Paris and in Frankfurt and prototypes even ran as pace car in the 1989 German SuperCup race series.

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The prototypes were not yet ready for production and lot of detailing effort was needed. For instance the car gained a hydraulic lift system needed to clear the bumpers and chassis from bumps and sleeping policemen. First production cars were made in 1989, although first customer deliveries took until the beginning of 1990.

According to the Alfa Romeo Historical archife data the SZ's with the chassisnumbers ending on 000004 and 000016 are the first produced cars in July 1989.

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So if there has been showed an SZ earlier ( March ), this data might be not 100% correct because also the pre-production cars are part of this official data base.

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But a strange thing is that in the Piatti SZ book at page 37 has been mentioned that the SZ with VIN number xx00006 has been used at the Geneva car show in March.

I personally suppose that some pre-production and show cars entered the production line as finished production cars later in the process ?

All production cars bear a solid silver plaque on the centre console with the build number inscribed. Cars were handed over to their proud owners with signed and numbered quality approval sheets and parts books although speculators were worse off as the time of high price gains for limited edition sports cars were over.

After its debut the ES-30 got renamed as SZ ( Sprint Zagato ), as a reminder to Alfa's inspiring past.

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