When hallowed Alfa Romeo enlists the design resources of vaunted Milanese styling house Zagato in penning a high-performance, low-volume sportscar, you’d naturally presume the result would be sublime. How, then, can one explain the abomination that is the Alfa Romeo SZ (Sprint Zagato)?

Resembling a Dutch clog on wheels, the SZ is without doubt the ugliest contraption to wear Alfa Romeo badges. ‘Credit’ for the SZ’s visually challenging lines goes to French crayon wielder Robert Opron, who did the initial sketches, and Antonio Castellana, who carried out the final flourishes and interior design. Quite how this pair — who had done some fine work in the past — could get it so wrong is almost beyond belief.

The SZ was based on the underpinnings of the Alfa Romeo 75 saloon (hardly the greatest looker itself), and production of the car (282 units were built) was carried out by Zagato near the Alfa factory in Arese. The downright weird assortment of body panels — seemingly pinched from several different cars — was fabricated from a moulded plastic composite, and the crude fit and finish did nothing to enhance the SZ’s awful shape.

There was also a convertible version (dubbed the RZ), but that was no less hideous.

However, as the old cliché goes, every cloud has a silver lining, and in the SZ’s case this manifested in driving dynamics that were allegedly top-notch. The punchy, sonorous 3.0-litre V6 propelled the 1,256kg coupe at a decent clip, while the suspension was sourced from the Alfa 75 Group A race car and further honed by Giorgio Pianta, engineer of the Lancia/Fiat factory rally team. Bespoke Koni hydraulic dampers and sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres were added to the mix, and the result was reportedly exceptional cornering capabilities.

If you were an SZ owner, the best bet would have been to keep driving it and never get out to look at the thing.


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