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Alfa SZ

Alfa SZ Published: 9th May 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alfa SZ
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£20,000-£40,000+ - Oddball character - Race-bred handling - Still affordable - Patchy parts supply

Walter De Silva, ex-Head of Alfa Romeo Centro Stile, Alfa Romeo’s in-house design team, says he was not responsible for the Alfa SZ. That an Alfa Romeo man should distance himself from an Alfa – any Alfa – is very unusual. Looks, they say, are in the eye of the beholder and whatever your views are on the SZ, there’s no denying it’s a superb driver’s car and a modern classic.

Driving

From a distance, you wonder what on earth you’re looking at when you come across an SZ. As you get closer, you realise that this beast virtually rests on the ground, to help with aerodynamics (in fact, the SZ has a coefficient of drag of a very respectable 0.3, amazing for a car of this age). Tap on the body and the sound it makes is a bit strange, hollow, and it feels like a toy, light and ‘plasticky’.

Don’t be fooled into believing that this is a DIY car, though. Pirelli didn’t just make sexy calendars back in the day, and it provided the Alfa SZ with some magical, asymmetrically treaded P Zero tyres (now hard to obtain). Pirelli also gave advice about fine-tuning that fantastic chassis too, which can pull 1.4g through the bends. Thirty years ago, the SZ’s rear-wheel-drive chassis (based upon the 75 saloon, with a dash of Group A racer) was a truly spectacular achievement.

At launch, some of the UK press felt that the SZ had the best chassis behaviour although the ride was seen as harsh.

The brakes, ABS-free, as yet another sign of a pure racer, although they don’t work too well. It’s a good thing that the SZ is so great in many departments because the one area where it disappoints, sadly, is outright performance. Sure, that V6 engine sounds as wonderful as any Alfa will do, but in straight 210bhp terms it’s not that quick, and wasn’t even back then. That said, it’s hardly a slouch either and can be easily tweaked.

Best models

There’s no such thing really; with 1036 made, and some 200 for the UK (all left-hand drive), it’s case of take what you can get. They only came in red, although Zagato had his in black, and the only RHD car was converted by Autodelta UK. There was a roadster RZ, produced between 1992-’93 and less than 300 were made.

Values

In terms of future values, these cars will surely soar over the next few years, not that they haven’t already. Expect to pay Montreal-like prices for the best examples and perhaps half this for average models needing a spot of TLC. Be wary here, though, because many parts, such as side windows, are obsolete and replacement front screens cost a whopping £1500 so price with care; it pays to buy the best you can afford, even if it means breaking the bank. As all are LHD, you may well have to look abroad for lower priced cars.

Buying advice

SZ is mostly made of plastic (though a very special kind of it, called ‘Modar’), so what you need to look for is… rust. No, we’re not kidding. Check the roof cover; underneath it, on top of the rear fender, there is a gasket whose destiny seems to be continuously fighting with water which cannot drain away (no, not another design fault!). Water pools under the gasket and gets in touch with the rabbet below.

Check thoroughly the join where the alloy roof mates to the steel bodywork; electrolytic rusting is known at this point. Body panels were discontinued years ago, so you either need to make do and mend or rely upon the after-market, where certain pattern panels are available. Don’t dismiss cracked headlights. Those cute little square-shaped items aren’t made anymore…

Watch out for micro-blistered paintwork. This is very common on the SZ and, if you can’t find any, then it means that the car has probably been resprayed. Trim is unique to the SZ and hardly the most durable. Also, the carbon-fibre rear wing is prone to delaminating.

The electrics are typical Alfa, which means they can be tetchy to say the least. Check that all the systems work, and this includes the variable ride height, which is known to fail. Still on the suspension, check knocks and rattles from the rear shock absorbers which is common and, because these special Koni units are no longer made, they need to be overhauled. Another area for rattles when worn is the De Dion axle tube.

Apart from cam belt tensioner issue, the V6 is quite strong, as is the transmission, although propshaft parts are obsolete as are the special Koni dampers. Fit Ferodo D25 brake pads at the very least as the SZ’s brakes are only average…



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