1990 Alfa Romeo RZ
Alfa Romeo and styling house Zagato have a long history together- dating back to the 1920s when they designed and built bodies for some of Alfa’s most famous road and race cars. This relationship continued through the 1980s and produced a long list of fascinating, beautiful, and unique cars. One of the most unique and polarizing projects to come from Alfa Romeo and Zagato was the SZ and RZ produced between 1989 and 1994. After Alfa Romeo was acquired by Fiat in 1986, it was determined that the company’s product line was getting stale and they wanted something new and sporty to tie back to their racing heritage. As they had done many times in the past, Alfa contracted Zagato to help produce a new, sporty car based on their 75 saloon. Penned by Fiat designer Robert Opron, the body’s unique shape can be attributed to being one of the first cars ever designed using CAD/CAM computer modeling. Built out of molded composite body panels, the SZ and RZ were then sent to Zagato to be put together and it was here that they were graced with the famous Z badging on the side.
The RZ is the roadster version of the SZ coupe and was built in extremely limited numbers- with over 1,000 SZ coupes produced, only 278 RZs made it out of Zagato before the project was shut down. In contrast to the SZ which was only offered in red, the RZ was offered in red, black, silver, and yellow and multiple interior colors were also available. Although the RZ looked a lot like an SZ with no roof, in truth, none of the body panels were interchangeable between the cars, the windshield was cut down and a new front spoiler, side skirts, and hood were all subtly integrated. The composite panels are thinner than those on the SZ to compensate for the weight added by convertible strengthening measures. Unlike on the coupe, the signature Zagato “double bubble” design cue was integrated into the rear convertible top cover.
This 1990 Alfa Romeo RZ is finished in Nero over a Rosso leather interior and is in essentially showroom condition with just 444 km displayed on the odometer. According to the placard in the center console, this RZ is car number 222 out of the 278 produced. Although Alfa Romeo had intended to build 350 examples of the RZ, the demand was not there in period and production ended early. One of the signature pieces found on both the RZ and SZ are the multi-piece 10-hole OZ wheels which are lightweight and fit the looks of the car superbly- given this car’s exceptionally low mileage, the Pirelli P-Zero tires appear to be original to the car. The red leather interior is stunning with a pair of very unique bucket seats that feature heavy bolstering and leather covering the doors, dash and center console. All of the leather retains the matte look that it would have had from the factory and the seats show nearly zero indication of creasing or cracking.
Under the hood of the RZ is Alfa Romeo’s famed Busso V6, which displaces 3.0 liters and produces 207 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. A true workhorse from the Alfa stable, this V6 was found in numerous cars both before and after the RZ and is renowned for its unbelievable noise and broad power curve. This is then paired with a 5-speed manual transaxle situated behind the seats for optimal weight distribution. Much of the suspension for the RZ was taken from the Alfa Romeo 75 Group A/IMSA race car, which was then modified by the Lancia/Fiat works rally team for road use. With hydraulic dampers produced by Koni, the car handled extremely well and was notoriously exciting from behind the wheel.
The Alfa Romeo SZ and RZ were both fascinating styling exercises and the company’s final production partnership with Zagato. Out of the 278 produced, it is hard to imagine that many of them have been kept in such original condition over the last 30-plus years making this black over-red example a supremely collectible example.