Alfa Romeo 2600 SZ - 1966— Edgy design and sophisticated elegance —
- Model One of 105 Alfa Romeo 2600 SZs made between 1965 and 1967. An expensive and elitist car when new
- History Our car was sold new in Italy and had only three Italian owners before us
- Restauration A very sound time capsule car that had benefited from an old restoration and from more recent mechanical works
- Style An edgy style that was very modern for its times
For any Italian car lover, the Alfa Romeo 2600 SZ, without even having to look at its initials (SZ which stands for ‘Sprint Zagato’), fully embodies the Zagato style of the 1960s, and more particularly the one signed by Ercole Spada. Indeed, Spada has created most of Zagato sixties masterpieces. It all started with the Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, which he designed in just six months when he was just 23 years old!
The coda tronca, one of the most striking Zagato signatures from the 1960s
The coda tronca or kammtail was directly inspired by the work of two German engineers in the 1930s. They had proved that a drop of water was the perfect aerodynamic shape. Soon they realised the drop shape was way too long for a car so they decided to cut its end. And it proved to be as efficient as the full drop in terms of aerodynamics.
As Spada recalls, ” No one seemed brave enough to cut the rear of a car as they suggested, so everyone just designed cars with round rear ends. I was the first to cut the drop properly, creating the cut tail, or coda tronca in Italian. It was my most successful aerodynamic experiment of the 1960s. ”
This signature cutaway rear end was first applied to competition cars, the Alfa Romeo SZ2 and TZ in 1962 and 1963 with spectacular results. Combined with lightness thanks to thin aluminium bodywork that simply dressed the car, Spada signed Zagato’s greatest racing masterpieces. The Alfa 2600 SZ, first presented as a prototype in November 1962, was no exception to the rule, even though it was built in steel rather than in aluminium, which made it a fast touring car rather than a sports car.
The 2600 SZ, a singular and very modern line for its time
The 2600 SZ’s design is very modern and radically different from the standard 2600 coupe. This unique and edgy design is often considered disconcerting and even divisive. Basically, it’s a love or hate relationship with this car!
It is true that the prototype presented in November 1962 by Zagato took everyone by surprise. It was radically different the more classic, even bourgeois, 2600 Sprint Coupés and Spiders.
It was not until 1964 that Zagato finally assembled four final prototypes to refine the body design, which had already undergone several modifications during its public presentations between 1962 and 1964. It was not until 1965, three years after the presentation of the first Zagato prototype, that Alfa Romeo sold the 2600 Sprint Zagato directly. The price tag was very high: four million lire.
Needless to say, the combination of a clear-cut style and a hefty price tag reserved this car for an elite. Therefore, the car stayed quite confidential: only 105 production units were sold during these three years. As a comparison, Alfa Romeo sold no less than 2,038 Berlinas, 2,255 Spider Tourings and, above all, 6.999 Bertone Sprint Coupes!
With the exception of the bodywork, the engine and chassis of the 2600 SZ remained identical to those of the 2600 Sprint, but the car’s better aerodynamics allowed a top speed of 210 km/h. That was 17 km/h faster than the 2600 Sprint.
With time, the once disconcerting design has become one of the icons of the collaboration between Alfa Romeo and Zagato. Although it takes time to fully understand it, those who take the time generally end up by understanding its genesis and subtleties. It is best to do so outside with space around the car.
What is immediately striking is the slim, straight and delicate rear end, which contrasts with the more massive and aggressive front end reminiscent of a menacing shark’s nose. The car also disconcerts with its large glass surfaces extended by a rear bubble that seems to encroach on the rear bonnet. This extremely modern stylistic signature for its time is actually still disconcerting today!
A new Alfa Romeo six-cylinder engine dedicated to grand touring
The Alfa Romeo 2600 is interesting in Alfa Romeo’s long history as it marks the return of a six-cylinder engine at Alfa Romeo after years of four-cylinder engines. It also remains as the last Alfa Romeo car to be produced by coachbuilders: the Sprint Coupe by Bertone, the Spider by Touring and the very exclusive Zagato coupe.
Presented in 1962, the Alfa Romeo 2600 replaced the 2000 series cars while keeping their chassis and bodywork with some minor changes. The real innovation of the 2600 was the replacement of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with an all-new 2,584cc Solex triple-carburettor twin-cam six-cylinder. Maximum power was 145 hp, compared to 130 hp for the saloon, which was enough to reach 200 km/h in fifth gear.
The 2600 SZ, a must-have car for Zagato enthusiasts
Confidential and unknown compared to the Giulia TZ or the SZ2 signed by Ercole Spada for Zagato, both Alfa Romeo collectors and design enthusiasts increasingly appreciate the 2600 SZ.
It is a rare car, hard to find if you are looking for one. As a matter of fact, quite a few of them are now part of the largest Alfa Romeo collections in the world and it is not uncommon to see one in the most prestigious elegance competitions.