Alfa Romeo TZ: beauties and the beast

Together Zagato and Alfa Romeo are responsible for the TZ models, notable for both design and engineering – but there's one that splits opinion...

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Alfa Romeo is known for producing some beautiful machinery, especially when it aligns itself with its home nation's famous coachbuilders.

Zagato is one such outfit that is responsible for cars such as the SS Coupé, 6C Zagato, and of course those iconic TZ cars. TZ1, 2, and the 8C based TZ3 Corsa all continue the linage, but the TZ3 Stradale is something of a black sheep. There’s no debate as to its good looks, but it wasn’t an Alfa Romeo at heart.

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The first Alfa Romeo TZ was developed by the brand’s competition department, which in 1963 was comprised of Alfa and ex-Ferrari engineers. A 1570cc Giulia formed its base with Zagato producing an aerodynamic aluminium body that gave the car its distinctive 'bread van' shape. Research suggested that unless you were willing to extend the Giulia’s body and continue the teardrop profile of the roof, it was more aerodynamically beneficial to simply chop the would-be tail short. This is where TZ cars get their distinctively blunt rear.

TZ2 arrived in 1965, this time with a fibreglass body and an even more streamlined shape. The Kamm-tail tradition was continued, however, the TZ2’s motorsport career was cut short as Alfa focused on its new GTA racing program. It competed for just one year.

Many decades later the TZ3 arrived after German collector Martin Kapp commissioned the car. Zagato produced another stunning aluminium bodied, Kamm-tailed design for this one-off car. Officially dubbed that Zagato Alfa Romeo TZ3 Corsa, this track-only car’s beauty was more than skin-deep. It was based on an Alfa Romeo 8C Competitzione and retained its 4.2-litre V8 engine, producing 420bhp. A carbon fibre frame and monocoque helped keep weight to a minimum and enabled the TZ3 to tip the scales at just 850kg.

A further derivative of the TZ3 was built to celebrate 100 years of Alfa Romeo. Just nine TZ3 Stradale road cars were built, again defined by that romantic Zagato design language. Unlike the TZ3 Corsa, the Stradale wasn’t derived from the 8C as the super coupé had since gone out of production.

Instead Alfa Romeo took full advantage of its parent company’s new American ties. Fiat acquired and merged with Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge to create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – this in turn offered a much broader parts-bin to Alfa. The Dodge Viper ACR-X was chosen to underpin the TZ3 Stradale, to some disdain from Alfa purists.

It kept the Viper’s 640bhp 8.4-litre V10 engine and manual transmission giving this TZ3 more of a muscle car feel. Commentators at the time remarked that this was the first 'American Alfa Romeo' model.

Will we see a TZ4 at some point in the future? With Alfa Romeo readying a reborn 8C supercar, of which would be the perfect candidate, we can only hope.

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