Films: These Alfa Romeos Are A Common Thread
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Made To Drive | S07 E14

These Alfa Romeos Are A Common Thread

For the Swig brothers, cars are the strongest link to a legacy left by their father
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Colby Shenkle (Leggera Creative)
Colby Shenkle (Leggera Creative)
5 years ago

Great film. I especially prefer the Zagato, mainly for it’s fine booty – we could have seen more of that in the film!

David Swig
David Swig
6 years ago

Robert,

In the beginning, starting in ’56, there were the SVZ’s (Sprint Veloce Zagato)…18 of them or so, depending who you ask. These cars were bespoke creations and all a little bit different from one another. Most, if not all of these SVZs, originated as Sprints (Coupes). The SVZ series of cars led Alfa Romeo to decide to produce an “official” lightweight production version of the Giulietta Veloce. Alfa Romeo commissioned Zagato to build bodies for the production Giulietta SZ (Sprint Zagato). About 200 or so of the SZs were built. The SZ was indeed a coach built car, but it was a production model available to order at your Alfa Romeo dealer. The SZ used the long-wheelbase (101-series) Giulietta chassis and I believe it first debuted in March 1960 or so. These cars are known as Tipo 101.26.

The car in our video is not an SZ, nor is it considered part of the original series of SVZ cars.

As Howard noted in the video, our car was born as a 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider Veloce (750 series, short wheelbase). Presumably it was crashed early on. It went to Zagato in the summer of 1960 — its German owner commissioned a Zagato body on the Spider chassis. So, it was produced at the same time as many of the production SZs in Zagato’s workshops, and indeed it resembles the basic shape of the “roundtail” SZ, but in fact it rides on the 2-inch shorter wheelbase 750 chassis, so it’s actually completely different proportionally to a standard SZ.

Bottom line, it is a one-off “customer car” done by Zagato in 1960. This is why we have called it a “Giulietta Veloce Zagato”. It could also accurately be considered to be an “SVZ” and in fact in one race result we found from 1962 this car is described as a “Spider Veloce Zagato”. How’s that for confusing!

JB21
JB21
6 years ago
Reply to  David Swig

Also want to note, that there were quite a few of those conversions done, though of course I have no idea how many. Once in the early 90s, there were so many SZs in Japan, at one Alfa Romeo meet, there were at least 15 of them there, and learned that not a single one of them were quite identical to each other.

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
6 years ago

Apparently only eighteen of the SZ’s were made. If this one is the one which was made from a crashed Giulietta, as a special request of Zagato, then this may be the first of that series, from which the following seventeen were copied. The engine for the SZ developed about 100hp from a 1.3 liter engine, with 9.7 compression, and two huge side draft carburetors, and the bodies were aluminum. So it must have been a rather potent car for the time. Full details are on Wikipedia for anyone who wants them. Try the URL at the bottom of this post.

I also look at the steel wheels; the narrow tires; the solid rear axles; the drum brakes on all four wheels (with the exception apparently of the later SZs), and I know that the unsprung suspension weight had to be rather high by current standards for some rather modest cars. A car like the early NA6 Miata with its wider rubber and lower unsprung weight might be more nimble. So these are examples that were a kind of apex in technology at a point in time now past.

I do find these Zagato bodies to be pleasing in a way that the many dramatically creased designs which emerge from Chris Bangle’s iconic cars are not. There is something quite lovely about them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfa_Romeo_Giulietta_(750/101)

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
6 years ago
Reply to  Robert in LA

Okay I am beginning to understand this a little better. Only 18 SVZs were made. These were hand made cars, as the elder Swig brother describes, and the first was done as a special order, working from a crashed Giulietta. From the SVZs a production run, apparently limited to 170s cars, was also done. They were limited production versions of what was previously a coach built car, and these were the SZs. So perhaps Swig is talking about the whole SVZ / SZ opus, when he remarks that the cars came from a crash Giulietta, and a special order. Petrolicious has another video on one of the late, production SZs. And that video is here: https://petrolicious.com/alfa-romeo-giulietta-sz

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
6 years ago
Reply to  Robert in LA

As I look through the range of build-outs of these SZ chassis, the later ones seem to have cast aluminum wheels. The earlier ones have pressed steel wheels with ventilation holes in the same pattern as the steel ones, and a chrome steel hub cap. The difference between the weights of each, in the same size range, is often 50\% higher for the steel. So, despite the drum brakes, unsprung weight per corner on the SZ may have approached modern levels.

Osca1600
Osca1600
6 years ago

How lovely to see these two wonderful Alfas being completely loved and enjoyed as they were meant to be. Good on you guys, you really do understand what it means to be a classic car person and you have certainly are keeping your Dad’s memory alive, but equally creating your own. Thanks Petrolicious once more for such an enjoyable story shared.

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
6 years ago

There is more on the family and their history with cars, in this New York Times obituary for Martin Swig. (URL below). Apparently the father, Martin Swig, had a 2008 Miata which he enjoyed, and a 2013 Subaru BRZ. Both of these are modern, light weight sports cars with low centers of gravity, modest four cylinder power and rear wheel drive. Does anyone know where they are diving during the film? It looks a bit like Tomales Bay up in Marin County.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/automobiles/collectibles/martin-l-swig-dies-at-78-started-vintage-car-rally.html?_r=0

JB21
JB21
6 years ago

I love the SZ! I always thought that the SZ is the perfect template for a sports car. It’s small, light, front-engine, rear-wheel drive, and looks amazing. If we could make one just like that with today’s material technology (bonded aluminium frame or carbon fiber tub, small, zippy NA engine, very basic but essential amenities, etc.), it will make a perfect car for me (and the roof should come off). Actually, there is a car just like this, and it’s called Lotus Elise. I wish Elise looks just a bit lovelier.

nis1973
nis1973
6 years ago
Reply to  JB21

Yeah, the SZ is awesome!

Robert in LA
Robert in LA
6 years ago
Reply to  JB21

The Elise has is mid-engined of course, and the engine is transverse mounted, so it is kind of a different story than the SZ. Both cars are tiny, streetable, and potent. Neither have any bumpers to speak of, so both are limited as to where you can ( or could have) parked them. But for all its performance modifications the SZ remains, basically, a coupe. And the Elise is really a thing of 21st century, which slipped into production at the end of the 20th. The strength and rigidity on the Elise comes from the carbon fiber tub. So the body work on the Elise does not have the task of providing additional chassis rigidity which the Alfa unibodies also provided. The Elise could be shaped purely for aerodynamics and/or drama. Designers at Zagato did not have this luxury. I don’t know that the SZ has any modern equivalent, which is perhaps why we admire them so. They were of a time; and then they were gone, save for a few rare and valuable examples.