The myth of the non-existing JZ's

The myth of the non-existing JZ's.

Time to shed some light on the production figures of the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato 1300 and the apparently "non-existing JZ's".

There is a strong myth reciprocating throughout the (digital) world that there are non-existing 1300 JZ's which do exist... Weird huh?

Well, the myth finds its roots in the statements of the famous Luigi Fusi, who in his 3rd edition of his book "Tutte le vetture dal 1910" states the following production numbers:

Year: Chassis numbers: Units per year:
1970 1800001 to 1800566 566
1971 1800567 to 1800924 357
1972 1800925 to 1801110 185
    1108 Total production

Now let me start by saying that I hold Luigi Fusi in very high regard as he was the first person to really care about the history of Alfa Romeo, founded the Museo in Arese, amassed Alfa Romeo artifacts and with said book, laid the foundations to truly document the history of the Milano make from its earliest beginning until the then-present day.

However, we have to take into account that the 3rd and last edition of his book was published in 1978 which is, at the moment of writing this article, 34 years ago and that a lot has changed since then. The factory records are more easily accessible and more and more is being digitized and a lot of research has been done since then.

Knowing how much time, effort and resouces it takes just to somewhat document the history of just the JZ cars, I can easily imagine the tremendous effort it took to write a book like his with maybe a quarter of the resources that we have today so any errors that he made are easily forgiven!

When one looks at the chassis numbers listed by Fusi, one notices that they are listed number-sequential. In reality, there was no logical sequence in the use of the chassis numbers.

Why? Well, the main reason was the very elaborate production process of the JZ. There is basically no "short version" of the story how they were produced, yet I will try...

The 1300 JZ is based on the floorpan (platform if you like) of the Spider 1300 Junior for reasons of compactness, short overhangs and short wheelbase which fitted the original design of Ercole Spada very well. These floorpans were produced in the Alfa Romeo factory in Arese, stamped with a (sequential!) JZ-specific serial number (AR*180xxxx*) and sent off to Zagato in Terrazano-di-Rho, which was basically around the corner from Arese.

There, the floorpans were stored outside waiting to be modified to accept the JZ body. This modification meant that the boot (trunk) floor was drilled out and replaced with a shorter version as the JZ body had an even shorter rear overhang than the Spider which is also the reason why the JZ 1300 has a unique fuel tank which had to fit the shortened boot and, consequently, is only 1 of 2 models in Alfa's 105 series to have the fuel filler on the right side of the car, the other one being the Montreal.

So, one should imagine that the (rolling) floorpans are nicely produced in sequence in Arese, than trucked to Rho, randomly stored outside, taken inside the Zagato factory in random order to be modified and by this time, there is already no logical sequence anymore...

After the floorpans were modified, they were sent to the Maggiora plant in Torino where the actual bodywork was fitted. Of course, this also happened in more or less random order. From Maggiora the finished bodies went to Arese to receive a base coat and from Arese back to the Zagato plant in Rho again to be painted, fitted and finished.

By the time a car was finished, all logic of the chassisnumbering was gone... except that the floorpans were produced in sequence.

Now, if one floorpan had the "luck" of being tucked away on the Zagato works grounds and others being more easily accessible, it could easily take months or more before it was being "processed". I'll come back to this later on with some examples.

Luckily, the Alfa Romeo factory kept a (hand-written!) log of all JZ's and their specifics. This is the log that Dr. Marco Fazio consults when you contact the Centro Documentazione for the production details of your car.

In this log, the factory noted the colour, interior material and colour, the date that the car was finished and when the car was sold & to whom.

In case the car was sold within Italy, the log even shows the name of the buyer along with address, city etc. Unfortunately, current privcay legislation prohibits that specific information to be given out so you will simply be told that it was sold in Italy.

If a car was sold to an importer outside of Italy, it will simply state that sale date and not the date of sale to the final end-user as the factory had no ready access to that.

Although only the Centro Documentazione has access to the full log, there are lists of the individual chassisnumbers and their production years in circulation.

Putting this data into a spreadsheet, allows one to do all kinds of tricks with it to derive some interesting statistics.

The highest chassisnumber is AR*1801117* (or 1117 in short). This car still exists and currently resides in The Netherlands but it was not the last JZ 1300 that was built.

However, it is 9 "cars" higher than the highest chassisnumber quoted by Fusi which for years has given rise to the myth of the "non-existing JZ's according to Fusi". We now know that there is nothing mythical about these cars, they are in the factory records with all details as all other JZ's, were all 9 produced in 1972 but were simply not mentioned in the 1978 book.

Better still, 5 out of these 9 cars are currently accounted for and their whereabouts are known (1110, 1112, 1114, 1116 and 1117).

So, with the lowest chassisnumber being 0001 and the highest being 1117, there were 1117 floorpans produced with a JZ chassisnumber but there were not 1117 cars produced...

For this we need to define what a "car" is, in this respect. For the sake of this article, a "car" is defined as a finished product that was actually administered by Alfa Romeo as either having been sold or otherwise "used".

Not every floorpan was transformed into a car. A total of 4 floorpans did not make it to the finish and therewith the answer to the question "how many cars were produced" is already given... 1117 - 4 = 1113.

The fate of these 4 "missing" floorpans was not administered and the factory log simply shows "Not produced". Not much to go by...

BUT... in 1997, very much still the pre-information era, when I had just acquired my first JZ which was in dire need of JZ-specific parts, I was reading all possible European classic car magazines in the hope of finding dealers or private persons who were offering what I needed when I spotted a small classified in a German magazine of a gentleman who was simply offering "JZ parts" for sale. A quick phone call and already on the phone the gentleman revealed that he owned a JZ that according to the factory did not exist! Interesting stuff and off to Nuremberg I was!

The man's appartment was filled to the brim with Alfa parts, not only JZ, and after some haggling I bought some parts of him but was very curious to see his "non-existing JZ". He took me down to a storage unit and there it was... AR*1800929*... a bare rolling shell... no paint, just  base coat... no other parts than bonnet, doors and trunk lid... but made "rolling" with the help of the undercarriage from a wrecked Giulia. His intend was to acquire enough New-Old-Stock parts to build the very last "new" JZ ever.

All the sheet metal parts carried the correct identifiers that made this into AR*1800929*... The story that the man told was that he had found this shell in the back of an Italian garage where it had been sitting ever since it was "produced". Why and how this shell was never transformed into a car is still unknown but 15 years later, the most acceptable explanation is that, as the car made it to the "base coat" stage, it had been back at the Zagato works to be finished but probably did not make it through the, not all too rigorous, quality control and was put aside and was later sold on to the garage where it was discovered by the German gentleman.

A later check with the factory archives indeed revealed 0929 as "Not produced".

Unfortunately, I did not bring a camera with me that day so I can not prove this so you have to take my word for it that that day I saw a non-existing JZ...

This shell was later sold on and it still exists today although it is not an empty shell anymore. It was quite a weird coincidence to bump into 0929 again, 14 years after I last saw it as an empty shell but now as a complete running car and carrying a different identity.

In order not to give rise to fairy tales, we will not disclose which the other 3 non-existing cars are but, most probably, 2 of them share a similar fate as 0929 while the earliest not-produced JZ was probably destroyed in testing and consequently never noted as "produced" or "sold".

On to some more numbers and sequences...

Although the production of the JZ started as early as 1969, after all there are "production photographs" in the Style Auto magazine issue of the 4th quarter 1969, the early production was hampered by dozens of small problems that had to be solved before the first cars were actually ready to be delivered to their buyers and these deliveries didn't start until late January 1970.

The earliest surviving car that we managed to track down is AR*000013* which found its way to a buyer in Italy on January 26, 1970 and currently resides in France.

The JZ with the lowest surviving chassisnumber is AR*1800003* which currently survives in Japan but which was noted as "produced" on February 15, 1970 and therewith 20 days younger than 0013... but didn't find her way to an end-user until 1974! Most probably, this car was 1 of two cars that were kept by Alfa Romeo themselves as a demonstrator / show model and then sold on as late as 1974 after the JZ series was ended altogether.

Which was the first JZ to be delivered? "We" still don't know as the Centro Documentazione is again bound by rules and regulations and is not allowed to give out that information without the owner of that specific car making a request for it.

What we do know, is how many JZ's were noted as "sold by the factory" in each year:

  • 1970: 573
  • 1971: 352
  • 1972: 186
  • 1974: 2

The 1974 figure of two cars sold consists of the above mentioned 2 "demo cars".

The sales figures show a rapid decline in production, after an initial success in 1970, and in 1972, the JZ 1300 was superseded by the JZ 1600, which is a whole different story, but which only made it to 402 cars over a 2,5 half year period thus continuing the minimal "success" of the JZ series.

A short jump back to the chaos in the production sequence should finish off this monolog and is best found in the "500 range" where 0519 was finished in 1972, 0520 in 1970 and 0521 in 1971...

How truly Italian!

Jack Habits
July 2012