The story of the JZ

By Chris Koopmann

Press picture (44810 bytes)
Junior Zagato, Press picture, ca.1969

Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato, 1969 - 1975

In the late sixties Alfa Romeo's range of products consisted of the Giulia Super, Spider and GT Junior in the 1300 ccm class.

All three models were good selling and designed to meet the 'taste' of the buyers. The three cars have already become collectors items and are admired for their combination of stylish bodywork and first class engineering.

Although the Giulia series had such a success, Alfas marketing managers found out that there would be an additional market segment: Drivers in the 'younger segment', who expected a sporty, original and compact GT from Alfa Romeo.

With this in mind the CEO of Alfa Romeo, Giovanni Luraghi, visited the Zagato booth on the 1967 Turin Motor Show.

Together with Gianni and Elio Zagato he agreed upon the following four basic design features:

  • In order to reduce drag as much as possible the design needs to be streamlined.
  • Compact size of the car to improve handling.
  • Sporty driving results through lightweight construction, whereby stiffness of the body was important for good road-handling.
  • Original styling in order to distinct the car from the Spider (Pininfarina-design) and GT Junior (Bertone-design).

In choosing Zagato to design and build the new car, Luraghi was absolutely on the right track, because the four basic design features were the route Zagato was following since 1919.

In the beginning of 1968 the first Spider platform was delivered to Zagato and Ercole Spada's renderings and design drawings were adapted to the platform.

Renderings (52291 bytes)

Ercole Spada's renderings of the Junior Z

"A steel skin stretched tight over an engine"

Ercole Spada transformed the four design principles right from the very first sketches into what was to become the definite line for the Junior Z: An almost perfect wedge or as it was described by the magazine 'Modern Motor': A steel skin stretched tight over an engine.

The shape was in some details similar to Spada's other creations like the Rover 2000 TCZ (1967), the LANCIA Flavia Supersport (1967) or the VOLVO 2000 GTZ (1969), the Junior Zagato however was of the most harmonious design.

Rover 2000 TCZ, Turin Motorshow 1967 Rover TCZ (26194 bytes)

The tail section of the Junior Z was truncated like that of the TZ and picture of the prototype is showing the prominent lid which was abandoned for series production in order to reduce production cost.

Prototype rear (42532 bytes) Junior Z prototype with truncated tail

The upswept 'curl' at the tail of the car was not only counterbalancing the falling line of the roof, but served also two purposes:

Firstly it helped to improve the cars aerodynamics because it was acting like a spoiler and secondly it allowed to integrate a Zagato-speciality:

An electro-motor could be used to open the rear hood a few centimeters to improve the air exchange in the passenger compartment without the danger of sucking exhaust fumes into the compartment.

Other revolutionary design features include the absence of chrome, the bucket seats with integrated headrests (not a standard in the early seventies), perspex covered front lights to reduce drag and the absence of front and rear bumpers (what you see at the front is not really a bumper but a XXL-size license plate holder). This actually is a step back in thinking because it makes the car extremely vulnerable for even little 'bumps' in day to day traffic. The first design of the front area with a smaller frame for the perspex and indicator lights on the frontbumper was even more vulnerable.

Prototype front (5281 bytes) Front section of the prototype

The all-aluminum prototype was delivered to Alfa Romeo in July 1968 for road testing. With the 1969 Turin Motorshow production had just started - until the end of that year 208 cars had been delivered to Alfa and official sales started in February 1970.

The Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato as presented at the 1969 Salone di Torino
The Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato as presented at the 1969 Salone di Torino
The Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato as presented at the 1969 Salone di Torino.
Thanks to Hideki Nakagawa for the scans!

According to Luigi Fusi the production figures were a little bit different - in his book 'Alfa Romeo All Cars from 1910' he states the following figures:

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

However you count the number of units produced per year the total number of 1108 cars is remarkable because it shows that the success of the Junior Zagato was not really tremendous.

There are several reasons:

1.) Production of the cars was from a logistic point of view highly complicated:

In the Maggiora plant in Turin the complete bodywork was done on purposely built special jigs. The complete body shells were then delivered to Alfa Romeo's Arese plant where they were primer coated. From there the bodies were then delivered to the Zagato factory in Terrazzano di Rho. Here the bodies were sprayed in acrylic finish and trimmed.

Paint shop (11646 bytes) Exit of the paint shop in the Zagato factory in Terrazzano di Rho.
Trimming lines in the Zagato factory. Trimming lines (13710 bytes)
Intermediate store (9096 bytes) Sprayed and trimmed bodies awaiting further completion.
In a yellow mellow tone... Yellow mellow (10376 bytes)

This complex process made the cars expensive. In the July 1972 pricelist the Zagato was the third most expensive car available in the Alfa Romeo product range:

Model: Price including VAT in DM:
1300 Giulia Super 10.690,-
1600 Giulia Super 11.490,-
2000 Berlina 13.790,-
GT 1300 Junior 13.290,-
GT 1600 Junior 14.490,-
2000 GT Veloce 16.790,-
Montreal 35.000,-
GTA Junior 18.950,-
GT 1300 Junior Zagato 16.950,-
1300 Spider Fastback 13.290,-
1600 Spider Fastback 14.490,-
2000 Spider Fastback 16.790,-

In the same year a BMW 1602 would have cost you DM 10.645,-, an Opel GT/J DM10.990,-  a Ford Capri 2300GT DM 10.220,- and a VW-Porsche 914 2.0 DM 13760,-

2.) The shape:

The shape of the Junior Zagato was - as always with new Zagato models - subject of hefty discussions. For many people the shape was provocative and something never seen before. The edged and wedge-shaped bodywork didn't meet the taste of the buyers in the '70s. The car was too far advanced for its time which is even more evident if you take into consideration that 13 years later the formal similar Honda CRX became such a success. By the way - the designer of the CRX is a proud owner of a Junior Zagato...

3.) The product philosophy:

Alfa Romeo was very successful in selling Giulias and Bertone GT's, the Zagato was never in Alfa Romeo's marketing focus. In Germany there was neither an advertisement published nor was the Zagato subject to an article in one of the big motor magazines. Looking back it must be stated that the Zagato was never really loved by the mother Alfa Romeo.

Zagato bodied cars were normally designed with racing victories in mind, think for instance of the famous Giulietta SZ or the highly successful TZ1 and TZ2. Although the Junior Zagato was of the same breed with a light body structure and sporty shape the fate was different: The Autodelta prepared GTAs were still very successful and the Alfetta GTV was already in the pipeline - there was no space for sport activities with the Zagato. Nevertheless some private drivers were using the Zagato as a rally car but without support from the factory there were no victories...

Rallye action (48500 bytes)
A privately prepared Junior Zagato during a rally in the '70s.

After 1108 produced Junior Zagato 1300 there was the successor: Giulia 1600Z, shown in Nov.1972 at the Turin Motorshow.

Based on the platform of the Fastback Spider the differences to the 1300 Junior Z were as follows:

  • Frontbumper - 1600 with one piece rust free steel bumper, rubber different and screwed on to the bumper,
  • Fire wall - 1600 with hole to accept combined brake cylinder (2 circuits) with power servo and hanging pedals instead of standing pedals,
  • Muffler - 1600 with first muffler to fit for models with hanging pedals,
  • Steering wheel - 1600 with three spokes,
  • Dashboard - 1600 with from body-structure independent carrier (screw on),
  • Roof insulation - 1600 with plastic roof insulation (instead textile) and spanning wires instead insulation glued directly underneath the roof,
  • Rear wheelarches - 1600 10cm longer in the area behind the rear hood,
  • Rear floor panel - 1600 is making use of the fastback spider rear floor panel which means fuel tank different and on the drivers side,
  • Rear bumper - 1600 with cut out for the exhaust pipe (last part of the muffler bent downwards and different to 1300) and cut out for spare wheel bunk,
  • Rear lights - 1600 is making use of Berlina 2000 rear lights, whereas 1300 is using Berlina 1750 rear lights,
  • Rear panel - 1600 is different in the area for the rear lights to accept Berlina 2000 lights,
  • Rear window - 1600 is having electrically heated rear-window.

At the end of 1975 Alfa Romeo decided to stop the Zagato production. Until then only 402 Giulia 1600 Z had been made.

The surviving Zagatos are very difficult and costly to restore because of undersupply of body parts. The whole body is very prone to rust due to the lack of rust protection measurements during production in the factory. Door sills are extremely rare and very difficult to copy because of their unique form.