Today would have been Nicola Romeo’s 132nd birthday. Over the the last century, Alfa Romeo has turned out many legendary and beautiful race cars. This one, the Giulia TZ, happens to be my favorite. First of all, just look at it. Every line and every curve from it’s ducted nose to the kamm tail is just……right. If you’ve ever seen one in person, you can’t believe how unbelievably small and low to the ground the TZ is; I’d need a mechanic’s creeper, a feet first style baseball slide and an absence of dignity to get in one.
And with those tiny dimensions, and pretty looks, this Alfa Romeo might fool you into thinking it wasn’t a tough customer. You would be wrong.
The TZ was first manufactured as a replacement for the Giulietta Sprint Zagato in 1963. Alfa Romeo subcontracted it’s development to Autodelta SpA, a then new specialist tuning and development firm set up by former Ferrari engineer Carlo Chiti and his partner Ludovico Chizzola. Built as a purpose-built GT racing car, it used an ultra-lightweight, welded tube spaceframe chassis with a body designed by Ercole Spada at Carrozzeria Zagato using the aerodynamic theories of Dr. Wunibald Kamm. Power came from the same all aluminum 1570cc twin-cam, four cylinder engine that was used in the Giulia Saloon making 116 horsepower. With a weight under 1500 lbs and it’s aerodynamically slippery shape, the TZ1 was capable of speeds in excess of 135mph.
In 1964, the TZ was FIA homologated (100 units were needed for homologation to the Gran Turismo category) and immediately began logging its impressive string of race wins in Europe and North America. In the hands of privateers, the cars were incredibly successful, sweeping their class at Le Mans, Sebring, the Nurburgring, the Targa Florio, and the Coupe des Alpes. Not one to stand on their accomplishments and leave the door open for Abarth and Porsche, Autodelta set to work coming up with an improved TZ before the end of 1964. Zagato crafted an additional 14 cars with a fiberglass body and a single piece plexiglass rear window reducing it’s weight to 1366 lbs; Autodelta added the twin-plug 1600cc engine from the Giulia GTA, increasing power to 170hp and the TZ2’s top speed to over 164mph.
Today, the surviving TZ1’s command up to a half million dollars, depending on the car’s particular pedigree. The last TZ2 to come up at auction, in 2005, failed to meet it’s reserve price of $2 million dollars. If I ever win the Super-Mega-Hella-Power-Lotto, I’d love to have a TZ2………..with a tastefully matched crawler.