Why The Junior Zagato Is The Coolest Alfa Romeo Ever


There was a time when the uncompromising vision of a talented designer could result in a car that looked ten or even 15 years ahead of its time: the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato. The result looks still so strikingly contemporary that's believed the design of the Honda CRX from the 1980s was inspired by it.



Nowadays, car design is mostly evolutionary, carried forward by advancement in the available technology rather than bold fits of imagination.

But it's not always been this way.

Back then, if lighter and sportier was what you wanted, you went to Zagato, a lesson Alfa learned a decade prior, with the Giulietta SVZ.

There was a time when the uncompromising vision of a talented designer could result in a car that looked ten or even 15 years ahead of its time: the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato.

Back in 1967, Alfa Romeo was on a roll: the assembly lines of the new Arese factory built the full range of the successful Giulia and its derivatives, whose highly profitable sales were growing year on year.

Such good times are those when companies feel confident to splurge on niche products, like a sportier, lighter 2-seater derivative of the Bertone-designed Alfa GT 1300 Junior aimed at the youth market.

Back then, if lighter and sportier was what you wanted, you went to Zagato, a lesson Alfa learned a decade prior, with the Giulietta SVZ.

If you're interested in that story too, check the video I've made about it.

Ercole Spada's design aimed to improve the GT Junior's performance through aerodynamics, given the car had to make do with around 90 HP.

Spada's vision was uncompromising, almost brutal: no gratuitous ornamentation, not one line more than strictly necessary.

The Junior Z's front end was shaped like an arrow to reduce the drag coefficient, and its body was kept low and narrow, wrapped around the mechanical elements as tightly as possible to reduce the car's frontal cross-section. Spada's vision was uncompromising, almost brutal: no gratuitous ornamentation, not one line more than strictly necessary. The result looks still so strikingly contemporary that's hard to believe the original Bertone Junior and the Junior Z actually coexisted, sold alongside one another.

Perhaps my favorite detail of all is the extremely modern way Spada integrated the Alfa Romeo shield into his design: it's merely a cut-out in the headlight's transparent cover. It's not actually there, but its presence is suggested, implied on a kind of secondary aesthetic level.

Legend says that the design of the Honda CRX was inspired by the Junior Zagato

The Junior Zagato entered production in 1969, and the logistics of the operation were the most Italian thing you could possibly imagine...

It all started in Turin at the Maggiora coachworks, where the bodies were built upon a Spider floor-pan modified at the rear because of the short rear overhang of the Zagato design. Scouring and priming of the bodyshells were then carried out at Alfa Romeo's Arese plant, only for the bodies to be transferred once again, this time to the Zagato premises nearby, where they were painted and outfitted. Once ready, one final trip back to Arese, where the little Zagatos would be completed with the engine, transmission, and suspensions.

The Junior Zagato 1300 was superseded in 1972 by a revised 1600 version, whose tail had been made 10 cm longer to use the standard Spider floor-pan without modifications. This later version stayed in production for three more years, up to 1975. Total production is said to be around 1500 cars. Legend says that the design of the Honda CRX was inspired by the Junior Zagato: although there's no evidence of this, it's a story often repeated and, personally, I like to believe it's true.

355 views

Proudly created with many, many hours and tons of patience.

info@roadster-life.com