• Matteo Licata

The Fabulous Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ

What keeps fascinating me about Alfa Romeo's history is its bewildering scope and variety. Alfa's engineers would never stop creating amazing cars despite perennially shaky finances, company infighting, and management upheavals, and the Giulia TZ is one of those stories.



Work on what would become the Giulia TZ started in 1960, the same year the lightweight Giulietta Sprint Zagato became part of the official Alfa Romeo model catalog.


The Giulietta SZ proved very competitive in the hands of gentlemen drivers, leading Alfa's engineering department to imagine what could be achieved with a more specialized vehicle built from a bespoke tubular chassis rather than a production car's floorpan.


Tubolare Zagato

Launched in prototype form at the Turin Motor Show in November 1962, the Giulia TZ shared only a few components with the family saloon it was named after. The letters TZ stood for "Tubolare Zagato," from the tubular chassis frame and the Milanese firm which designed and manufactured the body.


Penned by Zagato's designer Ercole Spada, the Giulia TZ's swoopy aluminum body was designed to minimize drag, and it's characterized by its sharply cut-off tail, recessed and usually finished in contrasting black.


How it's made

Built from steel tubing between 20 and 30 millimeters in diameter, the Giulia TZ's frame weighed about 60 Kg and was manufactured by SAI Ambrosini, a firm near Perugia. Alfa's 1.6 liters inline-four twin-cam engine was installed behind the rear axle, tilted 15° to the left side.


Fed by two sidedraft Weber carburetors, the powerplant sent its 112 HP to the rear wheels via a standard Giulia 5-speed gearbox and, given the TZ weighed in at just 660 Kg, that was enough to propel it up to around 220 Km/h.


The rear brakes were mounted "inboard" next to the differential to reduce unsprung weight, while the live axle used on production Alfas was replaced by an independent set-up with coil springs and single lower wishbones.


Autodelta

However, Alfa Romeo's president Giuseppe Luraghi was acutely aware of the delicate balancing act he constantly had to play due to Alfa being a state-owned company. Therefore, he was keen to outsource the final assembly of the TZ and the relationship with the racing teams to a third party to "insulate" the program from excessive scrutiny, which led to the foundation of Autodelta under the direction of the legendary engineer Carlo Chiti.


Due to the Giulia TZ's lengthy development and the time it took to build the 100 cars needed for homologation in the GT Class, the model's first complete season was 1964, and it was quite a successful one, with class wins in the Sebring 12h, the Targa Florio and the Le Mans 24h, just to name a few.


That year, the TZs even managed two outright wins in the Coupe Des Alpes and the Tour De Corse, yet Alfa Romeo and Autodelta were already onto something new, a second-generation model called TZ2.


The Giulia TZ2

The TZ2 was a much more specialized machine, never meant to be sold to the public, with a lowered chassis frame and a sharp new body made from fiberglass instead of aluminum, shaving 40 Kg from the car's weight.


The whole car's stance was much more aggressive, sitting lower and wider, with smaller 13" diameter wheels shod with much wider tires than the skinny 15" alloys previously used.


The 1.6 liters twin-cam four was mounted lower into the chassis, equipped with dry-sump lubrication and the same dual ignition cylinder head developed for the Giulia GTA. Quoted at 170 HP at a heady 7600 Rpm, the new powerplant could push the TZ2 over 240 Km/h.


The End

Yet the TZ2's moment under the sun would prove short-lived: its usefulness as a racing car was cut short by a regulatory change requiring 500 road cars for homologation instead of the previous 100.


Unable to meet such demand, Alfa Romeo and Autodelta abandoned the TZ2 to concentrate on touring car racing with the Giulia GTA, as the latter's external similarity with the regular Giulia GT made its racing successes on Sundays much easier to translate into sales by Monday.


Only nine TZ2s were ever made, one of which is currently on display at Alfa Romeo's museum near Milan.


However, it must be noted that Autodelta and Alfa Romeo developed these cars continuously between 1963 and 1965, leading to some overlap in features and specifications. For example, the last three original-shape TZ already had fiberglass bodies, while the panels of the very first TZ2 were still made of aluminum.


Showstoppers

The TZ's frame lent itself perfectly to design experimentation, though, so two chassis found their way to Turin, one at Pininfarina and the other at Bertone. Both frames were of the later lowered type and were built up into two gorgeous show-stoppers presented between 1964 and 1965, styled by Aldo Brovarone for Pininfarina and Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone.


The first to see the light was the Bertone Canguro (the name means "kangaroo" in Italian) at the 1964 Paris Motor Show. Delightfully smooth and curvaceous, with all its window surfaces flush with the body, the Canguro was very well received in the period, and it's rightfully considered one of Italian design's all-time masterpieces.


Pininfarina launched their take on the TZ a year later, at the 1965 Turin Motor Show, with the simple name of Giulia 1600 Sport. I've once had the pleasure to see it in real life, and it looks even lower than it actually is because of the long overhangs and very pronounced front fenders.

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