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The Zagato Design House And Alfa Race Cars

Zagato is a visionary design house that can be credited with advancing technologies that led to lightweight auto design, a primary feature of the Alfa Romeo brand. The founder, Ugo Zagato, had a background in aeronautics and believed that many of the same principles of lightweight design used in planes could be applied to the heavy automobiles of the time. In 1919, he opened his doors and is credited with bringing a focus on functionality to the automotive design industry.

Zagato And The 1920s And '30s Alfa Racers

Lightweight automotive designs naturally lean toward racing technology and almost immediately, Zagato's production focused on race cars, with Alfa being an early adopter of the company's designs. One of the first Alfa racers credited to Zagato was the Alfa 6C 1500 which proved to be a lightweight and fast vehicle; the Alfa 6C 1500 scored a 2nd place OA at the 1927 Mille Miglia and then went on to win the 1928 edition.

Alfa's continued to dominate Zagato's designs between 1927 and 1937. The Alfa 6Cs and 8Cs were noticeably aerodynamic and technologically advanced for the time with inclined windshields, convex bootlids and perforated disc wheels.

The Alfa 6C and 8C are among the most iconic Alfas of all time, a heritage that is reflected even in today's designs, most notably the Alfa 4C.

New Decades, New Technologies, New Alfas

Always a visionary company, Zagato was quick to adapt to the changing needs and new technologies that each generation brought. With the success of the racers firmly established, the company turned its attention to enhanced aerodynamics, interior comfort, and the adoption of new technologies to maximise auto speed and even boost production. The design house was one of the first auto designers to use Plexiglass to save weight in their designs, as well as being one of the first companies to seriously explore the concept of electric production autos, and to use computer aided design (CAD). More recently they have one of the first auto companies to explore computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) in automobiles.

In the 1960s Zagato moved to a new plant in Terrazzano, which enabled production on a larger scale. Zagato-designed Alfa Romeos soon dominated the scene with the introduction of the Alfa Romeo Giulia SZ, the TZ, TZ2, 2600 SZ, the 1750 4R and the Junior Zagato during this time. Although now capable of producing greater quantities of automobiles, Zagato continued to come up with new innovations in design that had heads turning. As wealth grew in the 1980s, so did demand for limited edition, special-order designs. Zagato remained responsive to these customer desires designing such timeless autos as the 1989 Alfa SZ coupe and 1992 RZ roadster. The two vehicles represented a new foray into technology for Zagato, having been created using the CAD process for the first time in automotive history. 

Today, Zagato is an exclusive designer, working on special projects for a few brands, including Alfa Romeo, and creating extremely limited editions. The Alfa TZ3 Stradale is one such automobile, with only nine produced worldwide. Timeless design, coupled with the latest advances in technology has become what defines Zagato, values that Alfa Romeo shares as well. 

The long history of the Alfa-Zagato partnership has resulted in some of the most iconic Alfa coupes of all time including the 1989 SZ Coupe, the 1900 SSZ 1954, the Giulietta SZ (Sprint Zagato) 1960, the Alfa Giulia TZ and TZ2 and the 2600 SZ 1965, Junior Z and Alfa Z6.  

With such a strong and successful history behind them, it's certain that Alfa Romeo and Zagato will continue to work together to push the boundaries of automotive design, bringing us new autos that are the perfect blending of performance and beauty both on and off the track.