The Alfa Romeo RZ is one of the most bizarre cars you will ever seeby Dim Angelov, on LISTEN 04:58
Although the U.S. car market is one of the biggest and most significant ones out there, it doesn’t always get all the cool and bizarre stuff. Luckily, once a car is 25 years old it can be imported into the U.S., and nowadays, American car enthusiasts can enjoy just about any car. Doug DeMuro has shown us a few such cars and this Alfa Romeo RZ is no exception. To say the car has a distinctive styling is an understatement and, naturally, Doug has more than a few things to say about it.
A popular misconception is that this car was styled by Zagato and built by Alfa Romeo, but it was actually the other way around. Nevertheless, Zagato was associated with styling cars, rather than building them, so when the public gazed upon Alfa’s proportions they blamed Zagato instead of Alfa Romeo.
Zagato managed to produce around 1,000 SZ (coupes) and 250 RZ (convertibles).
Regardless of the body style, the Alfa Romeo is equipped with a 3.0-liter Busso V-6, which produces around 200 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed manual that sends power to the rear wheels.
Despite its controversial design, the Alfa Romeo RZ (and SZ) was always bound to become a collector’s car. Currently, prices are approaching $100,000.
On to the quirks and, without a doubt, the biggest one is the overall design. The key to the Alfa is that it actually looks like it belongs on a classic car from the 1960s. It also has the four-leaf clover, which is the brand’s good luck charm. "Alfa Romeo" inscriptions on the door sills are a nice touch. Not simply decorative plaques, but actually embossed into the car’s side sills.
Despite the strange door handle, the most awkward thing about getting in is how little doors open. Be prepared to feel like you’ve parked in a tight spot every time you want to get in and out of the SZ.
Putting the soft top up is way too tedious than it should be for a manually operated roof. Still, the car’s manual does a good job of explaining it…in Italian. What’s odd is that you have to turn the engine off, despite the roof being manual. That’s Alfa Romeo logic for you.
Another quirk is the center armrest, which isn’t exactly an armrest. It’s painted in the body color of the car and is not padded. At best, it is an improvised armrest.
The next quirk, according to Doug, is the obscene amount of air vents in the interior. Despite this being a small car, you get six of them. At least, they provide more adjustability to the airflow.
As with many limited-production cars, you get a plaque with a unique serial number. This one is number 130 out of 250.
Probably the biggest interior quirk is the climate control dials – you have a separate one for the cold and hot air. So, in theory, this allows you to put on the cold air and the heat all the way up, at the same time.
The windshield defroster is much weirder, however, as you have to set all five rotating knobs in a certain way, in order to activate it.
They could have just put a button for it like in normal cars.
No cargo space. The only storage you have is a tiny glovebox and a small area behind the rear seats, most of which is taken by the roof when it’s not up. The rear hatch reveals the Alfa’s spare tire and some wiring, but that’s it.
The taillight strip is probably the most 1980s feature on the RZ. It’s also functional, as the centerpiece houses the reverse lights.
Doug jokes that the Bugatti Chiron stole its headlight design from the Alfa Romeo RZ/SZ, as it has the same six-piece square design.
The Alfa Romeo signature grille is a bit out of place amongst the streamlined design. It houses the hood latch, which allows the heavy hood to be lifted, thus revealing the longitudinally-mounted Busso V-6 engine.
Another interesting feature is the “Z”, hidden deep in the engine bay, telling us that Zagato worked on the RZ.
The good thing about not having much power is that you might be pleasantly surprised. The Alfa Romeo RZ is not a big car. “I can reach the end of the car”, Doug says, while driving the 200-horsepower roadster. The car is “tossible” and fun, although it won’t set your hair on fire, in terms of straight-line performance.
Doug concludes by saying that the car is famous for how it looks, not how it drives. Now that he has given us an insight into the car’s driving dynamics, we understand how this could be a pleasant surprise. Of course, it’s not a perfect car (far from it) and, in the end, it gets 45/100 Doug points.