“Aside from the BAT cars there’s no more requisite 1950s Alfa than a 1900 SS Zagato” – collector, 1900 SSZ owner and FIVA steward Mark Gessler
Elio Zagato, seeing the potential of a lightweight and aerodynamic GT racing car, used Alfa Romeo’s sporting 1900 SS as the basis for a new customer racing car that swiftly found favour with predominantly Italian gentleman drivers.
The Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Sprint Zagato became a frequent sight in 1950s national and international sports car racing such as the Mille Miglia.
On 1 May 1955, a total of five 1900 SSZs took to the starting ramp in Brescia of the world-famous 1,000-mile event. This car was one.
The Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Sprint Zagato
The Alfa Romeo 1900, shown to a privileged few in May 1950, was the Milanese firm’s first all-new post-War offering. It was the latest in a great sporting tradition which had given the motoring world thoroughbred models such as the pre-War 6C, 8C and P3, and the all-conquering Tipo 158 Alfetta Grand Prix cars.
Intended as a mount for the sporting gentleman driver, the 1900 in its most potent Super Sprint guise boasted a twin-cam ‘four’ with twin carburettors and a high, 8:1 compression ratio to produce 115bhp at 5,000rpm. The gearbox was a five-speed and, depending on axle ratio, the 1900 SS had a top speed of 118-130mph. It was the perfect weapon for the weekend racer, but leading Scuderia Sant’Ambroeus member Vladimiro Galluzzi, one of the first to try it in competition, wanted something even faster.
Celebrated local coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Zagato, renowned for its lightweight, aviation-inspired lines, was called upon to create such a car and immediately set to work. The potent result, the ‘1900 SSZ’ as it became known, was an instant success and won its first major outing, the gruelling multi-stage Stella Alpina, driven by Galluzzi. It wasn’t long before Alfa’s racing department test driver Consalvo Sanesi tried out the new car and reported back to the firm’s top brass, who quickly sanctioned limited production.
It is thought that just 39 examples (plus two bare chassis) of the 1900 SSZ were built, from 1954 to 1957, and they are regarded as the pinnacle of 1950s production Alfa Romeos.
This Motor Car
According to copies of documents from the Automobile Club d’Italia, Alfa Romeo 1900 SSZ ‘01954’ was first registered 29 April 1955 to Piacenza resident Giuseppe Rizzi. Two days later, the red car started the Mille Miglia in the hands of Ferrini/Casali (race no. 449) who retired after just over seven hours.
Records obtained from the Italian registration authorities confirm the first three owners as follows:
First owner, 29 April 1955, via dealer Campelli Armando (Lire 1,835,000) and Carrozzeria Zagato (Lire 700,000), Giuseppe Rizzi of Piacenza. Piacenza registration ‘PC 24124’.
Second owner, 1 March 1956 Dr Marco Ferrini of Piacenza for Lire 700,000. Piacenza registration ‘PC 24124’.
Third owner, 24 March 1956 Franco Cavallini of Milan for Lire 700,000. Milan registration ‘MI 302116’.
By the early 1970s the car had left Italy for the USA where in 1983 it was acquired from long-term owner Bill Barnes of Raleigh, North Carolina, by our late client, a major Alfa Romeo collector who had bought and raced one of the first new 1900 Zagatos in 1955. Period photographs and documents show that chassis 01954 was in unrestored condition, its engine block damaged but preserved. Our client repatriated the car to Italy in 1984 where the ex-Zagato craftsmen at Carrozzeria Galbiati of Milan carried out a full restoration lasting three years. Alfa Romeo engine tuner Conrero was commissioned to supply a high-performance 1900 Super Sprint block, though for everyday use today the car carries a tuned 2000 unit. Its original block and the Conrero spare come with the car.
Now offered from the estate of our client, this genuine ex-Mille Miglia Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Sprint Zagato is accompanied by sundry spares, comprehensive documentation and recent inspection reports by marque experts Mario Galbiati and Paul Russell. It represents a rare opportunity to leapfrog the waiting list for what Enzo Ferrari called “the world’s most beautiful race”.
So, for those seeking a Mille Miglia entry – look no further.