Highly regarded for their beautiful design and mechanical excellence many would say that to be a true car enthusiast you should own at least one Alfa Rome in your lifetime. In the late 1960's at the height of design & fashion Alfa's range consisted predominantly of the Giulia, in various forms, with design by Bertone and the Pininfarina styled Duetto, the Series 1 Spider 'Boat-tail' and for many manufacturers that may have been enough. But mindful of the success of the low volume Zagato designed SZ and TZ models, Alfa Romeo's president approached Zagato again and asked them to produce something new; original and more sporting but with appeal to a larger audience. The Milanese coachbuilders master stylist, Ercole Spada, modelled the initial design on the TZ (Tubolare Zagato) with a shallow nose, a raked back windscreen and Kamm tail elements being carried over in the design concept.
By the time the car was unveiled at the '69 Turin Motorshow the new Junior Zagato (JZ) featured some truly unique design touches; a Plexiglass front panel with a simple Alfa shield and Serpent design cut into it; an electrically operated hatchback rear window and windscreen wipers recessed beneath a sculpted cowl. The interior too, with typical Italian / Zagato flair, featured seats with incorporated adjustable head-rests and a dash with recessed non-reflecting / anti-dazzle instruments. With its running gear borrowed from the 1300 GT on a shorted Duetto chassis and with the clever use of aluminium for the doors and bonnet the 89bhp, 1290cc four cylinder twin-cam was fast enough to propel the sleek shape to a top speed of 107mph. The 1300 JZ remained in production until Oct '72, only being replaced by a newer 1600cc version, with 109bhp and its slightly restyled and longer coachwork.
Imported from Milan in 2013 we were privileged to hear about this JZ residing in a discerning classic car enthusiasts collection and were offered the opportunity to view her. Having tried to purchase a Junior Zagato previously we didn't want to miss the opportunity and inspected the car immediately. Having sat dormant, amongst 15 other classics for a few years the JZ's styling won us over immediately and despite needing some mechanical recommissioning we knew she had to join us at Absolute Classic Cars.
After getting her back to base, her bodywork detailed, it became immediately apparent that a great deal of love an attention have been lavished on this Junior Zagato and we understand that she underwent a detailed body strip down and restoration in Italy prior to coming to the UK. The quality of the bodywork, panel gaps, paint finish are excellent, there are no blemishes of note and finished in her original factory colour, as was the prototype example, she looks resplendent in the Giallo (Oro) Zagato AR117 - paint sticker found under the tailgate. Window rubbers, glass too are all in excellent condition and as is our attention to detail we sourced 'new' replacement headlight plexiglass covers from the Milan Alfa specialists - AFRA as the original panels had cracked. Understanding that Italian classics have a desire to 'rust' we've fully inspected the underside of our Zagato and can confirm the under body structure is equally impressive. There is no evidence of any welding or poor workmanship, just the original panel joints and we've gone as far a removing the inner wing 'splash' panels too and again the car is first class, she's a properly sorted Alfa and the bodywork has been protected further with a detailed, professionally applied underbody treatment.
Mechanically we don't mind saying that we've done a little fettling, in fact we've put a great deal of love into this car. When researching the Junior Zagato market we've found that, all to often, over the years previous owners have disposed of the original 1300 twin-cam engine in favour of an uprated 1750/2000cc motor, but with her original engine still in place we know this car has greater appeal to those enthusiasts, like us, who lust to find those truly original examples and so in recommissioning the car we held firm to 'originality' first and over a 6 month period we've carried out extensive works, with these including:
Engine - Compression checked, engine removed, complete strip / chemical clean, cylinder head skimmed, new valves cut, guides, all new head studs, reground crank, all new bearings, new oil pump, all tolerances checked, deck height set, flywheel skimmed and balanced, rocker cover powder-coated and engine re-assembled (all parts supplied by Alfaholics or ClassicAlfa) and set on 'rolling road', low load conditions under 4000rpm for running in, approx 150 miles completed.
Fuel / Ignition system - Tank fully drained, cleaned. Carburetors examined and found to have incorrect jets / Venturi. Complete strip & rebuild of twin 40 Weber Carbs, including new manifold inlet mounts. Fuel pump removed, Alfaholics blanking plate and electric fuel pump fitted. Distributor uprated to electronic, all new leads, plugs.
Gearbox - Checked, oil change, new hoses and Fichtel & Sach 3 piece clutch kit.
Differential / Rear axle - Checked, oil change, worn bushes replaced as necessary.
Braking system - New calipers, discs as needed. Bendix brake servo replaced (supplied Veloce Sport).
Wheels / Tires - Period Alfa Romeo 6 x14" 5 spoke alloys fitted. These have been professional refurbished in silver and fitted with Khumo tires.
Exhaust system - Bespoke Stainless Steel downpipe back, twin box 2" system fitted.
Working closely with our specialist team the JZ has been completely transformed and to drive her is just a delight. Being lighter than the equivalent 1300 Junior model and with her sleek design, radical for the late 60's the JZ performs well. The drive train feels super tight, beautifully balanced and with such positive steering one can't help but smile whilst driving through the curves on our local A-roads and with the addition of the Stainless Steel exhaust system the character of this twin-cam really comes to life.
With typical Italian flair the interior too has it's own character. The Junior Zagato model features a number of unique designs, quirky, yet oozing style that other manufacturers of the time could only have dreamt of. The beautiful sculpted leather seats feature head-rests which can either be used or folded through 180 degrees and fully integrated into the back rest; the curvaceous stainless steel central console not only features a series of 'natty' toggle switches but features a near horizontally mounted gear-lever which works brilliantly and then there's the rocker switch which electrically raises the tailgate up to 2" off the rear panel for improved ventilation during the hotter summer months......only Zagato would create this crazy concept, but it works!
Of the 1500 examples built (1108/ 402 for the 1300 JZ / 1600 JZ respectively) we understand that only 250 examples remain on the world register. Offering unique styling and a real sense of occasion we completely love our 1300 Junior Zagato. She is without doubt one of the finest examples available, her coachwork is beautiful, mechanically she is fully sorted and with her stylish interior which offers great visibility we could quite happily pack a weekend bag and head off for any classic car event.... and 'WOW' would this car cause a stir!