1957 Alfa Romeo 1900C SS Zagato
Chassis No. 1900C 10593
Engine: 1,975cc Double overhead camshafts, inline four cylinder with dual twin-choke Weber carburetors giving 115 bhp;
Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission;
Suspension: Independent front suspension with double A arms, coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers, rear live-axle suspension with trailing links, coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers;
Brakes; Four-wheel finned aluminum drum brakes.
Coachwork by Zagato.
As Alfa Romeo’s first postwar design by Orazio Satta, the 1900 made its introduction at the 1950 London and Paris Auto Shows. With a uni-body construction, a first for Alfa, as well as a new 1.9 liter dual overhead cam engine, it was considered a lightweight compact model. In keeping with its sporting heritage the new 1900 was entered into several motorsports events where it performed well. Horsepower soon increased with the introduction of the 1900C Sprint Coupe in 1951 (also available as a Cabriolet) utilizing a shorter wheelbase. By 1955 the Super Sprint version became available and benefitted from an increased engine displacement from 1,884 cc to 1,975; a higher compression ratio and twin Weber carburetors.
While the majority of closed coupes were bodied by Carrozzeria Touring and the convertibles by Pininfarina, a few Italian coachbuilders were given the opportunity to produce their own Coupe versions and included work by Boano, Bertone, Farina, Ghia and Zagato. Elio Zagato sourced a 1900C chassis in September 1954 and fitting his signature lightweight aluminum coachwork produced what many consider one of his finest designs. The new body featured a sculpted nose and bulged hood with twin air scoops designed to clear the higher profile Weber carburetors. Overall there were to be just 41 Alfa Romeo 1900s bodied by Zagato and only six of these featured the definitive Zagato trademark “Double Bubble” roofline. The last three produced had not only the famous roofline but encompassed the prettiest lines with a small “Low Nose” grill, sculpted rear fenders and a beautifully harmonious side profile.
Chassis Number 10593 was the very last SSZ built with the defining features of double bubble and low nose. It was manufactured in May 1957 and delivered to Carrozzeria Zagato of Milan Italy. Another desirable and unique item on this final example was the fitment of a floor shift gear change lever for the five-speed gearbox, as opposed to a steering column change. While unproven at present, it is quite possible this example was the personal property of Elio Zagato for a short while. Early ownership after Zagato is unknown although it is believed to have been sold into France and was painted in a blue livery. It passed in the 1970s (perhaps the 1960s) into the ownership of the well-known European collector/dealer and author Rob de la Rive Box.
By April 1977 it passed into the hands of another well-known collector, restorer and historic racer, Paul F. Schouwenburg of The Haarlem, Netherlands, still with its original blue paintwork, before passing in 1981 into the hands of Peter Kaus, joining his famed Rosso Bianco collection near Frankfurt, Germany. This museum collection had over 200 sports racing cars and was the largest Alfa Romeo collection outside of the factory museum. As part of the Red “Rosso” section ‘10593’ was restored and repainted in traditional Italian racing hue. In August 2000 it sold at auction to a California collector, Craig A. Davis from Pebble Beach. In 2003 it changed hands and moved to a San Francisco custodian. In 2007 the current owner acquired the car.
Known restoration work to this SSZ includes the following:
New paintwork and upholstery in 1981 when it entered the Rosso Bianco collection;
Mechanical work in 2000 by Antique Auto Restoration of California in 2000;
In 2003 Conrad Stevens in California restored the engine and bodywork;
After acquisition by the current owner the car was entrusted to well-known Italian specialist Epifani Restoration of Berkeley, CA for further event preparation work;
Four years ago the upholstery was refurbished in Italy while the car was under the care of Zagato.
Originally this SSZ was supplied with a 1308 series engine block #10501 and although no longer with the car, a spare 1308 block comes with the car which is a very close serial number #10508. Currently a very rare 1306 series block is installed, number #19115.
Since 2008 this Alfa Romeo has been well maintained and prepared for many successful touring events. In the USA it has completed two Colorado Grand events as well as the California Mille. Since 2010 it has participated in 5 Mille Miglia Storico events in Italy as part of the famed Sports Zagato Team, its best finish being 94th place when driven by Andrea Zagato and Marella Rivolta. Other drivers have included McKeel Hagerty and Ralph Gilles, the global head of design for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Ralph was accompanied by Larry Webster of Road & Track magazine and an interview of Ralph, including photography and comments on this SSZ appeared in the October 2016 issue of R&T. More recently the Alfa Romeo was chosen as a featured vehicle and poster car for the 2017 Concours d’Elegance of America in Troy, Michigan.
Double Bubble Zagato coachwork on any ‘50s sports car is extremely rare across marques, including Ferrari and Maserati, with probably under 20 in total ever made. With just six built on the Alfa Romeo 1900CSS platform and with only three of them with the more stylish coachwork/low nose this is an extremely rare opportunity.
Fully restored they make serious Concours contenders; equally on the road they are fun, comfortable, sporting and eligible for a host of vintage road and race events around the world.