The Alfa Romeo Junior Z Was A Kammback Kid

Photo: Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A.

There won’t be any deliberation. There won’t be any disagreement. Zagato has always known what to do with Alfa Romeos. And what they did with the Junior back in 1969 is no exception. But how did Zagato get their hands on an already gorgeous Alfa Romeo design? Car designer and friend of Jalopnik Matteo Licata has the story.

We’ve heard from Matteo before. A few weeks ago, I shared his video giving the backstory of the Maserati Biturbo, the boxy coupe and sedan duo that ushered in the multi-spool era and saved the brand. This week, he’s got some history from another Italian automaker, this time with a design house in tow as well.

Now, the standard Alfa Romeo Junior was far from ugly. Giorgetto Giugiaro (then at Bertone) put a body on it for the ages when the car came out in 1963 and the car took off. By 1967, the Alfa management was so satisfied with the original shape’s success that they decided to turn to the team across town at Zagato to see what more could be squeezed out of the design from a performance perspective. The result was the Junior Z.

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And this is what Ercole Spada and the rest of Zagato came up with. Its kammbacked design is a striking departure from Giugiaro’s original curvy three-box shape. Much of the panels of the new car were aluminum, and the drag coefficient was lowered significantly along with the weight. The front end featured plexiglass in front of the headlights and in lieu of the traditional chromed triangular grille there was just a cutout; minimalist, functional, and a stark departure from the norms. That was what Zagato was about back then.

Thankfully, they’re still at it too. These days, Zagato is still out there at more than 100 years old and the relationship with Alfa Romeo remains strong. The SZ of the ‘80s was even more angular and considerably more polarizing than the Junior Z, and the Viper-based TZ3 could go down as one of the most storied fruits of Fiat and Chrysler’s rocky marriage.

The Junior Z itself had a legacy too. Matteo suggests that the kammbacked shape of this car and perhaps the sporty angular coupe packaging served as direct inspiration for the Honda CRX. I’d believe it. At least I’d like to.

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Max Finkel

Max Finkel is a Weekend Contributor at Jalopnik.