Secret Sister

Even amongst the more rarefied universe of Portello’s competition cars, there are the outliers, the runts, the ugly sisters. Today, we briefly examine one of this less than happy breed. 

Image: The author

Pretty, lovely, delicate. Three words that immediately spring to mind whenever one envisions an Alfa Romeo coupé of the ‘Sixties: Giulietta Coupé, Sprint Speciale, Sprint GT as well as the more rarefied sisters, the Giulia TZ 1 and 2 to name just a few. There does however exist a third Giulia TZ sister, but she was relegated to a dark corner and kept out of sight at AutoDelta for decades.

Ludovico Chizzola, AutoDelta’s co-founder, designed and built the Giulia TZ Prototipo Berlinetta (also known as the TZ 1.5) after a
request by Alfa Romeo to provide a successor to the first aluminium bodied Tubolare Zagato first seen in 1963. Using a modified, shortened Ferrari F2 racer chassis, Chizzola’s TZ 1.5 featured glassfibre bodywork of his own design – a notable feature being the use of gullwing-type doors.

It appears fair to say that Chizzola very much gave rationality, performance and functionality preference over pure aesthetics, resulting in a somewhat unconventionally proportioned body. The TZ 1.5 was almost front-mid engined owing to the familiar 1600cc engine being placed quite far back in the chassis. Twin Weber 45DCOE carburettors provided the engine with fuel. The side and rear windows were made of plexiglass in order to minimise the weight of the vehicle.

The Giulia TZ Prototipo Berlinetta was shorter than the TZ and had only a minimal front overhang. Its cockpit was dominated by a very wide transmission tunnel, and used the steering wheel, switchgear and gearlever taken straight from the original TZ.

When presented with Chizzola’s design, Alfa Romeo’s decision makers declined politely and instead turned to Zagato to come up with a new proposal. The TZ2 that resulted also had a fiberglass body but that was were its similarity with the Prototipo Berlinetta ended. The TZ2 continued the mini GTO look of the original and was deemed much more aesthetically pleasing than Chizzola’s ruthlessly functional design.

Shades of Marcos?

AutoDelta’s unwanted TZ 1.5 was subsequently banished to its storage facility and there it remained in disgrace for more than thirty years, before resurfacing at an AutoDelta reunion in 1996 having covered a total distance of a mere 580 kilometers. It was subsequently sold at auction in 2000 and again in 2011, for a final bid of €94,300 – which doesn’t seem all that extravagant for a somewhat unique piece of Alfa Romeo history – even if it is not a classic beauty nor has any real racing pedigree to offer.

Stark. Businesslike.

In almost any family tree there is at least someone to be found whose appearance, conduct, behaviour or demeanour doesn’t fit with accepted norms. Even in the animal kingdom, there are for instance, many dog, or cat litters that contain at least one offspring that doesn’t look quite right. So it was with the Giulia Tubolare Zagato sisters – but as rock singer, Meat Loaf’s 1978 power ballad once rather memorably proclaimed: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

14 thoughts on “Secret Sister”

  1. Good morning, Bruno. Another schoolday at DTW. I never knew about this particular Alfa. It’s a very weird looking car. I wonder how it would have performed.

  2. Much thanks, Bruno, for this very pleasing revelation.
    The TZ1 is a graceful car, and the TZ2 is an admirable
    racer, but this ugly duckling (like the original plywood
    chassis Marcoses – thanks Dave for the photo), is just
    the sort of thing I love, really wonderful. Thank you.

  3. Good morning Bruno. I hope this Alfa at least had the benefit of being dynamically accomplished, as it was no looker! Well spotted on the Marcos resemblance, although I think the latter was rather better looking:

    1. I rather like the mutant Guilia Junior GT front, but the rest is rather challenging. With Bruno’s knowledge of the obscure, I think maybe he was referring to the Marcos Xylon (“by your command!”):
      (image credit:

      or its slightly more civilised successor Marcos Luton:

      Both with gullwing doors. This isn’t me displaying detailed knowledge of said cars, by the way: I remembered that Marcos made a smaller car (the Marcos GT is a bit larger than the Alfa seems to be). Turns out I was thinking of the Mini Marcos, which looks quite different to the TZ1,5:

    2. Tom V: In fairness to Bruno (albeit, given his knowledge of the obscure I’m sure he’s aware of it), I added the reference to Marcos in the original text, because the Autodelta TZ put me in mind of the original Jem Marsh/ Frank Costin design, proving once again, that aerodynamic efficiency is not necessarily a recipe for stylistic harmony.

  4. The little information available on this vehicle leads to the conclusion that it was purely a test vehicle.
    The internal name of this test mule was “Vico”, because of its builder Ludovico Chizzola.

    Chizzola remained at their original headquarters in Feletto Umberto near Udine after AutoDelta moved to Milan, and did pure development work – today we would call it “skunkworks”.

    Since Chizzola wanted to move the car on public roads, a rudimentary body simply had to go on the chassis. On this occasion (and necessity), Chizzola/AutoDelta experimented for the first time with a plastic body to reduce weight. It wasn’t about the fancy looks then.

    Chizzola had a standard test route on which he had driven almost all TZ before delivery. This route of about 80 kilometres over winding mountain roads normally takes 1 and a half hours. During the few trips with this vehicle, he was able to cover this distance in only 40 minutes. Thus, the concept proved superior (to the TZ1) and “Vico” had fulfilled its purpose.

    Some ideas from “Vico” then went into the TZ2.

    Presumably “Vico” also led to the realisation that a mid-engined car would be essential for a pure sports car in racing, which led to the development of the T33.

  5. Something to remember with cars like these are the fact we’re talking about incredibly tiny cars, and its only through the genius of the designers they proportionally look like larger cars on photo. One really need to stand beside one to realize how tiny these cars really are. Before I Saw a Marcos in person I thought it was a fairly large car, it has the proportions of a Corvette only lower. The first time I saw it in person I was actually flabbergasted how small it really was. The GT has a length of just over four metres but it has the proportions of a car at least half a metre longer, perhaps 4 metres 70 or so. The only problem with this Prototipo is that the scale of the greenhouse ruins the illusion, because they reached the physical limits of how small they could build and have people in it. Imagine trying to shove a person into that car and the scale and proportions start to make sense.

  6. I hope we’re coming to the most beautiful car in the world, the Osca 1600SP Zagato? All the Osca cars were Zagatos, but this was a Special built in one or three examples or so. There we have an incredibly beautiful but tiny car without ruined proportions, and how Zagato succeeded with that boggles my mind, it shouldn’t be physically possible.

    1. That’s a new one on me, Ingvar, and here it is:

      In the second photo, there appears to be no room for occupants, just a spare wheel!

    2. Hi Ingvar and Daniel, most beautiful car in the world, wait one sec… [paging the ghost of Malcolm Sayer]. No, I think that one is by Fissore, so this one perhaps?

      Hemmings credits Ercole Spada (Zagato).

    3. The OSCA looks like the front half of a Bizzarrini GT combined with the rear of an experimental E Type and no man’s land in between – beautiful it’s not.
      A car that is tiny and beautiful is the Abarth Bialbero ‘ducktail’

    4. No it was the red car posted by Daniel I meant. Well, beauty is always dividing, but I find it without a doubt on my top list of most beautiful cars in history ever.

      And yes, the spare tire is placed above the rear axle just behind the driver and passenger, it only looks otherwise because of perspective distortion in the photo.

      Byt yes,bit is built on the chassis of the regular Osca 1600 Zagato, and that wasn’t much bigger even to begin with.

    5. That one-off OSCA Zagato design is interesting to me insofar as it exhibits influences of both Malcolm Sayer and Frank Costin. The nose treatment for instance carries reflections of the Lotus 11 and the 1957(?) Maserati 450S endurance race car, designed by Costin, but built by Zagato (allegedly not to Costin’s specifications!). But then, we all see what reflects back to us in design terms.

      Speaking of which, can we please refrain from sniffing at other people’s choices simply because they do not chime with our own? I see no reason for displays of incivility. This is a broad church, and to coin yet another Father Ted-ism, “They all have lovely bottoms”.

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