In addition to helping manage his father’s well-known carrozzeria in Milan, Elio Zagato was an unapologetic motorsports enthusiast, and in 1952, he founded the Sant Ambroeus racing team with several friends. A young local builder named Vladimiro Galluzzi joined Sant Ambroeus, driving one of Alfa Romeo’s new Touring-bodied 1900 coupes, but before long, Zagato advised him to change cars. The coachbuilder was admittedly intrigued by the promising mechanical platform of the 1900C, with its shorter sporting wheelbase, alloy-head dual-cam motor, and advanced suspension. But he clearly felt that a lighter, more aerodynamic body would help maximize the model’s performance potential.
With connections remaining from Ugo Zagato’s period of bodying the pre-war Alfa Romeo 6C Grand Sport Spyders, the coachbuilder was easily able to source a 1900C chassis for development. The principal employees at Alfa’s experimental department, Consalvo Sanesi and Ernesto Bonini, also enthusiastically weighed in on construction and engineering.
By September 1954, Zagato had clothed its first Super Sport in a delicate aluminum-alloy body with Plexiglas windows, shedding substantial poundage from the standard version. Delicately crafted lines that stretched back from the nose echoed both aesthetic and aerodynamic considerations, and the hood was essentially purpose-shaped to cover the engine’s high-profile intake manifold, with vents channeling air to the dual carburetors underneath.
Following the early success of Galluzzi’s prototype SSZ, Sanesi recommended to his bosses that the new model be approved for a limited batch of production, and a short run of Super Sprint Zagatos was officially approved. The coachbuilder constructed approximately 39 berlinettas and two spiders, with almost all of them built prior to mid-1956. Quickly embraced by sporting privateers for their handsome design and fleet-footed performance, the Super Sprint Zagato became a regular at sports car races across Europe, with as many as six examples entered at the 1955 Mille Miglia alone (Galluzzi finished 26th while the car of Vanini and Badaracco led all the SSZ entrants with a 19th-place finish). Joakim Bonnier notably took first overall in his car at the 2-liter Sverige Grand Prix on August 7, 1955, beating a host of Porsches and two Fiat 8V examples.