There was a time when the uncompromising vision of a talented designer could result in a car that looked ten or even 15 years ahead of its time: the Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato.
Back in 1967, Alfa Romeo was on a roll: the assembly lines of the new Arese factory built the full range of the successful Giulia and its derivatives, whose highly profitable sales were growing year on year.
Such good times are those when companies feel confident to splurge on niche products, like a sportier, lighter 2-seater derivative of the Bertone-designed Alfa GT 1300 Junior aimed at the youth market. Back then, if lighter and sportier was what you wanted, you went to Zagato, a lesson Alfa learned a decade prior, with the Giulietta SVZ. Ercole Spada’s design aimed to improve the GT Junior’s performance through aerodynamics, given the car had to make do with around 90 HP.
The Junior Z’s front end was shaped like an arrow to reduce the drag coefficient, and its body was kept low and narrow, wrapped around the mechanical elements as tightly as possible to reduce the car’s frontal cross-section. Spada’s vision was uncompromising, almost brutal: no gratuitous ornamentation, not one line more than strictly necessary. The result looks still so strikingly contemporary that’s hard to believe the original Bertone Junior and the Junior Z actually coexisted, sold alongside one another.
Perhaps my favorite detail of all is the extremely modern way Spada integrated the Alfa Romeo shield into his design: it’s merely a cut-out in the headlight’s transparent cover. It’s not actually there, but its presence is suggested, implied on a kind of secondary aesthetic level.
The Junior Zagato 1300 was superseded in 1972 by a revised 1600 version, whose tail had been made 10 cm longer to use the standard Spider floor-pan without modifications. This later version stayed in production for three more years, up to 1975.