TEXT AND PHOTOS: JAVIER ROMAGOSA / VIDEO: MANAGE MOTOR
Few things add value and desirability to a car more than the word ‘Zagato’. Aston Martin DB4: €500.000. Aston Martin DB4 Zagato: €10 million. Fiat 1100: €6.000. Fiat 1100 Zagato: €80.000 Alfa Giulia GTV: €40.000. Alfa Giulia GTZ: €500.000. A factor of 10 doesn´t seem unreasonable in some cases.
The ‘Z’ in GTZ means Zagato, a Carrozzeria founded in 1919 by Ugo Zagato in Milan, passed down through three generations. Influenced from its very beginning by aircraft build and design, Zagato´s obsession is to create beauty and beast, lightness and durability, passion and poise in its chosen métier: to clothe racing and sports cars. The Fulvia Sport is the biggest-selling Zagato creation to date, 7.100 Fulvias leaving its Milan workshops between 1965 and 1972. Although the Sport was always expensive and exclusive, these are big production numbers for Zagato, meaning that Fulvia remains the most affordable of all Zagatos. A happy consequence is that, as well as undervalued, the Fulvia Sport is also one of the most attractive and enjoyable Zagatos of the past 100 years.
Lancia Fulvia Sport Zagato: 2 1/2 Series
Designed by the great (controversialist) Ercole Spada, the Fulvia Sport debuted at the Turin Motor Show in 1965, sharing its V4 FWD mechanics with Lancia Fulvia Berlina and Coupé. The gestation period was long, however, so Zagato built very few Fulvia Sports before 1967. The earliest cars were powered by the factory coupé´s 1.216cc engine (Sport 1200), replaced by a 90 bhp 1.3 litre in 1966 (Sport 1300). Both engines were matched to a 4 speed gearbox, with the first 709 cars being built from aluminium (up to and including chassis number 001911). These peralluminen panelled cars are the most expensive to buy in the current market, followed by the later Sport 1.6.
From chassis number 001912, the main body shell panels then became steel, although doors and bonnet remained aluminium. In 1968 an upgrade to 92 bhp was introduced, this becoming the Sport 1300S. In retrospect models built up to 1969 are known as S1, distinguished by a bonnet eccentrically hinged along its right side and a hinged hatch panel below the opening rear window which hides the spare wheel. One of the main ‘cool Zagato’ features of the Fulvia Sport is that the rear hatch is powered by an electric motor, so can be raised about 5cm from a switch on the dashboard. Accompanied by whirring sound appropriate to the period, this feature works well, improving ventilation through the car and pleasing the crowds at car shows!
The S2 model, introduced in 1969, lost some of the most endearing features of the S1. Gone was the side-hinged bonnet, the hatch for the spare wheel, the hubcaps. The S2 stood taller, had different and bigger lights front and rear. Doors and bonnet were no longer aluminium but you got a nice ZF dogleg 5 speed gearbox, higher final drive, fatter tyres and an alternator, trading drivability for some of the character. Things are not easy in Lancia history so in fact the first 600 of these S2 cars were built from the remaining stock of S1 bodyshells (chassis numbers 00901-001600). Informally known as Series 1.5, these can be seen as the pick of the litter, the most attractive shape and chrome detail combining with the ultimate mechanical specification.
The rarest and fastest Fulvia Zagato was the 1600 Sport, built only 1971-2. Using the 1.584cc engine , modified suspension and 14×6″ mag alloy wheels of the 1600HF coupé, the 1600 Sport performed well with 115bhp. The fashions of the time (black trim instead of chrome, matt black stripes on the bonnet and flush door handles, bigger lights front and rear, a higher stance) do not improve the look of the car. Apart from the the door handles, the same detail changes also transferred to the later 1300 version, so the last of the Fulvia Zagatos gained performance but lost some of the charm of the earlier cars.
Rather like Alfa´s Bertone SS, the Fulvia Sport was conceived as a basis for competition, but events pointed in a different direction with the model becoming the range topper, significantly more expensive than the factory coupé and often sold on prestige and style to sophisticated urbanites.
Being light and aerodynamic the early cars were the best- suited to competition. In 1968 a small series of 27 ‘Competizione’ Fulvia Zagatos was produced, using late number aluminium-panel shells with plexiglass side windows and a lightened interior to create a road racer. Lancia´s competition focus in period became rallying with the factory coupé, rather than races, so the Competizione was mainly campaigned by private drivers and teams (notably Jolly Club, a semi-works team). Consequently the Zagato Competizione lacked the development which went into the works rally coupés (the hot HF 1.3 engine was never available in the Zagato Sport, for example).
Nevertheless, the Competizione found its niche in the Sicilian Targa Florio, a legendary endurance race on public roads which was a tough throwback to earlier times. Fulvia Sport Competizione won its class in 1968, 1969 and 1971, finishing with 9 out of 12 podium positions between 1968 and 1971. Now largely forgotten, this was a major achievement.
Two other cars were sent to the USA to dispute the classic endurance races at Sebring and Daytona in 1968-9. Retrospectively known as ‘Sport Daytona’, these two cars were extensively lightened and modified with wide arches covering 7×14″ wheels. One car ran alone as a 1300 in the 1968 Daytona 24 hours (DNF), but both cars were entered with the new 1600 engines in the 1969 version of the race, that of Magioli/Andersson/Baghetti winning its class and 11th overall. The 1969 12 hours of Sebring saw Magioli/Pinto finish 18th overall, and 4th in class.
This car: Competizione Tribute
This car is one of the 600 examples which combined the S1 shell with the S2 mechanical specification (unofficially known as Series 1.5). First registered on 01/01/71 as BG A 87014 in Bergamo, the capital of Dolomite mountains where the Zagato has lived most of its life, believed with 3 owners until 2018. Chassis number 818 650*001425*, its first registration date indicates that the car was in fact built in 1970.
The engine was recorded by Italian authorities in 1991 as type 818 303*56260*. This motor remains in the car and was rebuilt in 2017 by specialist workshop Citte del Mille (Bergamo) with Weber carbs and reported upgrades to head and cams, so should deliver a conservative 105 bhp from 1.298cc.
ASI papers dated 08 October 2001 record the car in the possession of Sr. Ghidotti of Bergamo. It is pictured in good condition, wearing bumpers and looking standard apart from 1600HF stye Cromorada alloys. Exterior paint colour was stated as red with the interior in black leather. At some later point, the car was transformed by its 3rd owner into a ‘Competizione’ tribute model, fitted with glass fibre Gp 4 flared arches, Campagnolo 6Jx14″ alloy wheels, lowered 1600HF suspension and painted orange.
This wild orange paint was typical of many of the Competizione cars current and competitive between 1967 and 1971. The closest to the spec of this car was the 1969 Targa Florio class-winning car (50th anniversary in 2019) of car #20, entered by Jolly Club España, shared between the well-respected Spanish driver Ruiz Gallardo and the English Lancia works rally driver, Tony Fall.
The transformation into a tribute Competzione has been brilliantly executed. Lowered with uprated HF spec front suspension and Koni adjustable shock absorbers, the car has perfect stance. The period 6Jx 14″Campagnolo wheels add purpose and relatively narrow 175/70 tyres provide sharp quick steering with the necessary grip. The result is a car which flows magnificently, often responding to mere wrist movement inputs. The Zagato always follows its nose.
Fulvia Zagato, smiles for miles
Spada´s genius for aerodynamic packaging created a narrow, low-flying missile, giving the driver great confidence in the curves. The Zagato has 5 gears but all are low by modern standards, so the ZF box´s sweet dogleg gear change helps to keep the willing and powerful engine in a range where it will deliver the goods. Driving the Fulvia Zagato well is all about flow and momentum. Not fast in outright terms, the car rewards smooth driving and anticipation with improbable A to B performance out of a 1.300cc engine.
It also delivers smiles for miles. Many smiles.
Inside the car, noise is always a companion. Eventually, noise is tiresome, but initially this car sounds amazing, the engine soars, the exhaust rasps. No radio is fitted, what would be the point? Remarkably, when the car arrived in Spain, aged 49 years, it was fitted with safety belts for the first time ever. Are you listening, Italy? 21st century safety standards calling.
The fruity noise notwithstanding, the Zagato is not lost on the highway. Part of the process of running in the engine was a roundtrip from Madrid to Alicante, 1.000 kms in less than 24 hours. At speeds of 100-110kph, the Zagato was a nice place to watch the endless straights of la Mancha roll by. Equally, the car is amazingly tranquil and flexible in traffic, no temperament at all when cold (and an instant starter). But as our video shows, it really comes alive in the mountains.
The interior of the Zagato is black without mercy. There is black, then more (and blacker) black. But it is comfortable. Access is easy (the driver´s door opens wider than the passenger side. We have no idea why…). Seats are leather, well padded and comfortable. The rear 2+2 seat is also leather, but is really an upholstered transversal strut frame. There is a heater (useless), wind up widows (working) and the whole electrical system on this car is new and reliable, which is far from the norm in any 1970s Italian classic.
I have rarely driven a car which makes such an impact as this Fulvia Zagato Competizione. The eye-catching paint demands attention and the small size seems to charm everyone from informed Lancisti to Generation Z skateboarders. The adulation extended to a couple of plain clothes police in an unmarked car who pulled us over, Starsky taking photos, while Hutch checked the documents by way of a reason. The Zagato Fulvia only seems to generate respect, not envy, however, one of those cars which take 20 minutes to fuel because someone will want to start a conversation.
Many enthusiasts, ourselves included, confess that they tend to prefer the elegant factory coupé over the controversial Zagato. But this one is something else. Whoever did the transformation into a tribute Competizione got it exactly right, matching the best mechanical spec with period style detail which enhances the shape, whilst maintaining the original interior and the essence of the Zagato design. This Fulvia Sport 1.3S drives as well as it looks and is a wonderfully enjoyable introduction to the exclusive world of Zagato, for which much thanks to its owner.