SSZ Stradale


Among enthusiasts, "retro" is often a bad word.

I'm not necessarily in that camp, but when a car company decides to ape the Ferrari 250 GT SWB with its first (and only) design, my gut tells me to learn about the company before passing judgement on its vehicle.

You're looking at the SSZ Stradale, a Wisconsin-made, sort-of-kit-car that is both brutally quick and unashamedly retro…but it's not as old as you may think. First shown in 1992, the SSZ Stradale was the brainchild of Alfa Romeo fanatic and racer Tom Zatloukal—often shortened to 'Zat'.

Working to complete only one car for himself, Zatlouklal wanted to combine the timeless looks of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS with enough performance to dust just about anything on the race track. Beginning with four prototypes built on the Alfa Romeo Series-101 "Sprint Speciale" chassis, Zatlouklal started to hone in on the best ingredients for his sports car recipe: V6 engine, composite body panels, and upgraded chassis components.

With the Mark 1, beefed-up Sprint Speciale lines were mounted over a unique tube frame chassis, with Kevlar-reinforced bodywork on top. To make maintenance easier for trackday drivers and race teams, the entire front end would lift up, exposing the engine and other components.

Under its shapely body sat a 3.0-litre Alfa Romeo V6 engine and five-speed manual transmission—with the party tricks being its adjustable ratio limited-slip differential and adjustable coilover suspension. This wasn't a car for amateurs, though: all components were sourced to be best, which often added a degree of performance customization that owners may not have been ready for.

Available in kit form, Zatlouklal sought to stay ahead of rivals on-track with a new engine for the Mark 2: a tuned 3.0-litre turbocharged unit from the Nissan 300ZX. Combined with an upgraded transmission, rear axle, and a host of bodywork modifications. As you can see in the gallery below, Zatlouklal also offered the car as a race car.

The next iteration pushed horsepower even more to a reported 1000, and now offered inboard disc brakes, full aerodynamics package, air jacks, a data logger—and unmatched performance. 

Mark 3.1 models saw the addition of a Corvette LS6 V8 engine, and Mark 4 models had slightly modified exterior panels and a longer wheelbase for better high-speed stability. Through all of the iterations of the Stradale street-going models, SSZ was busy racing the car anywhere they'd welcome an oddball, including in SCCA, FIA GT, World Challenge, and USRRC competition.

Mark 4 models are brutally powerful, with a 5.7-litre Chevrolet V8 from the Corvette that had to haul just 2200 lbs (997 kg).

It's one of the few modern vehicles that embody the spirit of vintage dual-use sports cars from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and others—all at a price about the same as a nicely-equipped luxury car. In 1992, it debuted at just $26,500, and if you wanted to go racing, you'd need at least $40,000. 

From 1992-1999, 24 SSZs have been made—so keep your eyes peeled for an opportunity to add the ultimate Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale to your collection.