What Almost Was: The Alfa Romeo Zeta 6

What Almost Was: The Alfa Romeo Zeta 6

Honestly, who thought this was a good idea, a door handle without an actual handle? Instead there's a small sprung disc with fingertip-sized hollows. Twist to the right and the corresponding clicking sound signals either the door opening or the dislocation of something important, because by now your wrist is at an unnatural cant. Even without being told, you know this could only be a Zagato product; a car about which you have to take the mad with the maddening.

However, with the Alfa Romeo Zeta 6, the Milanese styling house actually reined in its customary whimsy. So often its designers pushed the boundaries, only to have them pushed back again as they met customer resistance. Many of its designs, now considered iconic, were negatively received in period but this intriguing device wasn't among them. Comedy door handles aside, it's in the realm of the normal, and demand was very real. Sadly, that wasn't sufficient for it to make the leap from prototype to production car.

Alfa Romeo is a marque with as many hits as misses in its back catalog but the car you see here didn't get the chance to exist in either camp. For a brief, tantalizing moment in the early '80s, it seemed the Zeta 6 might just become a range-topper. But no, the firm's penury damned it to obscurity as the suits in Arese chose instead to make a 'Sud-engined Nissan Cherry. Yes, really. And there wasn't the money to do both.

Yet as history tells us, the Arna wasn't a big hit with the Alfisti, or anyone else for that matter. As for the Zeta 6

Published Dec 7th, 2015