The Italian Kangaroo: Remembering The World-Famous Alfa Romeo Canguro

2022-05-14 22:48:21 By : Ms. Steffi Zhang

The Alfa Romeo Canguro never made it to the production line, but traces of its design appeared on subsequent Alfa Romeos and Bertone-designed cars.

Sure, all you’ve done before scrolling down this page is feast your eyes on the red car above. We know. But could you just scroll back up and take another look at that car? Now, imagine you saw this car about 50 years ago. What words would you have used to describe it? First shown at the Paris Motor Show 1964, the red car is a Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Alfa Romeo concept called Canguro.

Notably, Canguro is Italian for kangaroo. The man who designed this car was named Car Designer of the Century in 1999. Three years later, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. He has worked his magic on both supercars and not-so-super cars. Giugiarro was with Gruppo Bertone when he designed the Alfa Romeo Canguro. The concept was based on the Alfa Romeo TZ platform. The TZ (Tubular chassis/Zagato body) platform had brought Alfa Romeo a dose of good luck at the circuits.

So, the company experimented with the idea of a production sports car based on the TZ lucky charm.

Despite the high cost of the TZ chassis, Alfa Romeo commissioned both Bertone and Pininfarina to come up with a road-going TZ concept. Although Canguro never made it to the production line, traces of its design appeared on subsequent Alfa Romeos and Bertone-designed vehicles.

Lots of things made the 1964 Alfa Romeo Canguro very special, not just for Alfa Romeo as a company, but for the rest of the automobile scene. How many concept cars can claim to have been lost and found? We don't mean "lost" as in "stolen." We're talking about that ominous feeling of listening to the receding echo of the footfalls of a retreating giant.

We bet your gearhead self knows a bunch that were lost and never found, but how many do you know have managed to come back from oblivion? Well, meet the Kangaroo. The disappearing act was not deliberate, which only heightens the awe of this special little red car.

Already, Alfa Romeo was reluctant to run with Giugiaro’s creation. The then 26-year-old designer was praised around the world for his work, but the automaker at the center of all that excitement was skeptical. Perhaps, Alfa Romeo's hesitation was less about Canguro’s viability and more about Autodelta’s capacity to build enough of the TZ chassis.

But what seemed to have driven the last nail in the coffin was the accident that reduced Canguro to a sad wreck just hours from a Salon de Paris exhibition. A Journalist had taken Canguro for a test drive at Monza Racetrack, but ended up smashing the concept car beyond repair.

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The wreck would remain abandoned for almost ten years until another journalist – a German by the name of Gary Schmidt– a true fan– found the thing at Bertone’s factory in Grugliasco and promptly bought it for 35 bucks– just enough to process the papers. This was in 1971.

Schmidt planned to have Canguro rebuilt even though he found it surrounded by weeds and missing vital body parts like the engine, interior components, seats, windshield, gearbox, and the front end. He had traveled to Bertone’s factory near Turin to find the wreckage. He couldn’t rebuild the car, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. So, Canguro was considered a lost cause – lost.

Canguro was later acquired in the '90s by the Japanese collector Shiro Kosaka, and Canguro commenced the resurrection journey. This time, the lines spiked erratically on the electrocardiogram, and Canguro lived again. It debuted and won the 2005 Concours d’ Elegance Villa d’ Este award.

Astonishing, Extraordinary, and Sensational are just some adjectives to describe the feeling of sighting the 1964 Alfa Romeo Canguro in person after it’s been lost for so long – and found.

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Canguro got just about all the attention at the 2005 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este not just because of its surreal presence at the show, but also because its presence reminded the press and public why the 1964 Alfa Romeo Canguro was all the rave in the first place.

Canguro had standout features that won't be forgotten easily. It's right there in the front line of cars with glue-in windscreens. And then there's the body made of fiberglass instead of the usual aluminum. If visitors at the 2005 Concorso d'Eleganza show were stunned by the sight of Canguro, imagine what it must have been like for spectators at the 1964 Paris Motor Show, where Canguro rolled up in a fiberglass body.

This was the young and talented Giugiaro leveraging the TZ’s unique low construction chassis to create a progressively aerodynamic fiberglass car. The concept was actually six inches lower than the original TZ chassis. In fact, Giugiaro thought up the glued windshield to complement Canguro’s aerodynamic qualities. There were literally no sharp lines in this car. It was regarded by pundits as one of the most symmetrically balanced designs of its time due to its brilliant curvaceous form.

Another unique feature is Giugiarro’s integration of Alfa Romeo’s racecar-style Quadrifoglio-shaped cabin vents on both sides of the roll hoop. This design element enhanced Canguro’s sporty appeal.

Observers couldn’t get enough of the headlights that seemed to be retreating inwards and the doors that seemed to grow into the roofline. The drawback of this design is that the car felt vulnerable without much to go by for impact protection. To improve headroom for drivers more than 6 feet tall, Canguro was fitted with bucket seats channeled below the floorpan.

Beneath the hood sat a 1,570 cc 4-cylinder light-alloy naturally aspirated engine with 112 bhp at 6,500 rpm. The engine is tied to a 5-speed manual transmission. It had disc brakes on all four wheels, a rear-wheel-drive double wishbone suspension system, and a power-to-weight ratio of 0.17 bhp per kg. We think the powertrain is part of what made Canguro a kangaroo.

Philip Uwaoma, this bearded black male from Nigeria, has single-handedly written more than a million words in the form of articles published on various websites, including toylist.com, rehabaid.com, and autoquarterly.com. Of all the websites and platforms Philip’s work appears on, the absence of his name attached to the articles published on Auto Quarterly is the only one that makes him moan; “ghostwriting sucks.” Albeit, Philip still won’t shy away from writing as a ghost. After all, it's the value he adds to human life with his pen that fuels his passion for writing. He has no dog, no wife- yet- and he loves Rolls Royce more than he really should.