Long ago there was a thread concerning the car Tom Zat has that looks very authentic. It might not have a 1900 engine, but the two liter it does have fits it nicely. When one looks at this patent and compare it to his, I can't see how his is not authentic.
If you are trying to imply that the "Zat car" might violate some patent or patents, then I think I can agree that it might ... if it was built as a commercial enterprise with the intent to sell to others. The fact is that you can build most anything you like in this country, if it is for personal use and is not harmful to others or otherwise forbidden by law. Ferrari has managed in recent years to pursue the owners and builders of some "evocative" cars that carry the Ferrari name. They've sent people to jail or prison while destroying most or all of the offending "art" by claiming copyright infringement to their name ... if nothing else.
When looking at certain cars on display in Europe that are missing the nose badge and horn button (along with other normal "Ferrari" markings) you might think of the implications while relating that observation to what has gone on in legal circles over the last twenty years. If someone is afraid of displaying the Ferrari name on their car, what does that imply about their own beliefs in the actual origins of the car? Since Ferrari is under the same corporate umbrella as Alfa Romeo, Maserati and others, who knows where this kind of legal philosophy might lead when it comes to some non-Ferrari cars that are displayed in public?
If you are trying to imply that the "Zat car" was built originally by Alfa Romeo and Touring, then I'm pretty certain I would have to disagree ... unless you are going to specify a certain number of Alfa Romeo components that were originally fitted to another car or cars. If you can document even one part of the body that was built by Touring, I will be very pleasantly surprised. And more than a bit shocked! The many flawed shapes of the body simply do not stand up individually or collectively to even a casual review of what Touring did on their bodies for Alfa Romeo or any other builder.
Before Tom bought that particular car from a man who lived near St. Louis I also had opportunity to talk to that man. He used to work for Ford (I believe it was) who had its styling shop on the river, and he work on the dock. He was long retired when I called him. I wanted to know where he got the car. He said he had managed to pick up that body at the styling shop when he saved it from being destroyed and kept it for himself. He said he had done nothing with the car except put in the two liter engine. He even advertised the car for sale in Hemmings as a Disco volare (his spelling). That name was intriguing to me, and so I had called him upon reeding his little ad. He told me that the car had come to the shop almost finished from Touring in Italy when it and several others came after being purchased by Ford. He said he didn't know much about Touring or Alfa Romeo, but had like the car. He was actually surprised to be told the spelling was Volante. He says his particular car got to the US with several other bodies in various stages of construction which he understood were leftovers when Alfa abandoned the model, and Ford had acquired them all so they could be examined in the styling shop where he worked on the dock on the river. And when they cars had been thoroughly examined and checked, he was told by the boss to push the bodies into the river. Which he did, except for the one he decided to keep for himself. He is the one who fitted the two liter engine, and realized it was not exactly right because the body pan underneath caught some of the engine leaks and the oil ended up under the drivers feet. This would not have happened with a 1900 engine with its different style pan. I told him I was interested, but would have to come see the car when I could break free.
But when later I decided I just had to go out to see him and called him about a time he told me he was sorry but that he had sold it to a fellow who had come already from Minnesota and picked it up upon seeing it. I was out of luck. I thought about it and thought that the only guy who could have done that was Tom Zat. So I called him.
Tom said he had indeed bought the car and had been inspecting it very closely ever since. He said he had seen the same ad, and had immediately driven his car carrier to St. Louis from Alfa Heaven in Minnesota to look at the car intending to buy it if it looked at all authentic. I know he got it cheap, because he was not so dumb as to give the seller too much information. However, Tom from the first believed it authentic. And the more he had examined it, the surer he had become. For example, the inner tubing of the body is identical in style and hammer type markings as the ones known to be authentic. The workers who had built it had scratched number in the pieces in the same way they had on the Touring cars. Tom had thought it would be necessary to winch it onto his carrier, but was able to drive it on.
So, now you tell me how you think all those cars that are sometimes shown together on the floor of Touring being built at the same time suddenly evaporated into thin air? Have you ever counted the number of cars being worked on by the men in the pictures? Think how few were sold to the public? Those bodies that were being worked on went somewhere. No body shop with an order to make a body for a manufacturer ever starts laying down just a single car and then finishes it before going to another on. No they start with several at once. Alfa is notorious, by the way, in the fact that the first car produced of a particular model is almost never chassis No. 1. It is usually No. 13 or 15 or 17. The chassis number is already stamped on the finished car body when it gets sent back to Alfa to get the motor, or the motor was brought from Alfa to be installed.
For example, Bertone designed (Scaglione) the two liter sprint starting in 1960 by laying down ten two liter sprint bodies. The first one was finished (not totally, but well enough) on December 24, 1960 so that it -- chassis No. AR10205*00019 with engine No. AR00205*00008 -- could go to the Brussels motor show on January 19, 1961 to represent the Alfa marque. Of those facts I am certain. I own that car, and I checked the Brussels records with Alfa Storico. Over the following years 704 two liter sprints in total were made, and then using the identical body but the 2600 engine and a hood with a scoop to fit it another some 6,000+ more. The important fact is that whenever any new model was going to be made in quantity from a body factory, factories would start making several bodies at once, not just one and then another. And the first one finished usually wasn't the first one they started.
So, before you go disbelieving, why don't you go out to see Tom's car, and look at the scratched numbers on the pieces and the hammer marks and the unusual tubing that is common to hand built Touring cars? Don't go pontificating when you can't possibly know all the facts. This guy in St. Louis had no need to tell a story like that to Tom or to me. He didn't even know what a Disco Volante was. Remember these Disco Volante cars were more than just a single styling exercise for Touring. They were going to be sold to the public and the advertising was already in high gear when they were cancelled flat. It wasn't like the BAT cars where Touring was trying to entice Alfa to order a car. If the Disco Volante had been merely a styling exercise there would have been only one car, like the Cangauro made by Bertone that was not accepted by Alfa, and ended up abandoned in the back lot so that a fellow from Florence, Oregon could buy it there as junk when he was in the service (and sell it many years later to Japan before he died). That Cangauro ended up being a Villa D'Este concours winner a couple years ago. But Disco Volante was supposed to go into full production and sale and would have were it not for the incident where Gina Lollabridgida had one she was driving "lift" off the road due to the futuristic aerodynamics. You have read that story. The whole program was dropped flat with no more cars completed. But where did all those undone cars go? Why were none found on Touring's back lot?
Tom is a wonderful guy, and you ought to go visit him in his Alfa Heaven. He would probably be happy to pick you up in his stretch 2600 Berlina limo (made from two Berlinas I sold him in the 70's). Go talk to him. Examine with him his disco volante. It certainly never was completed by Touring, but it got really really close, and I am not upset in the least that it got fitted with a two liter instead of a 1900. I am, after all, the Old two liter lover. I love it even more. I wish I owned it. I wish I had moved faster back when I first noticed in the teeny ad that it was for sale.
P.S. Maybe you ought to research Hemmings to see if you can find the old advertisment. That ought to give you something definite to start checking. Call Tom Zat and ask him when he bought the car and work backwards to find the Hemmings ad. And while you are at it, get some more information from him. If ever there were a "real" Disco Volante other than the ones in the museum or already known, this has to be the closest anyone is ever going to find. Unfortunately, I fear the seller to Tom is no longer alive. He said he was old when he decided to sell, and I was young then. Now I'm the one who is old. Time flies when you are having fun. Might be a lot more fun and excitement to do the kind of research you are capable of instead of just saying "No, it couldn't be." Authenticating this car could be worth doing.
Thank you. I am pleased to have you voice your impressions so strongly and definitively. It does give me pause to wish even more strongly to check the car out personally, as I have from the first I learned of it. I've never been invited to have a look. I have a note that I did send him a card maybe 20 years ago, when I had an address for "Alfa Heaven" in Wisconsin. I do not recall if I was aware of that particular car at the time. I only hoped he would be a resource to learning more about a good number of cars. I never had any sort of a response from him. Which was not unusual. I've been told that a response rate of even 5% for my kind of inquiry is probably pretty good. Sometimes I've beaten that number and sometimes not.
I hope your impressions are correct and that my observations and "cautions", admittedly from a distance, are off-base.
The car is aluminum and done properly. And perhaps it is slightly different as would be the case for Touring to be developing a new body as done in the Touring manner of development as you go. In fact, when one looks at the photos of the cars sitting there being built in the factory it looks like one of the specific ones sitting there unfinished at that time. While I appreciate the comments of Carter Hendricks as a long term Alfa man who was active even during the days of the 1900 cars I disagree with them. There is NO plywood in the car and his comment sounds a bit like sour grapes. It's comments like that from Carter that are so totally off the wall that have turned Tom against the Alfa community. Perhaps Tom might be more receptive to John visiting him now that he is feeling a bit better. I do not know if everyone realized how Tom's physical condition so cut short his circulation among the car community. I have known him since 1973 and he has always been friendly to me. I've always been told that I would be welcome if I came to visit him myself. He most recently sent me an email telling me he would pick me up at the airport in his neat stretch 2600 limo and sent photos. It might be worth the trip just to ride in it. I'll contact him now that I have stirred up this mess.
While we're having this discourse, I am reminded that I would very much like to learn the Bertone body number of your Sprint, N. 00019. It should be high on the right side of the firewall or perhaps even higher in the "drip" rail area and should begin with the number "140" if it is as I suspect. There may be some "star" or asterisk-like characters that appear as part of it?
Also, do you have a record of the chassis identities of the cars that you sold to Tom Zat? Do you happen to know which identity he settled on for the limousine?
I'm not going to quote anybody, but fans of conspiracy theories must be loving some of this discussion about the Zat "Disco Volante". The suggestion that the car is genuine is absurd, to my eyes. The car is visually clumsy. Anyone can weld up tubing, anyone can scratch a number onto a rail. But getting the aesthetics right, all the curves and proportions, is much more difficult and the Zat car simply doesn't pass muster. The Argentines do it much better.