Alfa Romeo commissioned Turin firm O.S.I. to build a rear-engined sports car prototype with tubular chassis – the solution already adopted on the Alfa Romeo 33: the Scarabeo was presented in Paris in 1966.
In the early Sixties, engineers Orazio Satta Puliga and Giuseppe Busso – who headed the Alfa Romeo design team – were working on the development of a new racing car. The project included anH-shaped tubular chassis, which laid the foundations for the creation of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. The car was initially developed by Alfa Romeo and then finalised by Autodelta, led by Carlo Chiti, who opted to install a two litre V8 engine.
Very early in 1966, after the 33 project was transferred to Autodelta, Busso proposed the construction of another rear-engine sports car, but this time using the four-cylinder engine of the GTA: the Scarabeo. The engine was mounted transversally in the rear of the car, in unit with the clutch and gearbox, and in the left-hand side to enable the hot exhaust side to be directed towards the rear of the vehicle. This meant that the driving seat was placed on the right for better weight balancing.
The car debuted at the Paris Motor Show in October 1966. The body built by O.S.I. is sleek and streamlined, especially in the front, but the most curious feature is the absence of doors: the cockpit is accessed by tipping the roof, which incorporates the panoramic windscreen, forward. To conclude, in keeping with the aerodynamic dictates of the time, the rear shell encasing all the mechanics ends with a Kamm tail.
Alfa Romeo produced just two coupés plus a third, incomplete car, with “barchetta”-style open body, used for experimentation purposes.
The bodywork of the Alfa Romeo Scarabeo was built by O.S.I. (Officine Stampaggi Industriali) of Borgaro Torinese, founded by former Ghia chairman, Luigi Segre, and Arrigo Olivetti. This business had only a short lifetime, but still left a profound mark on the history of Italian automotive design, thanks to personalities including Tom Tjaarda, Sergio Sartorelli and Giovanni Michelotti.
After the car exhibited in Paris, a second, simplified prototype was built, with left-hand drive and more conventional windscreen and doors, although with the same chassis and engine architecture as its predecessor. This second car is perfectly conserved at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese.
A third version, an experimental car, was also built, but was never completed. Its even simpler body was that of a faired sports barchetta. This car is also conserved at the Museo Alfa Romeo.