“Alfa Romeo Stories”, seventh episode – The revolution of shapes and colours: 33 Stradale, Carabo and Montreal
The car: photograph of the time
“Eyes” for headlights, “mouth” for grille, “face” for front – and, of course, “body” of the car, with “shoulders” and “sides” designed by the wheel arches. These anthropomorphic similarities are also used today. How are they born, and why? The first cars are literally “horse-drawn carriages”, without specific decorative solutions. Since the thirties the “coachbuilders” (the name has remained) become very good at working metal: they beat the slabs by hand, directly on a wooden “master”, giving life to authentic unique pieces – with rounded and sensual lines that seem to pursue an organic ideal. With the evolution of industrial production, the forms tend to simplify, because the molding equipment of the time does not allow as much sophistication and three-dimensionality. At some point, in the late 1960s, the two stylistic inspirations bifurcate clearly. The difference between “anthropomorphic car” and “car of tomorrow” is represented in a plastic way by the 33 Stradale and Carabo – two Alfa Romeo models developed starting from the same technical base.
Born from the same platform
The 33 Stradale and the Carabo could not be more different. The one all nerves and muscles, like an athlete portrayed in the midst of competitive effort; the other all straight lines and angles, aimed at capturing the essence of mobility and projecting it into the future. Much more than two interpretations: two different worlds.
The common technical basis of these two cars represents the synthesis of fifty years of Alfa Romeo racing experience. Ingenious and rigorous design, skill and courage in the choice of materials, a style that combines technological innovation and creativity: these are the design ingredients of the Type 33.
Want to run
Everything stems from the desire to run – a desire that has never died out.
In 1964 President Luraghi felt that it was time for an official return. To reconstitute the Squadra Corse, it acquires Autodelta, a company from Udine that is already a privileged partner for the production of the TZ. With Autodelta, Carlo Chiti, who worked at Portello from 1952 to 1957, also returned to Alfa Romeo and now takes on the role of head of the official team.
In the same year, project 33 started. Luraghi asked his team for a car capable of competing in the “categories of the moment” for public success and media attention: the world sports prototypes and the time trials.
In the mid-sixties, Autodelta moved to Settimo Milanese – closer to the Alfa Romeo factory, but above all to the Balocco test track.
The first Type 33 chassis designed by Alfa Romeo entered the Autodelta workshops in 1965. It is an asymmetrical “H” tubular structure, made of aluminum alloy, which integrates the fuel tanks inside. On the front, a magnesium structure optimally supports the front suspension, radiators, steering and pedals. The engine / gearbox assembly is mounted longitudinally in the central rear position. The bodywork is made of fiberglass, and this allows the total mass of the car to be limited to the 600 kilos that the regulation provides for as a minimum. Once again, lightness is Alfa Romeo’s secret weapon.
Victory in the 1975 and 1977 Marche World Championships
Such an ambitious (and innovative) project has not very short development times. Almost two years pass before 33 is ready for the races. For the first tests the car adopts the 1,570 cm³ 4-cylinder of the TZ2; in the meantime, an entirely new engine is developed, with which it switches to an 8-cylinder “V” configuration, with two liters of displacement and 230 horsepower at debut.
The first 33 to run is immediately nicknamed “Periscopic” for the air intake that protrudes above the roll-bar. For the debut the time trial of Fléron, near Liège, is chosen; driving the car is the chief test driver of Autodelta, Teodoro Zeccoli. After years of meticulous preparation, the 33 entered the world of competitions on March 12, 1967. And he wins immediately.
It is the first of a long series of successes on the most prestigious circuits. A ride that will bring the 33 to the top of the world, with the victories in the 1975 and 1977 Marche Championship.
The Florentine nobleman who wanted to be a designer
When Alfa Romeo decides to produce the 33 in a very small series for private individuals, it needs a new look that interprets its competitiveness from a road key. The project is entrusted to Franco Scaglione.
Born in Florence to a family of ancient nobility, Scaglione studied to become an aeronautical engineer until the moment of military service; then he leaves for the Libyan front, where he will be taken prisoner in Tobruk. He returned to Italy in late 1946, determined not to resume his studies, and chose to become a car stylist: first with Pinin Farina, then with Bertone, then as an independent designer.
Scaglione puts all its technical expertise and creative audacity into the 33 Stradale project, creating a masterpiece in which style innovation blends with the search for aerodynamics and functionality.
The 33 Stradale
The hood of the 33 Stradale opens completely to improve access to the mechanical parts, and – for the first time on a “street-legal” car – the doors are “elitra”, in order to facilitate entry into a car less than one meter high. The only differences compared to the track version are 10 cm more wheelbase, and a steel frame instead of an aluminum one. The engine is the same as the Type 33, entirely in aluminum and magnesium alloys, with indirect mechanical injection and dry sump lubrication. The distribution is entrusted to an overhead camshaft, with two valves and two spark plugs per cylinder. On such a light car, 230 horsepower makes it possible to reach the maximum speed of 260 km / h, and 100 km / h from a standstill in 5 and a half seconds.
The preview in Monza
The car is officially presented at the 1967 Turin Motor Show, but unveiled a few weeks earlier to a passionate and competent public. It’s 10 September 1967, and the Italian Grand Prix is held in Monza, the ninth round of the Formula 1 world championship. A GP that went down in history for an epic comeback by Jim Clark on Jack Brabham – and for the preview of one of the most beautiful sports cars ever. When it was born, the 33 Stradale was the most expensive sports car on the market, sold for almost 10 million lire at the time against 6/7 of the most prestigious rivals. There are only 12 examples made with Scaglione bodywork. Those who buy them make the investment of life: today they are practically priceless.
The 33 Stradale represents the culmination of the concept of “anthropomorphic car”. But Alfa Romeo’s stylistic research also runs in other directions. The idea of a “car of the future”, similar to a spaceship, manifested itself in the fifties with the “Disco Volante” designed by Touring: a spider resulting from advanced aerodynamic studies, with mudguards rounded laterally and connected to the car body low and stringy.
A “dream car” is presented at the 1968 Paris Auto Show which represents the evolution of this extreme idea: it is the Carabo designed by the thirty year old Marcello Gandini for Bertone.
Different twin: the Carabo
The Carabo was developed on the mechanics of the 33 Stradale – used in those years also by other designers for one-off exercises such as Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Iguana, the 33 Coupé Speciale and the Pininfarina Cuneo, the Bertone’s Navajo. Even the height is the same, less than a meter, but the rounded lines have completely disappeared: everything in the Carabo is sharp, from the wedge profile to the doors with “scissor” opening. The name Carabo takes inspiration from the “Carabus auratus”, a beetle with metallic and bright colors, the same ones that are proposed on the car: luminescent green with orange details. From this moment, Alfa Romeo began to pay particular attention to whimsical colors and special painting techniques, elements capable of highlighting even more the uniqueness of the brand.
In 1967 all the nations of the world participate in the Universal Exposition of Montreal with their best technical and scientific achievements. Alfa Romeo is asked to create a technological symbol for the Expo – a model that represents “the greatest aspiration of man in terms of cars.” Satta Puliga and Busso ask for Bertone’s collaboration, and Gandini is commissioned to design the bodywork and the interior. The result is a great success. North American visitors greatly appreciate the elegance and content of the car. On the wave of public approval, a series version was developed, presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 1970. Unlike the original concept, this Montreal has a V8 engine derived from the Type 33, brought to 2.6 liters and limited to 200 horsepower. The model is striking for its extraordinary range of colors, both pastel and metallic: from green (already used for the Expo show car) to silver, from orange to gold. The chromatic research is an Alfa Romeo tradition that we will still find in the next stories – and that continues today, with the proposal of a new palette of body colors: Rosso Villa d’Este, Ocra GT Junior and Verde Montreal. Colors inspired by the brand’s 110 years of life and dedicated to some of its most glorious models. Ocra GT Junior and Verde Montreal. Colors inspired by the brand’s 110 years of life and dedicated to some of its most glorious models. Ocra GT Junior and Verde Montreal. Colors inspired by the brand’s 110 years of life and dedicated to some of its most glorious models.