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Alfa Romeo T33 / 3 in the driving report: Italian Stallion

Hardy Mutschler
Alfa Romeo T33 /3 in the driving report
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C arlo Chiti, born on December 19th 1924 in Pistoia, Italy, was a remarkable man in many ways. As head of the design department at Ferrari, for example, the aerospace engineer with a doctorate in 1961 helped the American Phil Hill to the Formula 1 title in the Sharknose 156; As head of Autodelta, the racing department of Alfa Romeo, he designed the racing activities of the Milanese for around two decades from 1964 onwards.

Alfa Romeo racing cars with star names

Possibly to compensate for his technical brilliance Chiti had a few other passions: his love for Italian cuisine could not be overlooked, and he was also very interested in esoteric topics. At the end of the sixties, when the sports prototype Alfa Romeo T33 slowly picked up speed in the Manufacturers' World Championship, Chiti was apparently in its astrological phase.

This meant that Chiti was replacing - or in addition to - the chassis with the racing car -Numbers given the names of stars, for example Centauri, Betelgeuse or Castor and Pollux. During the Sebring 12 Hours in 1970, three 33/3 at the start - Courage /de Adamich on Sirius, Galli /Stommelen on Vega and Gregory /Hezemans on Rigel.

Difficult research work

Now dealing with chassis numbers and trying to find out the individual history of a vehicle can basically become a nerve-wracking task. This is especially true for racing cars, especially for Italian racing cars and especially for Alfa Romeo during the Autodelta era.

The Alfa Romeo T33 /3 we are showing is a good example of this. Basically it is an early example, probably built as early as 1969, one of the first T33 with a monocoque made of aluminum /magnesium and the three-liter four-valve engine.

The frame functioned as a tank in the original version

This meant more than just a further development of the original Alfa Romeo T33 as it was at the beginning1967 was presented: The original version had an H-shaped frame, in whose thick longitudinal pipes the gasoline sloshed. The drive was a two-liter V8 with a 90 degree cylinder angle, a flat crankshaft and two valves per combustion chamber, which contained some of the details of the 1.5-liter Formula 1 engine that Chiti had designed at ATS in 1963. The Alfa Romeo T33 Stradale , for many one of the most beautiful automobiles of all time ..

The original frame layout turned out to be too little torsion-resistant, and Chiti had confirmed that the V8 drive had enough potential for enlargement when it was first introduced. For the 1969 season, Autodelta therefore presented a three-liter V8, now with four valves per combustion chamber; the two overhead camshafts per cylinder bank were again driven by gear wheels.

With Lucas injection, a good 400 hp were available at 9,000 revolutions. In its basic form, this three-liter V8 was also used in Formula 1 (1970 at McLaren) and produced 435 hp there, some sources speak of 455 hp.

The premiere of the Alfa Romeo T33 /3 was a disaster

Chiti designed a monocoque made of aluminum /magnesium with the transmission housing (first the original six-speed, later the five-speed transmission) as the supporting element. Magnesium was also used on the chassis, but the Alfa Romeo T33 /3 was not a lightweight with initially 700 kg (later 650 kg).

There was not much time for testing, so the premiere was in February 1969 the 12 hours of Sebring to a disaster: On all three Alfa Romeo T33 /3s used, the glued instead of soldered radiators crumbled, before Nanni Galli had lost a rear wheel, which then crashed into his own rear.

Only with a twelve-cylinder the Alfa T33 /3 wins the world title

The Alfa Romeo T33 /3 also struggled against the competition from Ferrari, Matra and, above all, Porsche. Their not quite as strong, but lighter, easier-to-drive and more reliable Porsche 908s were hard to beat. In addition, the organization of the Autodelta troop should not always have been optimal.

There were still some respectable successes: in July Andrea de Adamich won the Österreichring, in August Nino Vaccarella in Enna, and in September Ignazio Giunti came second in Imola. With the revised Alfa Romeo T33 /3 (650 kilograms, modified body) Courage /de Adamich won in Buenos Aires in 1970, Pescarolo /de Adamich won in 1971 at Brands Hatch, Vaccarella /Hezemanns won the Targa Florio and de Adamich /Peterson in Watkins Glen . Nevertheless: The Alfa Romeo T33 only became really successful when it was prescribed a tubular space frame and a twelve-cylinder from Chiti - what about theBrand world championship titles in 1975 and 1977 led.

The tubular space frame appeared in 1972, and at the latest by then all Alfa Romeo T33 /3 with monocoque were obsolete and some of them were sold. According to the sales contract, the copy on these pages was sold to the Italian Koni importer on November 10, 1973 for five million lire. However, the chassis number in the contract and on the car is puzzling: 105 800 23.

The mystery of chassis number 23

All known Alfa Romeo 33/3 numbers begin with 75080, the end number 23 is also assigned. It seems unlikely that the car is a fake - firstly, the sales contract with the unusual number exists, secondly, it would simply not have been worth building a fake in 1973, thirdly, the car stayed with the first owner until 2003 and still looked like it was parked in 1970.

It is more likely that until 1973 the Alfa had no number, maybe just the name of a star, and that Chiti just wrote something in the sales contract - not necessarily unusual. A side detail: The project number for the racing car was 105.033, hence the name T33.

The second owner from 2003 on was also enthusiastic about the pristine condition and put the Alfa in his collection without moving it . The Englishman, who bought 105 800 23 the following year, saw things differently and handed over the Alfa Romeo 33/3 to the not unknown address Pearson's Engineering.

There the Alfa was carefully dismantled and made ready to race for just under 30,000 pounds, what above all the X-ray of all suspension parts and a careful inspection of the drive meant. The British specialists tried to preserve as much of the pristine substance as possible.

First use after restoration in Le Mans

Then it went to the Le Mans Classic in 2008, where not everything went according to plan. Back at Pearsons, a rebuild of the V8 was due, the eight pistons alone swallowed a good 2,000 pounds. So freshly built, without another kilometer of racing, but with new tires, the Alfa now presents itself in Rockingham, a Birmingham and Cambridge racetrack that opened in 2001.

Once warmed up, the three-liter V8 howls like a Formula 1 , the increase in torque compared to the two-liter is considerable. Gearshift, brakes, steering, the Alfa Romeo T33 /3 does what it should, and you involuntarily regret that the starting fields for Le Mans Classic are already filled this year - this time the Alfa would do better. It may not have been really successful once, today it is a splash of red color in the starting field that is all too often missing - and it is a wonderful reminder of the great oneCarlo Chiti.

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