THE ALFA ROMEO TIPO 33 - A DESIGN REVOLUTION

If ever a car company were looked to as responsible for bringing the automobile to life, it would be Alfa Romeo. There’s something you just can’t quite put your finger on with an Alfa, but their passion, romance, soul and flair is simply unquestionable. The 60’s are undeniably Alfa’s golden years, with the sublime Giulia TZ’s, the wonderful Duetto Spyder and rorty little GTA, Alfa were at the top of their game, though 1967 saw Alfa Romeo’s peak, the astounding Tipo 33 Stradale, a car that fathered a lineage of equally breathtaking concepts over the coming decade.


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Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale

When chatting 60’s supercars you’ll hear about the Lamborghini Miura, the Ferrari 250 GTO and E-Type Jag, but a name rarely brought up will be Alfa Romeo. Amazingly, Alfa managed to slip through the cracks of the 60’s supercar almanac, and looking back, it’s bewildering to think that this car could possibly be overshadowed.

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This is not the prettiest car ever made. No, that title carries far too little weight for the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale, this is the most beautiful ‘thing’ ever made. To call the T33 a car doesn’t do it justice, because this is a creation spoken about in hushed, reverential tones. The madman responsible for penning such a thing was Franco Scaglione, the man who also brought the world the Lamborghini 350 GTV, Alfa Romeo B.A.T cars, Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale and the Abarth 1500 Biposto; quite a CV of astonishingly pretty creations. The Tipo 33 Stradale stunned the world in 1968, though Scaglione’s masterpiece was far from all talk and no trousers. Based on the Tipo 33 sports racing prototype, they may have shared a small capacity 2.0-Litre V8 but power was in no short supply with the engine capable of revving to 10,000RPM. Producing 240hp from the race-bred engine, the mid-engine T33 taking 5.5 seconds to sprint from 0-60, one owner quoted at running the car flat-out for 4km at 180mph down the Italian Autostrada, making it one of the fastest production cars of the time.

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Outside of the cars simply stunning beauty, Scaglione brought his signature innovation to the Tipo 33, pioneering the dihedral, or butterfly, doors, sculpting them out of gorgeous upward curving glass. Few concessions were given when converting from track to road, the engine was hardly de-tuned, doorlocks weren’t fitted and the exhaust was known to spit flames; perfect for an Italian commute. Just 18 Tipo 33 chassis were made, 8 of which were finished in Scaglione’s marvellous sculpt, the remaining used for experimental purposes; except for 5. These 5 chassis were used as the base of some truly astonishing concepts, which from a design perspective, were on another planet from the already extra-terrestrial T33 Stradale.


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Alfa Romeo Carabo (Bertone)

Whilst many designers approached the idea of the wedge supercar, Marcello Gandini pioneered it, possibly perfecting it before the Wedge War even started. Predating his Lamborghini Countach by eight years, the Carabo’s design inspiration came from a want to erase the understeer that plagued his Lamborghini Miura, the wedge shape a by-product of the aerodynamic pursuit.  Based on one of these 5 Tipo 33 Stradale chassis, the Carabo was fitted with the same mid-mounted 2-Litre V8 as the T33, the Carabo surprisingly fully functional, however it was never performance tested. Carrying the Tipo 33 Stradale’s tradition of revolutionary door design, the Carabo pioneered the scissor doors, Gandini later implementing them for road use on his Countach.

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When designing the Carabo, Gandini clearly took inspiration from racing prototypes (look at the Kamm tail on the Ferrari 330 P4) but the rest was completely new. Pop-up headlights, side mounted mid-engine intakes, a generous smattering of louvres, the gloriously 80’s grid-style rear lights and aforementioned scissor doors, it’s no surprise such a radical departure from the curvaceous, feminine early 60’s supercars caught on.


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Alfa Romeo P33 Roadster (Pininfarina)

If those at the 1968 Paris Motor Show were blown away by the radical Carabo, one could only imagine the reaction at that years Turin Motor Show when this road going spaceship turned on a plinth. Whilst the Carabo was somewhat feasible as a production reality, in comparison it seemed Pininfarina’s first Tipo 33 based concept was taking the piss, Pininfarina again pushing the boundaries of automotive styling.

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Combining flat planes with gorgeous curves, the futurist wedge design housed the same V8 used in all the concepts, resting above it a tall aerofoil wing mounted just behind the driver’s seat. The cabin enveloped in a wraparound windscreen, no roof to speak of and Mercedes 300 SLR vertical doors. The whereabouts of the P33 Roadster is unknown. It is believed it lived a short life, cannibalised for its chassis in 1971 to create the P33 Cuneo.


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Alfa Romeo Iguana (ItalDesign)

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The thing with concept cars is they rarely evolve into road cars, but of the Tipo 33 based concepts, Guigiaro’s Alfa Romeo Iguana was the closest to a production reality. Similar to the Carabo, Giugiaro used the Iguana as a vehicle to debut many design traits that would later be implemented in his road cars. Sharing design traits with Maserati’s Bora and Merak, the Lamborghini Jalpa and judging by the bare aluminium body, the Lamborghini Marzal and DeLorean DMC-12.

Pioneering as much technology as design, Guigiaro fitted the Iguana with an electronic rear spoiler, designed to completely change the concept cars handling at high speeds. Ultimately the Iguana never made it to production, despite Guigiaro’s best efforts.


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Alfa Romeo 33/2 Coupe Speciale (Pininfarina)

If ever a 60’s Alfa Romeo were to rival the Tipo 33 Stradale for outrageously gorgeous design, it’s this Pininfarina penned gem. Designed by Leonardo Fioravanti, the mind behind the Ferrari 288 GTO, Daytona, 512BB, F40, 246 Dino and many Ferrari prototype racers, its no surprise the Speciale started life as a Ferrari. Based on Fioravanti’s Ferrari 250 P5, Enzo, unfavourable of the prototypes design scrapped the P5 project, Alfa Romeo taking the reins. Fioravanti updating the design for the Alfa Romeo 33/2’s debut at the 1969 Paris Motor Show, closing the decade of curvaceous, feminine supercars with this stunning, very yellow styling tour-de-force.

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Pininfarina’s 2nd crack at a T33 based concept, the 33/2 is to many eyes, including mine, the best of the concepts. With styling strong enough to rival the Alfa it was based on, Fioravanti’s pontoon fender’s framed with pop-up headlights flow effortlessly into the intake clad bonnet and dramatic wheel arches, the long, exaggerated engine intake striking the razor-sharp edge running around the back of the Kamm tail, all topped off with a jet fighter-style canopy, acres of glass and those stunning gullwing doors. This is a car you could look at for days and never drink in all the details. The worst part of the Alfa 33/2 Coupe Speciale’s styling? The fact it ends.


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Alfa Romeo P33 Cuneo (Pininfarina)

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Goodbye swinging 60’s, hello 70’s; and what a way to kick off the decade. The Alfa Romeo P33 Cuneo is a simple design compared to the other concepts, but its slight complexities are what makes it so intriguing. Cannibalising the aforementioned P33 Roadster to create the Cuneo, this 70’s cheese wedge can be seen as a continuation of the P33 Roadster, doing away with curves completely in exchange for dramatic right angles. Sporting Alfa Romeo B.A.T style winglets, Fiat Dino hidden headlights and not only no roof but no doors to speak of, Pininfarina’s final T33 concept is a stark contrast to the suave Pininfarina’s that proceeded it.

Surprisingly not having fallen from space to the 71’ Brussels Motor Show, The Cuneo was named after the Italian word for wedge; rather fitting as the Cuneo perfectly illustrates the ‘wedge syndrome’ that engulfed the 70’s, stifling designer creativity. Despite so, Paolo Martin’s futurist wedge is undeniably cool. Given the chance, you wouldn’t know whether to open the pipes of that V8 down the Amalfi Coast or through outer space. 


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Alfa Romeo Navajo (Bertone)

Bertone Bookending the series of Tipo 33-based concepts, the 1976 Navajo could not have been more different from the Tipo 33 Stradale which fathered it. Hitting the Geneva Motor Show 8 years after the Carabo, the Navajo by far took the biggest leap in terms of styling, though arguably in the wrong direction. At best ugly, at worst hideous, the Navajo’s bloated, complicated styling perfectly displays how drastically automotive styling changed through the short 8 years.

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Though there was method to Bertone’s design madness, the Navajo styled purely in pursuit of aerodynamics.  Fitted with both front and rear active aero, the Navajo’s front splitter and hanging rear wing, like the Iguana, reacted to the cars speed to alter the handling. Again in pursuit of aerodynamics, the Navajo was fitted with not pop up headlights, but fold out ones, folding out from the sides of the front bumper. A car destined to never do more than turn on a plinth at a motorshow, the Navajo was far too complicated, far to ungainly to ever be considered for serious production, but it does live in on sorts; the space-aged Navajo inspiration for the equally space-aged Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica.