Orazio Satta and Giuseppi Busso had joined Alfa Romeo as designers in 1938 and 1939 and worked together on everything from the 158/159 GP cars to the Tipo T33/3 tube frame three-litre car of 1972. By 1959, Satta was head of design, while Busso was responsible for mechanical parts from 1948-77. The pair had considered building a 12-cylinder GP car, the 160, in the mid-’50s, and several prototypes were constructed, including a V-8-powered GT car, but it wasn’t until the early 1960s that the OSI Scarabeo coupé emerged.
The Scarabeo first appeared at the Paris Auto Show in September 1966 as a mid-engine coupé, with a transverse four-cylinder Giulia engine behind the driver. Three were constructed, but a spider prototype that was tested in Monza in January 1966 had a longitudinally mounted V-8 and would become the Tipo 33 in 1967.
Carlo Chiti had joined Alfa Romeo in 1952 to work with Giotto Bizzarini. Bizzarini left to join Ferrari in 1958, and Chiti went with him, taking designer Ludovico Chizzola. All three were students of John Cooper’s rear-engine designs, and the result was the development of Ferrari’s 156 Shark Nose GP car, in which Phil Hill won the 1961 World F1 Championship. Such a successful year produced upheavals at Ferrari, and most of the competition department quit in November 1961. Chiti left to produce his own F1 car, the under-funded ATS, but it was not successful, and by 1963 he and Chizzola were calculating their next move.
Autodelta and the T33
Using the name Autodelta, the two made arrangements to become the competition arm of Alfa Romeo and set to work on what would become the successful TZ and TZ2 programs. By 1966 Satta and Busso were working on the prototype known as 105.33, and when a two-litre, four-cam, 90-degree V-8 was installed, the Tipo 33 program was on the road. The T33 “Periscopa” (for its overhead intake to the Lucas fuel-injection) weighed only 1,278 pounds, and its top speed approached 185 mph.
The T33’s first competition outing was at the Belgian hillclimb at Fleron in early 1967, the only event it could get to before Sebring, to which Chiti had committed a team. Fortunately, the lower-geared car won in the hands of Teodoro Zeccoli, and then Andrea de Adamich, who features significantly in this T33’s story, broke the GT lap record at Zolder. At Sebring, de Adamich and Zeccoli qualified, and de Adamich led the first two laps, but the Porsches and Ferrari Dinos got past and both Alfas retired.
Four cars were entered for the Targa Florio with de Adamich and Jean Rolland in one car. The rough roads broke the front suspension on all four cars, although de Adamich led the two-litre class for some time. A similar fate overtook the team at the Nürburgring on 1 June, though de Adamich and Nanni Galli finished 5th, after taking over the Bussinello/Zeccoli car when the front suspension broke on their own car.
The team won several hillclimbs but withdrew from Le Mans in June and the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch in July. Then French rally driver Jean Rolland crashed at Montlhéry and was killed. Success came at Vallelunga in October, however, when de Adamich and Ignazio Giunti went home 1-2.
Introduction of the T33/2
As pretty as the T33 was, it just didn’t hold up, and the stakes were getting higher. The 1968 Daytona 24 hours was a qualified success with three T33/2s finishing 5th, 6th and 7th, though the Porsche 907s went 1-2-3. Three cars were entered for the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch but performed poorly on a weekend mostly remembered for Jim Clark’s death at Hockenheim.
Autodelta entered four T33/2s for the ’68 Targa Florio, and while Vic Elford won in his Porsche 907, Galli/Giunti were 2nd and won the two-litre class, while the other T33s finished 3rd, 5th and 6th, a much better showing. The Nürburgring 1,000 kilometres saw a 2.5-litre T33 entered, along with four two-litre cars. Nino Vaccarella and Herbert Schultze finished 5th and won the two-litre class, while other T33s were 7th, 10th, 13th and 29th. This time, problems were electrical. Finally the team won at Mugello, with Galli/Vaccarella/Bianchi 1st and Jo Siffert 2nd. The T33s now seemed to be showing real promise and finally managed a 1-2-3 at Imola, with Giunti/Galli taking the win. The pair would be 4th at Le Mans, with other T33s 5th and 6th.
One might think 1969 would build on this improvement, but it was not to be. Daytona and Sebring were marked by breakdowns and crashes, and then Lucien Bianchi was killed at Le Mans testing. Scooter Patrick was winning races in the U.S., and hillclimb results were good, but Alberti/Pinto only scored a 5th in the Targa Florio, though the race did mark the return of Andrea de Adamich, who DNF’d. Still, Carlos Pace won the Rio 3 Hours in Brazil, while Nino Vaccarella managed a 2nd in Sicily in the T33 coupé, Giunti a 2nd at Imola in heavy rain and Weber a 1st at Hockenheim in dense fog.
By 1970 it was clear just how challenging this series would be, but the schedule was expanded to cover any races of merit. The new cars were also given star names, as one of Chiti’s fancies, but the DNFs continued. Still, Piers Courage and de Adamich won the Buenos Aires 200 in Argentina and then were 8th at Sebring, behind Gregory/Hezemans, who were 3rd. Galli/Rolf Stommelen were 7th at Monza, with Courage and de Adamich 13th.