At the very heart of race car fabrication are the artisans who mold and shape raw materials with their bare hands ...transforming metal into valuable and highly unique works of art. All in a days work for these exceptionally skilled individuals.
Part Two of "Autodelta Golden Years" goes to the very core of Autodelta...featuring those men I choose to term... "...the true Descendants of the Italian Renaissance"..." creating some of the most emotionally captivating and fastest moving pieces of art we as mere mortals have ever seen.
The photographs you are about to see are among my most highly treasured.... recapturing the hours, days and weeks spent on the shop floor with these men, entrusted by Ing. Chiti to execute with exactitude his highest aspirations.
And that they did.
In fact this entire website series "Autodelta Golden Years" has been dedicated to those men and their legacy.
Beginning the process of constructing the T-33 is the physical transfer of the tubular chassis fabricated by next door neighbor Aletti and parting a leather curtain between the wall of the two adjoining firms and carrying the chassis through the wall to the Autodelta carrozzeria area.
I had only seen it done once and was not in a position at that moment to get my camera and record the actual birth of the 105.33 chassis...much like, perhaps the fumbling that goes on in advance of the birth of a child.
I simply wasn't ready. I missed it.
Everything else you will see was captured exactly as it occurred about 50 years ago.
Let's continue our stroll through theheritage, tradition and competition history of Alfa Romeo.
....."Racing Since 1911"......
April 1972 Settimo Milanese
Don Black, Technical Director of Alfa Romeo and collaborator with Carlo Chiti on a multitude of projects over the decades adds some further clarification to the Chiti proposal to remove fire from the danger of motor racing.
"It was I who prepared the white paper on the safety cell fuel tank on behalf of Chiti. I also made the presentation at the SAE Int’l Conference at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. Montedison was the actual creator of “Fluobrene”. The FIA was interested in the concept, but would not change the rules to require such a system because the car constructors “union” would not support such a decision by FIA as the system was extremely heavy due to the high specific gravity of the Fluobrene."
"The inner cells contained the fuel ( gasoline) and the outer or intermingled cells contended the Fluobrene. If you carried say only 20 gals of gasoline (120lbs) you needed to carry 20 gals of Fluobrene (240lbs). The concept was NOT to carry an extinguishing agent, but rather an inerting liquid which when mixed with gasoline during a crash, rendered the mixture non combustible. It was a prevention concept of avoiding the cause, and not treating the effect."
"A dramatic demo was to fill the tank with both liquids, and then fire a couple of 50 cal tracer or incendiary rounds into the tank, resulting in the inert mixture pour out of the bullet holes. You could hear the silence of the observers."
"Again, too heavy."
The safety fuel cell was one of the most important safety developments in automotive racing; Chiti’s efforts with Fluobrene led the way in this significant advancement.
Thanks to Don Black and Peter DiMatteo, we are able to present the original papers:
"Automotive Fuel Fed Fire-a Preventative Approach" February 1977
Mr. Venanzio Podavite, Master Fabricator
Just like the then-present day 116.33 Alfetta sedan, extensive use of high-strength pop-rivets were used throughout the chassis.
Mr. Enrico Maestri, Master Electrician
Take careful note of the end of the chassis tubing near where the drivers' left foot would someday be...you are seeing the opening of one of the TT (titanium tubular) chassis ends (threaded nut) where engine oil will eventually flow back from the nose-mounted oil cooler to the rear-mounted engine.
Enrico, pictured here, was exclusively tasked with the assembly of all chassis electricals on the T-33 eight cylinder and twelve cylinder series cars.
The above two photographs inserted above for instructional purposes were captured by Claudy Schmitz in 2019 of this chassis...reputed to be the first titanium tubulare three litre chassis constructed by Autodelta late in 1971.
Mr. Bordoni, design sculptor
Last years panels useful for prototyping new designs.
Mr. Bordoni, design sculptor with some of his previous work assignments.
Mr. Bordoni, the Autodelta model maker is working on the T33/3 chassis aerodynamics being prepared for the 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours of Endurance race. He will be affixing perhaps fifty tiny white strings to the skin of his model and observing the model in his wind tunnel.... out of view in these photographs.
The overall design of this car had been adapted from an on-going original design by Ing. Chiti and is being "tweeked" by his newly hired French designer Ing. Michel Tetu`who was brought on board to design the new "Batmobile" 33TT12.
In the rear you see Mr. Bordoni's office...notice earlier models from his own archival 'favorites' collection. In the foreground you see past body panel sections...some will serve as 'donor' panels to be used as a 'point of departure' for new aerodynamic experiments to be tried out within the secret confines of the Alfa Romeo testing facility in Balocco, some will be used for future restoration projects on retired chassis...none will ever be used officially by Autodelta again (with one very notable exception to be seen by you, the interested reader in upcoming Part Three ).
Mr. Bordoni and Chief Designer Michel Tetu`
Mr. Bordini and Ing. Tetu` are shown....both of whom collaborated with noted aerodynamic specialist Ing. Carlo Chiti on the "Batmobile" 33TT12 which at this stage of development is highly secret. Tetu` is best known for his work designing the Porsche 917 and some earlier Matra racing cars.
Secrecy dictated that all body panels be designed, tested and final-fabricated within the compound's high walls to prevent the early exposure of emerging T-33 aerodymamic concepts. You might recall that Carlo Chiti had joined the experimental department of Alfa Romeo in 1952 as an aeronautical engineer from the University of Pisa, collaborating with Ing. Satta to develop the Disco Volante.
Ing. Chiti was personally responsible for the periscope intake behind the driver for Grand Prix cars. He moved in 1957 to Ferrari where he was credited with the development of the mid-engined race car and the rear spoiler, a design which led directly to the use of the rear wing, according to a distinguished Alfa historian, the late Pat Braden.
Mr. Podavite and Mr. Scusatt
Later in the assembly process, a tubular chassis being prepared for testing is beginning to sport new handmade, made to measure fiberglass clothes! One of these workers is jokingly protraying the placement of a Junior Z vent panel as meant to fit somewhere on the T-33.
'Jokesters' such as my friends Venanzio Podavite and Mr. Scusatt are using humor to relieve the unrelenting pressure placed upon them and the entire Autodelta team to eventually capture the World Championship for Makes title.
Just a word on behalf of Mr. Scusatt: He was one only several men who diligently worked with Franco Scaglione inside the Autodelta walled factory to actully shape and build the first Stradale!
Another view of the carrozzeria area with a visiting experimental Junior Z receiving some bodywork to complement it's rear transverse-mounted four cylinder engine. In the immediate foreground you see a form for laying up fiberglass body components and the very first 12 cylinder TT chassis partially completed which will eventually find it's way onto the starting grid after a year or so of relentless testing.
Thanks to Alfa Romeo enthusiast Olaf Roeten we learn that the Junior Z pictured here is the "Periscopia". Only one was made and it lives in the secluded Museo Storico. According to Olaf, the car has Alfetta suspension setup front and rear with widened track and wheelbase. It eventually had a twin plug head (normal 1750 shown here) with it's exhaust system on the right side instead of the left side one would expect.
The cut out on the rear bumper is there to purge hot air from the engine bay with engine air scoops positioned on the rear pillars. (See another photo here with my friend holding the Junior Z pillar air scoop). From what I was told at the time, the car suffered from differential/transmission problems and loud gear whine.
Messrs. Podivita, Scusatt, Della-Rosa and Maestri. The janitor's name is not available.
Mr. Franco (Ermes) Moscardo, painter
Mr. Giuliano Lippi, master group team leader.
Left image: My best friend and the man who was solely responsible for the color "Alfa Red # 501" on every single T-33 ever built in the Autodelta factory: from 1968-1977...the Autodelta painter and part-time Autodelta long distance truck driver... Mr. Ermes Moscardo.
Right image: The senior most technician and "perhaps" the man most responsible for leading the race preparation team...and perhaps the hardest working man among extremely hard working men at Autodelta... a 'lifer' with Ing. Chiti and team...Mr. Giuliano Luppi.
Front row kneeling: Angelo (Christopforo !) Columbo . Back row: Gino Vanzo, Luca Manfredi, Zeno Benassi, Sandro Sorzi and Luciano Avosani. The naughty one of the group (cattivo) was Luca who did mischievous things....
The men of the engine assembly department.
Every single engine you ever saw or heard in a V-8 or twelve cylinder T-33 was perfectly and painstakingly built by these gentlemen. Friendly, highly dedicated, extremely hard-working, energetic, a tad naughty and playful.
The group was divided among those building cylinder heads (48 valves per 12 cylinder engine) and the technicians completing the critical final assembly of all components.
Mr. Walter Baistrocchi, Zeno Benassi and Mauro Danini. Engine assembly artisians
Mr. Renato Melchioretto
My friend Renato shown here was a junior level employee, joining Autodelta as an apprentice and receiving a deferment from military service, I understood.
There were only a couple men serving as apprentices and in this case Renato was given the assignment over a number of years to perfect the art of cylinder head building....starting with a rough casting, porting, polishing and ultimately asembling them.
Shown is a V-8 cylinder head...four valves per cylinder.
"The Life Work of Carlo Chiti"
This is a twelve cylinder 2,995 cc 460 bph 4 valve aluminum normally-aspirated masterpiece. Seen here fully built and awaiting the completion of a new chassis to be introduced for it in 1973 ...seen elsewhere on this site in other photographs. In its 1975 form it won the 1975 World Championships for Makes.
The 1977 World Championship for Sports Cars saw Arturo Merzario, Vittorio Brambilla and Jean-Pierre Jarier win every race in the season with this engine in three litre form and with a smaller displacement twin turbo version. . at Salzburgring in 1977 the 2134 cc displacement version of this motor using two turbochargers each linked to a separate engine bank produced an internally documented 580 bhp in the SC12 Turbo sponsored by Fernet Tonic. New meaning for the term "TT".
The engine was later used in the Brabham-Alfa BT-45, BT-46 and the Alfa Romeo Formula One cars.
The last project for Motori Moderni and Ing. Chiti was supported by Subaru Fuji Heavy Industries to provide an Formula 1 engine. Following the termination of the F1 project Chiti, assisted by Don Black the powerplant was adapted into a supercharged version for world class offshore racing.
The 2993 cc 440 bhp V-8 is also pictured at Sebring in 1971, a development of Ing. Chiti's original 2000 cc V-8 260 bhp from the period 1967-1968.
Now, the question has been raised: Is this 12 cylinder engine of Ing. Carlo Chiti a genuine 'flat 12' or something very close to it?? Here is our answer:
In answer to this question about the Alfa Romeo 115.12 3000 cc flat engine used on TT cars and also in F1.... well...though the “true” 12 cylinder "boxer" engine really never existed in racing car engineering (the crankshaft could not be stiff enough for such a complex engine without excessive weight), some motors are known as “flat 180°”, and some as “boxer” engines.
The proper description is made based on their piston movement. The engines where pistons were in opposite movement towards and off the rotation center, like in true boxer engines with separate cranks, the name boxer engine was usually used to describe them.
The proper flat 180° engines with the movement of opposite pistons in the same direction have connection rods of the opposite pistons paired on the same crankshaft connecting rod journal. For the sake of completeness, this distinction should be underlined and remembered that more generally... they were different construction concepts.
The Alfa engine designed by Ing. Chiti was “boxer” type with connecting rods on separated journals while Ferrari 312P 001 engines (erroneously called boxer) were classic flat 180° with two con-rods on the same crank’s journal.
Sincerely, Chiti’s motor was superior and more fluid with less vibrations, but in F1 the general Ferrari construction was far better. And that’s it.
Differential Specialist Roberto Banfi.
Differential and transmission 'wizard' Roberto Banfi always loved to get in front of the camera. And what a true wizard he was!
And this is where the flat 12 cylinder lives with its low profile allowing for the use of better aerodynamic solutions as opposed to the V-8 pictured below.
The profile of a 1970 V-8 engine
The profile of a 1971 V-8 engine
The quietest man and the most secluded area within Autodelta. This gentleman, with whom I had never shared a single word...working year in and year out in a form of solitary confinement.... fabricated exhaust manifolds for V-8s, 12 cylinders and of course GTA cars.
In the foreground you see a surplus 12 cylinder block and head used as an 'easel' for his elaborate work of art.
The transmission and differential assembly area for all cars. The door to the famous dynamometer room is seen on the left sporting the warning "Vietato Fumare" warning.
Behind the door the English dynamometer room where there were three dynos said to each be the same as the others..
That small door on the left side of the image with the circle and cross on it was known to others as the "Infirmaria" but was known to me as my 'bedroom' for a short period of time in 1972.
You are cordially invited to select the page "Autodelta Assaults LeMans" for another look at that magical decade of Alfa Romeo racing. Also visit the section entitled "Carlo Chiti Remembered", "Autodelta Drivers Speak", "Visitor Comments Page" and finally "Author's Notes."
Lunchtime on Via Enrico Fermi with Messrs. Cristofoletto, Gambi, Melchioretto, Podavite, Taverna, Chiappellini, Milani and the final man in the inspector's black jacket has a name unknown to me......
The Alfetta chassis elaborated by Autodelta soon after series introduction.
In 1972 Alfa Romeo S.p.A. decided to develope the competitive potential of it's new Alfetta 116.33 chassis offered to the world's markets that same year. Two cars were built...a Le Mans blue model that was used at two ETCC events at Zandvoort and at Paul Ricard with Rolf Stommelen and Carlo Facetti....and the red one pictured here that was used as a test and development car.
The cars were built with a roll cage, engine size increased to 1900 c.c. based on a 1800 mono sleeve block with a narrow head and SPICA injection. Total weight was 950 kilograms in "ready to race" trim.
After the 1973 season the blue car went through a handful of owners whereas the red car continued to live "Inside the Walls" at Settimo Milanese and was used competitively throughout the 1975 season of various races.
The production of the Alfetta GT signalled the end of the Alfetta sedan's competitive life in 1975....but the sedans' success paved the way for the championships earned by the Alfetta GT.
Website originator and chief writer
"The next very interesting part of this series resumes here in the customer repair and Arese new vehicle intake area ...
Archive parts storage area and customer GTA and GTV Rally preparation area. Ing. Chiti's white Berlina and Ing. Garbarino's Berlina are pictured in this area where new vehicles were delivered from Arese for dissassembly, all non-essential parts being removed here.
Lots of interesting items in rafter storage...including sets of Firestone tires made outmodeled by new Goodyear contractual obligations...but retained for eventual historical reconstitution of early cars at some later date.
Some early "T-33" chassis are seen stored away in the upper left corner of the photograph.
Another view of the 'customer' car area and reception for new factory-produced vehicles for the first initial stages of conversion...mainly Group 1 and Group 2 elaborations taken as production cars at random from the Arese assembly lines for fitment of FIA Appendix J approved kits.
"Ah...the lunch hour..." with junior mechanic on motor assembly Renato Melchioretto.
Here my friend Renato takes a 'dream cruise' in a one year old T-33 V-8 that had been purchased by a private individual. It is the only T-33 to have been painted in a dark shade of blue. People such as Carlo Benelli, aka "Riccardone" would customarily purchase competitive cars among previous models that were of no further use to Autodelta but would continue to depend upon Autodelta for repairs and renewal...explaining why it is parked in the customer reception area just off the main lobby....and far away from the prying eyes of interested visitors.!
This photograph is particularly memorable to me as I used to fall asleep at night in the cockpit of my choice of the T-33s in the Sebring garage while I 'stationed' there as the 'overnight watchman' in 1972.
Riccardone was killed in this car during a hillclimb contest at Castione-Neviano in May of 1972....the month after this photo was taken.
"Dumpster Diving Part One"
It had always been my fantasy to have been able to burrow through this exciting pile of 'used history' and assemble full-sized models of various T-33 components or at the very least make glass tables using engine block castings.
As a visiting college student I simply could not take anything more with me than I could carry nor could I afford to ship anything as a memento except these tantalizing pictures.
I had seen on one occasion a discarded "H" shaped big tubular chassis from the first Fleron V-8 2.0 liter...and from that point forward the historical and preservational value of these parts never left my mind to this very day.
"Dumpster Diving Part Two"
Don't you wish you could tear into that pile to see what GTA treasures you could find somewhere deep down.... repair them and install them on your car?
How about finding all of the parts necessary to assemble a full-sized model of a V-8 engine and transmission with a little help from your local machine shop and neighborhood welding specialist?
Certainly these parts held more intrinsic value than the metals used to construct these magnificant parts...
Ing. Carlo Chiti, Directore Generale was a true animal lover, saving dozens of them from the streets of Milano. Living inside the Autodelta factory in the "infirmaria" as I did for a while in 1972, I came to know and befriended the stray dogs and cats, some injured or sick, that Ing. Chiti would rescue from the streets of urban Milano.
Some he would bring home to his downtown apartment...others would live at Autodelta here on Via Fermi, #7. They would be fed leftovers from the lunch-time cafeteria and patrol every inch of the small factory for rodents and nighttime intruders. They provided company and companionship to the workers who were fabricating GTAms, T-33s and rally GTVs.
Pictured here are some of the surplus tail sections Ing. Chiti directed to be used in the late 1960s / early 1970s to provide shelter to some of the animals who were chosen to patrol the employee parking lot across from the main walled compound.
One evening I asked Chiti why he collected so many strays. He struggled to express himself using what few words he knew of English at the time: "Danger...for Life."
Those words have since been indelibly impressed in my memory to this very day, serving to symbolize for me his great compassion and respect for life.
Would that same feeling be held sacred among his contemporaries 'back in the day'...?
Certainly not !
Now, let's travel down to Sicily for the 1972 Targa Florio !
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