The Scarabeo project under internal assignment number 105.33, had embarked on the long road back for the Alfa Romeo brand to high-level racing.
This effort was focused on a project by Ing. Giuseppe Busso with the support of Ing. Orazio Satta Puliga who together created and assembled two cars and a prototype that served as a laboratory car.
But their effort also served as a 'incubator' for countless questions about the 'how and why' of certain choices that were made in the design and formulation process.
This short sequence of engineering and development... grown under the name "Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 Scarabeo" remained relegated to the experimental sector, which at the time was not uncommon within the activities of the Servizio Esperienze Speciali department.
This car, which was born in parallel with the 33/2 racing prototype... sharing the chassis solution wanted by Ing. Busso, contains a significent part of the DNA found in the mythical T33 racing series.
The final result was the creation of two prototypes produced in collaboration with Officine Stampaggi Industriali (OSI) in the industrial hinterland of Turin.
The two coupés "dressed" by the creative hand of Sergio Sartorelli remain as a witness to the prosperous period of Italian industrial design,
The first prototype car gave the real impetus to the development of the project and but remains virtually unknown today... covered by the red tarpaulin in the basement of the Museo Storico in Arese... known only to employees with the name "Barchetta Scarabeo".
Courtesy of Roberto F. Motta.
The first version of the OSI Scarabeo was shown for the first time at the Paris Automobile Show of 1966 and second version has remained, since it's creation, at the Alfa Romeo Museo Storico in Arese.
Courtesy of Roberto F. Motta.
Courtesy Archives of Estate of Rey Paolini
Alfa Romeo 1600 Scarabeo version "Barchetta".
In truth, there is no documentation that could confirm the birth of this "Barchetta" car within the Turin Industrial Stamping Workshop. In the few surviving documents from the OSI adventure, there is no trace of the existance of this car and not even Sergio Sartorelli himself had ever spoken of a third prototype.
This fact gave some degree of credibility to the theory that this car was an experimental extension of the first 105.33 prototype born to the Servizio Esperienze Speciali department, the one chassis reluctantly turned over to Ing. Chiti’s Autodelta at President Luraghi's request.
This thesis was based on the fact that the car in question was much more of a dynamic research laboratory than the basis for a production proposal.
But it is unique among the three existing cars... set up on the Peraluman chassis produced by the Aeronautica Sicula (chassis producer for the early 33 project) and common with the 33/2.
The lack of the aluminum alloy body that accompanied the original car born at the Servizio Esperienze Speciali department and delivered to Ing. Chiti in early '66 for some observers indicated that the original car was lost without trace, but for others it was only confirmation that on the first time frame... Ing. Chiti tested different solutions for the future racing 33 and that the chassis was re-taken from the Servizio Esperienze Speciali department and used as a test bed for the Scarabeo as well.
It is immediately noticeable that the shape of the "Barchetta" is identical to that of the second version made by OSI, but without the roof... but this strange hypothesis had never been confirmed or denied by any authoritative source.
From the few surviving photographs...the presence of the air intake ducts arranged in an identical way on the first documented variant of the 33, equipped with the TZ engine and the prototype of the Alfa Romeo Museum Storico are visible.
Coupé (second OSI version) and "Barchetta" Scarabeo, both reside in the Alfa Romeo Museo Storico at Arese.
Servizio Esperienze Speciali department's first 105.33 Prototype and the "Barchetta" Scarabeo.
Honestly, it would not be reasonable to assume, in the presence of numerous frames produced (50) and delivered to Autodelta by the Aeronautica Sicula of Palermo, that Ing. Chiti would have undertaken the complex work of changing the position of the engine and the transmission system, on the previous chassis already exposed to grueling dynamic tests, with the undoubted negative consequences for the stability of the structure.
With abundant quantities of chassis available, the use of one of the new frame units from Palermo was much more likely to be intended for the new car.
It would also be difficult to explain the presence of the same car almost in parallel in the OSI context, while working simultaneously on the 33/2 racing version.
On the other hand, the existence of a prototype with clear signs of continuous testing left unfinished and without a sequel is not also explained.
It does remain certain for anyone who has done research on the history of the Scarabeo that the whole project for this sports car, intended for road use, was only a consolation prize for Ing. Busso and the Servizio Esperienze Speciali department
The meager remuneration for the team deprived of the further development of the prototype made by them but then passed by force to Autodelta was the return of the original chassis.
It was clear that the possibility of producing a limited series of the car, already expensive in itself, given the abundant use of "exotic" materials, remained a remote possibility.
The purely academic question centering on which of the two cars, Scarabeo or 33/2 was the first car conceived, is a meaningless exercise. There was no connection between the two cars, if not for the futuristic central fuel cell of the chassis designed by Ing. Busso. They are two distinct and distinct concepts.
While the Scarabeo was born as the car with the driver's position set back for convenience... the compact and transversely placed engine was positioned behind the seats...on the prototype intended for competition, Ing. Chiti sought the most central position for the engine...moving the driver forward.
Even the geometries of the two cars are radically different and intended for specific tasks; road use for Ing. Busso's car and use in competitions for Ing. Chiti's car.
Numerous books have been written on the 33/2 prototype and there are few secrets to reveal.
The Scarabeo "Barchetta" hidden in the underground lair in Arese is certainly less known and understood, but with its original construction, is no less intriguing.
For the two cars assembled at the OSI, there are no documents or data on the dynamic tests performed, and it is certain that these are the two unnumbered chassis, equipped with experimental engines were also not numbered.
For the "Barchetta" there is no data or indication of the final or intended shape of the bodywork. The thesis of Consalvo Senesi who aimed the car with a short wheelbase where the rear position of the driver presented the opportunity for better control... remains clearly visible on the first prototype assembled and presented at the Paris Automobile Show of 1966.
OSI Scarabeo...the first version designed by Sergio Sartorelli in 1966.
Actually, the "Barchetta" does not fit into this logic and has kept the design much closer to a racing car.
Tying it to the two completed prototypes is not easy.
Its Busso-designed chassis didn't hide the clear aeronautical inspiration and it was two separate auxiliary structures that housed the powertrain with the clutch and gearbox incorporated into the engine block and differential, as well as rear suspension and centrally mounted disc brakes.
The front subframe contained the steering box as well as the suspensions and the disc brakes in a more classic position, close to the wheels.
On the front end, the components came from the Renault 8, a fact that can be explained by the collaboration between the two factories at the time. Ing. Busso's proposed solution of incorporating the fuel tank in the central cell thus maintaining the fuel load balance unchanged regardless of the amount of fuel loaded, was a good intuition and also shared by Ing. Chiti who adopted it on the 33/2 project for the competitive events.
Engine-gearbox unit mounted transversely on the rear bulkhead of the "Barchetta".
Before starting an analysis, however, it is necessary to underline some specific differences between the three cars in question.
While the coupé made by OSI first in 1966 and the second coupe already mentioned in early 1967, the cars developed on the numberless chassis' made of sheet steel.
The "Barchetta" was set up on the 2.5 mm-thick Peraluman 23 chassis, identical to that used for racing cars, and marked in the Alfa archive with the chassis number (without the initial AR letters) 00002, and the engine number DJ * 001.
This distinction alone puts it in a different light compared to the other two units produced, but it is also the arrangement of the mechanical parts and the different shape of the front and rear subframes of the coupé versions which indicates a car with a significantly different design.
Main chassis cell made of Peraluman 23 for the "Barchetta" Scarabeo.
Chassis structure made of steel for the OSI Scarabeo versions I and II.
Compare the photograph of the first prototype car on the occasion of the delivery of the project to Autodelta, and then with the photo of the first prototype of the 33/2 under development. It reveals many similarities even in the construction details. However, there is no evidence or documents regarding the issue.
The "Barchetta" was equipped with the 1600 GTA engine without specifying the preparation stage but on sight it seems to be an engine provided for the 115 HP road version placed transversely.
The prototype of the Servizio Esperienze Speciali was supplied with the engine used for the TZ and TZ2 in the traditional position, i.e. longitudinally. The prototype of the 33/2 was already equipped with the 2000 cc V8 in a longitudinal position too. However, a certain similarity and certain kinship between the three cars is indisputable. Also, the total weight... in running order approximently 700 kg, was similar for all three cars.
Spider "Barchetta" Scarabeo 1600 from the Museo Storico of Alfa Romeo.
The first 105.33 Prototype realized by the Servizio Esperienze Speciali department in 1966. Ing. Busso is pictured standing beside his car.
The first 33/2 V-8 engine Prototype realized by Autodelta in 1966.
The two coupes have the same mechanical design with the only difference being the bodywork and the position of the driver...right side on the first version and "European" on the left side for the second.
OSI Alfa Romeo Scarabeo 1600 1st version desiged by Sergio Sartorelli.
OSI Alfa Romeo Scarabeo 1600 2nd version designed by Sergio Sartorelli.
On the first car, the successful and almost extreme design did not even include the doors. The seats were accessed by lifting the entire roof, which gave the car the appearance of a beetle... certainly the source of its name.
To give a little more driving comfort, the position of the steering wheel on the right was chosen since on the left, a few centimeters from the seat, there were intake trumpets, whose hissing was difficult to tolerate.
Accessibility to the cockpit of the OSI Scarabeo 1st version.
On the second prototype, a little acoustic insulation partially solved the problem of suction noise. The new design had returned to the more classic solution regarding the access to the passenger compartment and the doors were placed rearward too. Even the nose, less prolonged and less aggressive spoke in favor of a car more suited to its time.
It has often been pointed out that all three cars had different and specific technical solutions.
This is not true, or is only partially true. The geometry of the two coupes is identical, as is the distribution of the masses and the distance of the cockpit from the axles. Only the position of the driver changed, left or right.
The "Barchetta" on the other hand, having a different chassis was specific with smaller but truly significant constructional differences. Among other things, numerous 'loans' from the Renault 8 parts warehouse were present in the coupe but such parts were not the case with the "Barchetta" which remained only at the construction level of the suspension installation.
Then, the beautiful interiors of the Coupé was not without the comfort of a luxury sports car. Such tasteful interiors were completely absent on the "Barchetta" where bare sheet metal indicated the spartan choice of racing cars.
OSI Scarabeo II° version designed by Sartorelli in 1967.
OSI Scarabeo 1st version cockpit interior design.
Scarabeo "Barchetta" cockpit interior.
Teo Zeccoli, who certainly had the opportunity to see and also drive the "Barchetta"... despite the fact that Bonini and other test drivers from the Servizio Esperienze Speciali were more likely in charge of the tests) the "Barchetta" on the Balocco track was remembered by Mr. Zeccoli as being "quick and performing ".
With the factory's renunciation of proceeding with the production plan, destiny was decided for the Scarabeo.
Busso had never been particularly focused on the vicissitudes that accompanied the project. It was as if he was convinced that his creation wasn’t destined to arrive anywhere. He maintained a certain detachment. And as elegant and shy as he was, he never commented on this closed car prematurely.
OSI at the same time had been immersed in its own internal crisis and was in the process of moving into the FIAT sphere. It showed no interest in seeking other solutions, and even Sartorelli, with the alleged third steel chassis, made a beautiful GT car with the ATS 2500 mechanicals, which remained also just a exercise in style.
The Alfa Romeo Scarabeo 1600 had left the scene. The first prototype after its appearance at the Paris Automobile Show in 1966, where it was very well received... was sold by OSI to a German enthusiast Helmut Limmer who then re-sold the car to well-known American photographer Ernie Paniccioli.
OSI Scarabeo 2nd version shown at the Paris Automobile Show in 1966.
The car suffered a misguided attempt to change the engine in the USA, and the result was permanent damage created to the chassis.
Nothing more was known about the Scarabeo until 1988, when what was still left of the car was bought by the well-known collector Said Marouf and transferred to Laguna Seca in California to wait without its engine for the better times.
Lately there have been rumors that the Scarabeo was about to return to Europe again to be revived by the well-known Dutch restorers.
OSI Scarabeo I° version, ready for restoration in Holland.
The second prototype had a less eventful life. It had always remained as the property of the Alfa Romeo Museo Storico...a reminder of the brand's many attempts to create the cars that made fans from all over the planet dream and fall in love with. It has recently been taken to a major exhibition in France.
The "Barchetta", somewhat forgotten has remained all the time in the basement of the Museo Storico, along with many other unfinished specimens born in the context of Alfa Romeo research.
Its shape, never completed in a definitive way, and its clear racing nature have always attracted the attention of researchers to the mysteries of the Biscione brand, and many different stories have been told about its birth and development.
The fact remains that the fairy tale of the Scarabeo has never lost its original charm and is still part of the collective memory that has made a global cult of the Alfa Romeo brand today.
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