Reprinted from VeloceToday.com with permission of the writer and the publisher.
Italian Roberto Motta has been contributing to VeloceToday for over four years, submitting work on the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33, the Alfa Romeo T33SC12 and many more. A full-time journalist, Mr. Motta writes about Italian cars, motorcycles, racing, and most recently, American cars... as Motta is now the staff writer and photographer of the Italian car magazine "American Drive".
"Only one example of the Type 33TT Stradale was constructed and is one of the most beautiful cars produced by Alfa Romeo. Little known to the public, this car holds a fascination for two main reasons: it is an Alfa Romeo and participated in a single race, the Tour of Italy Automotive in 1975. Its proper name, according to Joe Nastasi who still owns it, is the “Alfa Romeo Berlinetta Stradale Giro d’Italia”, whatever we might call it below.
To celebrate the 1975 World Championship of Makes victory, Alfa Romeo decided to prepare a new car to participate in the Tour of Italy (for cars) that promised a great advertising coup for the firm. Engineer Gianni Marelli who supervised the project explains the rationale behind the T33TT Stradale:
“The Alfa Romeo brand could not miss this opportunity to demonstrate how the experience of racing could be transferred to the road and on production cars. At the time, the Tour of Italy was an event of great impact and advertising return.
“It was decided to commission this project to Autodelta on very short notice. In a few days, I came to the definition of the basic project, which guaranteed the feasibility of implementation in the time required and the certainty of the car’s competitiveness. The car’s development program was submitted to the Alfa Romeo management who approved it without delay.”
In addition, Fiat was also developing Group 5 B rally cars which presumably ‘foreshadowed future production cars’ and had already readied the Fiat Abarth 031 for the event. Lancia, considered to be the favorite, was updating the Stratos for Munari and Pinto. The new Alfa T33TT Stradale would therefore go head to head with the Fiat and Lancia factory entries. Dare Alfa enthusiasts even think that there might be a chance for victory? The Alfa soon became known as ‘Il Mostro’.
Despite the name with which the car was registered, ’33TT-Stradale’, this T33 had very little in common with the ‘stradale’ car (road car), but was a very much a racing car.
The coupe looked similar to the 33TT-12, the same car with which the Alfa Romeo had just won seven out of eight of the championship races, but it was made even more elegant and aggressive by the presence of the domed roof which joined harmoniously with the shape of front bonnet. But instead of the impressive 3 liter flat 12, the Stradale would use an engine which was a derivation of the Alfa Montreal, brought to 3 liters and equipped with a 4-valve per cylinder heads.
The car, as stated by Ing. Chiti to the press, it was the prototype of a small series of 50 chassis that would be constructed by Autodelta, and would be followed by a series of 400 units for the car’s homologation in Group 4. Roadworthy or not, the Stradale was in reality a pure race car.
“The 33 Stradale was in every way a racing car,” says Marelli. “From the beginning, we had decided that this car would remain a prototype, to be used in research for the study of the production of a future central rear engined car. To reduce vehicle production times for the Tour of Italy, my project involved the use of using existing material that could guarantee ‘winning performance’ right out of the box.”
Courtesy of Roberto F. Motta.
Courtesy of Roberto F. Motta.
Courtesy of Roberto F. Motta.
Ing. Marelli took the tubular frame of the 33TT and equipped the 8-cylinder engine with four valve cylinder heads and mechanical fuel injection from Lucas. It was coupled to a 5-speed non-synchro gearbox. He chose the tubular frame because it was easier to adapt and quickly construct the new body with the front windscreen made of laminated glass. Compared to the previous box-aluminum chassis, it also allowed better visibility and more room for the pilot and navigator.
Autodelta never had a chance to wind tunnel the design and it was built according to the drawings supplied by Marelli, which in turn were based on experiences gained with the previous T33 prototypes.
Says Ing. Marelli, ”The car was tested and carried out on the track only by Jean-Claude Andruet. Personally I personally followed the development of the car on the track and on the road, as well as its participation in the Tour of Italy. Due to the lap times, from the beginning I knew that the car was a potential winner and that only the Stratos of Munari would be our only real opponent.
“At the end of the tests, the car was completely disassembled in every detail, including engine. This test was positive and it was decided to prepare the car to participate in the Tour of Italy. When the car was prepared and undergoing final tests, I noticed that on the left bank there was a small oil leakage. I asked the mechanics to intervene quickly, and we considered the possibility of replacing the engine block or the entire engine. I was told not to be so pessimistic, and that a small leakage would not affect the outcome of the race.”
As we shall see, this was not the case.
Stradale’s first and only competitive event
To compete in the 1975 Giro d’Italia Automobilistico, the 33TT3 Stradale received the chassis number 78033.114, and the registration plate number Prova MI-1310. The event began in Turin, October 12, 1975 and ended up back in Turin on Friday, October 17. Much like the Tour d’ France, the Italian event was a rally between various venues in Italy, beginning with Monza, moving on to Imola, Santa Monica, Vallelunga and assorted hillclimbs along the way.
As scheduled, the event took off in the historic center of Turin, but not everything went smoothly; the public was virtually absent due to a strong driving rain and snow on the track. At Monza, the V8 engined T33 driven by Anduret and Carlotto was already having engine problems keeping it running on all eight cylinders, and finished third in the provisional results of the first leg. The main competition came from the Stratos of Facetti-Garzoglio which finished first.
The second stage, which consisted of speed tests on Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola and Santa Monica in Misano Adriatico, saw the T33 still running rough but nevertheless was ahead on overall points by the end of the leg.
The third stage was dominated by the Alfa, which won the first of two speed tests and consolidated its top position in the overall standings. Things were looking better for the Autodelta entry, despite very stiff opposition from the Turin-based Fiat 031 and the two very fast Lancia Stratos of Munari and Facetti. But the oil leakage notice by Marelli in tests was now a serious problem, creating clouds of smoke as the oil leaked onto the hot exhaust system.
And that came to head when on the fourth stage, during the speed test at Vallelunga, the ’33TT Stradale was again plagued by engine problems and was forced to retire.
Engineer Marelli reported that “The ‘small crack’ that I highlighted on the cylinder block of the engine after the first test was enlarged and the problems became apparent in the second stage. Then, the crack turned into a real hole in the lubrication circuit thus causing a loss such as to reduce the lubricating oil pressure to zero and cause the subsequent breaking of the main bearing.”
There was nothing left to do. The Alfa returned to Milan with no win while the 3rd edition of the Tour of Italy was won by the Fiat Abarth 031.
After the event, Andruet told a colleague from the BBC: “ I’m sorry for the Alfa and for the engineer. Marelli, who dedicated himself with great commitment to the preparation of this machine. We have shown the car is able to travel well on the road, on uneven ground, and perhaps even off-road. It should go very well in rallies France with less asphalt. I hope that Alfa insists on this program. The ’33’ of the Tour may very well be the forerunner of an ideal car for rallies.”
However, the stunning Alfa Romeo ’33TT-Stradale’ was finally abandoned for political reasons and, as concluded Ing. Marelli concluded: “Our ’33TT-Stradale’ Autodelta did not participate in any competition.“ It would lay idle at Autodelta until rediscovered by Joe Nastasi."
Courtesy of Roberto F. Motta.
Courtesy of Roberto F. Motta.
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